In it, a band that was selling its CD for $15 at gigs asked the audience to come see them at the merch table. "Pay what you want," they said, "and if you can't pay anything, we'll send you home with a CD for free." That way, they reasoned, everyone would go home with a memento that they could share with other potential audience members.
The band's revenues shot from $300 per gig to $1,200 by changing from a sales pitch to a deeper emotional connection.
What interests me is not just the strategy, but the comments that folks posted on Derek's site. It didn't take long before band started piling on:
"I can't afford to give CDs away for free."
"My band buys discs from our label for $6. This won't work."
"I only play to 100 people, tops."
So many people read Derek's post and jumped to conclusions, believing that:
Nobody would actually buy their CDs.
This strategy required them to give the bulk of their CDs away for free.
Too few people come to gigs for this strategy to work.
We don't want fans who can't afford to pay.
Derek wasn't encouraging anyone to actively give away anything--the experiment is about challenging yourself to make an emotional connection with an audience that leads to real interaction and a chance to grow your audience.
Instead, we see a lot of folks who refuse to even try something new or to measure their results in a scientific way. Success in this business requires a willingness to try controlled experiments and to see what actually delivers results. If you stick to the same old strategies, you'll never grow beyond the handful of folks at your gigs right now.
If you don't see yourself as worthy of an audience, your audience will reflect your opinion. If you don't think your CD is worth paying for, neither will your audience. And if you see yourself "capping out" at a few dozen fans, expect to see half that number at your gigs. This goes beyond attracting an audience. It speaks to building a magnetic presence that causes your audience to want to experience you: on record, online, and live on stage.
Yes, you will occasionally stumble and make some mistakes. Some of those mistakes will cost you time and/or money. And if you really measure the results of each move you make, you'll eventually hit on the formula that works for you.
Otherwise, you'll run out of steam, anyway.