Eight creative pricing strategies that worked
For many young and developing indie artists, pricing is often the process of arbitrarily coming up with a number, slapping it on your product or service, and moving along.
Your pricing for music, merch, and services is something that ought to be far more strategic, and while you won’t be able to pull off all of the strategies here, these eight examples might get you thinking about price like never before.
1. Kid Rock, Best Night Ever
As concerts are costing anywhere from $65 to $1,250 or more on the secondary market, Kid Rock charged a bargain $20 for his 2014 "$20 Best Night Ever" tour. By taking the exact opposite approach of what other artists were doing, Rock created quite a buzz among fans and the media. In fact, the strategy apparently worked so well, Rock repeated the idea in 2015 to support his album, First Kiss.
2. Wu-Tang Clan, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
Upon release of its 2015 double album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, Wu-Tang Clan announced that it would release only one single unit that fans could pay to hear in art galleries, museums, and festivals. Since people, in general, love exclusivity and the idea of having something no one else has, the plan worked and the album sold for $2 million. The concept was that music should be treated as a valuable and respected piece of art, and not something people download from the Internet at no cost.
3. Nipsey Hussle, Crenshaw
Unsigned rapper Nipsey Hussle pressed 1,000 units of his album Crenshaw and sold them at a price of $100 each. Under a campaign he entitled Proud2Pay, customers were rewarded with concerts, priority access to new material, and one-of-a-kind gifts, such as an old rap notebook or signed photo. Nipsey’s intention was not necessarily to sell out the units to his target audience, but to attract the attention of a few bigwigs in the music business. And it worked! Jay-Z swooped up 100 copies of the rapper's music.
4. Prince, Planet Earth
On his Planet Earth album, Prince cut a deal with British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, distributing three million copies of his record in its Sunday edition for free (with a purchase of the newspaper). Prince was paid a flat fee by The Mail, The Mail made money from all the advertisers that wanted the extra exposure, and fans got a free CD. Everybody won.
5. Nine Inch Nails, The Slip
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) initially offered an unannounced download of his 2008 album, The Slip, for free – in exchange for an email address – with the note, "This one's on me." On the same day, he announced his latest Nine Inch Nails tour at a top price. The tour sold out quickly, and the album was released in physical form two months after it dropped as a download. Some thought his plan was a knock on Radiohead's In Rainbows release, which Reznor had called a "marketing ploy."
6. Radiohead, In Rainbows
Prior to the official release of In Rainbows, Radiohead offered the album as a download for a donation price for a limited time – meaning fans decided what they thought was a fair price for the album and paid what they wanted. At the time, this was a rather unique strategy that stimulated a great deal of buzz for the band.
7. Tenhi, The Collected Set
Tenhi, a neofolk band from Finland, released their entire back catalog as The Collected Set in one vinyl boxset through a German label called Prophecy. The set included 10 records in a wooden box, a 160-page book with their lyrics and personal pictures, a poster with all their album artwork, and a numbered, hand-signed authentication certificate. It cost $200 and only 500 copies were released as part of a special sales promotion. One fan explained why this was a “got to have” offer despite the high cost: “I can listen to all the tracks for free on Internet sites like Spotify, but nothing compares to being one of just a few fans that own this beautiful collection.”
8. Clepto wants to haggle
The punk/metal band Clepto offered a special promotion immediately after their live performances where fans could “haggle for the best price” on merchandise with a band member. This twist reinforced the band’s Saudi Arabian roots and desire to brand their merch booth after an Arabic souq (Saudi Arabian market). This move created a lot of excitement at the merch booth and led to a significant number of sales.
So what pricing strategies will you try? Have you tried novel pricing approaches that paid off (or failed miserably)? Please share in the comments section.
Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician, Business Basics For Musicians, and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in both physical or digital format. NOTICE: Any use or reprint of this article must clearly include all copyright notices, author’s name, and link to BobbyBorg.com.