Want to stop the decline of music sales? Then do this

Brian Eno Drums Between the Bells

[Updated July 10]
What you see above is the Brian Eno double-vinyl, double-CD plus hardbound book and free MP3 downloads package that I ordered a couple of months ago from Bleep in the UK. All the above was only $54.00 plus shipping. I say only because I believe this package and the added value it brings to the musical experience is worth far more than $54.00.

So here’s a question for musical artists and music fans – is it better to sell 1,000 value-added music packages at $54.00 for a gross of $54,000, or is it better to try and sell 5,000 regular CDs at $10.00 for a gross of $50,000?

Before you answer that question it’s worth contemplating the “added value” portion of it first. At first glance you could argue that of course it is better to sell 5,000 or more CDs but how do you put a price on perceived fan value? Think about how a fan would most likely always return to buy each new package you release if the fan perceives that the additional value is worth the extra dollars.

I know that I always do that.

I decided to revisit this post after replying to some of the comments. The first thing that I want to make clear is that I was not expecting bands to start releasing a media package that costs $54.00. I was hoping to start a conversation around the idea of “added value” as an option rather than relying on the tired “CD-only in a jewel case option.” I also wasn’t expecting to hear from someone like Ben from Kill Rock Stars who left a comment below that includes this zinger “i think this idea works in the fantasy world where everybody works at ad agencies and has a lot of disposable income.” Really Ben?

I happen to work at a brand agency so maybe this is just a coincidence although I suspect not, but what discretionary income I have (and believe me it’s probably not what you think it is..) I spend mostly on music and hardcover books. Ben goes on to say “for those of us living off of under $1k a month these deluxe packages aren’t appealing.” I don’t buy into that argument as it really has nothing to do with my point. For anyone living on less than $1k a month I would expect that there would be very little if any discretionary spending beyond basic needs. But I have to challenge Ben, who by his email address appears to work for Kill Rock Stars: why does that label sell great albums by great artists on Amazon for $5.00? If that’s not devaluing artists’ work and also repeating the mantra that music must be almost free, then what is it? Where is the “value” in that, in the discount?

Another weak argument amongst the comments is the usual “well they’re big artists already so of course they can do that.” That is defeatism pure and simple. My original point is that by adding value you provide more reason for someone to purchase your music, you can most likely increase your margin on the sale, and you will also most likely benefit from word of mouth and further purchases from a satisfied fan. It may be as simple as deciding not to press CDs but to press vinyl instead and sell the record with a coupon to download free MP3s. It may be that if you have CDs for sale at your concerts you don’t put a price on them and you accept whatever the fan can afford to pay. Don’t take my word for it, ask this relatively unknown band – it works. Ben Taylor, on tour, did it and he sold way more.

I consider this a forum for sharing ideas about music and musicians; if musicians want to make a living selling music they’re going to have to start being creative and maybe record labels should stop devaluing their artists’ work?

[Related post: Would you be willing to pay $600 a year for a streaming music service?]

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