Sell More Cds at Shows By Not Naming the Price
February 12, 2009
Dave Allen in How to Make Money, Live Shows, Merchandise, Music, Music Business Models, Selling Your Music

I recently posted about discovering a wonderful band called Arizona. I found them while attending PopAsheville in January and I wrote - “I was invited to give the keynote speech this year. I spent an hour reminding the musicians in attendance that they are no longer in the music business, they are in the T-shirt business and they all seemed to agree. They also agreed that the music industry is not hurting, it’s the cd business that is in decline.” The whole post is here.

I am not being facetious when I say that bands are in the T-shirt business as I believe very strongly that as music slips down to zero in dollar value then artists must move quickly to find different ways to make money from their art. [The ‘value’ of music is based more than ever these days in emotion and much less in dollars.] Those slides below are from my presentation. Its the part where musicians begin to squirm, especially the ones who haven’t grasped the notion that free really works. In another part of the presentation I discuss the idea of increasing CD and T-shirt sales at shows by never having prices posted for each item at the point of sale or “merch” table. My thinking here is that those fans that really like the band and are leaning towards buying will ask what the price of a CD is. And the answer should be “how much do you want to pay?” I guarantee that the answer will be somewhat along these lines - “I only have $4,” “I’d like to give you $10,” “You guys were great, here’s $20,” “I have no money.” You should sell your CD at those prices to all of those folks and give one to the guy with no money. They will never forget the experience they had and they will tell their friends that you are the coolest band on earth for doing that.

I know you think I’m crazy, yet one of the bands who attended the conference and heard me speak gave it a try at there next show. They are called Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies - and it worked - see below. And for you doubters out there I’m sure if you click through that link to the band’s MySpace you can message them directly.

From: amanda.brooks@xxxxxxxxx [Edited of course]

Subject: Re: Hi Amanda Date: February 9, 2009 7:37:52 AM PST To: daveallen [at] Hi

Dave!!! This weekend we played our first show since popAsheville and were able to test out your merch idea of not putting prices on anything. I am writing to tell you that it totally works. People were giving us $10 and $20 for the 5 song EP we usually sell for $5. We just had a sign that said “Name yr. own price!” and people totally rocked because they actually wanted to give us more. You were right! I will never price our stuff again!!! Amanda

There are many interesting comments to this article on my blog too. Here’s the link.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
See website for complete article licensing information.