How Musician Ellis Paul Got 300 Fans To Give Him $100,000 For His Latest Album

from the how-it's-done dept

Yet another great blog post by Ariel Hyatt, exploring how musicians are embracing the concept of focusing on the true fans to build a modern business model — this time looking at how musician Ellis Paul was able to raise $100,000 from just 300 fans. The actual concept appears quite similar to what we’ve seen elsewhere before, in that he put together a set of “tiers” for support. The Ellis Paul story actually sounds quite similar to the Jill Sobule story — both musicians who have been around for many years, bouncing around in the old system before realizing that a big label doesn’t make much sense, when you have a strong fan base and really aren’t selling the amount of albums the big record label really needs to consider you a success. Like Sobule, Paul has focused on really building up a loyal audience, and figuring out ways to communicate with them. What’s interesting here, is that it took just 300 fans buying into tiers to get Paul to that $100,000 mark. Not bad.

There are some parts that suggest Paul could have an even stronger model, however. It doesn’t appear that he really embraces “free.” For example, there’s lots of talk focusing on selling albums, even though his manager admits that he makes about 60% of his revenue from live shows, and a key focus for Paul is to build up his audience. In fact, for people who did participate in his tiered offering, they would send them CDs and ask them to pass the CDs along to other potential “true fans.” But why not just embrace the more efficient system of offering the music up for free to expand the audience much further, continue to build up that live following, and offer additional alternatives for the business model that might get even more than 300 people to participate?

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Comments on “How Musician Ellis Paul Got 300 Fans To Give Him $100,000 For His Latest Album”

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Anonymous Coward says:

To answer the last question, people feel special and more connected when they feel like they have been singaled out. Allowing everyone to download music is wonderful, to PUSH that same free music to individuals, creates a sense of connection. To allow people to participate in the process of giving those things away makes THEM feel more important and connect. THEY have helped to create the huge following.

kyle clements (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s not a matter of liking or not liking one business or another. It’s about what works, and what doesn’t work.

sure, he could sell 10,000 copies of an album
(1st: good luck with that. 2nd: that likely won’t even cover his advance)
Or, he could use this model, and make a ton of cash with only 300 people.
I would imagine that it’s a lot easier to find 300 fans than 10,000

I take some issue with the second paragraph, however. It certainly is possible that sales could be increased by embracing free. However, this example could also be used to argue that leveraging ‘free’ and using an unlimited resource to advertise a scare good isn’t always necessary to connect with fans and give a reason to buy.
‘Free’ is one tool for building an audience, one very good tool. But it’s not the only tool, or the best tool in all cases. This guy’s not using it, and he’s doing quite well.

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Re: Re: please treat urgent/////Anonymous Coward.


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BBT says:

You would think that a website so focused on “connecting” with fans would recognize that people feel more connected to physical objects than digital bits, and connect more with music introduced to them by trustworthy friends than randomly discovered.

Giving CDs to fans to then give to their friends would have a far greater chance of making those friends actually become fans than simply putting something on bittorrent.

Not to say he couldn’t do both, but the current model he’s using sounds pretty good. I know I’m far more likely to listen to a CD someone hands to me and recommends than I am to listen to a band that someone mentions to me “oh hey, check out ______ sometime” and then I have to remember to download it.

Jupiter (profile) says:

embrace the fans

Giving the music away for free doesn’t actually make you want to listen to it. In fact it sounds like a desperate move to be heard.

Encourage the people who have already bought your music – the fans – to give that music to their friends and help turn them into fans. Sounds good to me.

If a friend gives me a copy of a CD and tells me how much they love it, I’m going listen to embrace that musician a lot easier. I’ve already got so much music that throwing another one onto the ipod doesn’t really mean anything.

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