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Do 'Extravagant Extras' Sell Albums?

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There's an interesting article over at The Atlantic, questioning if "extravagant extras" help sell more albums:

It looks at a number of artists who are offering up snazzy packaging, from Bjork's new "album as an app" concept, to Trent Reznor's famous super deluxe limited edition to Lady Gaga's recent offerings and more.

There seems to be mixed feelings over whether or not these are good things.  One point of view is that these are souvenirs -- collector items that true fans want.  The other point of view is that they're just PR gimmicks to get people to pay for extraneous things they might not really want.

I definitely think these things can work in some cases, but might not be appropriate for everyone.  How can artists determine what might be a worthwhile extra, and what's just gimmicky?
initiated Oct 13, 2011 in Business Models by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160

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They are tokens or excuses. They are so the fan can justify to themselves that they are spending more money to support a project. The ultimate example of this is the signature. I have a signed copy of "Sita Sings the Blues". I'm quite happy about that, but in fact, it's really the fact that it's a token of the $100 I spent on the project, and it's personalized (but the real value I got was knowing that I contributed).

Frankly, though, I'm also kind of a fan of fancy packaging for albums, nicely-bound editions of books, etc. If I'm a collector, I might as well collect the nice version of a thing. Also, I prefer stuff that is durable. If I'm paying a premium price for something in pre-sale, I'm doing that because I'm a serious fan of the work, and so I'm probably going to want to view/listen/read it a lot (and for a long time).

Digital downloads and cheap editions are for stuff I will watch once or twice and then move on to something else. In the free-culture world, I would just download those for free and not pay for them (presumably somebody who cares more about them will pay for them so that I don't have to -- meanwhile that's more money for me to spend on my favorite artists).
response added Oct 14, 2011 by Terry Hancock (1,000 points)   3 4 10
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I'm actually not a fan of the album release format as a standard.  Tradition has lead to complacency and thus we are left with an outdated release model.  There are albums which make sense because the songs are related or tell a story (Pink Floyd's The Wall, Adele's 21,etc..)

(stepping off soapbox)

I am not sure that I would purchase an album specifically for the extras unless I valued the extras more than the album itself.  Added value is one thing but just throwing a bunch of stuff into a package deal isn't compelling unless I see value in the purchase as a whole.  Perceived value is personal and will vary with each individual - thing's that I want may not satisfy someone else.

I would like to suggest that you use a system similar to Amazon's suggested add-on's.  Give your fans options for example:

Album only ($10)

Album + a sticker ($12)

Album + autographed liner notes ($15)

Album + autographed poster ($20)

Album + Tshirt ($25)

Album + sticker, autographed liner notes/poster, Tshirt ($40 - Save $2)

With this example you are giving them options, and a compelling reason to purchase the largest combination package.  What you are avoiding is forcing your customers to make an either or decision (do I pay $40 for an album with a bunch of stuff or do without).



response added Oct 14, 2011 by Douglas Vaughn (650 points)   1 1 4
edited Oct 14, 2011 by Douglas Vaughn
@justyouraveragejoe I think this hit the nail on the head: "I am not sure that I would purchase an album specifically for the extras unless I valued the extras more than the album itself."

I'm not sure about "more than the album itself," but the extras should actually have value in and of themselves. Most of the extras actually do, of course - artists generally don't want to rip off their fans.

They should also be connected with the art in some way. A T-shirt with custom art would be good, but something like, say, a key chain or coffee mug, probably wouldn't. That's what distinguishes actual added value, from those cheap, gimmicky "promotional" items that everyone gives away.
@justyouraveragejoe I think Jonathan Coulton had this kind of album release structure when he released Artificial Heart:

Downloads only: $10
Downloads CD: $15
Downloads CD T-Shirt: $25
Downloads CD 3xT-shirts Vinyl: $100

I could probably have some of the details wrong, but that was basically his business model for selling the album.

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