How letting fans pay what they want can actually sell more music
Recording artist and music promoter of over 20 years explains his own “pay what you want” CD sale model.
A guest post by Brian Hazard of Passive Promotion.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.
A little over a year ago, I released an updated version of my Depeche Mode tribute albumwith three new tracks.
I detailed my attempts to sell the CD to strangers on Facebook here. When the dust settled, I still had over 700 of them in my garage.
The tribute has always been the best gateway to my original material for new fans, so a full year after release, I figured it was time to move those CDs one way or another.
My initial thought was to replicate my free + shipping & handling offer from 2020, but this time, the odds of breaking even were stacked against me.
That’s because I paid about $2 per CD in royalties to the songwriter, Martin Gore.
So rather than making the CD free, I made it pay what you want. Sort of…
Options, order bumps, and upsells
Rather than allowing buyers to choose any price including zero, I provide five options in a drop-down menu along with the following description:
- Pay Nothing – Just like it sounds, it’s on me!
- Pay Rights – Cover the royalties to our beloved songwriter, Martin Gore
- Pay My Cost – Cover Martin’s royalties and my manufacturing costs
- Pay It Forward – Cover my costs for both you and the next Depeche fan, and I’ll sign the CD
- Pay Full Price – I’ll sign the CD, throw in some tribute-related swag, and send you my new cover with Matt Mancid of “The Sun and The Rainfall” [another Depeche Mode song]
Unlike my streamlined free + s/h offer, this one sits on the product page in my shop. You have to add the CD to your cart and go through regular checkout.
Yes, it adds friction, but it also demands intentionality and invites further browsing. Along the way, many Mode fans notice that I also sell a Collector’s Edition of the CD plus a set of downloadable remixes of the same material.
Another difference is the option to download the album instead. Oftentimes international users back out when they see the $15 shipping cost. I’ve got the album set to name your price on Bandcamp so they can still potentially chip in.
Currently, I’ve got two cheap order bumps placed right below the payment gateways:
Once the order is submitted, the buyer is subjected to my first upsell, courtesy of WooFunnels:
If the offer is declined, the buyer is presented with another offer for a single CD at half price ($7.50).
Finally, assuming it wasn’t already in the cart, the buyer is offered the remix set download at half price ($5).
Pay What You Want ad campaign
My offer went live on Black Friday and I immediately launched a single ad on Facebook and Instagram feeds only:
It was targeted to a dozen green light countries to males age 35-65+ with an interest in Depeche Mode plus an interest in either compact disc or music download.
To my surprise, it generated a positive return, despite it being the most expensive time of the year to run ads. The reported 1.24 ROAS doesn’t include income from Bandcamp.
I shut the campaign off in mid-December after sales started slowing and people were switching to holiday mode.
Pay What You Want sales to date
It’s a little tricky to tease apart sales from this offer versus regular sales, since I released a new album on December 3. I wrote a full breakdown of that campaign here.
Here are the top 5 items sold from Black Friday through the end of December:
Omitting the Mages CD (the new album), that’s $829. It doesn’t include the order bumps, but it likely does include a sale or two that would’ve happened without the offer, so let’s call it even.
During the same period, the album got 48 downloads on Bandcamp with 19 purchases (and 29 freeloaders) totaling $70, bringing us to a combined $899 minus $250 in ad spend = $649.
I’m not going to bother calculating my cost of goods again, since these are basically “leftover” CDs at this point. You can do the math using the figures here if you’re interested.
It turns out that Depeche Mode fans are a generous bunch. Half of the buyers opted to pay full price:
Only five were so bold as to select “pay nothing” and most of those were current fans.
Due to issues with WooCommerce payments, my upsells didn’t fire until the middle of December.
Considering that my free + s/h offer generated most of its revenue from upsells, that bodes well for the future of this campaign.
Pay What You Want conclusions & future plans
I’m convinced this is a viable campaign with room to grow.
To put it in perspective, I didn’t test anything and I haven’t changed anything since launch. The ad didn’t even include music!
I could try a dedicated landing page, an open name your price option, different order bumps and upsells, different ad formats and copy, even a different album!
If I bumped ad spend up to $30 a day, I bet I could nail down a winning formula in a month.
Problem is, I wouldn’t be doing much else! Just fulfilling the orders would take a couple of hours every day.
Alternately I could just leave the offer running without ads and introduce people to my music in other ways. Some percentage will see the offer organically on my homepage or on social media.
I’ll see how that plays out over the next month or so and then, at the very least, toggle the ad campaign back on.