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How to sell digital music 101

posted in Marketing on January 14th, 2007

Whenever you read news from the entertainment industry, you hear C - level staff complaining about how bad digital music is hurting sales and how hard it is to sell music to people because everyone just pirates it, you’ve heard those for years now, you’ll keep hearing them for quite some time more.

Sure, there’s Apple and the iTMS, which is doing quite well - because there are lots of iPods out there and people are easily tricked into buying more than one song ( “come on mom, it’s only a buck!” ). The whole store is doing well, in fact, a lot better than the top 10 stores that sell DRM-secured Windows Media Audio files together, but there are still those that dislike how Apple handles DRM.

Now, I don’t feel like getting into the whole DRM discussion more than I have to, mostly because I’m no expert on it, but from personal experience I know that certain DRM schemes are hurting the customers and put them off.

For example, my ISP provides those that subscribe to one of the better packages with credits for their (WMA-powered) online music store. You don’t pay for it 1:1, it’s all included in your subscription. A nice idea, it keeps people from downloading pirated music … or does it?

In the past, I’d “buy” my albums at the store, then proceed to a P2P site to download the MP3s, including coverart and intelligently named files (rather than “artistid_tracknumber_trackname.wma”). Technically speaking, I didn’t do anything bad, I didn’t share those MP3s with anyone and I was able to listen to them on the device of my choosing (I have / had quite a few devices and I dislike the idea of losing 50% of my media library because of device lock-in). I didn’t even bother downloading the WMA-encrypted files, why waste bandwidth after all?

So, you won’t believe how happy I was when I first discovered the goodness that is MagnaTune. Sure, they haven’t signed any uber-famous acts like Britney Spears or Robbie Williams (who’d want them anyway?), but that doesn’t mean that any of their artists aren’t great musicians. All of the performers are screened and the team from MagnaTune then decides who actually gets to be included in their portfolio.

While that is a a good feature on it’s own, here’s what I really love about them: when you buy a CD, you get to decide how much you pay for it. Say, if you’re short on cash, you could spend a couple bucks, burn that CD, then impress your girlfriend with it while you propose to her. She accepts and you’re so thankful that you decided to buy the CD again and now pay a bigger amount. Granted, I’m quite sure this hasn’t happened (yet), but it’s one way to describe their pricing policies.

When you buy a CD, it’s up to you how you want it. There are quite a few different formats, high and higher bitrate MP3, FLAC, WAV, everything really. And if you happen to lose your music along the road, you just hit up their re-download form and you’ll get a mail with all your music downloads again, at no extra charge, naturally.

Another thing I love is that with every album you purchase, you get three tickets to give away to friends. They can then download the same album you bought for free. Sure, you could send out more tickets, but then again, why hurt those that try to please you?

Like every good web-based company, they have a blog available, with lots of great information, should you be looking for more reading. Oh, and they’re working on a Second Life space too.

Another company that just gets it is CANDdYRAT Records. Like MagnaTune, they have a nice selection of artists in their line up. They approach marketing in an innovative way, if you ask me. I am, like most people, too busy to go out and look for music, I’d much rather get a list of suggestions (just like last.fm and Pandora do) and then take my pick.

Recently, I’ve been using YouTube to discover new music and came across a great clip called Drifting from Andy McKee. The whole clip is available on YouTube and the user that uploaded it, who actually is the owner of CANdYRAT Records, had another 44 videos available for my entertainment.

I was so fascinated by the Andy McKee stuff that I kept watching clip after clip. His music sounds great, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have bought it if I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see the guy in action. Thanks to the use of some innovative marketing of his assets, Mr. R. Poland managed to turn a listener into a customer and so I decided to order my very own copy of the “Art of Motion”.

Ordering the CD didn’t go down without a hitch though, the first time I tried, Paypal asked me for a credit card, even though I had enough funds in my account to cover it. After asking for some assistance from CANdYRAT Records, I was quickly presented with alternate solutions. In the end, I tried again with Paypal a day later and it just worked. During the whole order process, I received quick replies to emails whenever I had a question and was finally told that my order would arrive in 7 to 10 business days.

Well, what do you know - 2 business days (not counting Saturday, where postal service is, technically speaking available) later, I received a small package with the CD I longed for.

With both companies, support has been great. I wasn’t hassled by any DRM-schemes, I received personal support whenever I had questions and paying for the media was easy too. So if you’re looking to expand your media library, have a look at both MagnaTune and CANdYRAT Records, maybe you’ll find your new favorite artist(s) there…

2006 - a(n) (audible) year in review

posted in Media, personal stuff on December 29th, 2006

This is the third and final part in a series of posts where I’m reviewing media from the past year. The first part discussed printed media, followed by my thoughts on televised media. The finale of this trilogy belongs to audible media, anything from music to spoken content.

2006, for me, marked the year of indie content. I bought more albums from magnatune.com this year than I did buy in retail stores during the last five years. Why? Because I like their concept. I get to choose how I acquire my media (loads of formats available), how much I pay and best of all … I get to share it with friends. Their concept is great and I’m thankful to them for providing such a great service.

Number one hit, for me personally, this year was certainly Scott Sigler’s Ancestor. While the story actually started in September of 2005, it wasn’t concluded until spring this year. Scott’s plot about xeno transplantation and the various side effects kept me hooked till the bitter end. Thanks to this podiobook, commuting actually became bearable.

Dubbed “medicine for the soul” by a commenter on YouTube, fingerstyle guitar artist Andy McKee really deserves a spot in my toplist. The way he makes love to the guitar is just amazing. It’s just amazing how he manages to convey a very vivid image with his song, without the need for any vocal support whatsoever.

Last but not least, Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack, Vol. 1 is the perfect candidate to conclude this review. Featuring songs from season one of the show, the compilation contains songs which have the power to make you feel happy. Out of the 15 songs on the disc, I personally like two thirds a lot and find the other third to be awesome. It rarely happens that I like more than half of a compilation’s songs, but this time, it’s spot on.

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