Should Rihanna be charging $240 for her album?

Why Rihanna’s $250 CD is an Unapologetically Genius Marketing Move

Should Rihanna be charging $240 for her album?

Rihanna’s about to drop her seventh album, Unapologetic, with an unexpected twist: 3 packages, each designed to capture different segments of her audience.

First, there’s the standard CD – the kind you’ll get for $9.99 at Best Buy or on Amazon. Then there’s the limited edition, “Diamonds Executive Platinum” version. Diamonds Executive Platinum is the “VIP baller’s version,” as MTV calls it, comes with “a raft of extras not available to the average fan.” This version rolls deep with promotional goodies (or schwag) bursting from its package:

Among the goodies: collectible colored “Diamonds”
 vinyl remixes, an 11 x 17 handwritten personal note from Rihanna to her Navy, 2GB credit card-style USB flash drive, unisex shirt with a Michael Muller photo of Rihanna taken during her Unapologetic album shoots, seven 12 x 15 lithographs featuring Muller photos, a Magnus Voll Mathiassen illustration and exclusive Unapologetic images. It will also include three stickers featuring the album’s cover art that can be used on iPhones or other smart phones, seven laptop stickers featuring Mario Hugo artwork, the Unapologetic album and “Diamonds” single artwork, collectible colored vinyl featuring “Diamonds” remixes and a custom-made View Master with unreleased images of Rihanna’s style transformation.

And that’s not all! It also comes with a custom 40-page notebook with handwritten notes and lyrics, a deluxe version of the album with a 28-page photo and art booklet, a 20-minute DVD with unreleased footage, a clip from the Loud Tour and an exclusive fan poster.

Finally, a “slightly less exclusive” version, dubbed “Diamonds Deluxe Edition,” will sell for $79. Diamonds Deluxe purchasers receive:

the T-shirt,  laptop stickers, deluxe version of the CD, the DVD, fan poster, Loud Tour performance peek and what’s described as a “limited edition genuine, conflict-free diamond bracelet” with a black leather band and a brass disc with a 1pt diamond packaged in a signature R logo card. – source: MTV

Rihanna’s price announcement has been met with lots of feedback. Overall, there are a lot of people questioning the move – and even speaking out against what they feel are ridiculous prices for the album. But do these harsh criticisms have a point? 

Rihanna’s Unapologetic Price: Ridiculous?

Are you mad at Rihanna being unapologetically sexy as well?

You might not understand why Rih Rih’s album is so expensive – or hell, why she even gets to make albums at all. (I know some of you think she lacks talent.) The truth is, despite how you’re feeling – and if you’re feeling any way at all about this, the creation of these deluxe packages are profoundly intelligent and highly reflective of Rihanna’s team and their business savvy when it comes to the current economic landscape.You may not buy Rihanna’s Unapologetic “Diamonds Deluxe Platinum”… or even “Diamonds Deluxe” but plenty of other people are – because she’s created something for her luxury vertical.

Let’s explore.

The Marketing + Biz Savvy Behind “Diamonds” Platinum & Deluxe Editions

We Still Cash Out + Ball, Just on a More Concentrated Level

See, from a marketing and business perspective, people are crying broke. The economy is so bad, and nobody can afford to spend as much as they used to… Except when it comes to a new pair of Jordans, YSL belt buckles – and who can forget Halo 4 and the iPhone 5?

We cry broke, yet the truth is we’re still a nation of consumers. We’re still blow loads of money – we just blow our loads in a more concentrated manner, getting our basic needs, and then paying for things we really, really want.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of us who are still heavily focused on our outward appearance. We want to keep up with the Joneses and demonstrate that we’re part of the “haves” as opposed to the “have nots.” Some of us will decide that, no matter what, we’re going to buy the $250 version and get the swagged out gloriousness that comes with it – just so we can get on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – and wherever else we plan to go, and show off the fact that we’ve “got it like that.”

