The Dimes: A Modern Digital Retail Fable

Today people in the UK celebrated Mothering Sunday, what passes for Mother’s Day in these parts. Our children came home to see my wife; her mother visited as well. And a splendid family lunch was had.
My wife did all the preparations despite it being Mother’s Day; all I was asked to do was to weigh the leg of lamb, work out how long it needed to cook, and to lay the table.

When that was done, I was at a loose end; my wife was busy with the meal; everyone else was busy getting ready; and I’d already read the weekend papers. Idly I sat down in my favourite armchair, warmed by the fire my wife had lit earlier, I took a look at Twitter on my iPhone. And saw this:



The Dimes followed me. Hmmm. I had no idea who the Dimes were. And I’m not one to want my follower numbers to rise with bots and spam. So, sitting in the armchair, warmed by the burbling fire,  I took a look. And this is what I saw.


I like Fleetwood Mac. And my son had recommended Iron and Wine to me. So I thought to myself, definitely worth a listen. Still sitting in the armchair, by the warmth of the fire, I went over to their site. And this is what I saw:


I could try out their music, choose to pay what I wanted, even get myself the vinyl if I so felt like. And I’m a valve amps and vinyl kind of guy. I liked what I saw, liked what I heard, continued to explore this band. Still in armchair, still warmed by the fire.


I looked a little closer. I could listen to the entire album if I wanted. And even download some of the tracks for free. I liked their music; more importantly, I really liked the way they went about their business, how they engaged with customers. I wanted to know more about them.


Quentin Tarantino. Not my usual music critic, but I have enjoyed the soundtracks from many of his films. NPR. Allmusic. I liked the Dimes’ music, I liked the way they went about business, I liked the way the site worked on my phone, I even liked some of the people who liked them. I was now quite likely to buy. And then I saw this:


I’d “followed” them and they’d DMed me access to the track. I was still in my favourite armchair, still by the warmth of the fire. Lunch was a few minutes away. I resolved to do something about the Dimes soon after lunch.

Which turned out to be this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 17.29.09

And then I wrote this post.

In 15 minutes before lunch, a band had managed to connect with me, let me check them out, get me to the point where I went and bought their music in my preferred vinyl (along with a free copy in the more “shareable” digital format). Every step of the way they ensured I only did what I wanted to do. Nothing forced. First, I wanted to know who had started following me, I don’t like spam followers. When I found out they had 6K followers, they followed a similar number and that they hadn’t tweeted since December, they looked authentic enough to me. [I wondered how they chose the people they followed; at first glance everything looked real and normal. I haven’t figured out why they chose to follow me, but somewhere in my digital footprint Fleetwood Mac will figure, and that may have been enough].

Once I found out who they were, I could listen to them. As much as I wanted. Committing something far more valuable than the 99 cents of yore: my time and my attention. And I did listen. To quite a few songs. And then I could gather more about them, and have a simple and convenient way of signalling my interest. By following them back. And then, as I was musing over doing something more, they sent me a DM with another free track, pointing to their bandcamp site.

Simplicity and convenience. At my pace, in my time. Where and when I wanted to. Giving me the free right to listen and not pay. If I chose to buy, to pay what I felt like paying. Thank you The Dimes. [If you want to delight me even further, start taking a look at disruptions like Neil Young’s Pono format].

The music industry recently reported that overall music sales were up year-on-year for the first time since 1999. Apparently they’ve begun to work out that making music available digitally pays. It is even possible that, in decades to come, they might discover the lessons that the Dimes have discovered already:

Empower your customers. Give them the chance to try out your stuff. Let them share their experiences. Go where they are. Be part of their culture. Let them pay what they feel like. [I feel an Amanda Palmer TED Talk reprise coming on. Must-watch!]. Make their every interaction simple and convenient.

Yes, it is possible that in decades to come, they might discover all that. But in the meantime, people like me will have moved on, listening primarily to people like the Dimes.

11 thoughts on “The Dimes: A Modern Digital Retail Fable”

  1. It will come. As the digital dinosaurs retire and let the real artists loose. Keep the faith JP. Now is the first time in history that artists can really be rewarded for their work without getting fleeced by the industry that is supposed to serve them or starving in an attic.

  2. @Chris I will! What really gladdens me is that my children are in that new world already, this is the way they engage with their music. Of course someone will go and buy bandcamp and try and make that silk purse into a sow’s ear. Maybe bandcamp will stand up and be counted. Or another will rise in its place.

  3. That ‘flow’ sounds like a really well thought out gamified PXD (Player Experience Design). I like how following them ‘unlocked’ a free track download via DM, building relationship, with zero friction. I am really curious if they are using a music marketing #platform of if they have intuitively sussed this out and created their own marketing flow.

  4. @sasha the quality of the mobile experience, the layout on bandcamp, everything I see and touch suggests they have thought about it deeply. If it’s all instinct they should go into business to advise others just by sharing what they do and how they do it

  5. @JP I am working on @SocialMRP. Looks like Kenandy is to, and using Chatter. I’m more focused on redesigning the core MRP algorithm for Enterprise Cloud – 30+ yrs w/o innovation!

  6. I love your account for so many reasons. The first is that you said, “So, sitting in the armchair, warmed by the burbling fire.” That is a literary teleportation device that rivals anything the Dr. and his blue box or James Tiberius Kirk’s Enterprise might deliver.

    Second, so on and so forth, I appreciate that you notice relationships, and in this case a business to consumer relationship. Also, in a serendipitous manner, the band is from Portland, my stomping grounds for most of the years I’ve traipsed across this Earth.

    Fourth, I keep a careful eye for exquisite engagements, the finely nuanced dances of thoughtful personalities.

    And finally, it warms my heart, like your burbling fire, to see relationship light from the tinder box of a Twitter follow, to the careful breath upon the kindling of kindness, and concluding in an illumination of the hearts and minds of both parties.

  7. @zachary glad you liked it. And yes, Portland is an amazing place. I don’t get there often enough. But every time I’ve been there it has excited me.

Let me know what you think