Monday, September 28, 2009

"Please Contact Billing/Support"

I was cleaning out my mailbox (only 649 messages not yet sorted into my numerous pack-rat sub-folders) ...and in doing so, I came across an old email from some new and exciting (at the time) web-site that wanted me to join TODAY! and reap the benefits of all they had to offer for FREE!

Here's what they said to me to try to get me to sign up:
"Our site has several interesting features that we offer to artists and musicians all for free. We offer free profile pages of the band(s), Web site hosting, music downloads and music selling, event tickets, blogs, event listings, merchandise sales and a online radio station that plays all Canadian bands for free through our site."
Sound familiar?

Of course it does. But haven't you heard the old adage "Nothing in this world is free"? Even this age-old piece of financial advice itself is no longer free! ($36 and change!?! Yikes!!!)

There are four things that can happen once a call is put out in this fashion:
  1. No one signs up. Result: web-site goes away.
  2. Artists sign up in droves well beyond expectations of site creators; the web-site quickly gets overloaded and with no forward thinking business plan, the creators have no marketing engine in place to feed the hungry servers with storage space and pipes with bandwidth... so... almost exactly three days after you spent months setting up your account, uploading your music, photos, swag, concert/ticket info AND advertised to all your mailing lists, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter you click on the link and you're redirected to some other domain with a link that looks something like "" with the only text on it being: "Please Contact Billing/Support" written in large, friendly letters.
  3. Artists sign up in droves meeting expectations of site creators who then say "Hey, guys, isn't this great? We're all one big happy family and to keep us all together we're going to have to charge you a nominal annual fee for yearly storage bla bla bla" (or insert whatever monetising strategy you want from storage fees to percentages of sales to ad space to ensure your 'free' music page isn't buried deep beneath the bowels of the site's sub-sub-sub-domain etc). Result: A few enterprising dudes are getting rich real quick and a whole bunch of ex-CDBabies are a little too proud to admit they were wrong in jumping ship (hint: they won't fully come to that realisation until they come to year 4 of their stay and someone with a calculator will walk by and say "You know, you've just spent more than the one-time fee over at CDBaby." -- which will earn the hapless calculator-toting dude a nice bloody nose for his trouble I'm sure!)
  4. Artists sign up at a steady rate pleasing the site creators who have a business plan (and financing model) geared to have the business grow at exactly the same rate as the site's popularity never once requiring a set-up fee nor monthly or annual fees. The funding model is purely a fixed (low) percentage cut from sales. If the web-site doesn't do a good job attracting consumers, they get no money and their business fails. They are in it for themselves right alongside the artists. A symbiotic relationship which, in my personal view, is ultimately the business model of the future music industry. No one getting money off the backs of anyone else. Everyone's pay is commensurate with the level of effort and talent they have pumped into it.

CDBaby was never a "free" site and never pretended to be so their model doesn't show in the list above.

I've come across more 1's, 2's and 3's than I'd care to count. In fact, it was upon clicking the link in the eMail I mentioned at the start of this post that I came to the "Please contact Billing/Support" page. Another one bites the dust.

But what of #4? Are there any such sites out there?



'nuff said.

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