🟪⬛ 27: Give your fans something to pay for that’s better than free, in 30 minutes

Create something new that generates revenue

Over the past week we explored strategies and tactics to monetize your content. To put it in Jay-Z’s words, you’re “not a businessman, I’m a business, man!”, which means you should continuously explore opportunities to create revenue from your existing fan base. In start-up language, this is called a sticky engine of growth. Today we combine creativity and business to create something that generates revenue.

Today: Give your fans something to pay for that’s better than free, in 30 minutes

  1. Read Kevin Kelly’s Better Than Free blog post.

  2. Pick 3 generatives better than free.

  3. Brainstorm ideas for each generative and pick one to develop.

One of the most influential blog posts in digital music over the last decade or so, has been Better Than Free by Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired magazine. In it, he suggests that the ‘super distribution’ offered by digital communication pushes everything towards free, but there are 8 ways to make something “better than free”, so people will pay for it. It’s an important read, so go do that first.

The post was written in 2008. This was before smartphones were normal. Before Facebook was the largest social network globally. Before Instagram even existed. Spotify and SoundCloud were only just getting started. So let’s look at some examples of ways in which you might apply the 8 generatives better than free in 2020. (if you want an explanation of these categories, read the post)

Immediacy

  • Letting dedicated fans pre-order your music

  • Giving your Patreon supporters a chance to read your lyrics or hear your music a few days before it comes out

  • An online premiere of a stream of a new album or song

Personalization

  • Making track 1 a personal shout out from you to your fan on a unique copy of your album

  • A playlist built specifically for a fan

  • Stitching your fan’s name into a piece of merch

Interpretation

  • Teaching fans how to play guitar like you

  • A streaming session where you go deep into the lyrics, so fans can get even more out of the music they already loved

  • Sharing your DAW presets so fans can learn how to sound as good as you

Authenticity

  • Hand numbered copies of your physical album, or posters of your artwork

  • Receiving something directly from the artist, e.g. in person (if you have a local fan base in your city, this could mean going to your fans’ houses and delivering your album yourself)

  • A signed copy

Accessibility

  • The reason why people pay Spotify rather than scouring stores or piracy websites -- the lesson: when your music’s easily accessible people will pay (mainly via platforms)

Embodiment

  • A vinyl record fans can actually hold

  • Live shows

  • Streamed performances (there’s a ‘body’ performing this live, rather than just being a recording)

Patronage

  • Crowdfunding like Kickstarter

  • Pay-what-you-want models on Bandcamp

  • Fundraising and revenue sharing to causes like BLM for your latest release

  • And uh… obvious one: Patreon

Findability

  • Similar to accessibility (e.g. Amazon, Spotify, which make it easy to find music), but if you find a way to employ this and find cool ideas for offering your fans something Better Than Free like this, let us know on Discord

These are all things people may be willing to pay for, but it’s far from an exhaustive list, so now it’s time to come up with your own ideas. Pick 3 categories and brainstorm a few ideas for each. Use a timer and just start writing. When the timer ends, set it again and do the same for the next category.

Finally, pick one that you plan to develop in order to offer your fans something better than free. When selecting ideas, try to make something that’s so good that fans might even thank you for even being able to spend money on this.


  • Consider having a look at your personas before you select your final idea, so you can really imagine it from the perspective of your fans. DAW presets are cool, but if your fans don’t make music, they’re not gonna care.

  • Take into account fan journeys: is it something you can easily tag on to an existing fan journey? If not, is it feasible to extend the journey so it makes sense?

  • The community on Discord would be stoked to hear what you’ve come up with. If you’ve signed on, but haven’t really shared much in the channels yet: don’t be shy. Make today your first day - chime in and get input from artists just like you, and people with other perspectives.


🟪 Need help? Join us on Discord and get help from the Artist Lockdown Challenge community.

⬛️ Task done? We’re happy to share the results: tag @artistlockdownchallenge on Instagram and we’ll repost.


🟪⬛️ artistlockdownchallenge.com | instagram | discord