Yet Another Musician Discovers That Free, Implemented Well, Can Increase Fans & Make You More Money

from the haven't-see-seen-this-before dept

I almost didn't post this story, because we've seen nearly the same thing so many times -- but seeing the surprise that some have expressed about musician Andy Othling's post about giving away his music for free for a day (with a pay what you want campaign via his Bandcamp page), it seemed worth mentioning. As in other cases, he found that he ended up with many new listeners and much more attention... but what surprised him was that he also made more money. He expected to make less, assuming that people would just take the content for free. And, of course, some did. But when you expand your audience tremendously, and give them the option and the tools to support you, amazing things happen:
I was anticipating a drop in revenue, because that’s usually what you expect when you start giving things away for free. But what happened was that in a single day I made more than 2x what I normally do on music sales in an ENTIRE MONTH. Yes, you read that right. More in a day than in two months of regular sales.

I don’t quite know how to explain this, but I think a lot of it is based on reciprocal generosity. People seemed to really appreciate that I did this and responded by paying more than they normally would. I was blown away by people who decided to give more for an album than it would have cost them the day before.
Of course, we've seen this exact thing over and over again, so it shouldn't be at all surprising by this point. Andy points out that he greatly increased his fanbase too:
There you can see that in one day, I added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list. That’s 450 more direct connections that I can make in the future, and 450 more people who can spread the news when I do something like this again. This is way more exciting to me than money.
Of course, he chose to only do this for 24 hours... and then took away the free option. We've seen some others do this as well, to mixed results. More than a few musicians I've talked to who have run similar experiments later switch to leaving the free option up permanently, but it's not uncommon for people to try it as a limited-time experiment at first. There may be some value in the "it's only free today!" aspect to get people to act, but I do wonder if it limits long term potential. For example, with this post, some people here might want to check out his music -- but I'd bet a lot more people would be interested if the music were still free.

It's also important to note that while people often get blinded by "free" and forget about everything else, Andy didn't just do "free" and leave it at that. He (1) strategically promoted that it was free and urged others to pass that info around and (2) provided a clear way for people to support him monetarily as well, if they so chose. Free is a piece of the puzzle, but it's not everything.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 29th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    Oh. Not quite free, or just a day. In future, he'll spam you to beg for money.

    So it's another "free but not exactly" day. -- That one should probably be an hourly, quite frequent.

    But now, Mike, according to your "can't compete" piece, and your $100M movie example, Andy's only cost at this point is for bandwidth, so he should be charging about a nickel a tune (assuming he's paying for "premium" bits), right? But a quick sample (of someone) found $3.99 for 9 tracks...

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

  2. icon
    Rottweiler (profile), Oct 29th, 2012 @ 4:51pm

    Re: "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    Allow me to translate this for the rest of the readers:

    Blargha flargha!

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2012 @ 4:53pm

    Re: "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    Sigh. Why do I even bother replying?

    If you'd bothered to actually read that piece, or actually understand anything about economics, competition pushes price to marginal cost. You can charge above marginal cost—sometimes very far above—as long as you provide sufficient value. Remember, given sufficient funds, if value exceeds price, customer buys.
    As iTunes very effectively demonstrates, people will gladly pay $.99 per track or sometimes more for the convenience of the ecosystem; as experiments like this demonstrate, people will gladly pay money for something they can get for free, if there is value in the purchase. I, for instance, would gladly pay $3.99 for 9 tracks—if the files were DRM-free and of sufficient quality, and if the money went to an artist I like.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2012 @ 5:30pm

    Re: "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    "Your" $100M movie example? Sorry, out_of_the_ass; the $100M movie example idea all started with YOU, and now you have to live with how stupid it sounds in an argument.

    "Spam you to beg for money"? Guess what - all businesses do this to some degree.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2012 @ 5:42pm

    It's also possible that if he put it up indefinitely he might not have seen as many sales as a limited time offer. Sort of similar to how things tend to sell better on Black Friday even though the prices may be essentially the same. Sometimes it's the sale event itself that drives customers, not the price itself.

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

  6. icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Oct 29th, 2012 @ 6:23pm

    Re: "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    "spam you to beg for money"

    That's called advertising.

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

  7. icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), Oct 29th, 2012 @ 6:34pm

    Humble Bundle model

    All of the Humble Bundle offers are time-limited (something like 2 weeks, if I remember correctly).

    Sometimes components of old Humble Bundles offerings are re-offered as bonuses on new bundles, however. Luckily they let you customize the payment split (otherwise I'd have paid for World of Goo, for example, something like 3 times)...

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

  8. identicon
    Scott, Oct 29th, 2012 @ 6:47pm

    Re: "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    OOTB,are you for real or just love to troll attention?

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

  9. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 29th, 2012 @ 7:49pm


    But the added benefit you don't normally see with people doing Black Friday style sales hunting is he has a list of 450 more people to market to. They expressed interest in his work, not just a good price. These are the kind of people who you can offer exclusive access to things to show you appreciate them. If you work the list the right way you can end up making more money in the long run, because talented or not if you can create a supportive community that you give back to they will give to you.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2012 @ 10:55pm

    Here's the other thing that people overlook is that you can get fringe benefits by being popular. Look at all the deals Psy has got from Gangnam style and he didn't have to charge users anything.

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

  11. icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 30th, 2012 @ 2:12am

    I hate how the MAFIAA have reduced the whole argument to one about money. We are talking about CULTURE, for crying out loud. When it comes to culture, money should be a distant 2nd to creating a work that can be enjoyed by many generations of people in relative freedom (something the gatekeepers know absolutely nothing about).

    People's consumerist obsession with money is destroying the fabric of society we live in.

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

  12. icon
    Ninja (profile), Oct 30th, 2012 @ 6:27am

    Re: "added almost 450 email addresses to my mailing list."

    Yeah, dismiss, disdain and smear a successful experience. Did your bosses feel hurt? Then the artist is doing it right =)

    Also, the $100 million movie example is worn out, shall we change to the $10k movie that made over a million? If you read the damn thing right he was offering for free for those who wanted it for free. However there's an aspect that you morons from the MAFIAA hate and ignore: people will pay, and often more than the regular price, just to support their favorite artists or the ones they think are doing it right. I've done that quite a few times already. I donated to projects I don't intend to ever check again just because the creator had a nice attitude.

    Just because you are a rotten, greedy bastard it does not mean the rest of the world is. Contrary to the straw man you built, those who share don't always want everything for free.

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

  13. icon
    Ninja (profile), Oct 30th, 2012 @ 6:28am


    That. A million times that. If there's quality, money will naturally flow in. Full stop.

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

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