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What techniques can a content creator utilize to assess what "extras" his/her community would want to purchase?

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For those with budding or fully fledged communites, what techniques exist to discover and/or evaluate potential value added additions to digital content so as to make those extras more valuable utilizing the content, thereby providing a reason to buy to support the musician/author/movie producer?
initiated May 18, 2011 in Connecting with Fans by JC Denton (500 points)   2 3 5
   

6 Responses

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Best response
When in doubt, give them options.  Get creative with it!

Some of the things I wish my favorite bands offered:

A Peronalized birthday wish, Imagine getting a call or voicemail from your favorite musician wishing you a happy birthday.  How about selling facebook wall posts?  Offer to post on a fan's facebook - it could even be given as a gift.

Picks or Drumsticks used in specific performances, imagine an auction site on the equipment used during a performance you attended.  This is capitolizing on a disposable item of negligable value to you but it could be worth a great deal to your fans.

Anything personal.  People want to be recognized and to feel important.
response added Oct 12, 2011 by Douglas Vaughn (650 points)   1 1 4
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I have 3 approaches:

1. Listen. In many cases, fans told me what they wanted (DVDs! Soundtracks! Stickers!) without my even asking.

2. Make merchandise that I want myself. I wanted cloisonne pins; I had them made. I wanted certain styles of women's T-shirts to wear myself; I had them made. I thought about what people I know would appreciate as gifts, and had them made. This usually works, but the stainless steel water bottles (which I had made because I needed a stainless steel water bottle) haven't sold well. ;-)

3. Ask. I do this through my blog and on Facebook. Usually I ask people to choose what design of several they like best, because I can't screen print everything. Sometimes I post an idea and write, "would you buy this?" Sometimes  just ask, "What do you want? What would you buy?" In fact I should do that for Mimi & Eunice. Some have said they want Tshirts, but I don't know if the fan base is big enough yet to justify a screenprint run.
response added May 30, 2011 by Nina Paley (200 points)   1 1 2
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One thing I always preach is not having a distance between artist and fanbase. Instead, tell artists and labels to see it more like an ecosystem, of which both artist/label and fans are a part. Basically you should surround yourself with fans and foster a real connection with them; make sure they're also interconnected so the conversation goes on without your presence.

Then all you need to do is 'listen', which means developing a good understanding of who your fans are and what type of stuff they like. Stuff like demographic stats on Facebook fanpages, etc can help with that, and there are many more tools to gain insights into your following, but they are extras.

In short, it's difficult and there's no sure-fire way to do it right, but having a thorough understanding of your fans and following (by not allowing too much of a distance between you and them) is essential.
response added May 18, 2011 by Bas Grasmayer (440 points)   1 1 4
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It's really hard to think of answers for this that go beyond some form of "ask them" - but another thing worth metnioning is: research! Imitate!

We talk a lot about how what you offer has to be custom-tailored to your fans, and I think sometimes that might make content creators feel like they have to come up with some quirky and ingenious offering off the tops of their heads. But of course seeing what others are doing is still extremely helpful, as long as you look at the substance of their ideas and avoid cargo cult copying.

As far as providing a more specific idea, one pattern I've noticed is the isolation of a single detail from a creative work - which often enough becomes a giant hit. Like the Companion Cube from Portal, or, um, many other compelling examples that I'm sure exist but can't quite think of right now. In any case, if you notice that your fans seem to particularly identify with (or, even better, enjoy the novelty of) a particular detail of your work, merchandise the hell out of it. For example, I would buy a t-shirt featuring one awesome lyric from a particular song over one with the album artwork splayed all over it. I could see that working for fiction, too: I'd buy a stack of Zaphod Beeblebrox business cards, or a poster with the opening line of Neuromancer, or a button on my desk that said "So it goes..." when pressed, or Soma...
response added May 19, 2011 by Leigh Beadon (2,650 points)   5 14 22
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I would tend to agree with Nina and her 3 approaches.

We're a small independent band from Europe and we just released our third self-produced album, called One Frame Per Second.

Selling digital music online is a no brainer. The cost of putting music on stores like iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and streaming services like Rdio, Spotify and Deezer allows just about anyone to get their music out there. Creating the music is a different story but I won't get into that here.

When it comes to choosing the formats on which we release our music, we always try to find something new, or different, because we like experimenting.

This time, we found the PlayButton format, a button with an embedded MP3 player on it, on which you pre-load your album. We thought it was cool, and since we're kind of geeky, we were intrigued. 

We contacted the company behind PlayButton a few months before we were supposed to record our new album.

At the time, they could only take minimum orders of 500 units. We don't even sell that many CD's, so we knew there was no way we could sell that many of them. I asked the folks at PlayButton if they could sell us blank ones in smaller quantities. They said no, but that they would contact me if ever they changed their minds. A month after we recorded the album, I got an email from them stating that they had developed DIY PlayButtons! 

So we put in an order for some and made them available for people to pre-order along with the CD and Digital versions of the album. 

We really didn't know what to expect but the PlayButton edition is already sold out. 

A month after we started taking pre-orders for the album, a young lad from Germany posted a message on our Facebook page asking if we had any plans to release the album on Vinyl. We said no because the minimum order for 12" vinyl is 250 copies and that we didn't think we could sell more than 10! However, we had a quick look at the cost of pressing 250 copies and joked that if he could find 66.6666667 people to pre-order a copy at 15 euros/copy, then we would have them made. Then we started receiving dozens of comments from people saying that they would buy one.

So we quickly opened a google spreadsheet asking people to put their names there to keep track of how many there were. Within 2 days, we had almost 40 people on there and thought, what the heck, let's just do it!

We found a supplier, and put up a pre-order system on Bandcamp with a mockup of what the record would look like. To add some incentive, we offered to put the buyer's name on the back on the record using Moo.com to make the custom labels.

We didn't get enough pre-orders to pay for the full 250 copies, but we got enough to pay for more than half of it and we are confident we'll sell some more over time (and if we don't we'll make a donation to a frisbee club!).

 

 

response added Oct 3, 2011 by Andy Richards (1,100 points)   4 8 14
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I think it may depend on the type of community, and how you currently interact with them, but utilizing the existing communication channels you have is probably the best way.

(Warning: self-serving response:) Alternatively, of course, you could put that up as a specific discussion right here on Step 2, and then point your community here.  That is, the creator with the community could put up a specific post here, describing who they are, what they're trying to do, and asking for ideas on value added additions, and then point the community to this discussion to see what comes out of the mix of folks here (knowledgeable about general biz model stuff) and fans (knowledgeable about the creator).  With that mix, I would bet some very interesting and creative solutions could be developed.
response added May 18, 2011 by Mike Masnick (23,010 points)   52 99 160

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