Music Business

Eminem, Bon Jovi & Tim McGraw Going D2F With Gumroad & Chirpify

Before-d2f-ole1981-flickrLightweight ecommerce services like Gumroad and Chirpify allow indie artists to go Direct-to-Fan and major label artists to provide a sales experience with a D2F vibe. By eliminating the now traditional virtual trek to an ecommerce store like iTunes, such services have allowed major label artists like Eminem and Bon Jovi to join major indie artists like Tim McGraw in connecting directly with their fans.

Direct-to-Fan (D2F) is generally considered to be an indie or DIY approach in which musicians, as well as other artists and celebrities, bypass labels and similar third parties to conduct business directly with fans using a variety of ecommerce tools and related platforms.

I assume that artists on indie labels, aka labels that's aren't one of the majors, would be excluded but given the confusion related to "indie" as a term, I'm not going to argue that point either way.

D2F experiments by major artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails during their DIY periods were noted as much for their pricing experiments as for going Direct-to-Fan. Pay-what-you-will and sliding scale pricing are choices any business can make and existed as pricing options long before the World Wide Web was a twinkle in Sir Tim Berners-Lee's eyes.

But the Web opened up the potential for artists who chose to bypass labels to go directly to fans with their offers using lightweight ecommerce tools such as Gumroad and Chirpify. Such tools allow artists to not only bypass the label system but to also bypass such ecommerce companies as iTunes and Amazon.

As Radiohead's Ed O'Brien put it:

"The key relationship is the one between the band and the people who like that band. And we have this wonderful means to achieve that now: through the web."

But just as "indie" became associated with aesthetic approaches that groups like Nirvana took to the majors, major labels and artists on major labels have seen the marketing appeal of going directly to fans with offers that emphasize the relationship between the artist and fan minus the sterile looming presence of corporate entities.

So just as major label artists are turning to fan funding and presale campaigns via platforms like Pledge Music, they are also conducting D2F-style ecommerce using tools like Gumroad and Chirpify.

Artists using Gumroad include Bon Jovi who are now in pre-order mode for their upcoming release "What About Now." A rep for Gumroad stated:

"This Bon Jovi release is a peek into the future of artists leveraging new technologies to give them increased flexibility and simplicity, higher conversion rates, and the opportunity to own and use the data coming from their buyers."

"[Jon Bon Jovi's] putting to use Gumroad's full feature set to deliver the best possible experience for buyers — the whole transaction flow happens right on his site (via our Overlay), so there's no new page loads or lengthy checkout processes for buyers to wait through, and they know they are buying directly from Bon Jovi, which every fan loves."

In addition to previous work with such artists as Coldplay, Diplo, Steve Aoki, Girl Talk, Ellie Goulding, Wiz Khalifa and David Banner, Gumroad can now add Eminem's Shady Records to the list kicking off with a Burn Rubber x Shady Records tshirt.

Chirpify, who've provided services to artists ranging from Amanda Palmer to Green Day, are now working with Tim McGraw.

McGraw, who's technically if not aesthetically an indie artist, sold out his new album "One Of Those Nights" using Chirpify's in-stream ecommerce service that recently added Facebook sales to its previous combo of Twitter and Instagram.

Though artists such as Bon Jovi and Tim McGraw cannot be said to be going D2F in the sense of bypassing labels, they are creating a D2F-style experience, one that forefronts that "key relationship…between the band and the people who like that band."

If DIY and indie artists were like tech startups, they'd say that major label and major indie artists are validating the approach. However, indie ideologues will claim that such artists are coopting D2F with a simulated experience.

However you categorize such developments, nurturing a direct relationship with fans is good business and services such as those provided by Gumroad and Chirpify are making such relationships much easier to maintain than in previous years.

[Thumbnail of fans behind fence courtesy Ole1981.]


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at All World Dance: Videos and maintains Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Good piece Clyde. I’d like to also add that Chirpify is the only platform enabling actual in-stream commerce on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All other platforms offer social advertising and traditional ecommerce.

  2. Your concluding paragraph is spot-on, Clyde. Very well said. Direct-to-fan is not (in my opinion) a way to bypass LABELS, but rather a revenue model that bypasses the MIDDLEMEN like distributors & retailers, so the transaction occurs directly between the customer and the artist. Labels (indie or major) can absolutely be involved, and sometimes they may even manage the campaign. Whether you’re totally DIY-ing it, or getting support from a team of helpers or a label, “nurturing a direct relationship with fans” is essential. I especially like Gumroad’s “Overlay” tool…and the fact that they only take a 5% transaction fee (most D2F platforms take 15%).

  3. Hi Jason – I agree 100% with everything you are saying except that Gumroad take a fixed fee also. So at a $1 price point they are taking 30%.

    “What is Gumroad’s cut?
    Simple. It is just 5% + 25¢ of each transaction. For example: If you sell a digital video for $10, the fee is $0.75 and $9.25 is deposited into your account.
    There are no setup fees, monthly fees, bandwidth fees, or withdrawal fees.”

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