Yesterday an article showed up on my Facebook feed from the band They Might Be Giants. They are starting up a new fan club. It costs $99 to join for 10 months (yes, they're resetting the membership dues in February, for some reason), and as a member you get their new album in VINYL (right, because this is 1965) as well as an exclusive bonus vinyl album that won't be sold to the public, vouchers for 2 free tickets to any concert they are headlining, and your name appearing in the liner notes of their new album if you sign up before the 25th.
At first, I was scratching my head at this, because you need to be a pretty hard core fan in order to shell out $99 to a single band. I'm a member of Pearl Jam's 10 club, but that costs $10 a year, the bonus tracks are sent to me in MP3, and it pays for itself with the service-fee-free access to concert ticket presales (with seats much better than could be bought if you weren't in the club). But there's no way that their fan club package is worth $99 a year (the typical TMBG concert ticket is $30).
It later dawned on me that they may have started this up as a way to make a couple extra $$s, and make sure that the members of the club actually buy the new album. When I buy music, I always get it in digital file format, since I do all of my listening via my computer or phone. But still, new albums usually can be found for $10 or less. So that, plus another $60 for concert tickets, leaves me $29 short of their asking price. So what it comes down to is that they are charging fans to get access to "exclusive" songs that they apparently didn't think were good enough to release to the general public (or most likely will get a general release anyway in some form or another) and for the right to have your name appear, likely in a miniscule font size, on a list that nobody will read anyway. Are they trying to sucker their fans who are bad at math, or are obsessed enough that they have to own EVERYTHING their favorite band releases regardless of the cost?.....or is this an act of desperation, since being a professional musician is no longer a profitable career?
Weird Al was doing a similar thing on his last tour. For every show, his website was selling "VIP tickets" which were far more expensive than a regular ticket, and included crap like Weird Al Trading Cards.
I've heard stories of other bands pulling similar schemes (Radiohead had a $50 album?). Anyone else fill us in on what other bands are doing to try to make it in this industry these days?
So the debate....is it right or fair for bands to gouge their fans with packages like this, and what is their true motive? I've lost a lot of respect for TMBG ever since they focused on doing children's music (they've even admitted that they got into that genre because it's one where people still do buy CDs), but this really doesn't sit right with me. Needless to say, I will not be joining their fan club.