Yes, I said it: people will buy simply to please their egos. People are going to spend $250 to feel good about themselves and floss. People are going to buy it because they love Rihanna’s brand. People are just going to buy it.

Seriously though – I’m a Beyonce fan. You think I’m not going to pay for Beyonce’s shit if she comes out with something like this? I’d budget it in.

Less Sales Are Needed to Reach Goals

With prices like this, Rih Rih doesn’t *need* everyone to buy this album or fan set. She just needs a fraction of her regular market to do this anyway – specifically her die hard fans, the ones who will probably pirate her album, and then go buy the “real” one in stores just because.

Yes, music sales are declining. People are pirating albums. People overall are less respectful of music production and paying for the artist. Their justification? “Oh Rihanna is rich anyway. That b*tch don’t need my money. It’s a recession, so I’m just going to download this off the Internet. Why pay for it when she’s already getting dough? I got red bottoms to buy.”

And Rihanna will win because she’ll break even due to scalability. By charging more money, she’ll make more money – and need a fraction of her fan base to help her achieve those sales.

Let’s say Rihanna wants a cool million from this.  Instead of busting her ass to get 100,000 people to buy the album at $10 each, Rihanna can focus on getting 4000 people to buy the deluxe …. or 12,500 to buy the $79 version… and make the same $1 million off of them. See that? She went from 100k people to 4k to make a cool million.

Affluence + Luxury are Largely Unaffected

Remember when I said we’re spending more, but on things that matter? Rihanna’s affluent fans are going to drop money on this project because affluent shoppers are expected to spend more this holiday season.  About 20 percent more, to be exact. You think they’re not going to purchase this album for their kids? Sugar babies? Themselves, if they actually want the album themselves?

Affluent shoppers don’t purchase commodities; they purchase experiences. High quality experiences. Going to the store for the Diamonds Executive Platinum edition, bringing it home, opening it for the first time … unwrapping everything in the packages – this is all part of the experience people will pay for that justifies the price they pay.

Instead of Slashing Prices, Value is Added

Adding to that – another marketing thought: People really aren’t buying the album – they’re buying the promotional schwag that comes with the album. That’s what’s going to make it sell. Instead of “lowering” prices to the casual listener, they’re creating a vertical niche. People who love Rihanna – not necessarily her music, but the person and the personal brand – want everything hot and exclusive she has.

Dan Kennedy talks about adding value as a part of price strategy. He’s extensively written on the importance of avoiding the trap of competing on price, and has always pushed for people to compete on value. It’s as if the marketing team heeded the advice, whipped up these editions and are putting it out there like: Rihanna’s album alone isn’t enough to make you buy? Not even with a free T-shirt? Okay, well here’s a deluxe fan club kit you can get in stores immediately – with a T-shirt, a handwritten shirt, lithographs, a custom Viewmaster and some other epic shit you can’t get anywhere else – now give us a reason not to buy it. Is price is a problem? We’ve got a downgraded edition for that ass. Go ‘head. Tell us why you’re not getting this. Don’t worry. We’ll wait. 

(Note: Offering three options is an optimal way to increase your profitability. Having a low and a high price coupled with a price somewhere in the middle usually pushes the audience to select the middle of the road, increasing profits more often than not. But that’s another story for another day.)

Now, what you want to watch out for, is the effectiveness of Rihanna’s marketing model for this.

Based upon how well this does for her, you can expect others to follow suit and replicate this innovative sales model. Getting customers to spend more based on being a fan of the artist – and being attracted to the experience rather than the music is a powerful industry move that can transform the way music is marketed. Instead of falling in love with the music, which is very hit or miss, people will fall in love with the promotional swag, and become motivated to have tangible proof they’re members of the artist’s tribe – and this all ties into the luxury experience being provided by Rihanna, because luxury is all about experience.

I don’t know. I could be thinking far ahead. What do you think?

Want to Learn More About Price Strategy + Making Money in the New Economy? 

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