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!
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!)