An Alternative Release Strategy Experiment

Everybody’s got their own idea about how to release an album and the proper strategy and marketing and all that. For Melbourne, Australia-based Freestate, I had another idea though, to stick with a traditional release strategy, but give fans a chance to influence how the release is done if they so choose. Experiment might be the wrong word to use because we’re going through with it anyway, but as far as the rest of the industry is concerned, it’s experimental.

There are actually three different strategies going on here. One is the basic release of putting the album out when the band can tour to support it in March 2011. The other is to have different “tiers” of the album available, which is basically just offering bundles with physical copies, autographed copies, shirts, and different things like VIP passes and mentions in the album booklet. The tiered packages is nothing new of course, and the last idea is nothing new, but I’ve never seen it done in music before—we’re gonna let fans force an early release.

Let me be clear about one key thing though… We’re not delaying the release to be able to do this, and the release would be in March whether we did this or not. The idea was born from the disappointment of not being able to tour until March of next year (waiting on visas), and not wanting to release an album without being able to promote it in person.

So as of now we have an album coming out in March both physically and digitally, and starting (hopefully) the first week of December, it will be available for pre-order as just a digital album or several tiers. What the tiers are will be announced later, but just a plain pre-order of the digital album will be $8 and will include the 12-track album in March, with the singles delivered digitally as they are made available to radio and for sale online. No, we don’t think you should have to buy the singles separately if you’ve payed for the album.

We’re going to have a $10 special edition of the album available for pre-order, and it will give you an immediate download of a bonus track from the album, and you will also get the singles delivered a week before they are available to anybody else. Of course, you will also get the full album when released in March no matter what. However, any pre-order of the $10 special edition and above will come with the chance to get the album theoretically as early as a few hours after the pre-order. In addition to the bonus track you get immediately and the singles as they’re available, we’re going to have sales points that will “unlock” the early release of the other tracks, ultimately making the 12-track album and two bonus tracks available as early as the demand dictates. The exact release points haven’t been decided yet, but as an example you could say that once 100 pre-orders of the special edition or above are received, another track is immediately released to everyone who has pre-ordered to that point. Once another 100 pre-orders are received, another track is released. Repeat that over and over and if enough people pre-order, the album is already out.

The best-case scenario with this release strategy is that the fans make the album come out early and they get what they want. The worst-case scenario is that we fall back to a “standard” release of just selling it when it’s available. Either way, the fans who support the band get rewarded by getting music early, and get to play a part in the release process. The more people they can get to also pre-order the album, the faster they get the album. There’s also other ways the band will do along the way to show appreciation to those fans pre-ordering that will come as a surprise.

All-in-all I think it’s a win-win scenario. From the band’s standpoint, it quells their disappointment by allowing them to get it to their fans if their fans really want it. From my business standpoint, if somebody decides to be malicious and tries to hurt the band by leaking a track, it’s been mostly paid for before it’s even out, so it keeps them from being left standing there with only a pile of debt. It may need a little polish and the exact tiers and unlock points still need to be worked out, but I love the concept overall. What are your thoughts on it?