In the last couple of months we’ve updated a variety of features in the Dynamo platform. The video player received an overhaul, we now offer direct downloads, and we’ve been rolling out several user experience improvements that should thrill our thousands of users. But one recent update is going to frustrate some of you.
We’ve dropped the 99¢ price option entirely and the minimum will now be $1.99 for new programs.
Who does this effect? Almost nobody, because anything priced at 99¢ is not getting sales. In fact, after two years of studying the market and following sales trends, we’ve discovered that the only thing worth less than giving your film away is asking 99¢ for it.
Instead of being a bargain, films at 99¢ are priced so low that viewers see them as nearly worthless. We have seen sales immediately drop to nothing when priced at 99¢, while programs with similar web sites and audiences do well with prices up to $9.99. Even short films routinely rent for $1.99 - $2.99, and anything less just looks cheap.
Beyond viewer habits is the actual value of your work. When you tell the world that your blood, sweat and tears are only worth a pittance, you are devaluing everything you have personally invested in your work. More importantly for many independent filmmakers, bargain pricing tells distributors and investors that your work is not worth enough to audiences for them to work with you.
Filmmakers should get a good sense of who their audience is, and then strike a balance between pricing their film too high (inviting piracy) and too low (killing the value). Every film is different, and a lot of it depends on what filmmakers include in the rental (you can add as many bonus videos as you like with Dynamo). We typically recommend offering feature films at $2.99 to $6.99, and documentaries at $2.99 to $9.99.
More fundamental than setting a particular price is the issue of whether to require any payment at all. Before releasing a film online, independent filmmakers have to choose between reach or revenue.
REACH: If you want millions of people to see your work, you should post it for free everywhere you possibly can and use it to build a base of fans. If you are just starting your career, have no plans for other distribution, and no hopes of making back the money invested, then this may be the best approach.
REVENUE: If you want audiences to pay for your work, don’t devalue it. Viewers have proven that they are happy to pay a premium for the convenience and quality of on-demand viewing, consistently paying more than they would for a DVD rental. So respect your own work enough to set a price that matches equally good content.
At 99¢, nobody gets reach or revenue. So while some of you may hate us for this, we respect your work enough to raise its value.