Another Musician Recognizing New Business Models

from the about-time dept

Way back in 2003, I wrote up one potential business model for musicians who want to embrace file sharing, but who still want to make money (i.e., most of them). It was never intended to be "the" business model for embracing free file sharing, but it always seemed like a good one to me. While we've seen tons of interesting, innovative, unique and creative business models from musicians over the years, I still haven't come across one who completely followed the plan I described. The basics of the business model are easily recognizable to those who have read my series on economics, but it again, focuses on giving away the infinite goods and charging for scarce goods -- in this case, in the form of a "membership" or "subscription" that gets fans additional (scarce) benefits not available to those who don't pay the subscription. Thus, if you're a subscriber, you might get to come visit the musician in the studio, get early access to new songs, be a part of the song-writing process, early access to concert ticket sales or perhaps the chance to have the musician play a private concert for you and your friends.

The Penny Distribution blog has alerted us to the news that musician Kristin Hersh has actually adopted something very much like the model I described. Her plan is even a little more advanced, as there are different "levels" of membership with different benefits included. At the base level of $10/quarter (which still seems a bit pricey to me -- I would think that it would help more to have an opening level that costs less than a big record label CD per year), you get a sticker, a poster and a copy of her new CD before anyone else does. As the prices get higher, she starts to get more creative. For $30/quarter, you'll also get "a works in progress sampler CD" of new music that she's working on, plus you'll get yourself and one other person on the guest list for one of her shows. There are even higher levels of support, including one where you'd get to spend time in the studio with Kristin all the way up to getting executive producer credits on her next album.

I think this is definitely a move in the right direction -- and I'm hopeful that other bands will start to adopt similar policies. In this case, it feels like the prices are a little too high, and the benefits are a little too low, but it may depend on how popular the artist is (Penny Distribution says Hersh is popular -- I've never heard of her). Also, in her mission statement about the new model, she seems to be suggesting that this model is "principles over profit" where she's unlikely to profit as much through it. That doesn't sound right either. If you embrace this model properly, you should certainly be able to profit nicely from it -- as you can drum up a larger, more committed following who are more willing to pay sums of money directly to you, rather than filtered through a bunch of middlemen all taking their cuts.
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Filed Under: business models, copyright, kristin hersh, music


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  1. identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, 28 Dec 2007 @ 4:17pm

    Sponsors vs. Freeloaders

    Yeah, if you grew up in the eighties, you probably know her, although maybe not by name.

    I am struck that Rooster Teeth, the "Red vs. Blue" guys, use a similar (but cheaper) model of sponsorship. AFAIK all you get is higher-quality versions of the episodes, and an occasional "sponsor-only" video (that usually ends up on youtube anyway) so the benes aren't huge, but they still have quite a base of sponsors.

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