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Yet another music model: Kaiser Chiefs pay fans for social sales

British band teams with Wieden+Kennedy London for innovative new album release

Ricky Wilson and Simon Rix of Kaiser Chiefs (Photo: Nick Pickles/Getty)

From iTunes to Amazon, Spotify to Pandora and even down to vinyl records, how we find and purchase music has never been more diverse. British band the Kaiser Chiefs have taken things a step further into the digital realm with the release of their new album, The Future is Medieval.

The album went on sale last week on the band’s website for $12 (£7.50), and fans were asked to choose 10 songs out of a possible 20 to create their own version, including custom cover art. Now customizing an album isn’t all that new a concept, but where things go to next level is when the Kaiser Chiefs ask fans to promote their version of the album via social media and actually pay them $1.60 (£1) for each copy that sells.

In an e-mail to music industry commentator Bob Lefsetz, the band’s lead singer Ricky Wilson said, “We’ve used a load of our own money to hire some really clever people to build the site and market it so we’re hopeful…. This definitely isn’t some sort of two-fingers-to-the-system thing. In fact our label Fiction have been very supportive…. It’s not supposed to be a massive statement to the world or a fight against anything. It was just fun and we needed that to be honest.”

Many of those really clever people the band enlisted to help are at ad agency Wieden+Kennedy London and digital production shop specialmoves. Agency development strategist Alex Franklin told Contagious that the idea isn’t necessarily about selling a million records, “It’s about new way to launch an album, trying something creative, and giving some love to peer recommendations. There’s huge value in people sharing what they like, and the £1 payment is way of rewarding that.”

A more traditional CD and digital release is June 27, but by participating in this launch project fans can win a variety of prizes such as concert tickets.

The concept of social currency has been a hot topic for a while now, but melding it together with music and actual currency is the kind of creative thinking that can only help, whether in music, publishing or any industry struggling with finding a digital revenue model that works.