by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 11th 2009 2:29pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 3rd 2009 12:54pm
from the cwf+rtb dept
The content of this t-shirt has been removed due to a DMCA takedown notice.
Also, we are doing one thing differently this time around. Rather than just waiting until we sell out to stop selling these shirts, we're taking open orders for two weeks only and then will make the shirts and send them out. So if you want this shirt from us, you have two weeks to order. And that's it. On to the post itself...
After seeing many musicians setting up various interesting/amusing "tiers" of scarce value worth buying, while also working to connect with fans, we decided to launch our own CwF+RtB tiers, at the end of July, as an experiment to see what we might learn. We knew that this sort of thing worked for music, but had no idea if it would work elsewhere -- say, for a blog. It wasn't designed to replace our existing business model, but just as an experiment to see what would happen -- and what we could learn that might help others implementing similar business models.
I should apologize, as this post detailing the results is way, way, way overdue. We had most of the results and lessons within about a month, but this is a big post to write up and I kept procrastinating. No good reason why: there was just always something going on in the news that seemed more urgent and every so often I do like to catch up on sleep.
The quick summary: we consider the experiment to have been a huge success.
- We brought in approximately $37,000 total due to this experiment, mostly in the course of that first month.
- Nearly $12,000 came from direct sales to individuals of the tiers between $5 and $150.
- As was revealed in an article at Wired, another $5,000 came from an individual, Didier Mary, who was working on a business plan and bought the Techdirt Reviews Your Business Plan package. The package included an Insight Community conversation, which recently concluded, about his business model idea. Didier has told us that "it was a great experience" and very useful to him in moving forward with his plans.
- Another $20,000 came from larger companies, which purchased Insight Community packages after learning about them through this effort.
- The effort also resulted in potential future deals, as it led many more companies to contact us to learn more about the Insight Community.
- Other companies, with whom we were already talking about the Insight Community, contacted us after we launched this, with one noting that if what his company had been discussing with us was on the list, he probably would have just "clicked buy" right away (though, with that company, we're still discussing a deal and have not yet completed it).
- Ignoring the higher end Insight Community deals, the average amount paid by users was over $70. This was significantly higher than expected.
- Sales came from 15 different countries around the globe. North America and Europe were obviously the biggest, but we also got sales from Asia, South America and Australia (no Africa). The international sales might have been bigger if we had launched international sales the same day we launched the overall effort. Unfortunately, we didn't have all the details on that sorted out until a week later, and I think we probably lost some international sales that way. The US Postal Service does make international sales much easier these days -- especially with its "one rate" boxes, but shipping is still really expensive, and many countries then add annoying tariffs on top of everything. This was annoying, but (unfortunately) unavoidable.
- Our highest selling item was not the cheapest, second cheapest or third cheapest offering (contrary to the claims that people just want the cheapest item). Instead, the biggest seller -- by a pretty wide margin -- was the Approaching Infinity package, that included both a copy of my book and a t-shirt.
- For quite a while, the hoodies (which we almost didn't offer) outsold the t-shirts... but in the end the t-shirts barely passed the hoodies.
- The Techdirt Book Club outsold the Techdirt Music Club by a factor of three.
- No one bought the Day with Techdirt package, though we actually got a lot of inquiries about that, with multiple people who don't live in California saying that if they were closer, they would have bought it. This is still available, though.
- And, fear not, no one bought the $100 Million Silence Techdirt offer (still available as well!), though we did get a few people who were worried that someone would actually take us up on this -- and one satirical offer from someone claiming to be from the RIAA, which made me laugh, saying the RIAA would pay up, but wanted to guarantee "exclusive rights" to the RIAA, such that it would be able to "pursue appropriate legal action against any and all 3rd parties that make use of this silence purposely or inadvertently" including, of course "the right to pursue similar action against any individuals who are also not reading Techdirt and therefore infringing on our own licensed agreement to be the sole recipient of a Techdirt-free world." Brilliant.
