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.

Filed Under: abundance, business models, copyright, marillion, mark kelly, music, scarcity


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  1. identicon
    TW Burger, 15 Aug 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.

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