Marco wrote a post in which he shared what I believe to be the average consumer’s reaction to a really dumb distribution idea on part of a content company. First the dumb idea, by way of the LA Times.
Under a new deal between the two companies, Netflix users won’t just have to wait 56 days to rent Warner Bros. movies on DVD. They’ll have to wait 28 days to add the movies to their queues.
From Marco’s point of view this will not have the desired effect, and I certainly agree with him. In his own words:
If I’m adding a movie to my Netflix queue, I’ve already decided not to buy the DVD. I’m adding it because it looks mildly interesting and I’d like to watch it sometime. If I can’t add it to Netflix, I’ll just forget about it and probably never see it.
We find a clear parallel in the music business. There are plenty of examples of specific releases being kept off of certain download or streaming services for ideological reasons or perceived business advantages. Kid Rock famously doesn’t allow his music on iTunes. Our friend Ingrid Michaelson decided against making her new album available on Rdio and Spotify, in favor of pursuing physical and digital sales only. That’s their prerogative and in the case of Ingrid I see the value there, so more power to them for being in charge of their own destiny.
In the short run, this strategy will indeed likely lead to more income related to direct music sales. However, in the long run I think it will hamper an artist’s growth in terms of audience and ticket sales. If future fans do not have the opportunity to listen to the music in their preferred place, and trust me streaming destinations will race to dominance in the next three years, then future fans will not listen and never become fans. Unrealized potential.
Anecdotally I have come across an increasing number of people that, upon discovery of a new album’s absence from Rdio, just shrug and move onto to the gazillion other new releases. The enormous amount of new and old music available make it so that the perceived importance of consuming a new album, and doing so upon release, is quite a bit more elastic than it use to be.
The existing fans will be there for you. They’ll want your new album on the day of release and possibly in multiple formats or deluxe editions. For the casual fans or new music seekers, it’s very different. If it’s convenient to them, they may end up listening. If not, they’ll forget and move on. The way we handle this for new Family Records releases is that we do a soft release through our own store to our existing fanbase a few weeks in advance of the release going up on iTunes and the streaming services. Later there is a release for press and third party retailers, which then serves to further grow our audience and tap into those markets. This helps those who want to support our artist the most by giving them an option that gives them very early access, with additional content only available to them, and the knowledge that more of their dollar goes to the artists than on iTunes or any other service (by a lot).
This is not much different at all from what Marco described. Some movies we’ll want to see badly and go to the theatre for to support, some we might have an interest in and add to our queue for later, and the rest we may one day catch on cable tv or never at all. Currently there is still a value in doing a phased release that serves super fans first with the higher income releases, but it’s absolutely absurd to do what Warner is doing now by handicapping people’s ability to add movies to their queue for later viewing. By choosing to by-pass the second level consumer, you land your product square in the middle of the long-tail of “maybe one day” consumers, which more often than not means forfeiting income in the long run. I propose a simple rule of thumb: Help your customer consume your quality product. Make it easier, not harder. If you’re not thinking of helping your customer, and instead focus on controlling their consumption behavior or even fighting them, you just lost.
- The Importance Of Free Music (Or Give ‘Em A Taste First) (read)
- The Benefits Of Streaming (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) (read)
- The New Way Of Consuming Music (Or A Dollar Less To Rihanna Means A Dollar More To Tegan And Sara) (read)
- Fans Would Love To Pay For Music(Or The Tale Of The Reluctant Pirate) (read)