- However, the $100 Million Silence Techdirt offer did get the most traffic of any of the tiers, by a factor of three -- though, it also drove many people to check out the other tiers.
So, what did we learn? Lots of things:
- This works! These sorts of models can absolutely work in connecting with fans and in making money.
- All of you, in our community, are awesome. Not just for buying, obviously, but because the overall response we got was incredible. This included many really, really nice emails that made us feel great, along with happy emails and Twitter messages from people receiving their packages, and telling us stories about wearing the clothes, reading the books, etc.
- It's fun making people happy. Really. It really gave all of us here at Floor64 a great feeling every time we heard back from happy community members.
- Logistics and inventory management are more complicated than you expect. We sort of knew this ahead of time, but you realize it first-hand when somehow, somewhere copies of signed books go missing, and you suddenly need to ask for an author to send extras. Also, dealing with sourcing inventory from so many different people for the Book and Music club is doable, but takes a lot of time to manage. Though, I have to say, every one we worked with -- from authors and musicians to publishers, agents and record labels really were fantastic. We didn't have even the slightest trouble from any of our partners in this endeavor. Shipping out the products definitely was an effort, but we tried to make it fun, with a group of us working together to package up and ship stuff (and on this one, the team here, lead by Gretchen, did a fantastic job, going above and beyond to get everything organized and shipped).
- Having lots of options was a good thing because we weren't very accurate in predicting what would sell. We came close to not offering the hoodies at all, but those were incredibly popular.
- You can't keep everybody happy, but you should try! We had to set up a better process for "customer support" as we launched this (nice job, Dennis!) and then work with and respond to customers who had questions or (in a few cases) problems. A few times the problem was that we did not explain things clearly enough, and sometimes there were problems with shipments (or, in one case, a hoodie that was frayed). But we tried our best to make sure everyone was happy and hopefully succeeded (mostly).
- What you're selling should match your audience. The Book Club sold really well. The Music Club, not as much -- despite being awesome (seriously, the combined Music Club items are really, really cool, and the music is great as well). But, in retrospect perhaps that made sense, as the books in the Book Club directly related to everything we talk about here. The Music Club, while supporting artists who did things that we talked about here, was a bit different, and required people to like the music as well, which is a lot more subjective. Bundling together four separate musicians with different styles was, perhaps, not a great idea. On top of that, we perhaps did not do enough to promote the music itself to get more people to enjoy the work of those musicians. Finally, while some of the offerings were "unique," others could be purchased elsewhere, which limited the "scarcity" of the overall package.
- Some promotions worked really well. The first promotion we did was offering anyone who bought both the music and book clubs together a choice of either lunch with me or a free hoodie. This helped motivate a bunch of folks to step up and buy -- and resulted in a handful of lunches.
- Having lunch with people was really, really cool. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous going into the lunches from the above promotion, but they were all really amazing, often in very different ways. Each individual was really interesting and the conversations were quite engaging and thought provoking and fun. I'm pretty sure every lunch ended up lasting well over the allotted hour. I ended up learning a lot and had a great time at every one. I'm hoping to set up more ways to do things like that, if not the same thing.
- Even the tiers that didn't sell, still generated interest in other things we were doing. A bunch of people contacted us about the Day With Techdirt package, and while no one bought it, many of them bought other packages instead.
- Not everyone who says they will buy will buy, but that's okay. It was interesting to note that some people who told us they would buy (or even announced it on their Twitter/Facebook feeds) never actually did buy for whatever reason. That's fine, of course. Everyone is free to do what they want, but it was interesting to note. Just because someone says they'll buy, it doesn't mean they will.
