Pay-what you want memberships
You can now decide how much you want to pay for your Magnatune membership.
Previously, a download membership always cost $18/month, now you choose how much you want to pay.
Also new, is that you can now type in the amount you want to pay, rather than having a drop-down list of pre-filled choices.
The idea for a "fill in box" for the amount you want to pay comes from a lunch I had a few months ago with the quite brilliant Leah Belsky, who (among other things) is a researcher at Yale University for open-source-philosopher-guru Yochai Benkler.
She told me about some research which showed that people choose a higher amount to voluntarily pay, when they are faced with an empty box to fill in. She also explained that a small percentage of people elect to pay a *lot* more if they can. A list-box of choices doesn't allow you to put a much higher amount in, and so stops those people from paying what they want.
Leah has since published a paper on the topic, which features Magnatune as well, it is entitled: "EVERYTHING IN ITS RIGHT PLACE: SOCIAL COOPERATION AND THE PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF CREATIVE WORKS"
Leah convinced me to only change one thing at a time on the Magnatune membership page, so that there would be useable before-and-after numbers that academics could gain insight from, and see what the results are of this experiment.
There are a few other new aspects to the membership page:
1) the previous signup page was on several pages, and this caused confusion. For example, people wrote in saying they didn't see how to get a lifetime membership (it was on the 2nd page).
2) you can now choose whether you want to have your membership renew automatically, or not renew at all (in which case you need to renew it yourself, by hand).
The idea for this comes from my friend Stephen Hill, who runs the legendary Hearts of Space radio show and hos.com music service. He has been running a music subscription service far longer than I have, so he has the good fortune of experience and insight.
Stephen persuasively argued that people are much more comfortable making the choice of renewing vs not-renewing themselves, and that the number of members I would lose because they didn't renew, would be more than made up by the increased number of people who became members because of the softer-sell approach.
At hos.com, you get a small discount if you choose a longer term membership, or to auto-renew or not, typically just a $1/month savings. His signup form has a lot of options, but he told me that people really appreciate being in control, and seeing everything at once.
So, my thanks go out to Leah and Stephen, for sharing their thoughts with me, and helping make Magnatune a wee bit better.
Here is what the new membership signup page now looks like:
Posted by John Buckman on September 27, 2008 at 04:13 AM | Permalink
Posted by: Thomas of mystified at Sep 27, 2008 8:06:09 AM
A great idea, in keeping with the magnatune philosophy. Is there any news on the proportion of 3 month memberships from the first wave that were renewed?
Posted by: Matt at Sep 27, 2008 10:49:14 PM
Great news. Several questions, though:
1. How does this affect lifetime memberships?
2. Do you have a rough guide for casual users, as to how much would be a nice level to pay? I'd love to have the convenience of not paying per album, but does not use Magnatune regularly enough to justify $15-$20 a month
Posted by: Michel S. at Sep 29, 2008 9:54:55 AM
Brilliant! A while back your membership page actually made me stop because I felt you somehow where tricking me into using more and more money (not making all info available up-front), and when I got to you-have-to-subscribe for a minimum of three months@$18 you kind of lost me.
Not that it's a bad deal, but the way it was presented, for whatever reason, made me really frustrated, so I left.
Thankfully your overall concept really appeals to me, so I stuck around. Great to see that you choose to evolve the site and concept as you go along.
Posted by: Allan at Sep 29, 2008 10:06:12 AM
Truly innovative and breaking the rules of music distribution. I SO hope it works for you, and therefore, for us! I've been a fan of Magnatune for about 8 months, and I recommend the site to many friends and clients. I signed up for the unlimited download for 3 months and canceled because 1) I couldn't afford another $54, and 2) I actually felt guilty for all the great music I was downloading (no way the artists could possibly get a fair share at the level I was downloading). I'm excited about the new download rules, but I'm afraid I won't be signing up too soon because I'd feel too guilty paying as little as I can currently afford. I really hope it is successful so I can take advantage of it in the future!! Magnatune ROCKS!
Posted by: KevininCA at Sep 29, 2008 11:30:17 AM
Thanks for sharing your insights. I learned some new things. Perhaps you'll share some statistics as you gather them? Blog posts like this make me feel like we're alongside you.
