Stuck in a rut? Feel like all your songs are the same?

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IA's picture

I'm here to sell you a product, so trust me.

(I mean, you don't HAVE TO buy it, you can just print it free at my website.)

I'm talking about Bard Cards. They are fun cards that have many cool and interesting different types of songwriting prompts on them. Take a look at this totally awesome (and not at all creepy) video where I make a song in 4 minutes with the cards:

As you can see, the product just works and with it you too can look like John Lennon if he didn't wear those cool glasses he always did.*

As if that wasn't clickbait-y enough for you, I'm really actually honestly (against the objections from my mom) handing the cards to you for free. Go to my website and print them out. They're all there, all 100% free. I'm not even getting anything out of that to pay the website costs. (Are you sobbing yet?)

Honestly, I don't think this is ever going to be a big business or a big product. I'm kinda pessimistic like that. But everyone I talk to about Bard Cards tells me that it will be the next huge thing like Lucky Charms** or whatever! If you think I'm full of myself and never know what I'm talking about, now's your chance to prove me wrong by buying Bard Cards!

But wait, what are you actually buying if you can print them for free? Well, this might shock you, but I'm not printing them out on my home printer like an out-of-job monster truck promotor. With a low low price of $34.99 you (yes you) will get a very premium, professionally printed, deluxe experience deck with box and instruction booklet delivered to your home (or post office idk). But that's not all you get...

You also get to support a guy working on these cards in his livingroom. Honest talk... (I'm being very honest in this post where I'm supposed to be selling you stuff) I will draw more of these if I get enough sales. I've sold four decks so far, so it's just a few more, right? But it's not like this is some corporation trying to hook you on a product that will keep you spending for years to come. I'm just a guy. I made these cards. Selling a few of them would mean that somebody appreciated them. It's not like I'm getting rich off of these. Haha.

Anyway, they're a great gift to get to a fellow songwriter who probably doesn't use Internet that much and might not have heard of this awesome product called Bard Cards.

Have a gander.

(*There's no guarantee you'll actually transform into a John Lennon lookalike type of abomination.)
(**Bard Cards are not affiliated with Lucky Charms in any way.)

This is not spam. It's a real thing. A really good thing.

I used Bard Cards to write a song after FAWM. It was fun. (I just realized that I never finished the song. So that's one I can finish during 5090!)

I have my Bard Cards. They do seem expensive - but this is no ordinary "inspiration deck" Each card has several different components and it's larger than the average deck of cards - so MORE CARDS!! I'll be filming my Bard Card writing sessions and posting them on my YouTube page. The best thing is you don't have to "learn" anything new to use them because there's no right or wrong way to use them. You can pull one card and write an entire song from that or you can draw several and give each card a "purpose" - first card is my theme, second card is the second theme, third card is the first verse, etc. You can use the card title and corresponding picture (lovely hand drawn cards, I might add - just the art in this deck is worth much more than the price) or you can use the "theme" or other components. Some cards have chord structures, some have rhythms - You can use all or just one part. Best of all, they are portable - so no internet or computer required - I have taken them camping or along to places I know I'll be waiting a while. I've also used them as you would an oracle or tarot deck and had a lot of fun with them that way.

Again, the art alone is beautiful - and I'm currently developing some 2-4 person games with them.

I'm very excited about Bard Cards - you should be too - If you can't get the deck now, like the OP said, you can download them from his website - but do consider saving your pennies and getting a set. They won't get stuck in the top of a closet with the Tripoly and Monopoly games - I promise.

It made me think of the Oblique Strategies that Eno made and used to "fight" writers block and compose.
They are a bit more abstract, more like zen koans but I guess that's also a great start for any ideas Lol

they are great must get around to getting some. Still have the great little app on my phone

Cool idea! I'll try it out tonight.

These are great! I'm still paying off the choral implants so haven't bought the actual physical deck yet--typical, I know--but the idea's great and it WORKS! Download the free and try it out!

I've got mine in the music room just waiting to be used.

IA's picture

I want to thank you everyone who has purchased a deck!

Maybe you can help me figure out something. Smile

I've been wondering a lot about what the real value of Bard Cards is to songwriters and how to communicate it well. Zig Ziglar points out in his book that customers think...

