New Low For Music: Paying Fans To Hear Songs

If I offered to pay you $35 to listen to my new single, would you consider? What if, instead, I offered you the chance to win the dollar amount—in exchange for your email? Tempted to fork it up? Well, you’re not the only one. Over the last few days, the UK pop duo The Reclusive Barclay Brothers, has been running a promotional campaign that aims to incentivize fans for listening to their music.

At random, the group will pick 100 fans to receive the $35 stipend, totaling $3,500. This money, along with the amount needed to fund the production of their latest album, was borrowed from a bank at 16.9% over 5 years. The theory is that in the record industry it hasn’t been uncommon to pay radio stations to play music, so why not just pay the fans? The Reclusive Barclay Brothers consider this to be reverse payola; the bribery of influential fans. Empowered by the social web, fans do have much more power these days. The jury is out on whether or not paying them is a good idea. Or if, in doing such an outlandish marketing effort like this, the group will be able to attract attention to their music on its own merit.

In the music video for their latest single ‘We Could Be Lonely Together,’ the focal point of this marketing stunt, The Reclusive Barclay Brothers aptly state that is “certainly not an attempt to further cheapen recorded music and it’s most definitely not a cynical, desperate act to gain publicity…” Maybe not. What do you think? Is paying fans a new low for music, like their site suggests, or just the logical progression of where online music marketing is headed anyways?

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  1. It’s just another idea, that’s all. There are more changes per day in this new music economy than diapers on an infant with diarrhea! For better or worse it’s just another way to test out a hypothesis in an effort to gain success. If it works for them, then great. If not, I hope they are quick to realize and move on.
    In the book Linchpin by Seth Godin (thanks summer reading list) he writes, “Every creative person I know generates a slew of laughable ideas for every good one.”
    Try anything once, just be savvy enough to know if once is enough.

  2. Goes to the top of the dumbest list for idiot ideas from yet another band that thinks they know best.
    Sampling music is no different to any other goods …so IF I paid you $35 for your email address – (that you can change as soon as I give you the cash) – where’s the ongoing payoff or ROI?
    Create incentives for fans on an ongoing structure – allow them to get something..when they reach a plateau they cash in.
    Nothing viral about this, clever nor do they have enough cash.
    Is their Dad the bank manager by any chance?

  3. One of the dumbest ideas ever, and a new low. They have to be pretty bad to pay people to listen to them. Sad. A new low.

  4. Things like this give me hope that there will be a music industry in twenty years.

  5. If anything, this is hinting at a new type of media marketing exchange. Social games found on sites like facebook are implementing “awards” and “credits” for users engaging the content and entertainment. Why can’t an indie band do this? If it converts a few new listeners into fans, they win. If the paid listeners hate the music they’re still free to tell the world how much they disliked the tunes.
    Apparently this band is willing to make a cash investment that goes right to the listener, instead of a PR firm or some Sonicbigs type service. I can’t fault them for it. It’s not a low… it’s an idea. Let’s see how it works for them.
    One fact remains.. if the music isn’t good no slick marketing trick is going to work. We always have that 😉

  6. This was successful in a few ways:
    -It got you to write about it.
    -As a reader, I watched their video and of course listened to the video.
    -They got me to sign up, and now have me on the band’s mailing list.
    The money they spend is so far providing results. Paying for an ad, is unlikely to do that.

  7. All this media attention for $3500? If you ask me, they have been quite successful with this “concept.”
    If you ask me, it was move to get some press and publicity. I expect this to be shortlived.
    Their song “We Could Be Lonely Together” does not strike a chord with me. Just nothing special in my opinion.
    Smart PR move though. Too bad the music will let it down. Can the “influencers” who got paid $35 speak the truth about the music or are they forced to market it as the next best band? Influencers are all about trust and credibility. Without great music, this stunt can’t work.

  8. I think it’s an awful idea.They degrade their own music themselves.Even if it bring results in terms of attention,
    which please allow me to doubt it,it is still a bad way to evaluate their music.Why don’t they play in the tube and beg with a hat instead?..

  9. Israel, have to totally agree on this point, the amount of publicity generated on this campaign more than covers the investment. It’s really an angle to a release as part of a press campaign rather than a new business model. It’s definitely generated press and discussion about the band, and that’s money well spent. It certainly wouldn’t have got the equivalent ROI from traditional media placements… Good job all round.

  10. One thing you have to give record companies is that they try and make an educated guess whether the marketing push on an artist is worth the investment. Unfortunately a band can think it’s a good idea and spend their own money with no one to argue that their material may not be ready for prime time.
    Lots of bands like us using various marketing techniques – but there’s a difference between building awareness and marketing a single.

  11. It’s an interesting theory, however I can only see it ending in disappointment.
    Not sure how the OCC will process this incentive scheme, as paying fans to listen could be seen as an attempt to directly influence purchases.
    It’s certainly given you a digital press boost and people will remember the name, though I can’t help but think the $3500 couldn’t of been better spent.
    I wish you the best with the project, though would recommend Ocean Finance in consolidating all of your debts into one easy monthly payment.

  12. This is an all new low. I don’t even want to hear this band now (any band that offers to pay you to listen to them can’t be very good). I hope this idea dies a quick death and that no other bands are stupid enough to try and copy it. No amount of publicity is worth this. Lower your standards to the public and the public will never let you raise them again.

  13. I totally agree and was thinking the same thing as I read the article…which, by the way, is the second time I’ve heard about this so obviously they’re earning some buzz off of it.

  14. Interesting what bands will do to get attention. Well guess what, it worked. Look at all the attention they are now getting. We are all reading about it and watching the video. The music is okay, not great and certainly not worthy of giving up my contact info for maybe winning $35. Seriously, you would really do this for a chance at $35? I would have expected more than just 2099 YouTube views since July 16. And they should have placed their iTunes link right on the homepage. If they had hired me I would have given them a much better internet marketing plan.

  15. They’ll never be able to gauge how much interest was garnered from the chance at $35 vs. how much was garnered through people blogging about the stunt. And do they have a plan to actually convert it into sales? As Madalyn stated, the money could have gone to much better use (that would have given them more traction over time) had they invested in a marketing specialist instead and concentrated on making great music.

  16. It’s just a sign of our times. Everyone needs money and everyone likes to listen to music. A better solution along the same lines for these times will be anything that pays the fans commission to promote sale links of music.

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