- Communicating directly with everyone can be difficult. While others here handled customer service requests, I started getting a bunch of emails personally from people who participated, sometimes with long and detailed questions. I tried to reply to most of these, but it was difficult, and I'm sure I missed a few.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 30th 2009 7:38pm
from the imagine-what-he-can-do-with-1,000 dept
Music Sales:Now, first thing I'll point out is that I'm still not sure the numbers fully add up. Matthew doesn't give a total amount earned, but in a comment says:
- CD Sales - 4.1%
- Digital Music Sales - 13.9%
- Subscription Site - 36.9%
- Live Shows - 18.1%
- Cover Gig Fees/Cover - 9.8%
- Original Gig Fees/Cover - 6.2%
- Tips (Including UStream) - 2.1%
- Works For Hire & Voiceovers - 8.2%
- Affiliate Sales (typically for my own albums/tracks) - 1.1%
- Licensing - 13.2%
- Independent Film - 6.6%
- Internet - 6.6%
- Web Design - 4.6% (I include this because I'm doing a website for a friend... it's something I choose to do, but it is part of my income this year.)
Suffice it to say that I'm renting a house in Wellesley, MA with a couple of room mates... I'm not starving, I can still eat sushi from time to time, and my car (neither a Pinto nor a Bentley) is paid off.So, he's making a living wage, but not raking it in, which is to be expected (and is certainly a hell of a lot better than many musicians). Now, of course, the other number that stands out above is the "subscription site" with the single largest percentage of his revenue. That would be his MatthewEbel.net site, where he offers a $5/month subscription offering. It actually looks quite a lot like the music business model I suggested back in 2003, so it's nice to see someone making it work directly. Basically, it's people paying for access to Matthew (he even admits that in the description, saying it's like a permanent "backstage pass"). While subscribers will get regular access to new music as soon as he creates it, the selling point is special invitations and access to the artist.
And, of course, Ebel seems to certainly recognize the CwF (connect with fans) part that has to go along with this RtB (reason to buy). In the interview, he discusses the importance of really connecting with those fans. First, he notes that one of the nice side effects of his "subscription" offering is that he promises fans two new songs and one live concert recording every month, and that keeps him top of mind:
Little did I realize that new releases every two weeks would be better than any good album reviews or press coverage. Giving my fans something new to talk about every two weeks meant exactly that: they talk about me every two weeks. They're not buying an album, raving about it, and losing interest after a few months, they're constantly spreading my name to their Twitter followers, coworkers, pets, etc. Regular delivery of quality material is damn near my one-step panacea for the whole industry.And, of course, he uses social media to connect as much as possible:
Good music is barely enough to get fans to hand out 99¢ anymore; they have to be emotionally invested in the artist if that artist wants their loyalty. Don't get me wrong, there can still be a "fourth wall" during a live concert or video, but real, meaningful connection with the fans is what keeps me in their heads after the show's over (heck, even your "character" can interact with fans in-character). I chat with my fans via Twitter, Facebook, matthewebel.com and matthewebel.net, and as many other channels as possible. The more I interact with them between performances, the more I stay fresh in their minds and the more inspiration I draw from them.Yet another musicians showing how CwF+RtB works. Now, I'm sure some will complain that this isn't a "real" success because he's not selling out stadiums or something (of course, those are the same people who would say that those selling out stadiums don't count because they can afford to do crazy experiments). But given how many musicians we're hearing about these days making exactly these types of things work to the point where they can make a living doing it, you have to begin to realize that something's working.
by Michael Ho
Thu, Oct 29th 2009 6:30pm
from the Karaoke2.0 dept
On top of that, though, Tommy is also posting jamming tips for amateur rockers to help folks out with their music -- which seems like a great interactive component to this project. I'm not personally a fan of Tommy Lee's music, and the fan entries that have been highlighted so far haven't really piqued my interest. (From the ones I've listened to, there's some talent, but nothing I really like -- and there aren't even any submissions that so bad that you can enjoy them as a spectacle.) But still, Tommy is very likely training a new generation of musicians with his weekly YouTube clips filled with pointers, and the evolution of musical skills based on Tommy's tutelage has the potential to produce ever better songs. And it doesn't stop with Tommy, The Public Record is looking to do similar projects with other musicians, so we can all look forward to a virtuous cycle of fans creating music with more rockstars -- perhaps creating more rockstars and even more great music.
