Public Enemy Not Selling Well Enough On Sellaband: What Went Wrong?
from the connect-with-fans,-give-them-a-reason-to-buy dept
There have been a bunch of companies popping up lately that have allowed bands to help “pre-finance” an album, by getting fans to commit to pay up in exchange for some sort of added benefit. We’ve covered in great detail how Jill Sobule successfully used just such a method (on her own, not with a startup) to finance her last album. Earlier this year, though, the concept got a lot of attention when the group Public Enemy signed up with the company SellABand to try to raise $250,000 by the end of the year to finance its latest album. While we were impressed by such a well-known act trying such a system, we did note when it was announced that the “benefit” given by the group didn’t really seem that compelling. The pricing seemed quite high for what people were getting, and there was little effort to actually “connect with fans.” It was really just a very high-priced way of getting people to fund the next album.
So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Public Enemy is struggling to reach its goal. It has raised over $70,000, which is nothing to complain about, but that’s well short of the $250,000 goal.
There are definitely some important lessons to be learned from this. These sorts of models require a lot more than just putting it out there and expecting fans to automatically support you, no matter how big an act you might be. Jill Sobule worked really hard to cultivate and connect with her committed fanbase, and that’s what helped her hit her goal. Public Enemy didn’t seem to put much effort into that at all. Second, pricing really does matter. In giving people a “reason to buy” something, that doesn’t mean you just slap a price on stuff. The price needs to be reasonable and make sense to people. Public Enemy’s offerings just seemed pricey all around, even to fans of the group. At $100 you got a CD and a chance to buy a second CD at 50%, along with your name in a booklet? Eh. What’s so exciting about that. At $250 they add in a t-shirt? That’s $150 just for a t-shirt? You had to go all the way up to $500 before they would even autograph the CD. Sure, $1,000 for a 3 year unlimited backstage pass could be cool if you were going to see the band a lot, but that was the first offering that really seemed potentially worth the money for a serious fan.
So, I think there are some important lessons here. We’ve mainly focused on pulling lessons from the success stories, but the lessons from failures can be just as valuable. And, in this case, it goes back to our standard formula of Connect with Fans (CwF) and give them a Reason to Buy (RtB). Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Public Enemy really did much of either. They just expected the fans to come to them, and they priced everything too high, without giving really compelling lower end options. Because of that, they certainly got some people to pay up — and, again, raising $70,000 is nothing to put down — but it fell well short of the goal. In some ways, what they did is like a cargo cult: copying all the superficial aspects of what worked before, but not the really important stuff.