Musician Talks About Success In Getting Fans To Pay For The Album Before Its Created

from the another-good-example dept

Whenever we talk about business models involving giving away "infinite" goods and charging for "scarce" goods, one of the points that we try to emphasize (though it doesn't always come across) is that some of the best business models are ones where you get paid for the creation of content, rather than copies of existing content. When it comes to music, we've suggested a variety of options, and pointed to stories like Jill Sobule and Maria Schneider, who have set up models where fans chip in to pay for the production of the album itself -- and, in return get lots of extras back in return (including access to the musician, early releases, credits, etc.).

Mathew Ingram points us to a blog post by Mark Kelly, the keyboard player with the band Marillion, who have actually been using just such a method of producing their albums for almost a decade:
In 1999 we released our final contracted album for Castle Records and, in anticipation of the way we planned to do business in the future, called it Marillion.com. We had already collected the email addresses of more than 20,000 fans through free CDs, downloads, etc. and by asking these fans to order and pay for the upcoming CD in advance, we were able to finance the writing and recording.

We maximised the profit from the pre-order by cutting out the record companies, distributors and retailers, manufacturing and shipping direct. We also released the album in the shops through an independent distributor to reach the fans not on the internet.

We released three more albums between 2001 and 2007 using this business model and despite continuing falls in CD sales worldwide we have managed to shield ourselves from the worst by continuing to build our database of email addresses, currently more than 65,000, and by offering special edition pre-order CDs with 128-page hardcover books containing beautiful artwork.

I'm sure many people still download our music illegally but the real hardcore fans want the special editions and are willing to pay £25 or more for them.
This is another fantastic example of the business model in action: focusing on connecting with your true fans, focusing on selling scarce goods (remember, the creation of content is a scarcity -- existing content is not) and giving people a real reason to buy (such as "special edition pre-order CDs with 128-page hardcover books containing beautiful artwork").

Unfortunately, after describing this great business model, Kelly veers off on a tangent that doesn't seem to fit with the point he makes in the first half. Even though his band has figured out how to profit without having to worry about "piracy," he seems to support the idea that ISPs should be responsible for file sharing, and he doesn't seem to recognize how promoting file sharing himself would help create more fans to add to that 65,000-strong email list. But, still, even though the end of the post doesn't quite match with the first half, it's great to see another band find success with this sort of business model.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), Aug 15th, 2008 @ 8:17am

    Hmmmm...Arts Being Supported by Patrons.

    Amazing.

    Hey, didn't that model work for Mozart, DaVinci and pretty much every famous artist I can think of prior to the emergence of Record Companies?

    Everything old is new again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 15th, 2008 @ 8:47am

    Re: Hmmmm...Arts Being Supported by Patrons.

    Yup, I've been trying to say this model is blatantly obvious - as soon as you realise that the ever more brutally flogged horse that is copyright is now so dead even the magpies have given up trying to feed their chicks from it.

    See Music is Expensive, Copies are Free.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 9:20am

    YES! Put the RIAA out of Business!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Tim, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 9:22am

    Rediculous

    Why in the world would I want to pay a musician to make an album? I wouldn't even do this for my favorite band. What if they decided to take a different direction musically that I disliked? Inversely, What if they create the same crap over and over again without the change of growth?

    But mainly I disagree with this because it goes against everything I believe drives, or at least should drive, great music creation; motivation. The greatest music comes from the heart and personal life experience, not cash-money. When you throw money at a musician to make a CD of their choosing, you are creating a motive in their head to make a piece of music that goes outside their previous guidelines of making music true to themselves.

    It's just like the movies, as was proven with the latest Batman. Make a good movie and the consumer's will pay to see it (in the millions). Make a great body of musical work and your fans will substantially grow resulting in increased concert sales, album sales and overpriced merchandise growth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    but sign up with the RIAA and risk that no one will buy your music no matter how good it is cause the RIAA are thugs!

