Experiments and Strategies: What I will try with my band

While I’m waiting to get the members of my band, I’m going to outline some strategies and experiments I’ll be trying.  This post will cover “Free  Downloads”, “Pay What You Want”, and “High-End, Limited Edition, and One of a Kind”.

Experiment 1: Free Downloads

I just read an article that explains why to give away free downloads:  It drives traffic to your website that would otherwise go to torrent sites.  Not saying that I won’t also put my music up on iTunes and AmazonMP3.  If you want to give me money, I will not prevent you from giving it to me.  However, for the free downloads, I will make sure to do a few extra things:

  • Add a PayPal donate button.
  • Add an e-mail list sign-up.
  • Show where my band is playing next

Hopefully, those additions right next to the download will result in e-mail addresses for my list and will, maybe, get a small donation or two.  Or, maybe inform people where I’m playing next.  There’s probably a few other ways to monetize this, but I don’t want to go overboard at first.  I will consider getting an email address just as if I’ve received money.  Also, a free download is worth it if that person comes out to a show.

How to measure results for Free Downloads?

  • I’ll use Google Analytics on my site to see what hits occur.  Hypothetically, a free download should result in more web traffic.  More web traffic means people get to see when my band is playing next or whatever I might be selling.
  • PayPal donations.  I’ll keep a running tally.
  • Measure before and after sign-ups for my email list.
  • Measure show attendance around download releases.


Passive Promotion was reading my mind.  They just put out an article about “10 Ways To Trade a Song For An E-Mail Address”.

Experiment 2:  Pay-what-you-want

Pay What You Want (PWYW) is something I’ve been DYING to try.  I read the TechDirt article about a musician that did the PWYW model and was getting MORE money than he was originally selling his albums for.  Plus, he INCREASED his sales.

The concept is counter-intuitive, but simple.  People can pay what they want from $0 to no upper limit.  The customer sets the price.  I’ll also make sure that no one leaves the club without a CD or t-shirt. If people don’t want to pay anything, I’ll ask for an email address, but I won’t require them to.  If no email address, maybe I can convince a girl to flash me.  I won’t hold my breath on that one, though.  Hmmm.  Maybe I can rename it from Pay-what-you-want to Money, E-mail, or Boobs.  Knowing my luck, I’ll get a lot of man-boobs.

How to measure results of Pay-What-You-Want?

  • How much did I make?  Did I lose money?  How does it compare to if I sold it at a fixed price?
  • E-mail sign-ups.
  • New frienships.  The result of trying to get your stuff to everyone in a crowd.
  • Future show attendance in that same market/city.

Experiment 3:  High-End, Limited Edition, and One of a Kind

I’m going to steal this experiment from Trent Reznor.  He sold one of his albums as a free download, but also had a limited edition version of his album that he autographed.  Those he sold for about $1000 $300 a piece. And he sold out of them!  (Thanks, Bill, for the correction.)

Being an unknown band, $300 would be a hard sell.  But $50 to $100 could be possible.  I don’t know exactly what I’ll do, yet, but it will probably be doing something creative to the covers of a CD, package a box set uniquely, or create a weirdo package of some sort.  The key is to make it one of a kind.  Something that no one will ever see again.  Get it now, or never.

Actually, I should have tried this in my previous band.  We used toilet seats that we bought from Home Depot for our merch setup.  We’d stick the CDs and stickers with the prices to the seat and put the email address sign-up form right in the center of each.  Every damn show, someone wanted to buy the toilet seat.  What I should have done is put unique art on the seat, package it with a CD, DVD, and t-shirt, and sold it for $50.

Oh, these high-end items aren’t eligible for the Pay-What-You-Want scheme.

How to measure results for the high-end tactic?

  • Simple.  Did I sell it?  Or has it been collecting dust for 2 years and taking up space in the van while annoying everyone they have to put it out at the merch booth.

So that’s it for today, even though there are a ton of other experiments I’m going to try.  I’ll list more in later posts.

So what do you think? Is there anything in particular you think I should experiment with?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

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7 Responses to Experiments and Strategies: What I will try with my band

  1. kylewilson says:

    Hey Chris, love the blog. Got turned onto it from the CD Baby DIY Musician Blog. Just wanted to add you can also measure PWYW by calculating your average album price. I remember hearing a rumor that Radiohead averaged close to $20 per download of “In Rainbows”. Don’t quote me on that though.

    • Thanks, Kyle. Wow, $20 for a digital download is really awesome. I’d be ecstatic for $3 a digital download! For measuring physical CD sales, usually the price I’ve been selling is $5 for an EP and $10 for a full length. I’ll be shooting for an EP first, and (I think) the cost for 100 CDs from CDBaby will be between $200 and $300. If I at least recover cost, I would consider PWYW to be a big win. I’ll definitely let you know the costs involved.

  2. Mike Hirst says:

    I can tell you free downloads definitely works (all my songs are). I actually make more money on iTunes, etc. when my music is free on my site than when not! The question then is how to make more money with free music, as it still doesn’t offset what used to be able to be made off CDs. It really does help your brand spread, and I suppose down the road I’ll be able to monetize that. Any thoughts?

    • Good question. I was thinking about this, but not sure how much good it’ll do. I’m planning on creating a unique url for each song. On that page, I’ll also include lyrics, YouTube video, and other things. I’ll also list other items they can buy (like a t-shirt or what-not). Basically, each song will be its own individual promo for my band with opportunites to buy or look around. Instead of an album of songs, treat each song like a mini-album. While I’m waiting to get full time band members, I think I’m going to record a song I have and immediately try this out. The YouTube video will be the other important thing.

      I like your site. I was checking out the downloads page. There’s a lot of room on the right-hand side. Have you tried putting a widget there to plug your upcoming shows or get people to sign up to your email list? (I like the “download all” option!)

  3. Bill says:

    The limited edition of NIN’s “Ghosts” sold for $300, actually. It later went for around $1,000 on ebay, though.

    • I KNEW someone was going to catch me on that! I was reciting from memory and didn’t look up the article. That’s weird, I thought it was closer to $1000. (Wow. That was almost a pun. “Closer” to $1000. NIN. Okay, I’ll stop.)

      Thanks, Bill. I’ll dig up the article and update the post.

  4. Pingback: Do it NOW! A common musician’s mistake. | How To Run A Band

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