August 2


People Who Won’t Pay $.99 For Your Download

By Keith Livingston

August 2, 2017

diy musician, music marketing

“Dude, can you send a Spotify link, I don’t want to pay $. 99?” That’s the kind of message you’ll eventually have to respond to, sooner or later, if you’re putting your music out there.

You’ll see lots of advice out there that you need to engage with your fans, and you do. But a good question is, how much should you engage with different types of your fans? And the answer is, it depends.

Do They See Your Music As Valuable?

There are some people who will never see your music as anything valuable enough to spend money on. Now, money is probably not the reason you got into music. And money is not the only measure of success in music. But it’s one good measuring stick. It’s a way to keep track.

You shouldn’t spend that much time or energy interacting with most of the folks that won’t ever pay anything. Here’s why. . .

Do You See Your Music As Valuable?

Suppose a person you know puts a song of yours on their Spotify playlist. They play your song once a week, for a year, before they stop listening. That’s 52 streams, and you’ll earn about $.19 (nineteen cents!) for those plays (279 steams to earn $1). How much time do you want to spend to make $.19?

Now, think about someone who pays $.99 for a download, direct from your site. You’ll make about 5 times as much from that person. So, you should interact with that person 5 times more, right? Sort of.

How Do You Value Your Time?

Let’s look at another angle. What is your musician wage for doing this music marketing stuff? If you work for $.19/minute, you’re working for $11.40/hour. So, if you spend one minute looking up your Spotify info to send to the guy that won’t buy, assuming he plays your song 52 times, you’ve just valued your time at $11.40 an hour. And that doesn’t subtract any of the time or money you spent learning your instrument, or recording the song!

The Super-Fan

A super-fan will probably buy almost everything you put out. They share your posts. They buy your downloads, CDs, and add you to their playlists. On top of that, they grab any swag you have for sale, and come to see you live if you swing through their town. They might even host a house concert. If you have a crowdfunding offer, they’ll buy in — and not the cheapest package.

The super-fan might be worth hundreds, or even thousands of dollars over time. But let’s say $100. At that value, they are worth more than 500 times what the Spotify only guy is worth to you!

So, let’s suppose you spend an hour cultivating a super-fan (60 times as much time as you spend with Spotify guy), and one minute on Spotify guy. Which makes more sense? You’re valuing yourself at $11.40/hour on Spotify guy, and at $100/hour on super-fan. Plus, super-fan warms the cockles of your heart!

What To Do With People That Just ‘Like’ You

I hate to break it to you, but not everyone will love your music. Some people will think it sucks, some will be ambivalent, some will like it, and some will love, love, love it.

Your most important job is to find and nurture those that love your music. That should be #1, in terms of marketing.

Job #2 is to turn those that like your music into people that love your music. In other words, turn fans into super-fans. You do that, by drawing them into your story, and your musical world.

Don’t spend a lot of time trying to get people who are ambivalent in the fold. And don’t spend any time trying to get people that don’t like it, to like it.

Invite, Don’t Sell

Send the guy to your Spotify music and add, “Here’s a link to the story behind the lyrics, and a video on the making of the recording of the song.” Invite them into your world. And on those pages, have ways for them to go deeper into your story. You just might make a new super-fan.

Super-Fans With No Money

There will be genuine fans that legitimately don’t have the money to spend on your music and swag. Do everything you can for them. They will do what they can for you, too. And it will be worth a lot. They’ll share your Facebook posts, they’ll introduce everyone they know to your music, and they’ll leave good reviews and positive comments. You’ll feel great about being a good person, and the goodwill you generate will be valuable to you both.


Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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