Monday, April 29, 2013

LDS Niche Marketing

Today I rejoined the future. 

By which I mean that I upgraded my once-modern three-year-old smartphone and got one that is new, functional, and kind of sexy.  And suddenly, phone apps have once again become practical for me.

In my perusal of the millions of apps now available to me, I stumbled across a developer called LDS DUDES.  I found his programs to be...amusing.

The first one that caught my eye was a tithing calculator.  Yes, a tithing calculator.   The app was pretty much a dressed-up version of what anyone who's taken a computer class in the last ten years could have whipped up in Excel.

Even more laughable was the scripture reading alarm app.  This little gem allows you to set an alarm to read your scriptures--because it's not like you can do the same thing with your smartphone' s alarm clock or calendar.  The kicker, though, was the convenience this app provides its user by letting him enter the chapter and verse he stopped reading.  Because sometimes a physical bookmark just doesn't seem to do the trick.

Both of these apps--the free versions--fell into the 5,000-10,000 installs range.  While that's not an obscenely high amount, the number of downloads grossly outstrips the applications' usefulness.

As a Mormon, wary of the dangers of the world that were so prominently on display in popular culture, I remember occasionally longing for more entertainment that was more aligned with my conservative Mormon (and sheltered) worldview.  And it seemed to me that some of the other members were positively starved for Mormon-friendly products.

This is where substandard LDS pop culture stepped in.  Enoch Train, Mobsters and Mormons, The Work and the cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.  If it's by Mormons and for Mormons then it's worth shelling out for.  And if there isn't enough, anything secular by a practicing Mormon is the next best thing.  Orson Scott Card is a member of the church?  I'll buy six of his books for my kids. 

There's this weird culture in the church of members taking advantage of each other.  Artists who are often second rate fall back on a small but desperately loyal fan base who lap up their material with ravenous appetite.  When I was a kid, I used to think I'd be a successful LDS novelist.  I didn't necessarily need to come up with anything good--I'd just market it to church members and BAM!  I'd have a cult hit on my hands.

See what I did there?  Cult hit?

Anyway, it's still kind of tempting to try and make a quick buck off the by-Mormons-for-Mormons niche.  Whether it's making music, coding phone apps, or writing the next Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, it almost seems worth it.

The market is small but comically lucrative.  The field is white already to harvest.


  1. I'm not concerned about the average member who tries to write a novel or record some music for the Sunday stations and to sell in Deseret Book. For the most part, those people have regular jobs and are just sincerely trying to share their talents. It's something they do in their spare time with often very little chance of making much money. Yes, it's often pretty mediocre, but I'm OK with it. What bothers me the most is the general authority books. These men are supported by the church financially. Then they turn around and rip off the members with their $30 a book rewrite of one of their conference talks. If those books are SO important for the members to read, they should be made readily available at church distribution at cost. I think it's pretty disgusting.

    1. Oh, I definitely agree with you there. I think my dad's gotten a book by a general authority for his birthday and for Christmas for at least the last twenty years. It's kind of shocking to think about how much money my family has thrown at the church for books written by its leadership that supposedly gets by on "modest" living expenses.

      I'm betting the Maxwells and the Hinckleys are still making decent money from all the posthumous book sales.

  2. My mom almost always gives me a book I never read. I bet I have at least 25-30 of them.

    I read the other day that GA book contracts aren't publicly known. I'm sure Deseret Book gives them way more than the typical 5-10% of retail that the typical author gets. The better selling LDS books today can sell more than 100,000 copies in the first 3-4 months. If they only got 15% of of a $30 book (and I'm sure they get much more than that), they would clear $450,000.

    People are still sinning, and Bishops are still recommending "The Miracle of Forgiveness." The Kimballs have been raking it in for generations.

    1. That is damn depressing. Especially considering some of the horrible crap that's in "The Miracle of Forgiveness."

      I used to have a book "by" Gordon B. Hinckley that had a quote for every day of the year. I doubt he had much of anything to do with it, as the quotes were just excerpts from his talks and other books, but he was the friggin' prophet at the time, so I'm sure he made a nice bundle of money off of it.

  3. I found this page when I was looking for an Enoch Train song.

    I'm a musician, and I LIKE Enoch Train, specifically because they didn't package their music as LDS Pop. I think it's a hip thing to play "If You Could Hie To Kolob" in 5/4.

    If you're looking for an LDS commercial music group to knock, there are way better targets - Michael R. Hicks for example.

  4. Why didn't I think of Michael Hicks?? I met the guy once when he was some kind of guest star at a youth conference. He struck me as kind of a douche who liked to rearrange hymns and play them with overwrought emotion so that everyone would see how spiritual he was.