Thing 17: Reward and Incentivise

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of choice on the internet. No matter what you’re offering, there’s an alternative somewhere else that will do just fine.

I’ve said before that people hear music, then they like music, then they buy music. It’s important to realise that you need to go a step further than just allowing that to happen. You have to remove all the friction in between.

People may love your music. They might be enormous fans. But let’s not forget they’re no longer a captive audience, enslaved to the tyrranies of geography or time. You might be the most specialist baroque chamber music retailer or bhangra act — chances are you’re not the only game in town anymore.

You have to give people a reason to choose you — and then keep giving them reasons.

In these days of mp3 blogs, streaming radio and on-demand services, the low-quality 30-second sample just isn’t going to cut it any more. It was never really enough to give people a good idea of whether they like your music or not, and now it’s pretty much laughable.

In fact, it’s worse than useless. The 30-second (or 1-minute) lo-fi streaming sample makes you look mean and suspicious. You don’t have to give away the whole catalogue, but a couple of full tracks of each album’s a great start.

This is particularly true for customers who have bought from you in the past (or engaged with you in some other economic fashion — substitute your own business model here). There’s nothing that encourages an ongoing economic relationship than gifts, rewards and incentives.

It doesn’t even have to be the music itself. Popular gifts and incentives include ringtones, wallpapers, preferential bookings for events, discounts… anything that will turn an interested punter into a repeat customer.

And one of the best rewards is to make the customer / audience feel as if they are part of something. Membership is its own reward.

One of the ways to incorporate your audience — whether you’re a musician, label, retailer, promoter, venue or some other music business — is to encourage them to participate in your website. A forum — or better yet, a group blog — that allows communities to form around what you make and do can quickly take on a life of its own.

But be careful: without critical mass, a forum can seem like a bit of a wasteland, and then you just look a bit Johnny-no-mates. Get a decent conversation going, and you can turn your satisfied customers into your best advocates. You just need to give them a reason to get going.

Reward. Incentivise. Enjoy the economic karma.

2 thoughts on “Thing 17: Reward and Incentivise

  1. Paul says:

    Funnily enough, I was thinking about this last night.

    In this age of being able to download individual tracks from albums, the problem arises where the label’s store (or countless online stores) will sell each track for 79p (or whatever), and it is highly possible that one or more of those tracks will be offered for free somewhere else (usually the band’s or label’s website).

    Do you think this is such a big problem?

    It is less of a problem if you find a track for free, then end up buying the album (online or on CD) for £7 or more. But when it is the single track you want, it could be frustrating…

    I do agree that full track samples are infinitely more useful than 30-second, 32kbps samples.

    I also agree that wallpapers and ringtones should be used as promotional freebies, and NOT as revenue-generating money for old rope.

    £3 for a low quality audio file of a single I paid 79p for at full quality? No thanks.

  2. Spoons says:

    I would like to see some development in the technology that provides the metadata we get with digitally distributed music files. At the moment we have tags providing us with, typically, the artist, track title, track no, album, genre and year and perhaps an embedded jpg of the CD cover.

    I would like to see artwork produced specifically for the digital distribution version of the tracks. Maybe photos from the recording sessions or even art works by the band members – anything that adds “metavalue” to the file. Perhaps the tags could provide more detail about how the track was written, recorded etc…

    I suppose the enhanced CD was a step in this direction where you would put an album into your PC to access photographs and music video’s etc.

    I think what I’m getting at is that the tracks you give away can have the standard meta attached – enough to identify what the track is and who it is by etc but when you buy an album or a single you get the full rich levels of extra metavalue.

    Technology will have to create the opportunities for this perhaps in some extension of the ID3 tagging formats but I think people in the business of selling files rather than physical music buckets (CDs, vinyl) need to start adding value to these files.

    Whilst the technology doesn’t exist currently to embedded all these extra goodies in the actual files perhaps small labels and producers could take a look at there online delivery method. If when you sell an album you offer a ZIP file for convenience of download why not add a folder of live shots of the band or audio interviews as bonus for your customers that fork out for a whole album instead of just single tracks?