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.