    BOYCOTT the RIAA!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    #4

    if you stop liking the music , then just stop contributing. Its not a perfect model yet, but anything is better than giving the RIAA 1 cent!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Grab, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    RE: Rediculous

    Your point is lost on me. By removing the influence of the record company whose motivation is purely profit driven and letting the musician 'make a CD of their choosing' you are hurting the art?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anon2, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    something missing?

    Something is missing, from the posting, which is recognition that this is not by any stretch the "giving away" of anything; nor, for that matter, is the artist being "paid" for creating anything. Rather, the artist is finding a new avenue for what is basically the standard model: funding to produce an album. The only difference, which the post does get correct and is an interesting innovation, is cutting out the middleman record label and having the fans directly fund production. But they are effectively pre-ordering the CD in most of these cases, and often getting other modest entitlements as well as extra inducements. In some cases, artists have also offered interests in the revenues from future sales to induce fans to invest in the production.

    But in all of these cases, the artist is still very much depending on selling rather than giving away the final product, because he or she is getting paid nothing at all unless and until there is a stream of actual profits.

    Yes, the artist can presumably go out and earn tour $$, and can potentially sell additional stuff to everyone who has responded to these sorts of offers. But that does not diminish the fact that the "new" model being touted here is really just a very simple variation on the old model that is constantly under attack here as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Tim, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    Re: RE: Rediculous

    A model in which an artist is pre-paid by fans to produce an album of their choice is, in my opinion, a failure of the culture of music creation.

    The idea of funding an artist to write lyrics and music is outrageous. Yes, writing is a good that is of high value and can be sold. However, it is also something that does not cost anything. Production, on the other hand, is something that CAN cost the artist money. Although this differs from genre to genre. I.E., rap beats can cost big bucks as opposed to a singer/songwriter who creates on their own (for free...assuming they don't sell it to another artist). It's hard to apply this new "model" to all genre's as you can see.

    As for the "middleman", or record companies.... They get a terrible rap from everyone. Not all companies are oppressing corporations. Indie labels have produced some stellar artists that have grown their fan base to huge numbers. All the while, producing albums with much less funding than their big brother's.

    Make good music and the rest will follow. Sell me a CD full of crap with one or two good songs and, yeah, I'll pick it apart on itunes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: RE: Rediculous

    The idea of funding an artist to write lyrics and music is outrageous.

    Then you completely do not understand the current business process for the development of an album...or of ANY type of (commercial) artistic work.

    Unlike, say a painter, most artists like recording musicians and book authors are paid AHEAD OF TIME for their work. Often this payment is in the form of a loan to be paid off by the sale of the work after the fact.

    But make no mistake, most (commercial) artists are paid in order to produce the work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Siburmax, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 10:20am

    What happens when......

    What happens when your favorite band of all time asks you to shell out 25 beans for the production of their new ablum. Then the drummer sleeps with the singers wife and everyone takes a side and goes on to further their solo careers. I want my money back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Tim, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: RE: Rediculous

    "Then you completely do not understand the current business process for the development of an album...or of ANY type of (commercial) artistic work."

    Yes, funding an artists creates a commercial environment. Funding from fans or labels- it's all leading to the same old model.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 15th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    Re: Rediculous

    Why in the world would I want to pay a musician to make an album?

    Okay, so you don't want to do so. But plenty of people do. And, part of the reason why is that most musicians who do this give those people added benefits (special signed editions, access to concerts, access to pre-release music, etc.) that they want as fans.

    But mainly I disagree with this because it goes against everything I believe drives, or at least should drive, great music creation; motivation. The greatest music comes from the heart and personal life experience, not cash-money.

    Um, you do realize that almost all music today is produced for money? Yes?

    I don't get it. First we get criticized that the business models we describe won't make people money, and now we're getting criticized because they *do* make people money?!?

    It's just like the movies, as was proven with the latest Batman. Make a good movie and the consumer's will pay to see it (in the millions). Make a great body of musical work and your fans will substantially grow resulting in increased concert sales, album sales and overpriced merchandise growth.

    Huh? I thought you just said that money corrupts the creative process.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Tim, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Rediculous

    "Huh? I thought you just said that money corrupts the creative process."

