By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
Vinyl sales are up, and more and more of your fans want those really awesome LPs to add to their collection. But before you can get them in the hands of your fans, you have to order them.
Ordering vinyl records can be a little complicated. We want to take some of the mystery out of the ordering process, so we’ve outlined the six things you have to keep in mind when placing your vinyl order.
1) Who’s your audience?
The first question to ask when you’re thinking about ordering any merch item is “Who will be buying this?” Take a look at your core audience and find out what they want. You could even send out a poll in your next e-newsletter (you do have an email newsletter, right?) asking if fans want vinyl, and if they do, would they prefer a turquoise record, or extended liner notes?
Doing some initial market research and reaching out to your listeners before you purchase vinyl will help to ensure better sales down the line, and will set the stage for fan engagement when you do release the record.
2) Get Your Music Mastered For Vinyl
This is the MOST IMPORTANT step in the vinyl manufacturing process.
Normal mastering for CDs and online distribution is completely different than mastering for vinyl. Vinyl is a truly analog medium, and the mastering techniques that make your music sound radio-ready will have the opposite effect on a record. Normal digital mastering can make your music sound washed out on vinyl, and can even cause skips and other playback problems.
It is VITAL to have your music mastered by an engineer who is experienced in vinyl mastering. Be sure you figure the costs of mastering into your purchasing budget for vinyl.
3) Time Limitations in Vinyl
A CD can play about 74 minutes of music. A digital release will play for as long as you want it to. But vinyl is different. Each side of a vinyl record has a strict amount of playing time that can’t be exceeded.
The reason for these strict time limits–besides the actual physical space allowed by the record– is that closer to the center of the album high frequencies become distorted, and volume level decreases.
4) Keep Vinyl in Mind When Creating Your Track Listing
The closer you get to the center hole of the record, the quieter the volume becomes. If you know in the beginning stages of the album release process that you will be releasing on vinyl, try to order the tracks on your album with the limitations of vinyl in mind.
Ballads or other soft tracks will sound better towards the inside of the record, and loud, boisterous tracks are better suited to the record’s outer edge. Try to arrange for your soft songs to be in the middle and at the end of your album so they will be cut towards the center of the LP. If this isn’t possible, you will want to have less than the maximum allotted time, so there are less discrepancies in volume and EQ.
5) Have Great Artwork
When your album is only released digitally, sometimes album artwork can be an afterthought. Fans don’t really see the artwork, and if they do, it’s usually on a tiny screen. But with vinyl, your album artwork is on full display. It’ important to invest in making your album artwork fantastic.
Spend some time making sure your art is in the correct format for printing, that the art is high quality, and has proper bleed. You also need to make sure that your album artwork is representative of your music and brand.
6) Keep Turn Times in Mind
Digital distribution can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 weeks. CD manufacturing usually takes between 3 and 15 days. Vinyl manufacturing takes a solid 4 months (16 weeks). If you want to release digitally and on vinyl at the same time, you will need to do some serious planning in advance to make sure you can get your vinyl before your release date. If you need vinyl sooner, Nationwide Disc has created a way for you to get vinyl in as little as 30 days. Click Here for more information.
Have any other tips for ordering vinyl that you think other musicians should know about? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
First, you hear the low hum of the machine. Then a pop and a hiss, followed by the first lilting notes of a song .
You could have popped your headphones in and listened from your first gen iPod. You could have pulled a CD out, or even hooked up your phone to your car via Bluetooth and listened to your music that way.
But you, like an ever-growing number of people, have chosen to purchase the album on vinyl.
Whether you are an avid collector of vinyl records, or if you’re a bit puzzled by the trend, it’s impossible to deny, vinyl is making a comeback in a big way.
Every year since 2008, vinyl sales have been increasing. In 2014, vinyl sales were up 52%, while regular album sales were down 9.2% from the previous year (Billboard Magazine).
Right now, vinyl is one of the best selling music products. The phenomenon is crossing genres, and affects independent musicians and major labels alike.
So what do independent musicians need to know about vinyl, and how can YOU use vinyl to help create super fans and make money? Lets look at two of the major factors in play for indie musicians.
Let’s Talk About Fans
Vinyl has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, but it’s still not quite broken into the mainstream. Right now it’s still a niche market, though that niche is getting bigger all the time. Fans are looking for a way to really experience the music (that’s why concert ticket sales are also rising!). People across all age groups and demographics are buying vinyl.
The people who buy the most vinyl are avid music consumers across formats. They are the kinds of fans who will pre-order the album even though they can listen on Spotify for free, and who buy the merch bundle instead of just the t-shirt.
The great thing about that? Those are the fans you want in your court. Those are the fans you want to forge lasting relationships with. And vinyl is a great way to do that.
Not only is there great demand for vinyl among the heavy music consumers, vinyl is reaching it’s way into the lives of more casual listeners. Record players are inexpensive, and major retailers like Barnes and Noble and Urban Outfitters have started carrying LPs in their stores. Vinyl is creeping back into the mainstream, and people are buying.
Show Me the Money
One of the concerns we hear most often from independent musicians is that vinyl is simply too expensive up front to justify having it as a regular staple on your merch table.