"I am not about to give you more for the product or service than I feel the product or service is worth."

So, obviously you have bought the deck so you feel that there is $34.99 worth of value in the product to you. What do you think the value comprises of? I believe I could do a better job of communicating that value to people who are considering buying the deck. I think a lot of people could have fun with the cards. So, I believe I'm helping them out if I sell a bunch of decks for FAWM next year.

Also, I have another favor to ask! Anyone who bought Bard Cards, if you could drop a review of the cards at Game Crafters, maybe like 2-3 words is fine!

I just thought it'd be nice if the game had anything other than 0 stars, hah!

Thank you again! You people are the best. Smile

@IA determining the "real value" of something like this is difficult! Obviously you have costs that you must cover and then you should make a profit over those costs. I've seen your video and the cards look cool AF!!!

But beyond all that, what is the need/desire for the product? How bad do I need/want it? Personally, I have been too busy to write much this year so I have yet to purchase even though I still plan to. But if the price were lower I might have just grabbed it for my writing shelf for future use. I am not at all saying it is not worth $35 + S&H. The value could easily be quite higher.

Based on my own limited experience I can say that, over the past few years I have bought several writing tools such as "Writer Emergency Pack" and "The Writer's Toolbox" and a bunch of sets of Rory's Story Cubes. Each time I've made such a purchase I have spent between $10 and $20 and gotten free shipping. And, to be honest, I have used these very little so far! Smile But I can also say that if they had been $35-40 I would not have purchased them so casually.

Now this is just me but I would recommend trying different price points to see where the product sells faster. You might want to try a higher price and sign the deck box or include some extra bonus cards or something like that. You also might want to try a lower price or a special during the first week of FAWM to see if that spurred sales. Also, if there was some way to market to the friends and family of songwriters these would be an awesome holiday gift!!!

I know we discussed marketing before and that is not your bag but it is hard to get sales without it!

One final suggestion that I doubt you will take...stop offering the cards as a free download! It is quite generous of you and I admire the sentiment but I also believe that only works out well for you when large quantities of people are engaged.

All of this is just my opinion so ignore at will! And, as I said, I still intend to buy a deck when I think I'll have time to actually use them because they are cool AF!

IA's picture

@johnstaples Thanks for the feedback!

Unfortunately, Game Crafters is very rigid and doesn't allow for much experimentation. The price is what it is, can't do sales, can't do different price points. Once you lower it, the price is that. And I don't think making the price first lower and then higher is a good strategy. Also, you can't do different products like that. We wanted to have one where you buy two decks for lower price, but that's impossible. I'm otherwise happy with the service, so I'll do what it allows me to do. Smile

I'm actually asking about the value of this thing because I want to do some marketing. But if I can't figure out the value, then I'm just throwing money away with marketing.

I'm also wondering if holidays are the best time for the marketing effort. All sales are from people in FAWM and I don't know if that's too early for FAWM. I might get people to consider buying if I market it like... at the beginning of January, when they're already thinking about next FAWM.

Honestly, I'm asking about this stuff because I think I'd be able to help people and I think I deserve a little bit of compensation in return. Fair is fair, right? So, I get your point about not offering the prints for free, but what am I actually doing then? I don't believe that many people are going to buy it anyway. There's no any evidence to say otherwise.

Gotta experiment a little bit.

Thanks again for the feedback!

In the 90s I was a big fan of shareware. At least from the consumer side of things! I downloaded a ton of it. I never bought any of it except for one or two programs that I used a lot and even then it was more because of additional features than it was to "do the right thing".

In the late 90s I developed Home Office Team (HOT) for Windows which consisted of an Excel compatible spreadsheet, a full-featured Word Processor and a set of file utilities. I released it as shareware and had several thousand users. It was featured in a couple of prominent magazines at the time and included on several of those magazines with a CD. The price to register it was $40 and I sold just a handful of copies!

Conversely, also in the 90s I developed a radio engineering software package (also for Windows) that had a very small and specific audience. It sold in various configurations for $500 to $3,000 per license. I marketed it heavily using direct mail to a publicly available database of radio licensees. I would mail 2,000 postcards at a time about every other month. The income generated was enough to easily support my two person company for almost 10 years!

