tipping Corey Smith

Check out this bit in the Leftsetz letter about the web strategy of a rock star named Corey Smith:

You can buy the tracks on iTunes. They’ve sold 420,000 so far. When they experimented last summer, and took the free tracks down from Corey’s site, iTunes sales went DOWN! So, they put the free tracks back up.

This tidbit struck me as confirming a recent bit of conversation here about iTunes sales being a tipping behavior. In conversation about the move from album sales to to singles sales, somebody suggested that listeners get their everyday music from filesharing networks and other free sources. What they bother to buy on the iTunes music store are the standouts, songs that are special to them.

Which suggests a tipping kind of behavior where listeners fall in love with songs they downloaded for free, then give back to the artist by buying a copy. Or maybe they don’t see it as “giving back” or “tipping”, maybe they’re just creating a moment of personal connection by sending a cash-o-gram.

Your mileage may vary. But it’s an interesting possibility. If I worked at a label I’d look into studying this behavior to see the magnitude and factors that affect it. Getting a thank-you (autogenerated) email from the musician might have an unexpectedly large impact, for example.