Greg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk, has long been considered an innovator in his field. Through pushing the boundaries of music sampling, he has both inspired controversy and established a large and loyal fan base. In addition to being at the forefront of his genre musically, Girl Talk is known for introducing unconventional strategies to reach his fans, such as making his albums available to download for free online.
Last year, Girl Talk’s label, Illegal Art, began using Gumroad to power all of their artists’ album sales. Today on the blog, we’ll take a closer look at Girl Talk’s album sales strategy and highlight some lessons to be drawn from eight months of sales data.
Powering Online Sales
Today, all music sales through the Girl Talk Shop are powered by Gumroad. The Illegal Art team uses the Gumroad Overlay to enable all purchases to occur in lightboxes right on Girl Talk’s site, meaning fans can purchase and download the albums without leaving the page. This purchasing experience also emphasizes Girl Talk and his content, rather than the underlying platform powering the transaction.
Besides All Day, an album available for free download only, Girl Talk has four albums for sale on the Girl Talk Shop. Each of these albums is available in differently priced formats, including MP3, FLAC, CD, and, Vinyl Record.
Each product page is specific to the type of content being sold. Files (MP3, Seamless MP3 and FLAC) include an audio preview from the album as a product cover, whereas CDs and Vinly Records use photos of the items. For the physical albums, buyers are asked to provide shipping details whereas digital albums only require e-mail address and credit card details.
Gumroad hosts the MP3 and FLAC files for each of Girl Talk’s albums and delivers these files automatically after purchase. Using a .CSV (from the seller analytics dashboard) of purchase data, Illegal Art fulfills CD and Vinyl Record orders.
All of Girl Talk’s albums are priced using Pay-What-You-Want pricing. Standard MP3s cost $0+, meaning listeners can choose to download the MP3 version of each album for free, or to pay more if they want to support Girl Talk. Seamless MP3s and FLACs are priced at $5+, CDs at $10+ and Vinyl Records at $15+ or $20+, depending on the album.
Through flexible pricing, Girl Talk can offer his music for free, while giving listeners the opportunity to pay more if they want a premium format or believe the music is worth more.
While this Pay-What-You-Want pricing strategy may seem risky, it’s one that is being increasingly experimented with for different goods and services, from food to yoga. And as you might expect, data from Girl Talk’s album downloads and sales indicates that a large number of fans are choosing to pay for Girl Talk’s music, even though doing so isn’t a requirement.
While the success of a flexible pricing strategy will vary depending on the content being sold, the minimum price point chosen, and the size of an artist’s audience, the response to Girl Talks’ albums indicate that many fans are willing to pay significantly more than the minimum price, based on the content’s perceived value and their desire to support the artist.
Traffic Over Time
Daily product page views are tracked, broken down, and presented in Gumroad’s seller analytics dashboard, making measuring (and responding to!) traffic from different sources very simple.
Since launching the Gumroad-powered shop, the Illegal Art label has gone on an indefinite hiatus, during which Girl Talk hasn’t released a new album or launched any album promotions.
As a result, 92.3% of all traffic to the album product pages came from Girl Talk’s website. This percentage is much lower for artists with active labels who put a lot of effort into promoting new albums through Twitter, Facebook, and other traffic sources.
While the overall traffic to the Girl Talk Shop appears to have increased since November, the Illegal Art team believes this is mainly the result of changes in the site, rather than an overall increase in views. As the team has linked more and more of their site to Gumroad, traffic has moved from their old webshop to the newer Gumroad product pages.
It’s also possible that hype around increasing Girl Talk activity in March and April of 2013 led to some degree of additional traffic. Shows announced and played at SXSW in Austin and UPenn in Philadelphia could have led to a jump in listeners.
This could potentially explain why, from February to March, views of $0+ MP3s increased by 50%, whereas views for more expensive album formats increased by only 26%. The shows could have led to increased traffic from new listeners more interested in $0+ downloads, as opposed to loyal fans likely to choose more expensive album formats.
Whether or not there was any real increase in overall views (across the old and new webshops), it is apparent that traffic has, at the very least, not decreased significantly. Impressively, without dedicated efforts to build hype, Girl Talk maintains persistent stream of fans interested in his music.
Of course, this traffic comes after years of Girl Talk building a name for himself through boundary pushing, live shows, and high quality album releases — after all, Girl Talk’s first album, Secret Diary, was released more than 10 years ago. The Girl Talk brand, combined with the easy accessibility of his music, results in a flow of both new listeners, who choose to try out an album with a $0+ download, and more loyal fans, who opt for premium album formats.
While the number of views is a useful indicator of interest in Girl Talk’s music, conversion rates are often a more valuable metric for creators because they ultimately drive sales and bottom line revenue. Artists care about having an engaged audience—one that will go through the effort of downloading or purchasing a song—rather than just a large audience.
At Gumroad, we measure conversion rates as the percentage of product page views that result in a purchase (or download, in the case of content priced at $0). Conversion rates are also particularly important to us — since we’re working to make the buying experience as frictionless as possible, increasing conversion rates is one indication that we are building a good product.
Looking at Girl Talk’s conversion rates over time, you’ll see a steady upward trend.
Unsurprisingly, the average conversion rate is much higher for MP3s priced at $0+ because it is possible to download an album in this format without having to think about whether it is worth the money (and without having a credit card handy).
The slopes of the trend lines indicate that, over time, the average conversion rate has increased more quickly for more expensive album formats. This is promising for Girl Talk because it means a higher percentage of the people who visit the Girl Talk Shop purchase an album today than did eight months ago.
This increase is also encouraging for Gumroad because it suggests that we are making valuable improvements to our product — ones that help all our sellers in the long run. As the Gumroad buying experience becomes better—more familiar, more secure in appearance, more intuitive— we expect conversion rates to increase further.
Things to Keep in Mind
You can power an entire store of both physical and digital products with Gumroad — Just set up each product page to collect different details from customers, depending on whether you need shipping information, tshirt sizes, or other buyer info.
Reach fans with different engagement levels and target price points by offering various options — You can do this by bundling in additional content to create premium packages or by offering a number of different content formats, like Girl Talk does with each of his albums.
- Pay-What-You-Want pricing can be a valuable strategy to experiment with or apply longer term — Doing so can give you insight into how much your audience values your content, thereby informing pricing decisions in the future. Plus, customers who download your content for free are still valuable. They may spread the word about your content or pay for other things you’re selling (like shows, in the case of Girl Talk), or turn into paying customers later on.
- People are willing to pay for high quality content, even when given the option not to — This is particularly true for creators who have built up large and committed audiences over time.
Pay attention to conversion rates — Compelling products and frictionless buyer experiences result in higher conversion rates.