preload preload preload preload preload preload preload
Feb 15, 2010 | Peter Tanham | 1 Comment

I Fight Dragons - A Small Band Making Money Online

I Fight Dragons promote themselves as Chicago’s finest (and quite possibly only) NES-Rock band. For those of you that weren’t raised on Nintendo, the NES is the original 1984 Nintendo Entertainment System. You’ll recognise the 8-bit Gameboy style sounds (blips and beeps) that they use in their songs, blended with new-Californian-style pop music similar to HelloGoodbye, A Rocket To The Moon or Owl City.

They’ve spent the last year making great music, sharing it online and connecting with fans. What’s more, they made some good money doing it.


As with all the success stories we discuss on Amp, no amount of fan engagement or online marketing can bring you success if the basics are lacking. I Fight Dragons have a distinctive sound, they have an image that makes them unique and appealing (their use of NES sounds) and they make great music.

The Basics of Online

They also have the basics of online covered. They keep their music production and team as streamlined and cost-effective as possible. They do a lot of the work themselves (licking stamps, updating their websites, posting videos and pics) but they also recognise the right time to work with partners.

Personally, I like the idea of working with team members.  My manager, booking agent, lawyer, and social media coach are all ridiculously awesome at what they do, and working with them gives me more time to focus on music.

- Brian from I Fight Dragons interviewed by Music Think Tank.

As with all the musicians we profile, their success can be broken into two phases: 1) Connect with fans; 2) Give them a reason to buy.

Phase 1: They Lead A Tribe

The most important thing IFD do better than most other bands in their position is that they use the internet to connect with a tribe of fans and connect fans with each other. There are two key elements that I think are critical to their success so far:

Find A Pre-Existing Tribe

Nintendo fans are a well established tribe. There is a huge number of people who have affection for the company. The band didn’t need to create this tribe, they were a members themselves, instead what they did was use their music to emerge from the tribe as leaders. They didn’t even need to reach the whole tribe - Nintendo had around 20m customers  in 2009, I Fight Dragons estimate that they have close to 10,000 fans.

If you feel that your band can create and champion a new subculture then by all means go for it, but for everyone else the IFD approach is much easier and more effective. As Seth Godin points out in Tribes “The Beatles did not invent teenagers. They merely decided to lead them.”

If you’re worried about not being able to find a tribe as explicit as this band don’t worry as it can be much easier than you think. The Twilight books/movies didn’t invent the emotional teenager, nor did The Corrs invent Irish culture, but they emerged as leaders of those tribes. They also took advantage of their place in the wider movement, much like The Killers getting their early breaks on TV show The O.C., with both becoming leaders of a similar tribe.

Become A Connector

As important as connecting with the fans directly is connecting the fans to each other. The band’s website acts as a place for their fans (people with similar interests) to connect with each other and discuss the things they love (music, games etc.). This gives the fans an important sense of community, of connection and of belonging. It makes the fans much more likely to sign up, subscribe and interact with the band. It turns being a fan of the band into an experience. It makes any products, music or merchandise that they decide to sell much more valuable to the fans.

“…a True Fan is not a possession, it’s a relationship” - Brian, IFD

Phase 2: Earn A Living

Less than a full year in and the band are already earning enough to make a full time living from their music. They aren’t afraid of using free MP3s to get more fans and visitors to the site and in turn they use the website to encourage people to attend their gigs.

The band don’t make much money from the gigs directly, but they have made good money selling t-shirts, wristbands and over 4,000 CDs at their gigs. A good portion of their income also comes from selling downloads on iTunes & Amazon (10,000 downloads so far).

Tiered Value

All of the above is important for every band, but it’s also pretty standard. Where I Fight Dragons stand apart out from the crowd is realising the potential in Tiered Value Offerings. By having different offerings at different price points they are able to segment their fanbase so that they earn the upper spend limit each fan is willing to give.

Making limited-edition, very high-value stuff is awesome.  We sold 100 Lifetime Membership USB drives for $100 each (lifetime admission to any IFD show, free digital content for life), and that was a huge $10,000 boon for us.

This is an incredibly important point for modern musicians to understand. For obvious reasons it would have been stupid only selling a $100 album, but what bands like I Fight Dragons show is that it’s the same on the other side of the spectrum. It would be foolish to only offer a $9.99 album if there’s 100 people willing to spend $100, that’s $9,000 you’re leaving on the table.

Developing a range of offerings is an essential way to maximise your earnings from an album release (or a similar event). If you’re one of the many musicians concerned about the threats of the internet cannibalising your €10 album sales through free downloads, you should also be optimistic about the opportunities present at the higher values, opportunities that weren’t available before the internet came along.

1 Comment

Shirley Cason 12:53 pm - 19th March:

I would like to be part of your beta testing.

SHirley Cason
Music for a Peaceful World
Rainbow Lakes Music

Leave a Reply

* Required
** Your Email is never shared