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A D.I.Y. Artist's Successful $30 Download Experiment

Trifonic-ninth-waveBy Laurence Trifon, manager for indie electronic act Trifonic (@ltrifon).

Will fans pay $30 for a digital download of a band’s new album?

In Trifonic’s case, the answer is yes.

 A Unique Offer for Fans

For the release of Trifonic’s Ninth Wave album last month, we offered the typical assortment of direct-to-fan packages on our website: A standard digital download ($6), a physical CD ($11), and a few merch items like t-shirts and hoodies ($20-$50).

As an experiment, we decided to offer one more package, a “Producer’s Edition” of the album. In addition to the album tracks, the Producer’s Edition included downloads of full audio stems for each track (for creating remixes), video tutorials about how each song was made, and virtual instrument sample kits (for fans to use in their own tracks). We priced the Producer’s Edition at $30 for digital only and $35 including a CD.

The catalyst for creating the Producer’s Edition was the fact that many of Trifonic’s listeners are producers and DJs themselves. We knew that these folks like learning about how Trifonic’s music is created, and they also make music of their own. Hence, we figured they’d find the “Producer’s Edition” bonus content valuable.

The Results

In the first 3 weeks of sales, 35% of album purchases from the Trifonic site have been for the Producer’s Edition. Our average revenue per transaction has been just over $17, which is 2-3x greater than we’d expect from just selling standard digital downloads and CDs. On a revenue basis, the Producer’s Edition has accounted for over 60% of sales. Any way you look at it, the Producer’s Edition has been a great success for us.

Lessons Learned

• Always create premium offers. Selling $0.99 downloads and putting your music on streaming services is necessary, but not sufficient, if you want to make a living in music. Create premium offers that will delight your most dedicated fans. They’ll appreciate it, and pay you accordingly.

• Be creative. Selling merch is great, but not everyone wants a CD or a t-shirt. Find additional items to offer your fans beyond the usual mix of goods. In Trifonic’s case, we knew that fans wanted more access to how we work and create. So that’s what we gave them. Figure out what your audience values, and then package and deliver value to them in a special way.

• Be scalable. We brainstormed lots of packages we could offer to Trifonic’s music-producing fans: Phone consulting sessions, in-person visits to their studio, track collaborations, etc. But none of these ideas were scalable for us – they’d require a lot of our time, and we’d only be able to deliver them to a small number of fans. Contrast that with the Producer’s Edition, which consists primarily of content that already existed as a by-product of making the album. Sure, it took some time to package and organize the bonus materials, but the core of it was already there. Furthermore, the marginal cost for delivering the Producer’s Edition to each subsequent purchaser is essentially zero and anyone in the world who wants it can have it.