    A little off-topic, but I was referring to the quality of the goods. Like I said earlier, sell me a CD worth buying and I'll purchase it. Sell me a CD with one or two decent songs with the rest as "filler," and I'll pick it apart on itunes, or better yet, get the good songs from a friend. Music is, after all, a social thing. But this leads into piracy and is better-suited for a different time/place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: RE: Rediculous

    Funding from fans or labels- it's all leading to the same old model.

    No, not the same old model. The change is such that the artist is directly dealing with their customer base instead of a middle man.

    In fact, I believe that this "new" approach will lead more towards the greatest music comes from the heart argument you used in a previous thread. Instead of having the pressure to put out a "huge seller", the artist is focused on "pleasing my customers".

    With the current approach, the artist is out to sell a product, regardless of who the purchasers are. They have a huge debt facing them and they need to sell, sell, sell. The artist has to appease the record label, whose only concern is raking in big returns.

    With this new approach, the artist is out to make a product that their fans want. The only thing the artist needs to do to appease their backers is to be themselves and produce their own stuff...because that is what the customer has (pre-)paid for.

    Yes, there is a chance that the output would be not inline with what you were hoping for. You may find yourself disappointed. But there certainly have been albums I've bought in the past where I liked it in the store but quickly grew tired of it, so there is no direct protection there either.

    And by being involved in the process directly, the artist can allow their fans/financial backers a chance to provide feedback prior to the final product. Pre-releases, closed sessions, wiki-brainstorming, etc...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 11:25am

    Re: What happens when......

    Who says that this can't be done? Nothing says that the customer needs to fork over money without some type of guarantee. By giving money, you could be establishing a contractual relationship. The band could put part of the money into escrow, offer up some kind of collateral, provide some type of milestone system, etc...

    Maybe instead, the band could offer a monthly subscription. Pay $5/mth and the subscribers get access to early releases, posters, signed photos, chance for backstage passes or even to sit in on recording sessions, etc...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    TW Burger, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Rediculous

    The idea is to involve the listener in the creation process, allow them to benefit by getting access to the very scarce goods (direct contact with the musician, exclusive products, early releases), and the fan gets to rightfully claim to be a record producer.

    Musicians will produce a better product if they are not working construction jobs or working at the department of motor vehicles 40 hours a week and then trying to create music in spare hours. This is true for any artist. DaVinci and Mozart would not have created much of anything if they worked a day job packing freight or running an office.

    Movie making is not a valid comparison to music production. Making a movie is an industrial processes involving hundreds of experts, technicians, and support staff and is too complex to involve the consumer directly until after production and then only as part of the godless marketing machine.

    If you ever went to a concert then you did (potentially) pay the artist to produce her/his next album out of reach of the RIAA. Most bands make money only from concerts, record companies get most of the money of the recording sale.

    You are right that talent and motivation creates great music and increases a fan base. But, Tom Waits never has and never will match the sales and popularity of the Spice Girls and they are talentless marketing creations while he is a brilliant musician/composer. This model will make a Spice Girl type of band impossible and allow talented musicians to make a living.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    DS, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 1:10pm

    Momus did a modren day version of this, modren day, because that's how it was in ye olden times, to pay for some legal issues that he had. You give him money, and in return, he made a song for you that was on the album. It seemed to work for him.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stars_Forever

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2008 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Hmmmm...Arts Being Supported by Patrons.

    In other words, we only like priacy if it makes us money, otherwise, we hate it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Ian Ward-Bolton, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 5:40am

    You can only charge for future time

    Although it might not seem like it, anyone with a day job is actually being paid for future time, not time already spent. That's why there is an employment contract - you agree to give time, they agree to give you some money after you have spent that time. This system works because it is based on reality.

    The record industry model, where they try to squeeze as much money as possible out of things produced in the past, is lunacy. Once a thing has been created, and it is easy to copy, then it will be and should be copied to increase its utility. DRM, RIAA, etc, etc will always lose because they are trying to fight against a wonderful reality where recorded things can be copied easily.

    How do musicians make a living then? They charge for their future time, which is all they have to offer because time in the past has already gone and has zero bargaining power.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This