I'm a recent member, and was a little skeptical at first. Now I'm hooked on the idea. I wouldn't have minded paying a smaller amount up front to give the service a go, but now would happily pay more. That's one usage pattern not explicitly mentioned in your article, but is now enabled.
As for the redsign, thank you. "Clean and obvious" user interface design is important in software (including web pages).
And, as always, "Thank you for not being evil".
Posted by: James Reuben Knowles at Sep 29, 2008 12:40:02 PM
Thank you for your reasoning and for the innovative new system for purchasing music.
As a retired pensioner I cannot afford the initial subscription fees and my interest is only in classical music which limits the number of downloads I might purchase. I have been a fan of your site for a few years now but I must admit my purchases are few in number. I would like to support new artists but have to live within my budget. I also don't want to insult the artists by making purchases that are too low in price so I just don't purchase. Perhaps I can afford a longer membership that would work out better for all of us.
Best of luck on this latest effort to bring affordable music to everyone while ensuring a living for young artists.
Posted by: Hugh T at Sep 29, 2008 4:10:41 PM
LOL! Did Allan at Sep 29, 2008" go to the same Catholic School I went to? I felt "guilty" too, downloading so much, but then realized that the music was "there" whether I downloaded it or not, and at least the artist was sure to get SOMETHING from my membership, rather than nothing if I didn't continue to sign up, so hah- I stayed and renewed. However, $20.00 a month is a bit steep for me, so if I did $10.00 per month (or how much for a lifetime membership?) would I be "cheating?" If that's OK... then, hey, I'm in! I'd like to be able to have it charged on my credit card automatically, once a month or every three months, whatever is easier for you.
By the way, the subscription service is GREAT because now I don't have to ask myself "is a whole album worth xxx". It's more like Netflix where I can get as many DVD's as I want. If enough people sign up then the artists get paid. Great idea and I'll stay with Magnatune. Along with "song for the day," you've changed my life!
Posted by: Catherine Todd at Sep 29, 2008 9:48:53 PM
I really admire Magnatune and I like the idea of the membership. I don't think $18/ month is an unreasonable amount, either. My only problem is that, with a low income and bills coming up, the three-month-at-a-time payment thing makes it an amount I will always put off until next payday.
Couldn't we do it as a real, $18/ month? At the moment it would cost me £33 to sign up for three months at $20, which isn't money I'd begrudge: I just can't prioritise it. $18, on the other hand, would not hurt nearly as much and I could pay that amount each month with a clear conscience.
I suppose banking fees might be an issue and this isn't a complaint. I choose to do the job I do and understand that that means some sacrifices. It would be nice, though.
Posted by: Peter Mason at Sep 30, 2008 12:46:17 AM
I think this is another wonderful step in "not being evil". I really hope you find that this increases revenue, than decreases it. Were it up to me, there would still be a "minimum", but providing suggested values is pretty good.
I'm kind of like Hugh T. I don't have much money right now, but I'll come over to Magnatune to listen to music I enjoyed from time to time, contributing only by referring people to the website. My current poverty is what has kept me from purchasing much here.
While I would now love to get a full download license while paying a minimal fee and get music to my heart's content, I would feel bad about giving the artists so little. Perhaps I will purchase a streaming license for now, to make sure that I am contributing something (rather than nothing), and get a download license later when I feel I can provide a more substantial contribution.
Posted by: Michael-Forest at Sep 30, 2008 2:10:42 AM
I feel really privileged to participate in the Magnatune experiment. I, too, have no problem with the $18/mo. rate, and automatic renewal. Your decision to change things slightly, and it's relationship to ongoing research on social response to alternative modes of access is fascinating. I know of some excellent research that strongly support the essential goodness of people (most of them), and Leah's ideas appear congruent with this. For me, this is all just another way that the Internet has made my world more humane and humane. I expect to be with you a long time. I have real hope about this. Thanks for behaving with courage and thoughtfulness about all of this.
Posted by: Tom Cloyd at Oct 7, 2008 1:49:25 AM
Suffice it to say that I said some nice things about you, Leah, and Magnature, but I'm not the patience to reconstruct them. Maybe next time.... Thanks for all.
Posted by: Tom Cloyd at Oct 7, 2008 1:54:17 AM
Two interesting blog entries today, about Jamendo's donate-to-musician button, and some hard numbers:
Posted by: John from Magnatune at Oct 30, 2008 3:23:56 AM