Pay What You Want Model: Does it Work?

Sure, the pay what you want model worked for Radiohead’s In Rainbows but what about bands without massive followings? I find that bands have varied viewpoints about essentially offering their music for free. Some think it devalues the music and are afraid they won’t be able to make any money. While others believe it creates exposure they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise and find it actually creates opportunities for more revenue.

I recently read a great case study on Techdirt about Jason Parker, a jazz musician based in Seattle. Jason had impressive results when he experimented with the pay what you want model for downloads, live shows, and even physical CDs. Here’s a couple excerpts from the article:

It started with a “weekend experiment,” late last year, where Parker reduced the required price of the download of his albums, to $0 from $5, and tweeted to his followers that they could pay whatever they wanted for it. He had considered setting a minimum of $1, but decided to see what happened if he went totally free. And the results were quite impressive:

“Sunday night at midnight I checked my Bandcamp.com stats and was amazed. The three Jason Parker Quartet CD’s, “No More, No Less”, “Live @ JazzTV”, and “The Jason Parker Quartet” had been downloaded 128 times! That’s more downloads than I’ve received in the last few months combined. Most days I was lucky if a track or two were downloaded, let alone full albums.” – Jason Parker

Jason recently did a show where he specifically told the audience from the stage that he wanted everyone to leave with a CD, and that they could pay whatever they wanted:

“By the end of the night I had sold 27 CDs with an average price of $11.50.” – Jason Parker

Read the full case study on Techdirt and check out Jason Parker’s music.

Pay what you want may not work for everyone, but you can’t say it’s only for bands like Radiohead.

Have you considered experimenting like Jason Parker? Share your thoughts and experiences with us.

Photo Credit: Daniel Borman

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  • Andrew Duffelmeyer

    I like that model. I think it frees artists up from dealing with record labels, contracts, etc. and lets them decide what they want to release and when. My understanding is when a consumer pays $15-$20 for an album just a small percentage of that goes to the artist, so if a fan pays $5 to $10 for that same product not only are they paying less but the artist is seeing more of that money. Seems like it helps an artist promote himself, too, by offering something for free and creating an interesting trust dynamic between artist and listener.

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