While vinyl does have a much higher initial cost than other formats, if you plan your purchase right, vinyl could put a lot more money in your pocket than it originally took out.
At Nationwide Disc,the average cost for 12” vinyl LP is between $9 and $11, depending on how many your order. That is a larger upfront investment than digital distribution or CD manufacturing, but vinyl can bring a big return on your investment.
The great news for independent musicians is that you can sell that vinyl for more than double what you paid for it, or more!
Making Money With Vinyl Exclusives
The base retail price for a 12” record is usually around $25. That means that with the sale of one record, you are making double your cost. That’s 200% profit! And that $25 price tag can go up pretty quickly if there is any exclusivity associated with the pressing.
Limited edition pink vinyl? Sell it for $30. Exclusive liner notes that only come with the vinyl? You could sell that for $35. Brand new, exclusive-to-vinyl cover art? $40. Super-limited edition (as in only 15 of them exist) test pressing? Depending on your fans, you could sell those for upwards of $100! All these things are examples of things that you can easily do to increase the retail value of your record.
And the great news is, fans who are ready to buy vinyl are ready to pay for these upgrades. They are generally the kinds of fans who deeply value the music they listen to, and the artists that create it. They get excited about forging a deeper connection to the artists they love through a physical album that looks—and sounds— amazing.
So now that you know some of the benefits of vinyl for the independent musician, check back next week for expert tips on manufacturing and marketing vinyl records.
Have you tried pressing your music to vinyl? How did your fans respond? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
In Ye Olde Days of Yore (about 10 years ago), there was an almost magical contraption. A place where musicians would put actual printed photos, physical copies of press written about them, print-outs of their biography, tour schedule, and contact information, and an actual CD. All these pieces would be placed inside a folder (usually printed with the band’s information on it) and actually mailed to important people.
This contraption was called a press kit, and until recently, this was the standard way that bands reached out to booking agents, venues, and people in the press.
But then the internet came along, and changed all that. Bands began to compile all this information into a single webpage called an Electronic Press Kit–or EPK–that could easily be given to the same important people they used to mail everything to.
If you are a musician that is trying to get booked, or get featured in a publication or blog, chances are you will need an EPK.
We’ve outlined the things you must have in your EPK, as well as some common hosting options to consider.
There are a few things that will be included in your EPK no matter what format or hosting option you choose.
Your music should be featured prominently in your EPK. Venues and talent buyers will need to hear your music to make sure it will fit with the sound they are looking for, and writers won’t be able to write about your music unless they can hear it!
It’s standard to have your music available to stream first, and then an option to download. Most people in the music industry don’t have time to wait for your file to download, and might be wary to download an attachment from a person they don’t know. So make it easy for them to stream your music, and then give them the option to download it if they really want to.
Soundcloud is a great platform for this. It’s easy (and free) to upload your tracks, and you can even make them available for download. They also have a player that is embeddable in most websites, so you can place your music on whatever hosting option you choose.
A great way to show off what you’ve got as a musician is through video. Featuring a great live performance video or a really well done music video can make the difference between an EPK that gets passed over and one that stands out to promoters and press.
You probably already have a bio for your band. But your EPK should have at least 2 versions of that bio. A shorter version(a paragraph) that is featured prominently in your EPK, and an expanded version(4+ paragraphs) that is available by clicking through to expand the bio (or to a different page) and/or available for download.
Every EPK needs to feature some high quality, professional band photos. You should have them displayed on the site, as well as easily available for download. If you need some help on how to get really great band photos, check out THIS ARTICLE.
What would an electronic press kit be without some actual press? Pick a few quotes from any write-ups you’ve gotten. Choose quotes that have lots of descriptive language, or that come from a reputable source. If you don’t have press yet, don’t sweat it. That’s what this EPK is for!
You need to make sure that your EPK makes it very easy to get in touch with you. Make it very clear exactly who should be contacted for booking, press, or more general inquiries.
You have several options for hosting your EPK, and it’s not a bad idea (if you have time) to have multiple versions. There are three main hosting options when creating your EPK: Your own website, a third party service, or a downloadable version.
Hosting your EPK on your website is probably the best option. You get to control exactly what content is available, and the way that it’s presented. You can click HERE for a good example of what a website hosted EPK, that includes all the important elements, can look like.
Hosting your EPK on your website gives you flexibility with some key options, like password protecting the page or files and freedom to design and customize. It also drives traffic to your website, where you can put your best foot forward for the VIPs who will be viewing your EPK.
Third Party Service
Many promoters only accept EPK submissions from sites like SonicBids and Reverbnation, especially if you’re submitting for an opportunity they’ve made available on one of those sites. These site will want the same information that you would put in an EPK hosted on your website, but the design elements most likely will not be up to you.
While we definitely recommend creating your own custom EPK on your website, using a third party service as your primary EPK has some advantages. For example, Reverbnation will show your social media stats and demographic in their EPK.
Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is send all your information over in one fell swoop. This is where a downloadable EPK is a good idea. You can place all your information into a Dropbox or Google Drive folder, and simply send the link to the folder instead of a web link.
