Kaiser Chiefs: Fans Rock Out—On A Sales Commission


[ARENA] Danny NorthKaiser Chiefs fan plan: buy songs, choose 10 of them, package CD, market it, sell it, make money; Ricky Wilson, second from right.

After a breakout debut in 2005, the British rock group Kaiser Chiefs released two more albums, then effectively burned out. They were tired of the grind of promoting records, says singer Ricky Wilson: “Even being in a rock and roll band wears you down.”

Tune In

Then the group came up with an idea: go into business with its fans by recruiting them as salesmen. Starting Friday, anyone who buys a digital copy of a new Kaiser Chiefs album, priced at £7.50, gets the option of selling downloads directly to others online at the same price. For each transaction, the seller collects one pound (about $1.64), making it possible to turn a profit on the initial purchase.

How To Make Money from the New Kaiser Chiefs Album

Step 1: Choose your tunes. Sample the 20 available songs by clicking objects on the shelves. Compile a 10-track album by plugging in the wires.


kaiserchiefs.comStep 1: Choose your tunes.

Step 2: Design the cover. Click an object to choose a painting to customize your cover art.


kaiserchiefs.comStep 2: Design the cover.

Step 3: Download your album.



Step 4: Start selling. Use the pre-made banner ads to promote your album. Hit up your friends on Facebook and Twitter. If anyone buys it, a £1 commission goes into a personal PayPal account.



Step 5: Sit back and collect your profits.

That marketing idea, Mr. Wilson says, gave band members “the kick we needed” to start writing songs in earnest. Instead of beating a drum for months to promote the album’s release, the band kept the project a secret until now, even from the fans they’re hoping will hustle it.

The Kaiser Chiefs’ plan has several marketing hooks. Their “The Future is Medieval” is a customizable album. On a website designed to look like a retro toy store and mechanical workshop, visitors are presented with 20 different songs. By sampling 60-second excerpts of each track, they choose any combination of 10 for their album. Then, using other virtual tchotchkes from the shop, they create customized cover art.

After buyers purchase and download the album, they’re each assigned a website that doubles as an online store. That comes with digital posters and banner ads that buyers can plaster on their personal blogs or Facebook pages, with the goal of corralling online friends to their sales page. A £1 cut of any ensuing sales drops directly into a personal PayPal account.

Mr. Wilson hatched the scheme “over a drunken night in a fish and chips shop” with a friend, Oli Beale, who works in the London office of Portland-based ad agency Wieden & Kennedy. From the friends’ initial concept of offering fans a “bespoke” record, their discussion branched into how to encourage word of mouth. They considered a system in which fans would accumulate points on each sale that they could redeem for merchandise, but the discussion always circled back to cash. Mr. Wilson demurred when asked to compare the band’s cut of each sale with the sellers’. Mr. Beale says, “The fan is actually doing better on the deal than the members of the band.”

While such experiments are often perceived as acts of defiance against record companies, the Kaiser Chiefs’ label has fully supported their plan, especially the revenue-sharing aspect. “Picking your own tracks is exciting, but not game-changing. The money-back thing makes a record company look like we’re actually thinking,” says Jim Chancellor, managing director of Fiction Records, a division of Universal Music Group, who oversaw the project. To avoid serving as a bank, the label outsourced the transactions to PayPal, which will convert purchases into dollars for U.S. customers. Wieden & Kennedy built the online shop. There, albums will be sold directly to fans, eliminating the need to share revenue with a retailer such as iTunes. The label plans a more traditional CD release in the U.K. later this month and the U.S. in the fall.

“I don’t think we’re going to be making anyone millionaires,” says Mr. Wilson. “But we’ll be showing a different way that the industry can involve the fans.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: