Taking the "name your own pricing" model one step further

There are many ways from which I could explore this issue, but as you can probably see by the lack of updates on this blog, I don't really have much time to write about this - I have more important and/or interesting things to do... Anyway, this blog post can work in three ways: 1) to tell you about one experiment I did, how it went, and what will I do now that the experiment is over; 2) to improve my comment on André's blog post about Portuguese people (in Portuguese), where he states that "Portuguese people think that everything that has to be paid is too expensive"; 3) to improve my comment on Miguel's blog post about tips and tip jars, where he says that some tips are "socially accepted" while others aren't...

April in Jazz

Yesterday, the 2nd of April 2009, my micro-label Noori Records released its first "Pro CD Audio" (a term generally used by labels and distributors to describe Audio CDs that aren't CD-R's), a limited edition beautiful (as you can see in the picture) compilation called "April in Jazz".

I've been playing in my mind with the concept of the "name your own pricing" model in my mind for a long while: first it was the Nine Inch Nails experiment, releasing an album for free in digital format, selling it also as a physical release that soon was sold-out, and Radiohead's "In Rainbows", where people could choose how much to pay for the (digital version) of the album. From March 2008 I decided to let people buy Merankorii digital tracks at the price of their choice, and in May 2008 I wrote about why wasn't all my music free. Yet, and after many hours thinking, reading and learning, I decided to take the "name your own pricing" one step further.

At the 2nd of April, "April in Jazz" was released, and got sold out. News about the album release were spreaded via e-mail to Merankorii and Noori Records fans and friends, and because I was more of less afraid of the results I decided to tell first (and it ended up being only) about it to Portuguese people (because shipping costs are less that way). And so, the challenge was made:

[...] and doing it in a very special way: you choose the price. That's right: it was your money that made this release possible, so you are the ones who have the right to tell how much is it worth to you, how much you're willing to pay.

There are several things that you have to think about this: probably the most important one is that I wasn't selling the CD on a widely available website where everyone could click and buy, I was talking to true fans, and only to them. Still, here are some data about the results of the experiment:

  • More than 50% of the buyers paid more than I would ever dare to ask for a CD;
  • I hadn't a "price" in mind, but the price I would probably choose for this release is the same as the lowest price people paid for the CD;
  • If the edition had the double of its size, and everywhere else paid 0 € for it, and those other copies needed to be shipped to the moon, it would still be profitable;
  • 20% of the people who bought it didn't like to have to choose how much to pay for it.

  • WOW, Noori Records and Merankorii fans totally ROCK.

So, is it true that Portuguese people always think that everything is expensive? I don't think so, if you make them wanting to get it (whatever 'it' is you're trying to sell). So, is it true that people won't tip artists? No, I don't think so - but you'll have to make them comfortable in doing so. Having a tip jar in Merankorii's website never helped me getting money (well, I got $0.20 :-)), but when people feel they have to pay something for something, they can be very generous. What about this experiment, what will happen next? I really don't know, but one thing I'm sure of: I'll keep thinking and trying to test several models that feel right for everyone: artists, labels, fans, buyers, freeloaders, everyone. If it's fair, it's good for everyone. And I don't think that putting buyers in the position of "OK, now I have to chose an amount to pay for this..." isn't that fair, that good, and, as I stated before, not everyone liked the idea. So, I probably won't do this again. But that doesn't mean that the experiment isn't worthy - it is, and a lot. It let's you be a lot more transparent with your community, and the community will show a lot more about themselves.

Think about it.


  1. Congratulations. I guess you learned the lessons that these guys didn't:


    So the bottom line is that you got to offer something tangible, no?

  2. But it seems to me it is somewhat difficult to apply that same model to online journalism or even to Web services. As a non-fiction writer I could write a book. But the thing is that by the time I would have finished writing it, it would be without a doubt already outdated. Online content production is almost always a service and not a product. A blog such as Create Digital Music can publish a book and charge several dozens of bucks by it but that book is a mere catalogue of music production hardware and software. A gadget blog can also do that. But I think that a blog covering a specific industry niche can have more effective results by lauching a biweekly magazine, a "state of the art" monthly report, a paid podcast, etc.

  3. There are lots of differences between the model tried by 2nd rec and the one used by Noori Records. But the biggest difference here is, from my point of view, that in their model everyone would get the album for free, and after, they would have the option to pay something for it. On the other hand, in my experiment people knew, from the beginning, that they were buying a CD: they first pay, and then get it. The only difference here from the "traditional selling CDs model" is really the fact that the price isn't "fixed". To tell you the truth, I would pay for an album released as Noori Records did, and I'm not sure I would pay in the second case: I already had the CD in my hands anyway, so what would be the incentive of going somewhere online and going through the process of leaving a donation?

    Regarding the bottom line being to offer something tangible or not... I'm not really sure about that. In the end, I think you have to be giving something that people are willing to pay. It could be a magazine/report (for your case), but I still think that it would work a lot better if you created your brand and sell stuff related to it... Now, "remixtures" is a great blog I read, but it isn't really a "movement", like, let's say as an example, "Pirate Bay". So, people will happily pay for "Pirate Bay" coffee mugs and t-shirts, and if remixtures would be something of the kind... I don't know, maybe a sentence, something like "remixtures is the way I live", or something like that (but good, that sentence is pure crap just to give you an example), then you would easily sell remixtures t-shirts (I would surely get one ;-)). Another thing you could do - and probably would work better - would be to sell things that *people want*. You talk about music: you could sell music, or help bands selling it.

    As you can see, your dillema is about something different from what I already thought about: my thing with Noori Records is to help bands make their dreams come true - and for some of those dreams I need to make money, but the money is easily gathered because it is gathered TO make those dreams possible. What's your dream?

  4. Astromac6:07 AM

    By the way, it's "paid" and not "payed" (unless you're being archaic), and "amount" and not "ammount".

  5. Astromac: thanks, updated the blog post with some corrections. Unfortunately I still skip the "check spelling" step a lot when writing blog posts and comments in a rush (which lately is almost every time)...

  6. Parabéns pela Noori Records! Curiosamente encontrei este blog através dos comentários feitos noutro blog, em que se falava do MAPiNET e da Emenda 138 (conversasdobruno.blogs.sapo.pt). Reconheci o nick do velhinho fórum doFansMarilynManson.com :) O meu nick era SickBoy, provavelmente nem te lembras. Vou acompanhando o Twitter também. Nestes tempos difíceis em que o Sarkozy consegue aprovar a lei dos 3 avisos e por cá se se quer copiar o mesmo modelo decadente, toda a ajuda é pouca. Abraço!

  7. Hello Renato, yes, I remember well of you! Thanks for the congratulations on Noori Records. Regarding to MAPiNET and the possibility of a Portuguese version of the "three-strikes", well, there are lots of things that must be done to ensure that it will never happen. The easiest one is, on the upcoming elections, making ourselves sure that we don't let the wrong people get into the government...