Pay What You Want For Independent Music With Songslide

Songslide may be a glimpse into the future of online music, where consumers choose how much to pay artists for high quality DRM-free downloads. Songslide was founded by John Brewer and Devin Heard, two musicians who found that fans paid more for music when given the freedom to choose the price.

We started SongSlide because we believe there is a huge well of untapped generosity out there in the world of independent music. We believe that when fans are given the choice to support their favorite artists by paying more for their music, they will pay more. Why? Because it feels great to support the musicians you love. And because fans know it will make a difference to the artists.

The minimum price is $0.59 per track. The more you pay, the more the artist receives. Since Songslide’s launch, the average price per track has been $2.08.

Songslide’s current selection is very limited; indie musicians only. Freakonomics also notes that Songslide’s volume is low, and wonders if the buyers are “mostly friends and family.” As consumers, we enjoy Songslide as a proof-of-concept for the music industry. We would gladly pay a premium if we knew our favorite artists, not music companies, were the direct beneficiaries. Would you? Tell us in the comments. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Songslide [via Freakonomics Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Skylar says:

    I would. I don’t think it costs SongSlide 40 cents to run every download, though.

    Then again, I don’t run a website, so I don’t know what the going rate is for Internet fairy dust these days.

  2. harleymcc says:

    IKEA: Swedish for “crap”.

  3. asherchang says:

    @harleymcc: are you commenting on the right entry?

  4. SirNuke says:

    The 40 cents would likely decrease significantly once/if they start selling a decent number of tracks.

    I would be willing to pay a lot more per download. To note, even at the minimal price the artists are making a lot more than they would on iTMS/etc.

  5. lastfm says:

    at least third identical comment from harleymcc.

  6. jwissick says:

    WOuld be worth it IF they had any artists that I knew…. All they have are nobodies.

  7. perianmellon says:

    Sounds remarkably like Magnatune ( It seems like Magnatune has been around a lot longer (since 2003 I think), and has a wider selection. Still only indie music, but I’ve found out about a lot great new bands there.

  8. InsaneNewman says:

    @jwissick: Nobodies become somebodies if people check them out.

  9. alhypo says:

    Sounds great to me. I would love to know exactly how the money is disbursed.

  10. ZekeSulastin says:

    Forgive me for being a killjoy, but the popularity of WalMart et. al. and sites like AllofMP3 proves something about the nature of the US consumer – we will go for the lowest price possible. Sure, the idealists among us such as most readers of this site will ensure the artist gets some money, but I *HIGHLY* doubt that Joe Q. Public will do the same if this gains mass appeal.

  11. @ZekeSulastin: I completely disagree, and I’ve done some study in this area. In fact, the U.S. Consumer goes with what they can easily get to, and it’s the ubiquitousness of *Mart combined with big-box’s tendencies to either destroy small local businesses or move them into richer neighborhoods that accounts for most of their success.

    That said, this is a good model for the possible future of online music sales. It seems fair, it compensates the artist FAR better than the recording industry does (compare 50+ percent of profits here to the RIAA’s 2-5%), and it’s simple enough to use.

    Normally I’m in favor of blanket-licensing arrangements — where every artist pays a small, fixed amount to register a song, every consumer pays a small, fixed amount (a $5 tax on their internet connection would do it) for unlimited access to music, and the “pool” compensates the artists based on their popularity (which you could track, since nobody would have a reason to hide their consumption) … But this proves that there are more than a few good ideas out there.

    Almost anything other than what we have now would be an improvement for artists and consumers, so almost any change is good change.

  12. John Stracke says:


    I don’t think it costs SongSlide 40 cents to run every download, though.

    Remember, that includes the PayPal fees, plus whatever overhead they have (e.g., paying a lawyer to write their 12-page terms of service).

  13. I would, definitely.

    I know that if you throw a bake-sale fundraiser and you tell people to pay 50 cents a cookie, they pay 50 cents a cookie. But if you ask them to pay what they want to pay, you get a few freeloaders, but most people pay substantially more than 50 cents. So I suspect people might behave the same way with music if given the option.

    Alternatively, if it doesn’t work in the “mass market,” I think it’s certainly suited to niche music markets — classical, jazz, indie rock — where fans are devoted and knowledgeable and the music is important to them. I probably wouldn’t pay a voluntary premium for a Destiny’s Child song, but I definitely would for the Chicago Symphony’s new Mahler recording or a Reginald Robertson ragtime track, because I’m invested in those artists and care about them.

  14. mac-phisto says:

    it would be cool if they tied higher quality encoding in with the higher price. that way the consumer has an incentive to pay more aside from just gifting to artists.

  15. Buran says:

    If it doesn’t have the artists I want, why care about it? I’d love to see my favorite artists get more from the labels than they do, but none of the services I’m willing to use have the artists I want. At all. One of them is on iTMS, and I’m hoping his tracks are available without DRM in May (some of his work is on EMI, some is not). If not, maybe later on, since I think Apple is going to start getting a lot of people yelling when they seem to get a random cherrypicking of DRMed and non-DRMed tracks … and is going to start demanding new terms of service from its suppliers so it can appease thousands of angry customers.

  16. Miguel Valdespino says:


    Remember, they have to pay for servers to be available 24 hours a day, programmers to make their specific store with their slider work, data entry jocks to keep their catalog updated, advertising to get the word out, and still hope to make a profit eventually. Personally, I think there’s a good chance they’ll fail despite it being a good idea.

    Also, I only think people will pay extra when they think of the band as starving artists who are trying to get ahead. Once they become mainstream, I can see most people just paying the minimum.