Aside from apparel, limited edition albums can be one of your best sources of income from fans. With a high-price point for a few extra songs, some badass artwork and a signature scrawled across the booklet, it's easy to see why so many bands release a limited edition album.
So how do you get the most out of creating a limited edition album? Here are some tips.
Who Buys Limited Edition Albums?
If you're thinking of releasing a limited edition album, you first need to understand the type of fan who buys this kind of record.
Limited edition records are for your true fans – that core group of folk who are in the front row of every show, who can sing the lyrics to all your songs and know your back catalog better than you do, who have your band name tattooed on their thigh and have a Google Alert set to your name so they can go along and verbally abuse every bad review you ever get.
Or tattoo your name on their head. Whichever.
Your mom won't buy your limited edition album, and selling them at shows will be unlikely to earn you big bucks. People won't buy your limited edition album just to hear what you sound like, although a few weird folk might buy it if the cover art looks truly awesome.
True fans collect memorabilia, and that is what you're selling with a limited edition – the chance to own another piece of the band's history. If you've got a decent following of true fans, you can begin to make serious money from limited edition albums and merchandise.
Elements of a Limited Edition Album
So what makes an album a limited edition?
Obviously, it has to actually be a limited edition. If you say there are only going to be 100 copies, there had better only be 100 copies. "This album could disappear forever and I won't have heard it" will be what motivates your fans to buy.
Most limited edition albums will include some bonus material, whether it's a new song or two, a couple of b-sides or covers, a few live tracks, or an entire second disc. With bands utilizing the internet and multimedia more often, many limited edition albums include access to "fan only" areas of a band's website, exclusive downloads, videos, and live-chat with the band.
Fans buy limited edition albums first and foremost for this bonus material; so make it as tempting as you can. Don't skimp on the songs or recording quality, and don't just make it all live material – throw in a few "never-before-heard" rarities and watch your fans snap them up.
Since limited edition albums often come in tin boxes, fancy display cases or intricate origami paper sleeves, they usually don't fit neatly into a CD rack. Fans prefer to display these rarities around their home. So make your limited edition album look good. The visuals are second only to the music when it comes to selling albums – it the cover makes a fan go "Oh hell yes!" then you've got a sale.
Talk to artists and designers to come up with a unique design that reflects the style of the band and the music on the album.
Closer to the Band
Some artists hand-number and add a personal note and signature to every album. Others ship their albums out with free stickers and t-shirts. Others enter every fan that buys an album into a draw to win dinner with the band. Adding these personal touches makes your fans feel appreciated. It pretty much ensures they're gonna keep listening to your music for years to come.
And nothing says "limited edition" like a bunch of extra crap, like shot glasses and ice cube trays.
The higher the price point of the album, the more personalized the fan expects it to be. Sure, it might take you an afternoon to personally sign all your albums, but that cost is borne by the desire to keep your true fans happy. Again, these are the people who talk about you to all their friends, play your records obsessively, and come to all your shows.
Selling Your Albums
You're probably not going to sell too many limited edition albums at your merch table at concerts, but it's a good idea to have one on display to show fans what they're able to get. Limited edition albums will probably sell best through your website and fan mailing lists. This is super-exclusive stuff, and fans like feeling like they're the only ones who know how to find it.
Readers, do you buy limited edition albums? Have you ever released one? If so, how did your fans react to it?