So what did I learn from all of that? 1) Make sure a decent sized market exists for my product. 2) Find a reliable way to reach that market many times, over and over. 3) Understand that even then, only a small percentage will buy. 4) Build a product with a very high profit margin so only a few sales will generate a lot of profit. 5) Don't give away any of the product for any reason and even limit (severely) any demo versions. 6) Oh and have an exit plan for when the sales dry up! Smile

The reason I mentioned holiday sales is I understand American consumers and I assume the USA would be a major audience for you to reach. When it comes time to buy a friend or family member a Christmas gift I'm pretty sure $35 is a sweet spot that could generate a lot of sales assuming the buyer knows a songwriter and plans to buy them a gift.

But I agree with your idea of promoting in January to FAWMers. I think that is going to be your make or break unless you do a ton of other marketing. The problem is I don't know how actively you can pursue that audience since FAWM is positioned as ad-free except for the allowance of a basic self-promo in the forums. If you could somehow manage to donate a portion of each sale to FAWM you might be able to convince the site owners to sponsor Bard Cards and that would allow for a lot more active promotion before, during and after FAWM.

Are you able to sell on Amazon or through any other retailers like Sweetwater or Zzounds? Maybe contact someone like and see whether some sort of partnership would work where she includes your cards in her songwriting book marketing for a share of the profit.

IA's picture

@johnstaples Thanks for your valuable experiences!

There are few reasons to try to give stuff out for free. Many companies don't make any money in the few first years, because they're trying to grow their customer base first. (Is Spotify making profit yet?)

Also, there's this game you might've heard of called Cards Against Humanity. They made millions by basically giving away the product similarly to the way I do now. Granted, it's different audience, but we wanted to try that out anyway.

Good thing with Game Crafters is that they handle everything. I post the pictures there and they just hand me the money when somebody buys something. I don't have the money or really any interest whatsoever to start printing decks and have them sitting around in my apartment. That would be insane. So, unless Amazon offers similar service to Game Crafters, I can't sell via Amazon.

Partnerships sound cool. I'll consider contacting Robin Frederick... but I don't know anyone else I could even contact. I'm completely in the dark when it comes to songwriting stuff... I don't use songwriting services or products. FAWM is my only connection to any songwriters.

Also, I've got my other business to take care of now... I was mostly just hoping to maybe craft a few fun Facebook ads and see if we can make a few sales... but I need to have proper data, like what people find valuable about the product.

I've enjoyed the conversation and will just share a few final thoughts and wish you much success!

Cards Against Humanity is an interesting case but I think you may be giving the free download part of their story too much weight in their ultimate success. They started with a Kickstarter campaign and raised almost 4 times their goal. The product was extremely clever and it caught fire through word of mouth but also because of some very innovative marketing. The appeal of the product is very broad and they almost certainly benefited enormously from luck too! CAH was a viral success (but for every Justin Bieber who gets discovered virally there are a million other equally talented performers who do not.)

You have a great product but sadly there are plenty of great products that never realize their potential and conversely plenty of poor products that sell a ton due to great marketing.

In my opinion your challenge is you have a more specialized product with a much smaller potential audience. So you need to do marketing.

You have said in previous conversations that you don't want to bother with marketing. You said your only choice for distribution is Game Crafters. You said you cannot change prices to experiment with price points. Also you said you don't know of any market except FAWM. I think you are going to need to break through some of these limitations to sell your product.

I apologize if I have derailed your thread here with a business discussion. I guess you were hoping to get some testimonials or something from customers? But, as you know, by this time in 50/90 there are really only a handful of people left around and they're not that active any more.

So, as I have said, I love your product! Your art and your ideas are clever and useful. And I wish you much success!

Last thought...if you are thinking of buying Facebook ads you might also want to try Google Adwords for terms like songwriting to increase traffic and sales at your website. Good luck!

IA's picture

Thanks John. I do agree with pretty much everything you say.

We did try Google Adwords. Don't know how well it did. Probably not amazing.

I can do Adwords and FB marketing. But that's about it. I can't change Game Crafters without investing into the business. And I don't believe in the product enough to start investing. So, at this point, I guess I'll get a lucky break or it'll just die. It is what it is.