A New Way To Sell Music: Evan Baken Talks EftMega

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There is a digital new music retailer on the block, and this one is actually worth getting to know.

EftMega is the brainchild of Evan Baken, former member of beloved punk band The Movielife. The site exists to promote independent talent, working strictly with unsigned artists who own their masters, and it has already begun to find quite a bit of traction in the world of underground rock. Every single release sold on the site is available for just $6.25, and of that a full $5 from each purchase goes directly to the artist. All costs associated with sales and site operation are paid by Baken with the remaining $1.25, thus ensuring bands always get what they are promised from each transaction.

This may sound like only a slight variation from most digital music stores in existence today, but the low prices and focus on independent music is only two aspect of what makes EftMega unique. Barren has more than a decade of industry experience under his belt, and he’s putting every ounce of knowledge he has into bringing attention to hardworking young bands around the globe. EftMega was built from the ground up to promote those who work hard to help themselves, and the vast majority of the company’s peers (iTunes, Bandcamp, CDBaby) EftMega actually puts effort into promoting the music on their platform.

Bakren recently took a little time out of his busy schedule to share with us the motivations behind EftMega, as well as his plans for the future. You can find highlights from our conversation below.

There is no denying the fact that the competition is fierce right now in digital retail, but with the right approach we believe EftMega could prove to be something very special. Click here to visit the store, and please take a few moments to discover the early adopters who are already giving the platform a chance.

H: Let’s start simple: What is EftMega?

EB: It’s a website that sells music. That is the simplest definition. What makes this site different is that we only sell albums, all albums are priced at $6.25, and we only sell music from artists who own their masters. There are multiple reasons for this decision. The first  is because I feel like the industry is in a hard place and there are not enough opportunities for hard-working bands to get the recognition they deserve. The band that are know the right people tend to get all the breaks, and I don’t like that. This site is built to expose the bands that work hardest. We have a ranking system which, though it doesn’t dominate the site, is constructed to promote the artists who are working hardest on the site to push their records. Our philosophy is to get behind the bands working hardest, and we ask others to do the same.

H: What inspired you to launch this site? No offense, but there are a lot of online music retailers.

EB: As my father would say, there is McDonalds, but there is also Burger King and Wendys. I just felt like the other places didn’t matter. First of all, I don’t like streaming services. We all know they are not paying artists properly, and we’ve been reading articles like that for a while. I’ve always felt the best connection you can have with your fans are when they buy your music.

As for the other sites, I just feel they are lame. I don’t think they deliver on their claims. Services like Bandcamp are not doing anything to bring people to their platform or encourage people to buy music. The same goes for CDBaby. You’re not going to CDBaby on your own, but if someone links to CDBaby for their album then you visit. Those sites are really taking advantage of the artist. They have a platform, artists join for free, and then those platforms sell the artists on their services. I just don’t feel like that is a genuine way to run a music store. They seem to be data-driven people. So I made my site to be what I always thought needed to exist.

H: How did you choose the $6.25 price point for album?

EB: The band keeps $5 of every sale, so the other $1.25 goes to me. All costs associated with credit card fees comes out of my profit as well. That isn’t how other platforms operate, as most of them push those charges and fees onto the artist, but I didn’t want to complicate the payout for talent. I wanted the math to be simple. $5 goes to the band, every time, and I think that is a straightforward way to operate.

In addition to this, people simply don’t want to pay $10 for a record anymore. That used to be the norm, but now that streaming services exist the rate has dropped. You don’t want to give your music away, or at least I don’t think most artist do, so this feels like a middle ground. Giving value to something, but not so much that consumers sweat the purchase.

H: Interesting. Moving forward, do you think you might try allowing artists to set the prices for their music?

EB: I’ve got this vision for the site, and I’m trying to stick to the vision. I don’t want to be all things to all people because I think that many people screw up. I don’t totally know what is going to happen as the site moves forward. I don’t know if people will like the pricing, or the look of the platform, or really any aspect of what we do. There might be a push back on something and we will have to reevaluate how we operate. There are people who take some issue with the pricing, and I don’t get it. If you came up in the hardcore scene, there were some basic prices you had to meet with your own products. There is a little more leniency today, but I don’t know why you would want to raise you prices. You want people to become engaged with your music, and keeping prices low eases them into paying for it. If you can go higher in time, good, but early on the thing you should be most concerned with is getting people to listen to your music in the first place.

Apple set the price for singles, and it has become an industry norm. Anyone can charge $3 for a single, but I don’t know that many, or any, consumers would buy it. Smart artists meet the industry standard, or even undersell it, so that they have a higher likelihood of convincing new listeners to buy their music.

Bandcamp charges bands to give away their music. You receive 250 free downloads or something similar, but after that you have to pay them to give your music away. That is ridiculous.

H: I know you said you’re currently focused on independent bands who own their own masters, but looking to the future again do you see a time where you start bringing on labels?

EB: That is a similar thing where I just don’t know yet. We will see how develop from here, but right now I don’t know. My experience with labels was not good, so right now I don’t really see it. I’m sure there are good labels out there. If there comes a point where I can deal with them and great stuff happens, then we’ll see what becomes of it. I know being as specific and narrow as I am right now is a difficult way to develop a business, but if it works I think the product or platform will be better received as a result.

H: I agree. In your mind, what is the ideal next step for the company?

EB: The roadmap for me involves finding more bands, bringing in more users, and finding a way to keep them coming back. My perfect scenario would be to have a large pool of bands, an even larger audience, and enough self-generated buzz to make the platform self-sustaining. It’s super labor-intensive on my end right now, but I am hoping it eases over time.

The other thing, real quick, is that we’re only open to artists in the US and Canada right now. I hope to expand that, as well as how fast we pay artists, in the near future.

H: I was going to ask about your outreach. How have things been going so far? I recognize some of the talent on the site.

EB: All the early adopters have been discovered through people I know in the industry. I haven’t spent much time blindly contacting people just yet, but you can find artists all over the place. There are forums for talent, online groups, websites, chat rooms, reddit, whatever. When we were building the site I wanted some artists on board to help us beta test everything. They are not necessarily seeing a big return just yet, they’re more helping us ensure this idea can work. Soon enough I’ll start trying to get more artists on board.

H: Well we have a lot of indie artists reading our blog, so we might as well use this feature to bring a few new groups to your site. What is your pitch to talent regarding EftMega?

EB: I think if you’re going to add your music to a streaming platform it’s not going to make a big difference because, aside from not paying well, there is very little engagement with the listener. People may enjoy your music, but they aren’t paying for it and they have no reason to further commit to supporting your talent. So I feel from a band point of view the mentality needs to revert to selling music, and if want to do that you need a platform that works to bring consumers to the site. A lot of platforms are going to end up charging you to sell your music on their platform without doing anything to promote your music, and if that is the case why are they any more efficient than adding a Paypal link to your own site? I am someone who is going to work to drive consumers to the site, and I’m someone who is willing to work one-on-one with the bands who use my platforms. If you need some insight on something, or you have a question about the industry, I’m here for you, and I don’t charge for interactions.

H: I like that.

EB: It’s a hard pitch. I have to explain a lot of stuff to artists and a lot of other stuff to consumers every time I try to discuss the site. I haven’t made my job easy (laughs), but I think I am doing things the right way.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.