Brave Or Invincible and the £1 CD

Brave Or Invincible are an Indie label started by four Uni friends. They produced an album for solo artist Tiny Cinema, which they released as a free download (yep, on Bandcamp) and CD. Then, they decided that they had made a big mistake, and promptly brought the CD price down to £1.

They realised that they should forgo CD releases altogether. It was old, major label thinking that doesn’t make sense for a grassroots label that is just interested in getting music out there.

So you may have seen yesterday that we are now selling the Tiny Cinema album Designs for £1 on CD.

Sometimes when a label does this, it can seem like it’s a ‘fire sale’ or an ‘everything must go’ situation as they desperately chase lost revenue. Not for us. This is about remembering why we started this label in the first place.

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The only way people will want to pay you for music these days is if you create something they want to pay for, something different, something cool. This, of course, is why we went out and got “Standard Jewel Case 4pp CDs” made.

Yeah. We fucked up.

The important thing we hope that anyone looking to release music takes away from this is to do things YOUR way. Don’t think just because you are releasing music everything has to be ‘major label standard’, like you would see in your major high street music shops. Fuck those places. They are dying, and if you align yourself with them then you will do.

Physical releases are costly to produce, and each copy that you don’t sell is a direct cost to you. Download releases, on the other hand, incur the same one-off cost of recording (unless you record yourself, of course!) and each download, whether it’s one or ten thousand, costs you no more if you are using a platform like Bandcamp to serve your music. You don’t have capital tied up in a stack of unsold CDs while fans and listeners can gain instant, cheap (or free) access to your music.

The release, called Designs, is a very accomplished creation and well worth a listen. It’s free to download or stream from Bandcamp, and this has certainly done Tiny Cinema no harm.

On every other level we have delievered on our intentions for Tiny Cinema. Close to 200 people have downloaded his music from Bandcamp, he has played to new audiences and we have got him press coverage that gets his name out there, and we will continue to do this for as long as he lets us.

The Freemium Model: Smashing Pumpkins’ Teargarden by Kaleidyscope

The Freemium sales model is one that should interest musicians. In short, it involves giving away a product or service that helps you sell an improved, premium version of that product or service. It’s not quite like a free trial — there aren’t usually time limits or a limited number of uses, although there may be other limits on the service.

You draw in a large number of people with something useful that they can have for nothing (although you may derive some value from their use of your product/service: viral marketing, customer data, ad revenue, or your product might be more useful the more people that use it, like a social networking website). You are then in a better position to sell a premium product to a small percentage of those people based on more features, better quality or some other selling point. The advantage to the consumer is that they get something useful as well as a taste for the quality and value of your premium product.

Smashing Pumpkins’ latest project, Teargarden by Kaleidyskope fits the Freemium model nicely.

From http://soundcloud.com/smashingpumpkins:

ABOUT ‘TEARGARDEN BY KALEIDYSCOPE’:

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS are issuing a 44-song work one at a time, for free, with 4-song EPs being made available as the songs are released. The first EP box (4-song CD and 7” vinyl) is titled TEARGARDEN BY KALEIDYSCOPE VOL. 1/SONGS FOR A SAILOR and is set for release April 20 via Martha’s Music/Rocket Science Ventures and includes the tracks “A Song For A Son,” “Astral Planes” “Widow Wake My Mind,” and “A Stitch In Time.”

The group’s BILLY CORGAN says, “Each song will be made available absolutely for free, to anyone anywhere. There will be no strings attached. Free will mean free, which means you won’t have to sign up for anything, give an email address, or jump through a hoop. You will be able to go and take the song or songs as you wish, as many times as you wish.”

The music will not only be issued online, CORGAN has revealed. “We will sell highly limited edition EPs (of 4 songs each times 11), and details of how those EPs will be made available are still being worked out. Because the songs themselves will be free, the EPs will be more like collector’s items for the discerning fan who will want the art itself, along with the highest possible audio quality available. The EPs will be more like mini-box sets rather than your normal CD single. We may also offer other variations for sale–say for example, a digital single with a demo version of a song.”

Upon the album’s completion, explained CORGAN, “it will be compiled into a deluxe box set which will also be made available for sale. Those who have bought the EPs need not worry, as the box set will not be a recompilation of the limited edition pieces.”

This is the kind of thing I love, and, I think, another example of a great model for releasing music in the future.

When CDs (cassettes, LPs etc.) were the only way to hear recorded music, people bought CDs because it was indistinguishable from buying music. Now, there are plenty of other, better, cheaper (or free) ways to get music so you have to sell a CD as a product itself instead of just a vessel for music (the Premium product). Here, the EPs and full, 44-track compilation will be very tempting for Smashing Pumpkins fans and also collectors who will want a physical product with high-quality audio and, I’m sure, plenty of original artwork, liner notes and packaging that can only be achieved in a physical release.

To make downloads free (the Free product) acknowledges that a piece of recorded music is no longer scarce (in fact, digital data is in infinite supply), and therefore worthless to the consumer in terms of price, but certainly not in value. I know I’ve bought more than one album on CD after being given a copy from a friend.