WSJ: What if we give it away? The Journal’s free article today covers Harvey Danger’s experiment in giving away content, and in the process provides a concise description of the business model for bands today, as well as why it doesn’t usually work:
CD sales aren’t a great money-maker for most bands: Absent a huge hit album, a band’s best chance to make money is through a combination of publishing royalties, concert-ticket sales and merchandising — all driven by the hard work of creating and keeping a dedicated fan base that will buy not just a current CD, but back-catalog albums and future releases as well. The problem is that takes time and patience labels increasingly don’t have.
“The time frame for success is a lot longer than what a label will give you,” [Harvey Danger guitarist Jeff] Lin says.
The band’s solution—to use the music itself as the free promo for the CD—is insightful, taking advantage as it does of the classic “viral infection” model for marketing experience goods. If you get the barriers to experiencing the music as low as possible, you “infect” as many possible listeners as possible. And it appears to be working, within the limits of the band’s terms of success.
Of course, the question is, what’s the incentive for users to buy the CD once they have the music for free? Here the band is smart, offering a custom bundle with a shirt and other hard goods for listeners who buy from the band’s site.
The model works for Harvey Danger even though they don’t plan to tour. I can only imagine how well the model would work for a band with Harvey Danger’s name recognition—or even a fraction of it—that does embrace touring.
Nice stuff on Jeff Lin’s blog about this, too.