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Some thoughts on pricing (updated)

Since we launched Cove in November 2015, we have offered it free to everyone. We wanted to create something that was easily accessible to a wide range of people, especially young people.

We were able to develop Cove with a small amount of money. All our work has been funded through a small investment by the tech-for-good accelerator Bethnal Green Ventures, and a one-off grant by NHS England. We are incredibly proud to have made a product is used by thousands of people, and continues to bring new users every week. The feedback we get from people - young and old - about how Cove is helping them express themselves through difficult times, is the most rewarding part of what we do.

We take on board the feedback that people give us, so that we can continually improve Cove. When we got our funding from NHS England, we were able to do some of this. But we have huge ambitions for Cove. We want to see what music can do therapeutically, to help people as they get professional therapy, and when there is a gap in that support. In order to do that, we need to be sustainable. This is sometimes a bit of a dirty word when it comes to digital products, but we want to discuss it head on.

To better understand how to be sustainable, we are going to try a short experiment. We’ve been looking at our weekly downloads, and we want to test if people are willing to pay a small price for Cove.

We need to know if people see value in creating music to express and capture an emotion, and are happy to pay a small one-off fee. This is the real test of any commercial product. This comes with a number of questions. Are we communicating that value (of music as a form of self-expression) enough? Do people download the app, knowing what it does, or doesn’t do? Will they tell us, if it doesn’t?

Until the end of March, we are going to offer Cove at 99p. After that time, we will probably reduce it down to free again. We don’t want anyone being put off from improving their mental health because of cost.

But we need to understand if Cove has some path to sustainability that can be driven by direct sales. We need to know if we can support ourselves - make improvements to the app, make it better for the people that use it - by charging a small fee.

You may notice that the NHS app library will continue to say Cove is offered free. You may also notice that it features the previous version - not the current 2.0 version. We find it impossible to find someone to speak to, to update this information. We know this may be confusing to people, especially those who find out about the app via the NHS app library. We’re working on this.

We also know that selling a mental health product seemingly for profit may not sit well with people, but we ask you to understand that we want to make Cove a success, and that any money we make for this experiment will go directly into developing the next version of Cove.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please don’t hesitate to talk to us on Twitter, or email us.

– Ivor and Alex

Update:
We successfully ran our experiment through March and we learned a great deal! We're happy to say that since April Cove has been free to use. We're really grateful to everyone who saw the value in paying for Cove and did so - it helped us in more ways than simply providing a small amount of money.