by Michael Ho
Wed, Oct 28th 2009 9:34pm
from the n00bs-need-not-apply dept
- A full normal package for the book, Complete Guide to the Nikon D700 (CD and To Go Guide), a US$49.99 value
- A full printed version of the main book in black and white, a US$29.99 value
- A full printed, signed, numbered version of the main book in color, a US$99.99 value
- All of the above shipped to you via Priority Mail
- All future updates of the book, if any, delivered free, a likely US$14.99 value or more
- Three hours of personal, one-on-one time with Thom, a US$750 value
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 20th 2009 2:53am
from the good-for-him dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 19th 2009 11:01am
from the suicide-in-the-making dept
This is the typical Hollywood "control everything" mindset, but totally goes against the way fans want to connect, these days, and will do a lot more to harm these movies than help. People want to follow their favorite actors/directors on the set and know what's going on. It helps get them more excited about the movies, well before they otherwise might have. Shutting them down, just because some studio execs, who have probably never used Twitter, are too paranoid to recognize it as a great promotional vehicle, seems backwards and shortsighted.
by Dennis Yang
Thu, Oct 1st 2009 2:59am
from the do-call-us,-we'll-call-you-back dept
Felicia has done a great job connecting with her fans. Her @feliciaday twitter account boasts nearly 1.4 million followers, and the nature of her conversations on twitter demonstrates that she is well versed in the medium. The Guild is funded by sponsorship from Microsoft and Sprint, DVD sales, and individual donors.
It's a good start, but like others, Felicia seems to fall into the "give it away and pray" trap -- while it's great to rely on the good grace of donors, she could do much better if she gave her fans a better reason to buy. On her recent appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, Felicia expressed her surprise at the prospect that someone would support The Guild with a $100 donation; however, what if, for $1,000, you could spend a few hours tackling quests on World of Warcraft with Felicia? Surely there's a fan or two out there that would leap at that opportunity. Day does not disclose the economic details of her franchise, but she keeps alluding to small budgets and tiny profit margins. I would be curious to see the exact numbers, but there's nothing wrong with running a small, lean, efficient operation: given the choice of owning GM or Craigslist, I'd definitely choose Craigslist. This metaphor works for entertainment too: remember Waterworld? This doesn't mean calling for the end to the lavish spreads of food on movie sets. Of course not. From what I hear, Google has great food too.
Much like with the music industry, it is getting easier for creatives to self-produce quality works without the support of a major studio. And, as we experiment with new business models (like CwF + RtB), perhaps we will find a better way to produce TV shows and movies than the traditional model. In the traditional paradigm, starving actors work jobs as waiters and waitresses while plying their craft during their off-hours in the hope of being "discovered" and hitting the acting "lottery." Otherwise, many live job to job or eventually burn out and go find a different job. With the tools of production and distribution now being available to the masses, when can acting be the "day job" for more people? Hopefully soon.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 30th 2009 10:41pm
from the don't-suck dept
- Don't suck: something that often gets lost in these discussions. The music still does need to be good. All of these business models are that much harder if the music isn't any good and fans don't like it. Playing good music is a definite first step.
- Get others to introduce you to their audience: This is another good point. I've been talking to some musicians lately, who were trying to understand how to best apply some of this stuff, and I often suggest looking for other, more well-known acts, that the band can work with to get some sort of endorsement, or "opening" slot on a tour (or even just a gig) as a way of reaching more fans. The Topspin post points out that some people assume that this is the real story behind the success of Fanfarlo, but the numbers don't bear that out. It probably accounted for approximately 30% of the band's sales. Not shabby, but hardly the only reason for the band's success.
