Musician sells CD for $15.98, CD + live concert for $5000

Gavin sez:
John Wesley Harding has a new CD, "Who was Changed and Who was Dead," out next month and it has the best list of tiered pricing options we've seen for a while. (Also: some great pop songs!)

BASIC: $15.98 (+ $2.50 postage & packing)

BASIC PLUS: $29.98 (+ $5.00)

FANCY: $49.98 (+ $5.00)
DOWNLOAD plus CD with BONUS LIVE DISC, T-SHIRT and limited edition DVD!

SUPERFANCY: $79.98 (+$9.99)

DOWNLOAD, plus CD with BONUS LIVE DISC, T-SHIRT, DVD and signed framed ARTWORK plus READ ON! Includes the entire SUPERFANCY package PLUS, and it's a BIG PLUS:

John Wesley Harding will come and perform at your house, for you and your friends, on a mutually agreeable date. NO JOKE! If it's near, he'll even pay the transport; though if it's far, you'll have to pay. The price of this epic package, including your own personal John Wesley Harding concert, is $5,000, and at that price, we're waiving the postage and packing. This is the only offer of its kind, and quite possibly the only offer of its kind ever.

rspcjwh (Thanks, Gavin!)


  1. The Dresden Dolls did a variant of this last year, if you pre-ordered their album you might have won a House Concert to be broadcast online to the other people who pre-ordered.

  2. I can remember video game designer Kenji Eno, who for a price offered to bring his game D (or D2?) to your doorstep, dressed as the female main character.
    I couldn’t afford it.

  3. Bottlekid: I want to second the Francis Dunnery recommendation; I had the opportunity to see him in a friend’s living room last year, and it was great.

  4. I’ve actually seen John Wesley Harding live (supporting Tom Robinson). That was a long time ago. I’m impressed and a little surprised to learn that he’s still in the business.

    He’s a fun act, in a self-mocking raucous folky kind of way. His song “She’s an angel (and you’re no good)” was an instant crowd pleaser, while “Bastard Son” defines how he sees his place in the world of music (“Joan Baez is my mother; Bob Dylan is my father. And I’m their bastard son.”)

    I don’t know if I’d pay $5,000 for a personal concert, but if he was playing my town, I’d probably go along and see him.

  5. Most house concerts involve a fixed, up-front payment.

    $5000 is only $100 each for 50 people, or $50 for 100 people, and a much better experience than the equivalent money spent on a “real” concert. I want to start holding house concerts when I grow up.

  6. The incomparable Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses recently did something like this.

    She offered a personalized CD called “10-4 You” – 10 songs, chosen by the purchaser, recorded specifically for a single CD that she would mail to you. Even though a large number of people requested the same songs, she recorded a new version for each personal CD. This was done on a VERY limited basis because the response was so overwhelming (it’s taken a year to record them all and she’s still going.)

    However, she also offered a house-concert option called “The Shady Circle” to her fans – quite a number of people took her up on it and hosted house concerts, which not only guaranteed the music went to people who most wanted it, but circumvented the usual club cut of the admissions price.

    She has long been ahead of her time in getting music directly to her fans in innovative ways, including the current project CASH music, which is a digital subscription service that includes different tiers, one of which gets you into a studio recording session for a hefty sum.

  7. Someone ought to create a graph where an offer like this is measured against the price, the fame vs obscurity of the performer, and whether it is cool vs just sad and narcissistic.

  8. This sort of reminds me about British singer/author John Otway who released an album in the 70’s and pressed a handful of copies without the vocal tracks. And if you bought one there was a phone number on the LP cover so you could call and he could come to you house and sing along.

  9. even Aphex Twin did something similar. apparently he played (music) at some girl’s birthday party “because she asked me and it seemed like a fun idea” (or words to that effect).

  10. This is hilarious and awesome – however, JWH has actually been playing house concerts for years now. He never made a big deal out of it, but I believe all you had to do was email him to ask and he’d negotiate a price. I’ve seen him a few times in a few different living rooms.

    By the way, the Union Hall show from which the bonus live disc comes was the best show I’ve seen by anybody in a really long time. You will most certainly get your money’s worth if you see him at a preexisting concert…and probably also if you hire him to come to your house.

  11. Cindy Lee Berryhill did a living room tour once. And released a CD of one of the performances. In promoting she’d give some minimum number paying audience members.

    Hopefully these types of things gain traction. The theory that an artist can survive with a 1000 loyal fans.

  12. This sounds pretty cool, and personally, I could probably justify the Fancy package. Seems to be the best value price-point, I just hope the flip side of that calculation is a good-enough margin for the artist. I may just add this to my list of possible future purchases.

