Young Ottawa band hotshotcasino would love for you to download their new single for free, but you still have to pay them.
If you want their song This City, you can pay by telling people about it. What you say is up to you. That's because the band, made up of four University of Ottawa students, has seized on the new, free social media tool Pay With a Tweet, and it's already paying off.
Pay With a Tweet is the brainchild of Leif Abraham, 24, and Christian Behrendt, 36, both associate creative directors at the New York digital advertising agency R/GA. The service allows social media users to "pay" for almost anything by posting a message on either Twitter or Facebook about the product or the people who made it.
The service offers a stock message, but in an interesting twist, it can be edited (the only thing that can't be changed is a link to the company's website). That gives the band a free way to flood the social media sphere with potentially thousands of unique bits of chatter about their music, but also means users could trash the band and still get a free download.
"It takes five seconds [to pay with a tweet]" said hotshotcasino bassist Greggory Clark, one of two band members currently studying communications. "The internet, man, it's changed everything."
The band was already internet-savvy, with an artful website and pages on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Using Pay With a Tweet makes them no direct income, but in less than a week their website had an unprecedented 30,000 unique hits, and more than three times the 800 downloads their last single attracted.
As with many startups, Abraham and Behrendt began with modest ambitions: They had written a book about digital marketing - Oh My God What Happened and What Should I Do? - and were considering giving it away for free on the premise that the book is "more self-promotion than it is a money-maker." That's when they came up with the idea of inviting people to pay with social currency. "We thought of it more as a payment than as a promotion tool," Abraham said.
So far, the service doesn't make money. But since it launched six weeks ago, a hotel in Cologne, Germany has been allowing people to buy a beer by tweeting about the hotel, and a tarot card reader has allowed people to buy one free reading, while several musicians and writers have tried peddling their wares. hotshotcasino first discovered it when the French electro-pop band The Teenagers sold their new single the same way.
Abraham and Behrendt's mantra is that "as soon as you have the best product, money will come from some point anyway," even if it's indirectly, and they hope the idea will stick.
Dre Labre, creative director at Rethink Communications in Toronto, thinks Pay With a Tweet is "a great idea," and a less intrusive way to connect to audiences than saying "give me your email."
"It is very simple, kind of right there under our noses the whole time," he said. "This is leveraging the micro-audiences that individual users have."
From hotshotcasino's perspective, musicians have so saturated social media with marketing attempts that being one of the first to try a new strategy like this one is key. So Clark isn't worrying about whether this is the next big thing or just a passing fancy.
"Maybe in six to eight months, it's what everyone's going to be doing, and then we're going to find something else. But we're creative, and I think we'll find it," he said.