The idea that inexpensive entry into new music (or games, movies and anything else) can lead to fandom for a band is theoretically great, but questionable in its effectiveness.
Does a small initial investment really lead to future financial support for an artist, or do music buyers just want what is offered for low prices? In the long run, do low-priced mp3 albums really get artists the financial support they need?
These questions do not have absolute answers, but in the case of Soundsupply, my experience says yes; low barriers of entry can make fans come back for more.
The business model of Soundsupply is simple. The company releases a bundle of 10 digital albums (called a “drop”) from independent artists every other month. The drops go on sale for $15 for 10 days. In months without regularly scheduled drops, Soundsupply releases drops of various sizes (sometimes 10 albums for $15; sometimes 5 albums for $10) and themes (for example, artists who are on the same record label or who played at the same festival). The drops are available in mp3 or FLAC format.
Since it debuted in early 2012, Soundsupply has proven a successful endeavor for the artists involved. In a feature from Fast Company Labs, Soundsupply co-founders Tim and Eric Mortensen said each artist included in the drops is making a little more than $1,000 per drop.
Additionally, the potential for fans to discover and support new bands is strong with Soundsupply. I can use myself as an example.
This summer, Soundsupply featured a drop consisting entirely of bands playing on the 2013 Warped Tour. This drop appealed to me because I love punk rock and because it featured the bands Mixtapes and Man Overboard, both of which were among the more popular artists included in the drop.
One of the bands I had not heard of before buying the drop is Citizen, with its album Young States. I listened to it just because it was in the drop and ended up liking it very much. After enjoying the album, I looked up the band online and found it had recently released a second album, Youth, which I quickly bought on CD.
This scenario has played out several times with the Soundsupply drops. Most drops have two or three bands I’ve heard a little bit from (some even had none), but I end up coming away from each drop with a few new artists to follow. Many artists featured in the drops have only one album, but I’ll be paying attention when future records are released.
Discovery is not limited by genres or fan communities. Because the artists included in the drops always share the drop pages on Facebook and Twitter, fans of one artist can find another in an entirely different genre.
Furthermore, Soundsupply offers fans bonus tracks for sharing their purchase of a drop on Facebook or Twitter and holds drawings for free future drops when fans share promotional pictures on social networking sites. This way, people who are not familiar with any artists featured in a drop can still find out about it.
Soundsupply’s website has the tagline, “awesomely curated digital drops of your new favorite bands.” Rarely are advertising slogans so accurate. It gives easy access to the process of discovering new artists is great for fans and artists the potential for payment now and exposure in the long run. All parties win in this model, and I’d love to see more sites embrace it.