    In short, “Intriguing. Newsletter?”

  13. The Scottish arts council paid for theatre troupes like 7:84 to do performances in peoples living rooms back in the early 70s.

    I believe the Royal Shakspeare Company, and Ballet companies have done the same thing with 2-4 person cast versions of stuff, also Orchestras.

    So this “nyah nyah nyah I was first” is just silly: after all, patronage is what kept the arts going until the welfare state emerged.

    How many films have you seen with Cole Porter, or somebody else, “singing for his supper” to a bunch of rich people…

  14. This is a brilliant idea. I’ve heard of it before and I wish it would happen more often. Maybe people will start throwing block parties or mini music festivals with the money going directly to the artist. Now for mini-theater!

  15. Jim’s Big Ego (as heard on NPR) had a similar deal up on their site when they first introduced their new album, “Free” – you could get a Jim solo house concert for $ 2000.00, or a full-band house concert for $ 5000.00 (IIRC). If you’re interested in hosting a house concert for your favorite indie band for less than five large, look for empty spots in their schedule when they’re touring near you and offer them a venue and a place to stay – you might be able to work something out!

  16. Scott Reynolds, a former member of ALL (the alter-ego band to the Descendents), is an incredible singer/songwriter, and has a standing offer to play for anyone pretty much anywhere for dirt cheap. Not too long ago, a band of his, the Pavers, offered to play in anyone’s basement for $200. You should check out his Myspace page. He is crazy talented and super poor.

  17. John Wesley Harding is not just a fine singer, he’s also a darned good writer. He has at least two books out – Misfortune, and By George. Both published under his given name of Wesley Stace.

  18. I’ve heard Jonathan Coulton has a standing “if X people in your area are willing to pay to see me, i’ll go perform there” deal. I can’t imagine he’d turn down one person willing to pay for the equivalent of X tickets.

  19. @#4, Good question. Answer: one of Bob Dylan’s best records.

    I love how when something music related gets posted on the Boing, everyone floods the comments section with “You think that’s good? Check out THIS guy, [link]! He’s a great musician and I swear he’s not ME.”

  20. @ #25:

    Thank you for the book references! I became a big fan of JWH after discovering him about a year ago. (Another case of downloading some of his music through P2P then buying a bunch of his CDs, but that’s neither here nor there).

    His songs are really witty and quirky, so I look forward to his prose. =D

  21. And Grey Eye Glances has been doing house concerts for a few years as well, along with releasing a few limited-run albums of live & unreleased stuff. I believe the limited-issue items were to raise money to buy their catalog back from the label.

  22. “Issa”, who used to be called Jane Siberry is doing a similar thing right now, only once you’ve paid the travel expenses and put her up in a hotel of some sort , it’s up to you how much you decide to pay for the gig.She did a “pay what you want, even nothing” thing with her new album too, calling the freebie option a “gift from the artist”.She also gave a free copy to people who paid for the initial run so that you could pass one on to someone else for nothing….

  23. I don’t think (concerning the above) that John Wesley Harding is claiming to be the first person ever to have done this, merely that it is the first time that he has done this.

    In fact, I am just home from his first Cabinet of Wonders show in NYC – Rick Moody, Jonathan Ames, Pt Walkley etc; the next one includes Rosanne Cash, and the one after that Josh Ritter and Graham Parker —– and all I am saying is: if that could happen in my living room: BINGO!

  24. I second that: JWH is an awesome performer, one of the most solid and entertaining on the circuit, not to mention a very good novelist. The concert itself may or may not be an original idea, but this seems as good, and friendly, a way of getting his music out there. I can’t afford the $5G and I’m not big into house concerts, but I’m going to order some version of what’s on offer.

    @#19: Oh yes, I’m *sure* that was where Harding (and all the artists who have done it) got the idea from! They’re all watching lectures on youtube waiting for a little business inspiration! Jeez.

  25. It’s hard not to love Wes – the originator of Gangsta Folk – once you’ve seen him in a small venue. In an era of unapproachable music celebrities he’s funny, generous and genuinely interesting. I recommend the experience.

  26. Agreed. Wes is solid, entertaining, approachable, and just plain fun to watch and listen to. I attended the concert at Union Hall, and the first Cabinet of Wonders show, and plan to go back for the next ones.

  27. There is actually a company that specializes in the tiered model: artistshare. they have been around for about 6 to 7 years…

    check it out.

  28. $5K is a lot for a private show! Though to think I’ve been giving them away for free!


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