If you make physical objects—onyx earrings, eco-friendly wagons for kids—there are plenty of places, such as eBay or Etsy, to hawk them online. But what if you’re a musician or an author with digital wares and no marketing budget? That’s what three-year-old Gumroad is for. More than 10,000 sellers—mostly authors, instructors, and musicians—used Gumroad last year to sell directly to fans, and the service even attracted some big-name acts including Eminem and Bon Jovi, and the publisher Hachette. In addition to selling mixtapes and albums, some artists are using Gumroad to sell physical goods: Eminem sold limited-edition tour merchandise and Bon Jovi offered fans a premium album bundle with an autographed CD, T-shirt, and iPhone case. What’s more remarkable, though, are folks like Kyle T. Webster, an illustrator who has made six figures selling custom Photoshop brush packs starting at $4 a pop. “Empowering creators to sell directly is the best model for them,” says 22-year-old CEO and founder Sahil Lavingia.
Gumroad’s appeal lies in its simplicity. After signing up, creators upload their audio, PDF, or app files to the website, which generates a custom sales web page. That link can be shared anywhere—and if it’s on Twitter, fans can simply click buy right in the tweet. Gumroad offers clear, unambiguous pricing, taking 5% of each sale plus 25 cents per transaction. It also encourages extensive communication with buyers, so a comic-book author, for example, can be notified when someone spends a certain amount on his titles, and then reach out directly to offer a thank you. “On Amazon, you make a sale. That’s the end of the relationship,” Lavingia says. “On Gumroad, you know that person forever.”
[Photo: Chloe Aftel]