The music you create can be used in a variety of different ways.
Most musicians focus on making money with their music, and for good reason.
But you can also use your music as a promotional tool to create a buzz, build your email list, or to grow your following.
If you aren’t interested in giving away your music for free, there’s also a great in-between option: setting up a pay-what-you-want offer.
Maybe you have a few demo tracks that aren’t “good enough” to be an EP, but still reflect some of your prouder moments. Or maybe you have a bunch of unreleased bonus tracks. Or maybe you have a collection of remixes, edits, acoustic versions, and alternate versions of songs you’d like to put out there.
In such instances, a pay what you want release is an option worth exploring. Let’s delve in.
Don’t People Abuse Pay What You Want Systems?
In most instances, the answer to this question is quite simply “no.”
Even if not for peer-to-peer sharing and torrent sites, people can access millions of songs entirely for free or for a low monthly fee by using a streaming service like Spotify.
Those who might take advantage of you are in the minority. And wouldn’t you rather have your music spread to more people than to wait in obscurity?
There are more than enough customers in the world – there’s no scarcity. Your goal should be to create a dedicated following that will buy and download anything you put out.
If your fans like you, odds are quite good that your pay scale with a pay-what-you-want release will be on even keel with your digital sales. In some cases, you’ll even make more money than you would be able to otherwise!
There are almost always some generous fans that are willing to pay way more than you’d even think.
Setting Up Pay What You Want With Bandcamp
The most popular self-distribution social platform for musicians is Bandcamp.
Musicians love Bandcamp because it allows them to set the price for their music without being forced into a 99 cent per song or fixed price model. Bandcamp does take a cut, but it’s pretty reasonable.
This means that you can run promotions and sell your music for less if you want to drive more attention to it, or you can sell your music for more and see if your fans are willing to buy at a premium.
Bandcamp has a very simple interface, and is extremely flexible. If you want to encourage worldwide sales, you’ll still want to distribute your music as widely as possible, so that’s one potential downside of only using Bandcamp.
To create a new pay what you want track or album on Bandcamp:
- Click on “add music” in the upper left hand side, and choose “add album” or “add track” – don’t worry, they work more or less exactly the same.
- Make sure the “enable download” checkbox is checked.
- Set pricing to 0.
- Make sure the “let fans pay more if they want” checkbox is checked.
- You can also check the “require email address if fan enters zero” checkbox if you like. If you do, your fans won’t be able to download the track without at least giving you their email address.
- Enter all relevant information for the track or album and save.
- That’s it!
Setting Up Pay What You Want With Gumroad
Gumroad has an incredibly powerful platform for selling digital products, physical products, and even subscriptions. As with Bandcamp, they do take a small cut of your profits, but it’s not a lot.
At this point, it is still a little underutilized by musicians, but based on its incredible feature-set, it’s only a matter of time before more artists take to it.
One potential deterrent is that the platform is multi-purpose, and isn’t set up to be a musician-only space. It also may not be the most familiar-looking interface to buyers, and this can be a disadvantage, especially if they can’t figure out how to buy your product.
In any case, once you’ve created an account with Gumroad, you can follow these steps to make a pay what you want release:
- Click on the “Products” link in the upper menu.
- Click on the “Add a product” button, and choose whether it’s a digital product or physical product. For the intents and purposes of this guide, we’ll assume you’re going to make it a digital product.
- Choose whether it’s a “Product”, “Subscription”, or “Pre-order”. In this instance, “Product” is what you want.
- Name the product, and leave the price at 0.
- Click “Choose your files”, and upload them “From computer”, “From existing”, or “From Dropbox”. Even if you’re uploading from Dropbox, I’ve found the easiest option is “From computer”.
- Click the “Next: Customize” button.
- From here, you can add a cover image and description for your product. If you click on or next to the “0” you entered earlier, you can also “Suggest” a price without forcing the customer to pay a certain amount.
- That’s it!
Alternatives To Bandcamp & Gumroad
Not a fan of Bandcamp or Gumroad? No problem! There are a couple of alternatives for you to explore:
- Nimbit: an extremely flexible direct-to-fan platform that allows you to set the price for your music. You can also use it to sell merch and clothing or product bundles.
- Patreon: this is more of a subscription-based crowdfunding platform where fans can choose how much they’d like to donate to you every time you release a new piece of content. It can be very effective for monetizing songs you release on YouTube, especially if your videos are elaborate.
Setting up a pay what you want promotion is simple to do, and can be a great way to introduce more people to your music. In some instances, you might even be able to make a little more money with this type of promotion than you would be able to otherwise. It largely depends on your fan base and how engaged they are.
Maybe it’s for you, and maybe it’s not. But you won’t know unless you give it a try. It’s worth experimenting with, especially if you have music that has yet to be released anywhere. Exclusive releases can be a big deal.