The quiet success of Drip.fm and its highest-profile customer Domino Records has been making a number of indie labels and companies think again about launching their own subscriptions.
This month has seen two prominent launches: one from British label Ninja Tune, and the other from independent retailer Rough Trade.
Ninja Tune is using the Drip.fm platform, charging $12 a month for fans to receive every release on the label and its Big Dada offshoot in various digital formats, as well as a 42-track compilation of its 2012 releases, discounts at its merch-webstore, and a free mug. Don’t forget the free mug.
It’s good value, including a promise that in months with less than two new-album releases, fans will get a “top up with favourites from the back catalogue”.
Rough Trade’s initiative is intriguing too, being a partnership with British newspaper The Guardian to launch a Tracks of the Week subscription service.
People will pay £2.99 a week to get six new music downloads “hand-picked by Rough Trade” every Friday. “Not knowing what you’re going to receive each week replicates the thrilling sense of adventure felt in our stores,” promises co-owner Stephen Godfroy.
Value and exclusivity are important here too: you might think that someone could just keep a Spotify playlist updated with the six new tracks every week and undercut the paid bundle, but The Guardian promises the selection “will regularly include records you won’t be able to hear anywhere else yet”.
Both services remind us why debating whether people will or won’t ‘pay for music downloads’ is an over-simplification. Will enough people pay for curated subscription-based downloads to make this a viable business for the independent brands who are well-placed to provide this? Just maybe…