Nick Mango

The Vinyl Bailout - Part 2 - The Digital Release

My first tip slash trick concerns the practice of giving the digital version of an album away for free with the purchase of vinyl. Now beware, if you hate hearing how to make money with music sales, then go no further than this. This post is for someone that actually thinks about ways to keep their band or label financially stable. Imagine that right? A band or label trying to increase sales so they can continue releasing records! Ok enough sarcasm, let’s get started.

One of the most common misconceptions in the world of vinyl is the belief that everyone who buys vinyl, listens to the vinyl. You always hear these people in interviews talking about how vinyl is back and it’s because it sounds better. Hmmm really? You think vinyl played on your $50 turntable sounds better than a CD? Trust me, it doesn’t. 90% of the vinyl buying world doesn’t even own the proper cleaning equipment to allow a record to be played at even half it’s intended fidelity. Now don’t think that no one listens to vinyl. That’s ridiculous. I’m saying most don’t. Maybe they throw on a record once a week, but people don’t listen to vinyl now, like they did back in the 60s when there were 4 TV stations. So if it’s not quality, then why do it? Well there’s two reasons actually. The first reason is they collect it. It’s an obsession. If their favorite label puts out a record, they buy it. Their favorite band puts out a special edition 10th anniversary variation, they have to have it. The other reason is memories. People have a huge attachment to times, places, feelings, youth, fun, love, etc, and they like to associate those feelings with an object. You ever save a love letter from your Ex? Of course you have. You save it cause it’s easier to remember that time when you have proof that it happened. People worship objects, and in music, a great object to worship is a record.

Ok, maybe you need real proof of my claim that most people rarely listen to the vinyl they buy. Well there’s no more proof than download cards. Why does basically every single new recording released on vinyl today come with a digital download? Simple, because without the digital download, the customer would never listen to the damn album! Customers are demanding it. But it’s not that they’re demanding they get the digital download with the vinyl. They’re demanding access to the digital version of the release. Free or otherwise. This is such an important point to understand. When people buy a record that comes with a download, they want the record, but they listen to the digital version. So what does this mean, and what can we learn from it? Well if people want the digital to listen to it, and they want the vinyl to remember it, then why are we bundling these 2 things together? These 2 products serve two different purposes. It’s like a company including $200 worth of free food with the purchase of a new refrigerator. Ever heard of this deal? Of course you haven’t. It’s a complete waste of $200. People need the food, so there’s no reason to bundle the purchases. With this in mind, I think small labels should sell the vinyl and digital versions of an album, one of two ways. And both ways involve releasing the digital version prior to releasing the vinyl.

The first way is to use the digital version as a marketing device to spread the word about the album, thereby increasing sales of the vinyl release. A great way to do is by using a share to download feature. For example Limited Pressing has a feature that we call “Social Sharing”. It lets you give away a download for free in return for a facebook post or Tweet promoting the free download. We implemented this feature so labels and bands could generate eyeballs for an upcoming release.

Now I don’t think The Heverchucks maximized their exposure enough here. I think this release isn’t coming out till later this summer, and if I remember correctly, they put this download up in May. There’s just too much time in between those releases. As much as bands don’t want to hear this, people lose interest in most albums. They may love it and listen to it a lot for the first month, but then they forget about it a little. Once this happens, it becomes very difficult for a label or band to sell a memory of that release. Think about it, why would someone buy something to remember the album, if they’ve already started to forget about it? So I think you should use Social Sharing a week prior to the release. Make sure you have the date huge right there in the description. Maybe even put the date of the release in the Tweet/Facebook post. But get the word out there. Spread the word as far and wide as possible, then drop the record.

The other way I think a label or band could release the digital version of a record is to sell it using NYOP - Min $0.00(name your own price), or give it away for free. Some might be saying that this is the same thing. It’s not. They’re actually very different features. Yes one allows you to accept money, and one doesn’t. But that’s not really the difference. The difference is in how the customer views the transaction. With NYOP, some customers think the band/label will realize that they had a chance to give them money, and didn’t. This doesn’t matter for customers that have no connection to the band or label, but for people that always buy from them, it changes the way they feel about getting that release. Those regular customers don’t want to be seen as the person that doesn’t give money. And I think the way you choose which one of these tactics to use, is by knowing how big the band is that recorded the album. If for instance this is the band’s first full length release, but they have some what of a fan base because they’ve got a demo and a 7”, then I would suggest using NYOP. Truthfully the key is getting that email address so you can email everyone when the record is up for sale, but with a band/label with a decent fan base, you’ll be able to get the cash flow going with the NYOP feature. A lot of people don’t realize how well it works. Most believe that they won’t make a dime if they offer it for a min. $0.00. But they couldn’t be more wrong. What I said before about customers fearing the band or label will think they don’t appreciate what they’re getting, makes the customer want to show them that they do appreciate it. This word “Minimum” has a negativity that customers don’t like to be associated with. “I’m not going to do the minimum, or give the minimum. I’m better than that. I think you’re better than that.” This is what they think of when they see “Minimum $0.00”.

Giving the album away for free works well too. Once again, the key is getting that email address. If you’re a band or label that’s brand new, and you don’t have much of a fan base already, giving the music away for free is a great move. Don’t let the customer think you’re looking to collect some cash by using the NYOP feature. Just give it to anyone and everyone for free. Post it on every message board you can find. Make sure to have a music player on the product previewing the best song on the album. Full album streams are a terrible idea. You want them to download the album and give you their email address. The full album stream completely defeats that purpose. Another great way to promote the free download, is to take the best song on the album, and make that it’s own Social Sharing product. Come at it from both angles. You can have the player above the download, and you can have the hit song spreading throughout the social networks.

Then after a week or so, once you start to see the downloads dip a little, dump the free downloads, launch the vinyl release, and contact all the people you’ve collected email addresses from in your promotional campaign. I don’t think the digital download should be discarded as a product, just not be free anymore. When you put the record up for sale, if you take the digital version and sell it for 7 or 8 bucks, you’re going to make that record look very appealing at a price point of $10-$15. There’s a term in behavioural economics called “anchor price”, and what it means is people don’t fully know what something costs. So to figure out if the cost of something is good or not, they judge it against other related items. That price they use to judge all other items is called the anchor price. If you have the digital version of the album for $8 and the vinyl release for sale right next to it for $12, that vinyl release looks real good. Will many people buy the digital version at $8? Probably not, but that’s not what you’re trying to do with it, you’re trying to make the vinyl look like the better purchase. You’ve already given away the album for a week, if someone wants it, they’ll go and find it. But if you continue to give it away while the vinyl is on sale, you make the vinyl look expensive. The digital version is free, but the vinyl is $12. What that means is the music is free and all I’m paying for is plastic. If the digital is $8, then what that means is I’m only paying $4 for plastic. That’s a lot more appealing to customers.

To wrap this up, bundling products that serve two different purposes, is not the right move when no one would buy one, just to obtain the other. Which is what’s happening with the digital + vinyl bundle. No one is buying the vinyl, just to get the digital. Which means the opposite, that you’re using the digital version to sell the vinyl version. You’re saying “Buy this record! I’ll even give you the digital version too!” And when you realize that, you will realize that breaking the digital version away from the vinyl, and using it to market the vinyl, is the better strategy. Remember, if someone wants the vinyl, they’ll buy it. Your job is not to convince people to want it, your job is to find all the people that want it, but don’t know it.

Ok, if you made it through this post, consider yourself reborn as a capitalist! I think I’ll take it down a notch next time. Maybe talk test presses, and Kickstarter.