A new report commissioned by Inderscience Publishers has been released evaluating the Music Industry on sample based marketing initiatives that are currently available (1).
What is sample based marketing? Essentially, an artist/label/ 3rd party reseller will give away a digital sample of music in an effort to entice the listener to download (and buy) the full product – the album.
There are 2 common sample strategies utilised over the internet:
Provide a 30 second sample of a song at a low quality bit rate – See iTunes service
Provide a WHOLE song at a high quality bit rate – see bands such as Radiohead, Paul Simon
The Inderscience study found that effective digital music sample strategies should:
“involve high-quality, long samples of the music being marketed… This makes it more likely that the consumer listening to a sample will buy the full product, whether that’s a CD or a track download”.
ie. higher the quality and longer the sample ==> higher album sales
This post studies why high-quality long samples of music makes listeners more likley to buy ‘the full product’ or album.
Reason #1 – the Audience: Have a look at the types of ppl who visit websites that provide sample downloads.
Generally, websites that provide such samples are run by either the artist, label or 3rd party resellers – ie, websites that look only to exploit music commercially.
Most visitors to such sites will NOT be inclined to leech the music they want to sample. Why bother clicking through websites (which may contain large databases of samples) to download a single 1min sample when a they could simply leech the entire song or even the entire album via a torrent search?
My argument is that people who are interested in listening to sample music are NOT inclined to pirate the relevant whole song/album.
Available Online for Free
One argument against providing full length songs as samples on websites is that it says its OK to download music for free – as if it grants some type of licence to pirates to go about their (questionable) business of file sharing. There’s a problem with this argument – there is no licence: a pirate will pirate whenever he/she chooses.
One free High Quality full length song on a commercial website does not, in effect, give free licence pirate the whole album. In reality, all albums and full length songs are inevitably available online for free – whether officially released or not! Pirates require neither permission nor access.
Why Bother with sample based marketing on the internet? These sites cater to, and are habitated by, the ‘other half’ – ie fans who are prepaired to purchase digital music. These people visit such sites to really ‘try before they buy’ – ie. to determine whether the sampled listening experience equates the cost of purchase.
So, if the sampled listening experience is increased, the probability of purchase increases.
To increase the probability of a purchase, the artist/label/3rd party reseller must increase the sampled listening experience. How to do this – make the listening experience longer and therefore more effective.
A 30 second sample at a horrible bit rate does not increase the customer’s listening experience . All it does is provide the general hook/melody of a song.
Relying on a hook to sell an album is a well known tactic in the music industry. But surely providing the hook at high quality (and for a longer time) provides a greater experience to generate potential sales.
1. Inderscience Publishers. “Free Music, Sampled: Longer, Higher Quality Free Music Samples Engage More Listeners, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily 1 June 2009. 3 June 2009 <http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/06/090601102017.htm>.