This does not mean paying for a VIP ticket, sitting in the first 5 rows and getting some merchandise that may or may not have the letters VIP stuck on it somewhere. Exclusivity mean paying a fair amount of money for a private show in your living room for you and twenty of your closest buddies (Daily Duranie should be on that short list, yes?), or perhaps paying for a special signed version of a CD or vinyl. Does this have appeal to fans?
I can hear some of you already, “If I had that kind of money, yes, I’d pay!” or perhaps a few of you are saying “They’d NEVER play in my living room.” I’d agree on both counts, but that’s not really my question or my point here. It’s my understanding that VIP tickets were first devised as a way to offer some exclusive experiences to those who, to be blunt, are willing and able to pay for such things. Obviously not every fan is in the same place financially, and while yes – this does tend to become a case of the haves or have nots, it’s interesting to see that so many musician blogs out there suggest such a thing on a regular basis.
The theory is based at least in part that while it takes a lot of hard work to earn millions of loyal fans, if a band is able to concentrate on a smaller but very loyal base (with some deep pockets, apparently), they can still be just as lucrative. For example: if a band had just 20 fans that were willing to pay $5,000 to have the band play in their living rooms – the argument is that they’d end up with more in the bank than a band with 90,000 casual fans who pay $1.00 to download a song. Not only would the band likely end up with more cash on hand, but they’d likely end up with more casual fans willing to spend a dollar to download a song just because they would be able to promote those very small intimate-setting shows. Before you send me mail, keep in mind that this is not MY theory or MY assertions and I don’t know if I agree or disagree at this point – I’m just explaining the idea.
I have little doubt that this sort of thing could work for bands just starting out. Amanda Palmer, a singer who is no-slouch to the social networking arena, had a Kickstarter campaign (fans agree to donate money to the singer in return for certain perks based on the amount donated – this concept is called crowdfunding) that earned her over $1 million before the campaign ended. Out of all that donated, over 35 people chose to donate $5,000 each. In exchange, Amanda will play private shows for each one of them in their living rooms. Normally tickets to her shows hit the $20.00 mark. So exclusivity seems to sell, at least for some.
I wonder though, would the same really work for Duran Duran? On the same token, would they want to even bother? In one sense, when I read about selling exclusivity as though it were a service I think of the words “Working Smart”, because rather than casting a very wide net, the effort is far more focused. In another sense, I don’t know that Duran Duran has enough fans that could afford the price tag that the band would want to put on that exclusivity, nor do I know if the band would ever wish to promote themselves in such a manner. On one hand, this IS the band that spent a good part of the 80’s promoting themselves as having everything that the rest of us might want: the jet set lifestyle, champagne, yachts, excess in any way possible, and for a good many people – they wanted that fantasy life. On the other, this is not 1985 and the band doesn’t necessarily have the same “untouchable” vibe that they once had. It’s not quite the same fantasy in the same sense. At one time the band offered very exclusive and pricey travel packages to a few of their shows. Only one show in Chicago offered a true party (for lack of a better term) with the band. Fans were sat at tables, and each band member came around to each table to sit and chat with fans. It was the meet and greet that any fan would have dreamed for, complete with a price tag that gave many fans nightmares. Did this experience of exclusivity work for the band? Hard to say, but it’s worth noting that they’ve not offered such a complete experience since.
I just don’t know…would you pay the price to have them play in your living room???
Ultimately, as much as I like plenty of the ideas that come out of the Direct-To-Fan marketing methodology, I have to question if it could be as applicable (and successful) with bands who have been around for so long. The playing field doesn’t seem to be the same, although some of the problems are shared by all.
Although, my living room could easily accommodate the band….