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Interested in your thoughts on free/pay music distro. "Freemium"


sgx
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Howdy folks,

I'm considering releasing my next album (February-ish, hopefully) in a different way than I have before. I've always released several tracks from my albums as free single downloads, usually at a medium bitrate, but I'm considering releasing the full, or mostly complete album as a free download, and offering high-quality copies as a pay what you want (above $0) download.

I'm curious on your honest thoughts on this.

While I'm pretty sure I'm going to do something like this, I have some ideas for slightly "handicapping" the free version, and I'd like to know how much these things would piss off people vs how much it would make them want to grab the full versions.

ideas for handicapping the free version:

1) Medium bitrate mp3's. I'm thinking 160kbps CBR. Full version can be had in either 320kbps mp3 or FLAC lossless.

2) Album art image tags have a little "free" image in the corner.

3) Some songs in the free version are a minute or two shorter than the full versions in the paid copies.

4) A couple guest remixes are only available in the paid version. Perhaps samples would be included in the free version.

5) Some or all tracks have a 10 second spoken message overlaid in the beginnings or ends of the song mentioning you are listening to the free version and you can buy it at iTunes, Amazon mp3, protagonistrecords.net etc. OR, these messages could be their own separate mp3's. I've seen this done with one of the recent Celldweller albums where the free copy was sponsored by Tomb Raider Underworld. A sexy english woman's voice would come on quickly in the beginning of the song to say it was sponsored by the game. It wasn't terribly annoying, but it always reminded me that I was being a cheapass and still listening to the free version.

I'm pretty sure I'll be doing at least numbers 1 and 2.

This seems like a trade-off between: Being extremely generous, creating the urge in listeners to go buy the full versions as more of a thank-you tip than something they really want, OR: Limiting the free version to make it more of an advertisement for a product they want enough to pay for the full version without annoyances.

What do you think? I'm interested in the perspectives of people here who DO produce and sell their music, people who are just listeners and are already fans of mine, and people who don't know who I am. Thanks.

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I'd be fine with 1-4... 5 if the messages aren't in the songs themselves. Spoken messages as separate files would probably be fine for most, you don't want to annoy your listeners. People feel entitled to get the best of what they get, even if it's basically a preview version. The best (short) songs, optional reminders, and a little megamix of additional tracks/remixes on the full album sounds reasonable.

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I like all of 'em, even #5, for pretty much the same reason you stated. It may bother some people, but then again, if they're enjoying something that they're too cheap to pay for, then I'd say that the only thing they're *entitled* to is a fair reminder that if they really like the song, they should support you for your hard work.

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These are all ok except..

5) Some or all tracks have a 10 second spoken message overlaid in the beginnings or ends of the song mentioning you are listening to the free version...

Maybe you could just stick it at the beginning (or maybe the end) of the track, so it doesn't interfere with the music? I don't think anybody's going to open up your files in audacity and remove it (out of laziness and fear of quality loss) or take it to a program like mp3cut. It's better than adding them as separate files (this message actually stands a chance at being heard - would I really transfer a 10 second advertisment to my mp3 player?). If you put it at the end, I don't think people will find it worth their time to edit it out of the file (I would personally just skip to the next track if my player was handy) and it will serve as a nag/reminder that there is a paid version available.

er, of course, overlaying it would be a better motivator for me (and probably anyone) to go and pay for the regular version, though.. maybe I just want to have my (free) cake (and it eat too) too much.

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I'd be curious to know the results of the approach afterwards (how sales compare to your previous releases, how many people purchased vs. how many downloaded the free stuff, etc.).

Here's the most annoying thing I can think of from what you described: if you happened to use both #3 and #5, and for some strange reason I happened to like the shorter mix of a tune *better*, but there was no legal way to get ahold of the short version without the voice overlay.

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These are all ok except..

I don't think anybody's going to open up your files in audacity and remove it (out of laziness and fear of quality loss) or take it to a program like mp3cut.

Haha, as I was reading this thread, my first thoughts were, "I can just edit out the nag with Audacity, no problem." The only way to stop people such as myself from doing this would be to layer in the voice during a part of the song (which I'm certain everyone would dislike). Ultimately, though, it's your decision. I'm sure whatever the final product is I will buy it, considering the amazing quality of your past work.

Back on topic, 3 would be the only one that would bug me; to the point that I would likely buy the album if I wasn't going to in the first place.

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Haha, as I was reading this thread, my first thoughts were, "I can just edit out the nag with Audacity, no problem."

Would it really even be necessary to stop this, though? If you're bothering to edit out the nag, it's still drawing your attention to itself in a way, so it's still kinda doing its job.

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Haha, as I was reading this thread, my first thoughts were, "I can just edit out the nag with Audacity, no problem." The only way to stop people such as myself from doing this would be to layer in the voice during a part of the song (which I'm certain everyone would dislike). Ultimately, though, it's your decision. I'm sure whatever the final product is I will buy it, considering the amazing quality of your past work.

Back on topic, 3 would be the only one that would bug me; to the point that I would likely buy the album if I wasn't going to in the first place.

A lot of my tracks start with some crescendoing, quiet pads or atmospheric sounding stuff, so if it was overlaid, its not like it would be blocking out really important bits of the song, but it would also mess things up for those who want to edit it out. I'm actually not really very concerned about people editing it out. The percentage of people who do that is probably very slim and it would also require the mp3 to be re-encoded messing with the quality a bit further.

What I want is to put together a free version that people would burn and spread to their friends and whatnot. People will be way more likely to check out the free download if someone tells them it is worth their time, and if I piss people off too much with advertisements, that's less likely to happen. The more people who listen to the free version, the more are likely to give me money somehow.

As an analogy, if you're telling your friend about a new artist to check out, do you link them to like an amazon mp3 page with 30 second previews, or do you just do your pal a favor and send him a bunch of tracks you've already got on your hd (oh noes...illegal!). I do the latter. So, it's not just like a demo to show people what the for-pay version sounds like so they can make up their mind, it's a way to spread the music as far as possible and hope for enough of those who want to either support me or the audiophiles to grab the high quality versions.

Hmmm. I kind of just did a stream of consciousness thing, and I'm not sure if that was arguing any point or not haha.

Also, there will be a disc version for sale, so this is good advertisement for that.

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