Sub Pop Leaning Towards Giving Away The Infinite And Charging For The Scarce

from the good-for-them! dept

If you like good music, you're almost certainly aware of the iconic indie label Sub Pop. Apparently, Sub Pop's creative juices aren't just focused on putting out great music these days, but they're considering how to adapt their business model to the changing music landscape, and I'm happy to see that they seem to have realized the key point that I've been making for years: infinite goods make scarce goods more valuable, so free the infinite and sell the scarce. Sub Pop is apparently considering starting to give away new music, while focusing on selling tangible goods related to the music (found via Hypebot):
"Although Sub Pop is primarily known for its many fine artists and their really very fine recordings (also grunge), we're not at all opposed to expanding into the fine world of t-shirts, hats, beer cozies, and key chains," Jaspers says. "We used to give many of these tchotchke items away for free in an effort to entice people to pay for the music, but we're considering flipping our strategy so that people pay for the toy and receive the music for free. Just a thought."
Basically, it's a recognition that people want the music, but they're also willing to pay for a physical good as something of a "souvenir" or additional scarce and valuable "art" that is made more valuable by the connection to the music. Sub Pop's art director, Jeff Kleinsmith, is apparently looking to go in creative directions with this:
Regardless of age, there's always going to be people who prefer to touch and make stuff that's like, physical. CDs may end up being little books. We've talked about this at work, where you might spend the time to do a cool package, it just doesn't have a disc in it. And instead of a disc, you've got a little piece of paper that says "go here for your download." So you're getting everything about it except for that plastic disc, you know. I would love to see that.

And that could be a magazine, it could be a shirt, it could be a sticker on a banana, it could be anything, really, that has that download. It could be a poster, a thing associated with this music.
Of course, we've seen some examples of this already. Earlier this year, we talked about a Swedish band that was releasing its latest album as a magazine. Last year, Mos Def tried releasing his latest album as a t-shirt with a download code. And, we just wrote about Kristin Hersh's latest album being released as a book. The idea, of course, is to give fans a real reason to buy beyond just the music -- which is effectively free for many people. But providing scarce value can really do amazing things.

Of course, considering it sounds like the Sub Pop folks are still thinking about this, they might want to consider that selling scarcities can also expand a bit beyond just selling tangible goods. There are intangible scarcities that go well with music as well -- including things like access and attention. Either way, it's great to see such an iconic label realizing that there could be serious value in embracing (rather than complaining) about "free" within a business model, and looking at opportunities to use it to their own advantage.

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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 6 Aug 2010 @ 11:05am

    Re: just forestalls the inevitable.

    This is basically a 360 deal where the music is given away but the record company makes money from everything else. Kind of like an interest-only mortgage.

    No. This is not like a 360 deal at all. You are confused.

    The deals we're talking about aren't ones where the label gets to demand a cut of all revenue -- but ones where the label specifically adds additional value and gets a cut of *that* revenue, which seems fair.

    It's an important difference.

    360 deals are a joke -- we agree. But a record label exploring other revenue options does not automatically mean a 360 deal.

    It's an interesting idea but ultimately dumb and pointless. If I'm an artist, why would I want to sign with a "label" like this at all? Maybe to get some exposure for a couple of years, after which I hire some 25-year-old to do it all myself on Zazzle and keep more of the money. An organization that does this has no future.

    If you really think we're talking about doing what can be on Zazzle, you're not paying attention.

    When did Zazzle start selling bananas?

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