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Thursday
Apr142011

What If Radiohead And TOMS Shoes Had A 'Love Child'?  

Buy-One-Give-One-For-Free Case study

It was June 2009 when Radiohead and TOMS shoes produced a ‘love child’ in the business side of my brain.

Flying from Dublin to New York on the US leg of, what has now turned into, a house concert world tour I was reading the inspirational story of TOMS shoes when the epiphany hit me.

Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.

While travelling Mycoskie had connected with children in Argentina and discovered they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. 

B.O.G.O.F.F. - Buy One GIVE One For Free - genius!

I was also aware of the incredibly effective ‘name-your-own-price’ model that Radiohead had used to launch their ‘In Rainbows’ album online. The lightbulb moment came when I thought… “what if these 2 business models were fused together to create an irresistible offer for audiences?”

I figured this could work for CD sales. I had already been giving away free CDs on some of the trips where I get to go with musicians and bands to partner with compassion projects around the planet and the giveaway CD thing is a great way of supporting these projects.

Before I tell you the results of this experiment here’s how it can work for you.

For every full price CD you sell, you agree to give another away in partnership with a good cause.

To do this in an authentic, win-win kind of way you’ll be partnering with a cause, charity or non-profit. This needs to be a good fit for both you and your audience - I’m not for a minute suggesting that you simply manipulate this as a technique purely for your own gain. 

It has to be win-win-win, i.e. it needs to be good for the cause, good for your audience and lastly good for you - it should reflect your values.

Here’s how it rolls at your gig.

You explain to your audience…

“I have CDs available and I want everyone to have one - you can even pay ‘whatever price you decide… yep - you choose what you can afford!

BUT WAIT….

If you choose to pay the recommended retail price ($15 in my case) here’s what happens… Another CD gets given away on your behalf to [name of cause]”

At this point explain how the donation of the other free CD really helps the cause or charity.

These giveaway CDs can either be donated to the cause you’re partnering with for them to resell for their fundraising or, if appropriate, for them to give away in the course of their work - I explain exactly how this works for me in this video.

In my experience the results have been great. 

On average I’ve seen at least 100% increase in CD sales, and I’d estimate a 80-90% rise in turnover. 

Often what happens is folks catch the vision for something bigger than just buying your CD. I have regularly had folks reach over a $20 bill and say keep the change as it’s helping a good cause. Others will buy multiple CDs for friends and tell the story. 

On a side note: the ability to take credit card sales is a significant factor in this. I use CD Baby’s Card Swiper service for this - it’s ‘wireless technology’ is guaranteed to work anywhere ;-) 

In the spirit of full disclosure here are the downsides I have experienced.

  • You need to let the averages take care of themselves. At first this feels risky and counter-intuitive and at some gigs the response is worse than others but, averaged out significantly more income is generated and more CDs are sold.
  • Sometimes people misunderstand the buy-one-GIVE-one-for-free idea and think they’re getting 2 for 1. You end up having to re-explain at the merch table.

The benefits of this have greatly outweighed the minor downsides, not to mention the goodwill and deeper connection with my audience and subscriber base. Everybody wins.

In fact at one gig the average price per disc actually worked out at around $23, one person wrote a check for $100 and took one CD!

You can even do this online. 

Here’s how I do the Radiohead-TOMS model on my website

I hope this inspires you to partner with a cause that reflects your values and boosts your music sales.

I’d love to hear your questions or suggestions for creative partnerships.

 

About Andy Rogers…

Andy Rogers is a singer songwriter from Northern Ireland who travels regularly in the US and elsewhere. He gets asked so often by other artists how he managed to line up a solo world tour that he ended up doing a step by step video series on how to get gigs (it saves him having to repeat himself!) 

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (13)

Love this idea, thanks for sharing!

April 14 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

Great idea for shoes or maybe even Radiohead CD's... but I cant imagine the usefullness of dropping off 64 CDs by your indie, unsigned band to a charity and saying "Here! Market and sell the hell out of these folk-rock masterpieces! Whatever money you make, it's all yours!" Am I missing something here??

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy

Well done on your achievements, I was reading the article with interest and tracked back to your website. It went a bit cold for me then.

Is it just me?...For me at least, there is quite a large contrast between providing a tangible asset like shoes to needy children and providing a CD which furthers your 'cause' (as you repeatedly call it) and serves a religious indoctrination tool! I know what I would prefer if I was a poverty stricken child.

Your 'cause' is seemingly the promotion of the Coleraine House of Prayer (of which you are a founder) / religion in general.

Is Music Think Tank now a forum for religious propaganda??? I do wish you luck with your musical endeavours but as an avid MTT fan, I'm disappointed with this I must say.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterGareth

I'm with Freddy on this one. Unless you are a name act, a charity has little use for your CD. And even if you're a name act, say Ben Harper, I'm trying to see how this model helps the charity much. They couldn't really sell it, in part because even for Ben Harper there's not that much demand for a cd that can even be bought elsewhere. Giving it away does little for the charity as well, as I imagine this in a street team setting or on the web. Matter of fact if would cost them money to give it away.

