During the Great Depression of the 1930’s and 40’s, movie theaters needed to find new ways to get patrons to part with their increasingly difficult to earn dollars. Solutions included double features, air conditioning (an idea borrowed from the meat industry) and most successfully popcorn. Not only was popcorn a low cost, high profit item that people loved; it also made then thirsty and willing to pay for a soft drink.
A new Forrester Research podcast series “Find Your Popcorn, Monetizing Content In The Digital Age” by analyst Nick Thomas is exploring new ways to build revenue around content in the digital age. It’s part of a broader Forrester research project of which I’m suspect will include music at least tangentially.
What is music’s popcorn?
The popcorn analogy is not an example of freemium – giving something away as a sample in hopes that they’ll pay for more later. It is about selling something (preferably low cost and high margin) and having that sale lead to another sale.
How many single track sales lead to full track? I suspect not many. How many concert appearances lead to album and merchandise sales? The conversions there are higher. Trent Reznor’s concept, refined successfully by Topspin and others, of offering products at varied price points that entice different levels of fans touches on the popcorn model, but does not fully capture it.
Since fans of one artist often have little in common with fans of another, perhaps the “popcorn” is different for each artist. Neil Young fans wanted those early acoustic tapes. Lady Gaga fans are more interested in her latest video spectacular.
Finding our popcorn may not be easy, but can’t you almost taste the results?