A Record Label That Believes in You

The record label Asthmatic Kitty is taking an interesting approach to the sale of Sufjan Steven‘s newest album, The Age of Adz. The label agreed to “allow” Amazon to sell the album, but is taking issue with the discounted price Amazon will offer the album for, and imploring customers to buy the album from alternative retailers. “[W]e personally feel that physical products like EP’s should sell for around $7 and full-length CD’s for around $10-12. We think digital EP’s should sell for around $5 and full-length digital albums for something like $8,” the label told Sufjan fans. “So you might wonder why we’d ‘allow’ Amazon to sell it for lower than that. There are several reasons why, but mostly? It’s because we believe in you. We trust you and in your ability to make your own choice.” What do you think, readers? How will Sufjan fans respond to Asthmatic Kitty’s request? (HT: Todd Werner) [%comments]


With a combination of dismissal & laughter.


I don't believe it for a second. By doing this they accomplish three things.

- They tap into Amazon's huge market.
- They get free publicity.
- They might get some users to pay the higher prices when they otherwise would have paid Amazon's prices.

The last option is a minor bonus, the real money will come as a result of the first two.


Some of Sufjan's extremely devoted fans might buy from the alternative sellers, but I think most of us are going to go where it's cheaper.

The real question in my mind is the price elasticity of demand between $5 and $8. If it's >1, won't Sufjan make more money at Amazon at the $5 Amazon price than his preferred $8 price, assuming he gets a percentage of total sales?


You've left out an important part that the Village Voice noted last week: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/archives/2010/09/sufjan_stevens_and_asthmatic_kitty_take_on_amazon_bootleggers_and_you_maybe.php

"back in August, Ben Sisario did a little digging and found that the arrangement typically involves Amazon selling at a loss, and then turning around and paying the label its regular wholesale price. Often, as in the case of The Suburbs, at a greatly increased volume. (Amazon does this to steal market-share from iTunes, a strategy that is apparently working)."

So, supposedly, they still get their preferred return for the album, *and* consumers get a discounted product.

Also, they are insane for expecting $10-$12 for a digital album. No physical discs to press and ship, yet they want physical CD prices? That's laughable, particularly considering that a bright minded indie label should be able to return a profit on even $8-$10 physical discs. Look at Dischord, selling physical discs for $10 and digital albums for $7.

The first thing any artist will learn about commerce is that *you* set the value for your work. And the sad fact is that if the market won't bear $10-$12 downloads, you can't force or guilt your customers into paying more. You have to figure out how to get it done at the price the market will bear.


Mojo Bone

I think the fans that are the most involved with the Sufjan Stevens 'brand' will most likely buy from the source, since they know their favorite artist gets to keep more of their "contribution" that way. Casual fans will pay less or not at all, since they have the option.

Ian Kemmish

"We personally"? Is he related to Queen Victoria?

You don't need a brain the size of a planet to figure out that the main reason is going to be a contractual obligation. I wonder if the smarter fans are going to be turned away by the obvious insincerity of the official explanation? They would be in any business other than showbusiness, I suspect.

Dave Henderson


I think you missed the part in the quote where the $10-$12 price was for physical, not digital, media. The suggested digital LP price was $8.


First, price and value are not the same thing. I really value lots of things, but they are still free. The most immediately relevant thing I can think of is air. Value is probably infinite to me, but it's cost is free.

Second, in an actual market, price approaches the marginal cost of the production of an item. A digital copy's production cost is so low that many are concerned about fans giving the copies away.

I have no idea how someone can morally justify complaining about the morality of people not paying enough for something that costs them nothing to produce.


Basically, the people from the label are allowing amazon to sell the product for a lower price than other retailers but telling their artist's fans to make the right choices. When purchasing products, people usually go for those with the lowest price. However, technology is allowing for the sale of different versions of music, so being either physical or digital, people have different options from which to choose. This will allow for comparing among the choices (by the costumers) which will end up choosing the options in the middle between the cheapest and most expensive. So, people won't be chosing the most cheap of the options provided, so for the label, they will be making "smart choices".


@JohnB They don't want physical prices for digital products. The statement says $10-12 for physical cds and "something like $8" for digital albums. They are very much in line with Dischord's pricing.


I consider myself a fan of Sufjan Stevens, though not the world's greatest. Let's just say I read reviews of the new All Delighted People EP and bought it anyways. And I kind of LIKE it.

I love supporting artists I enjoy, but I consume the way I will. Sufjan Stevens isn't hurting for a hardcore, ultra-devoted fanbase, and I don't see how Amazon selling an album cheaply is a detriment to his popularity or atristic integrity.


JohnB - they said $8 for a digital album, not $10-12.


people still pay for things available digitally?


hey JohnB--it's sad you took the time to write a comment, but didn't take an extra minute to actually READ the article.

PHYSICAL CDS $10-$12, digital cds $8 is what AK said.

maybe you're the "laughable" one. go back to Reading Comprehension 101.


Why is he bothering to sell an album? The business model for the music industry has returned to its roots. The business is now singles driven. People will no longer pay for fill. iTunes has established this reality. Maybe a scattering of die-hard fans would. If the music doesn't cross over, the majority won't. Streaming eliminates the costs of packaging and distribution, hence the pricing should reflect that. The strike price appeared to be 99 cents. The industry has done everything possible to raise that price. The vast majority of artists will have to return to the road to make a living. They won't do it on song sales alone. They are now just like t-shirts: another form of promotion.


My bad. Thanks to everyone for pointing it out. The first person to mention it wasn't enough, I guess. Big thanks to ard in particular. Your clever bon mot was certainly the height of blog commentary. I am so shamed I will never post a comment anonymously online again.

Seriously, my bad for misreading, I'm not as good a multi-tasker at work as I think I am, but my point about the Voice's extended research remains: AK is (supposedly) still getting the price they want for the downloads, it's Amazon taking the hit.


They will respond by illegally downloading it off of the internet like they were going to do all along.


This would be a more interesting question if AK sent this out after the album was available from Amazon. I assume Amazon will sell this for 6. Thus, what AK was really doing with this email was telling fans that they can pay $2 to download the album two weeks early (I was happy to).

I am not sure this is anything more than price discrimination marketed to make both sides feel good about it.


buying album is not charity. right minded consumer will choose lower price. its not trust or disrespect of the artist. so, i think its not fair to use the word "trust" cause that will make us feel some kind of guilt. the same thing with people asking us on the street " do you have a time for abandoned animals?" dont get me wrong, i already preordered the album from their site, its not because i was trusted, its because im not a right minded consumer.


I'll buy this album, on vinyl, at a local indie record store. You should do the same.