Affiliate or Associate Programs – The Saviors of your Music Blog?

RockmusicRaider - Blog - Associate and Affiliate ProgramsAh, the riches that can be had. Amazon, the most affluent company in the world. Apple, a stable value across the business, techno-savvy and cool. Whiffs of millions of greenbacks, sales by the thousands, your wares on their stores at all times.

Or better still: Scavenge off the merchandise of others, by skimming a little something off their sales. THAT is allure right there. But in truth, as you are a blogger, why not earn a slice off their fame. After all, affiliate or associate programs are there for a reason. To drive sales, methinks. Or are they really?

But first, what are associate or affiliate programs?

To break a lance for Amazon for example, you’ve got to recognize their efforts to build and maintain an affiliate program that held its water for many years. In a blogger community that is often strapped for cash, the small income generated by those programs was very welcome. 

An affiliate or associate program allows you to display sales links to the web stores it represents. An affiliate ID is added to the link, and for every qualifying sale you get a kickback, usually based on a percentage.

Depending on how you look at it, either the company’s profit are negatively impacted by such programs. Or – as a consumer – you could argue that you actually pay too much by financing the middle man. The blogger will tell you that the price for you – the end consumer – will not change.

And you know what? All of the above is in essence true.

As a business, you can go as far as having your own webshop. Complete with ads, banners, and links. The Full Monty. Yet, you will always be dependent on the one provider, of the affiliate program that you do not control. Because he who commands can also pull your credentials at no moment’s notice. And you’ll find yourself high and dry like a fish out of water.

Now, as a blogger, it – of course – depends on what your blog is all about. Unfortunately for outfits like RockmusicRaider and as music review sites go, affiliate links are a lot of pain, and really not enough gain.

The reason for that is relatively straightforward: Someone looking for an opinion on a music album does not necessarily look to buy something. Not to forget the none too small fact that a review can be negative, which isn’t necessarily conducive to a ton of sales.

Understandable, right?

Now, add to that the small fact that music sales don’t really have a stellar outlook. And it really starts to feel like some sort of needless tomfoolery.

So, in essence, as a music blogger you are between a rock and a hard place. And all will depend on how far you and your principles are willing to go, to pimp your site and attract sales at all cost.

Digital Providers recently upped the ante!

Sometimes I wish that all of them big digital services out there would be as brutally honest as Spotify. Those folks state – not without arrogance – that they are so good and great, no affiliate program is needed. Ever. So, that is clear at least – like it or not. And I even – though grudgingly – admire their swagger.

Whereas the remaining ones just keep chipping away at their own programs, seemingly for no other reason than profit maximization. And they never come clear to you, until the grim reaper visits your digital business with some dire news.

Just take Apple as an example.

In 2018, the company decided to pull its affiliate support for its App Store. Which effectively killed off reviewers and developers depending on them for revenue.

It is cold comfort that all things music for the moment remain on the program. Because – as rumor has it – iTunes is on the chopping block with sales declining rapidly. AND they just halved the percentage fee paid to affiliates for qualifying sales. Which again is an indicator of unpleasant actions in the near future. Unpleasant for affiliates, that is.

Or inspect Amazon with their new rules in 2019.

I quote: “Effective 23-Jan-2019, the request limit for each account is calculated based on revenue performance attributed to calls to the Product Advertising API (PA API) during the last 30 days”. The inner workings of these rules are based on KPIs. Sorry, Key Performance Indicators linked to your account. And of course, you are not the one moving the goalposts.

In short, if your site does not perform, Amazon will cut you off at your knees. Then they let you claw yourself back into their favor by using stuff like their Stripe tool. Because there is this sardonic little sentence saying that once you have generated enough sales, the access to the API will be restored. 

So, it will depend on your taste for pain and suffering, if or if not you will submit to 150 shades of Amazon to get your sales done, or skim off a slice with their associate program.

A dead-end job?

Quite. It is interesting to see how they all jump through hoops to ensure that you are not employed by them. It remains to be seen if this really holds any water with the work laws applicable in the countries of residence of their affiliates.

So, in essence, you sign up for something where the conditions are dictated to you. And you are paid next to nothing. And said conditions can be changed on you on a whim. Groovy – to steal freely from Austin Powers.

You want to be an associate or affiliate. And your revenue strategy?

To be clear: There is nothing wrong with signing on to such a program. Depending on your business, this can work really well and you may be able to make a mint or two. The music industry, by contrast, may – however – not be the best for them.

Also never forget, big corporations never have your best interest in mind. You are a means to THEIR end, not vice versa. As long as your activity promotes their success, you will be their friend. But once that particular tide turns, they will shut you down in a blink of an eye. Your commercial risk, your bad.

We concocted a few points for your consideration:

  • Never, ever base the revenue strategy of your blog on a single affiliate or associate program only. 
  • Always have a mix of revenue sources available – or at least under consideration. Those can be paid services, advertising, podcasts, promoted content, your own products. You name it.
  • Choose your partners wisely. And that means those associate or affiliate programs must fit your needs and philosophy. And – more importantly – the needs of your readers and customers.
  • Do not dismiss services that give you tools to serve your customers better, but no direct financial advantage, out of hand. Having a free tool also has real value.

Conclusion

Big corporations like Amazon or Apple might very well shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by disallowing such programs more and more. Thus effectively shutting down sales channels and driving traffic to their competitors.

Let me take Spotify again as an example. From a music blogger’s standpoint, there is no money to be made, true. But then, they give me tools and options that are accessible, simple to use. And they work, no matter what. In other words, more and more music blogs and sites will simply start to drive traffic to one of these providers.

Now imagine, if one of these big streaming services all of a sudden decides to increase their offer and sell digital, even physical albums. This on top of an already thriving streaming service that profits from the almost comical stance some of these established big distributors take these days.

Alexa will feel so alone.

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