- Make those audiences an offer they can't refuse: In this case, the band offered a download of their album, plus four bonus tracks for $1 for a limited time. Yes, all of the songs combined for a dollar -- not each of them for a dollar apiece. While I normally support just giving away the music for free, I can see a reason to offer them all for a dollar in some situations. In this case, it gets more people to commit to the music and the band, but at a price that is much easier to deal with. I'm still not convinced that $1 is better than free, but it sure beats regular album prices. While this offer was for a limited time, after it was over, the band still offered the download cheaply ($6).
- Repeat: This is another important one. We keep hearing bands put in place business model promotions that are one time deals, rather than a fully thought-out continuous and ongoing business model. By repeating the process, not only can a band keep making money, but it lets them iterate and experiment, and find out what works (and what doesn't.).
All in all, yet another successful example of a band figuring out ways to connect with fans while giving them a reason to buy.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 30th 2009 8:40pm
from the it's-happening-everywhere... dept
Every so often a theater piece comes to town that is so brilliantly conceived and executed, so entertaining on every level, that you want everyone you love or even like just a bit to see it. Kneehigh Theatre's "Brief Encounter," the opening show in the American Conservatory Theater's new season, is that kind of experience.You kind of have to see the play itself to understand what's so creative about it, but as a hint, before the play even starts, the actors show up in different parts of the theater and start playing instruments and singing songs -- totally unannounced (and many in the crowd ignored it) right up until the play starts. Then, during intermission, they ended up doing something similar in the bar area (downstairs, not upstairs), before mingling with the crowd as everyone made their way back to the theater. Considering most of the actors are on-stage close to the entire time during the play, it's noteworthy that they then end up extending things both before the play and during the intermisison. It really is a neat way for the actors to more closely "connect" with the fans at the show.
Anyway... that, by itself, obviously isn't the sort of thing we post around here, but when I saw the news that the engagement had been extended for another week (the second time already) due to popular demand, I wanted to send that news to a few friends who I knew would enjoy the show, and did a quick search to find that SF Gate review (separately, I believe the play is heading to NY and then Minnesota in the coming months, for folks in either place). In doing so, I came across a blog post from a dramaturg who works at ACT talking about how the artistic department of ACT is trying to get much more involved in meeting people at the theater and improving the overall experience:
An idea I had over the summer, the SHOP puts the creators of Words on Plays (my supervisor and me) in the theater to personally sell our product and discuss it--as well as the play itself and the theater more generally--with our patrons. Part of our theater's mission is to encourage conversation; we're taking this tenant literally. Previously Words on Plays was sold at the merchandise counter, but that counter is remaining unmanned this season because of low sales. So our timing was good.The idea is to get more in touch with the fans coming to the theater and build a stronger relationship, while still offering "reasons to buy" (the whole RtB part...). While it sounds like direct sales of the book weren't a big deal, it is still helping more people connect with the theater overall and come back to see more plays (a bigger moneymaker than any book...):
Our patrons are most familiar with our theater's hospitality and fundraising staffs. Certainly not a bad thing, but what if this model was exchanged for one in which representatives from the artistic staff were always present to discuss what the patrons are really there to think about--the art?Indeed. Over the last few months, we've been seeing how the whole CwF + RtB concept isn't just working for musicians, but authors, movie makers, photographers and many other content creators as well. Most of these experiments are still early, but you get a sense that actually building real connections with fans is really working for those who truly put their hearts into it. And, oh yeah, if you're in San Francisco, you really should go check out Brief Encounter...
This is how smaller theaters have to do it because everyone is doing everything. The artistic director is the ticket taker. The playwright is the one who knows where the fire extinguisher is. And it's lovely. Every show you are being welcomed in by a family.
This is where my thinking started. I would stand at my booth selling my product and furthering conversation about the show. But I think I may have been thinking too small. Last night I sold five copies. Commendable but negligible. But I also sold at least two couples on November, our next show, by simply telling them how funny a script it is. I spoke to another gentleman about his time in England. I made a handful of people laugh when I directed them to the new location for the hearing devices: "Why don't you put a sign up?" "Because then I wouldn't get to talk to you."