Phish is one of those bands who has always supported digital distribution as a way to get their music to fans. The recent release of the Live Phish App for the iPhone shows they continue to be one step ahead of the game.
Grateful to the Dead
For the uninitiated, Phish is essentially this generation’s answer to the Grateful Dead: a jam band that pulls from a diverse blend of musical genres, emphasizes improvisation, and plays a different set list at every show. Much like their psychedelic predecessor, they encourage open recording and trading of their live shows. This business model (now taught at many universities), is ultimately responsible for their widespread popularity and continued success.
Embracing Digital Downloads
After years of financial success through ticket sales alone, Phish decided to branch out into the digital realm. In 2002, Phish began making all of their live shows available for purchase on their newly created Live Phish website. Ever since its inception, every performance is made available on the website within 24 hours of the show.
The most important thing to note here is that the audience-recorded bootlegs of the same shows are still made legally available for free.
Shows Are Priced to Sell
In terms of pricing, their pricing model is extremely competitive. Each show costs a $10 for basic MP3 and $15 for high-quality FLAC. While this pricing is similar to an album on iTunes, remember that Phish shows are generally 2.5+ hours of music, where most iTunes albums are less than an hour.
In addition, they offer bulk discounts for anyone ordering multiple shows. The more you buy, the less you pay — another important factor in their success.
Live Phish App: Free Downloadable Content
Ever since the release of the iPhone, iTunes has been flooded with cheesy band/artist applications that offer little more than some photos, and maybe a free song or two. Live Phish blows these applications out of the water.
Initially, I was surprised to see that the app was paid ($3.99 on iTunes), not free. It seemed a bit expensive, especially based on my expectations for the content. However, along with the app purchase, I received a $10 coupon for the Live Phish store, which allowed me to purchase an entire show.
Again — they are giving away music, for free.
Live Phish App: Free Streaming Content
Once logged into the application, I have the ability to stream every show I have ever purchased from LivePhish.com directly to my iPhone. This essentially serves as a free cloud hosting service for the hundreds of songs I have downloaded over the years.
In addition to my purchased shows, there is a constantly revolving list of shows that you can stream –in their entirety — for free. This is a great feature, but it also serves to preview shows that can then be purchased from the site.
Finally – the app has a 24/7 streaming radio station that plays shows from the vault.
Take a Lesson
This app could have easily been built as a CD store, with the ability to browse the albums, preview tracks, and purchase.
It could also have been built as another generic band app, with some photos or other useless content aimed at generating sales.
Instead, they thought about what the average fan would want…and gave it to them (along with more free stuff).
This demonstrates something the recording industry has failed to recognize: people are willing to pay for content, you just need to make it worth it.
In other words — give the people what they want.
What other bands are doing this as well?