How about instead:

I have CDs available and I want everyone to have one - you can even pay ‘whatever price you decide… yep - you choose what you can afford!

BUT WAIT….

If you choose to pay the recommended retail price ($15 in my case) here’s what happens… Anything over $10 gets donated to "charity of my choice", and you can pick up a second CD to give to a friend."

Just testing the Comment process. Do you guys think its too complex? - The MTT Team

Well seeing that my comment hasn't shown up yet an hour later, I can say it impedes the sharing process of the post for me and slows down a real dialog. Surely others are commenting at the same time as I am, but we cant take each others comments into account coz we can't see them.

As someone who straddles the music and non-profit education worlds this post definitely bothered me. Lets' ignore the fact that music is hard to sell in the first place (rendering it a poor fundraising tool for artists let alone organizations) and focus on the larger idea here.

This is what Tom's did that was so incredible:
1) They saw a problem
2) They thought about how they could fix it
3) They realized that a for-profit model could actually be more effective than an organization
4) Created the company with the end goal of solving the problem
In other words they did not use a good cause to market their product, nor did they try to support a good cause with their profits. What thy DID do was create an entire business model built around addressing an issue normally tackled by non-profits.
To confuse this with any profit donations, or scheme to further your profits while benefiting (maybe) a good cause is to misunderstand the importance behind Tom's and their revolutionary model.

I have been inspired by the Tom's model for the last year and have been trying to brainstorm ways it can be applied to stopping youth violence in Chicago through music. To see how we've started out visit us at www.projectspitfire.org. I eagerly welcome any ideas.

Thank you MTT!

-Henry
www.projectspitfire.org

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterHenry Mann

I dislike the current comment system. The length of time comments take to appear makes it difficult to respond promptly to someone in discussion. It discourages discussion.

I've been reading MTT since before the new system was implemented and I don't recall any spam or other problems under the old system.

I humbly request a more streamlined commenting process.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Folks sorry for taking so long to respond to comments - too busy out making music the past few days...

@Chris Bracco - thanks for the encouragement - I appreciate it!

@Freddy - The charity or organisation doesn't have to sell them.

There can be lots of creative ways in which they can benefit.

Example: One of the organisations that I partner with in Eastern Europe works with orphans, homeless folks and drug addicts (needle exchange programs etc).

I branded CDs for them with their logo and contact details (this isn't a self promotion exercise for me). They, in turn, use them along with their promo materials to raise the profile of what they do.

They tell me it's a valuable resource for them (even though I'm not Radiohead!)

@Gareth - Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your concerns. Not quite sure how my spirituality, or for that matter sexuality, political bias or any other facet of who I am, invalidates the principle behind this music marketing concept. There are no direct references to that in the article?

See one of my real life examples in the response to Freddy above.

@Wesley Verhoeve - I like your idea, I think I'll test that one too. My hunch is that you'd need to be specific about the charity that your supporting rather than "charity of my choice". Great idea though.

As for needing to be a 'name act' in order to be effective, I disagree - see my response to Freddy above.

@Henry Mann - Henry thanks for your insight. I take your point that the TOMS model is a 'from the ground up' solution to a bigger problem. My adoption of the simple one-for-one approach was to see if a win-win-win (artist-audience-organisation) would be workable.

I checked out your site - good on ya for what you're doing there!

Here in Northern Ireland, where in the past sectarian violence and killing shaped the community, a number of music and arts initiatives sprung up.

They had a positive effect on the emerging generation of kids who otherwise might have gravitated towards paramilitary violence. A good example was The Nerve Centre http://www.nerve-centre.org.uk/

April 16 | Registered CommenterAndy Rogers

how is this different from www.fairsharemusic.com?

i understand the personal element of it, but giving your cd away to a charity is ineffective. You need to give something of value; money or time. why don't you give away a % of each sale to a charity. you still get all the marketing benefits but now you are actually providing capitol that the nonprofit can use and you potentially start a relationship between your fan and your charity.

April 18 | Unregistered Commenterbrandon

Thats a great idea but Toms Shoes have best campaign named one for one and they also offers Tom Shoes Coupon Codes which helps us to save money.

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterKatty

@Brandon - Absolutely, your suggestion (similar to Wesley above) could work and I intend to try it. I have found that audiences seem to connect with the concept that they're donating another of what they're buying, in this case a CD.

For some organisations the cash donation may indeed be a better alternative. As I mentioned above the ones I partner with creatively use CDs as part of their promo activities.

April 19 | Registered CommenterAndy Rogers

Best Online coupon store couponcodes365.us

Best USAMM Coupon Codes are at usamm discount coupon

July 18 | Registered Commentermary le

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