This format is not going to work for every place you submit your EPK to, but even if you don’t use this format very often, it’s still a great idea to have all the elements of your EPK stored in a place that you can get to from your phone or a remote computer, in case you need to send something to someone in a hurry. EPKs are an important tool in the indie musician’s belt. An informative and simple EPK has the potential to help your music rise above the rest, and can help you get more gig and press opportunities.
Do you have any tips on creating an awesome EPK? Have you created one your really proud of? Share with us in the comments below or tweet @nationwidedisc
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
Just mentioning that name calls up several wildly different things to mind. A rap superstar, that one guy who was mean to Taylor Swift, a man who loves Twitter rants, and most recently, a future presidential candidate.
And while Kanye is a polarizing figure, he is without a doubt one of the most successful artists of the past few years. Not only is he successful in music, he’s also recently had some success in the fashion world. New York Fashion Week just ended, and during the week the magazine Vanity Fair interviewed Kanye.
I read this article on a whim. It looked semi-interesting, and I was semi-bored.
After the first few paragraphs, I was sitting up in my chair. This wasn’t the Kanye I had seen on late night television. This was an interview with a successful, albeit eccentric, businessman who knew what he was doing. The article is a longer read, but I recommend you check it out.
At Source, we believe that where there is success, there is something we can learn from it. As an independent musician, I want to learn everything I can to help create my own successful career. So I pay attention when those lessons come, even from unexpected places—like Kanye West.
The Four Things Kanye West Taught Me:
Have a Vision
“The only concrete plan is that I plan to use concrete.”-Kanye West
Taken out of the context of the article, this quote may seem a little odd. Kanye was talking about the brick and mortar store he wants to open for his fashion line. The interviewer wanted to know if there were any concrete plans for this store, and Kanye responded,“The only concrete plan is that I plan to use concrete.” There are no dates here, no timelines, and no deadlines. There’s no actual location yet, but he knows what he wants. He has a vision for what the future of his clothing line can be.
But even though he has a vision, he’s not micro-managing his creativity. He has a vision, and probably some rough plans, but they are flexible. He knows that what is in his head right now might not be quite the right fit when it comes time to actually build the store. But he has a core concept, and he’s going to stay true to that concept, though the details may change.
The same goes with your big ideas. You may have an idea for an album or tour that isn’t ready to get fleshed out right now. And that’s awesome. You should always be cultivating those creative parts of you. Keep your overarching vision in mind, but don’t sweat the small stuff.
Put Your Ideas Into Action
“You can have the longest intellectual artistic conversation about anything and it all means nothing without execution.” -Kanye West
Sometimes creative people create and then don’t move forward. Putting a few lyric lines down on a page or recording a new melody that pops in your head is the easy stuff.
Sitting down, really thinking about and finishing a song, and seeing that song through to it’s final mastered state is a very different thing than just having a moment of creative inspiration.
Indie artists have to realize it’s the same thing with their music. It’s the same thing with those good intentions toward marketing. Having an idea and talking about the idea are very different things from the idea becoming a reality. Successful people move out of the ethereal and into implementation.
Another Quote From Kanye on Implementation:
“My toe is barely in the door, my foot is barely on the gas, I’ve got to press down harder. The most successful thing about the second season [of his fashion line] was just doing the second season. Every time, the most successful thing about it is doing it.”
“I’ve gone three years without a phone. I don’t go a day without shoes.” -Kanye West
Here Kanye was speaking specifically about creating something that people love and will use, but I think these words can move us further than that–what do we really need?
It can be tempting to buy the latest, greatest piece of gear, but do you really need it? You may really want to go on an eight-week national tour, but is that really best for your music (and bank account?)
Take a look at what you can practically do for your music career. If you are buying new gear, what is going to serve you best, not just make you feel fancy? If you really want to tour, what cities can you hit on a weekend tour or over a couple of weeks? You need fans–are you really going to join every brand new social network, or are you going to pinpoint where your fans are and meet them there?
Music careers always start with big dreams, but those dreams get easily lost if you aren’t practical about them.
Make It Beautiful
“I think people just wear yoga pants and sweatshirts, and I wanted to make the most beautiful version of that possible.” -Kanye West
You create music because you love music, right? Would you love music as much if no one cared about how they created music? If everyone sang off key and out of tempo, using the same rhyme scheme for every line, music would not have the power that it does. That intangible power of music is a driving force behind your CD sales, whether you acknowledge it or not.
So make something great! Make something that connects deeply with people because it connects deeply with you.
You are an artist, so create beautiful, meaninglful art!
Have you learned any unconventional wisdom from superstars or even your mom? We want to know! Share with us in the comments or tweet @nationwidedisc
These are the things we believe are the most important things when choosing your eCommerce service. Each platform we reviewed is different, and specializes in different things.
The key component in deciding which platform is right for you is deciding on what you need.
Once you decide what you need, then you can look at what store meet your personal criteria best, based on the 5 characteristics mentioned above.
So let’s take a look to find the platform that’s right for you:
Customizing Your Store
3dcart recognizes that not all of its customers are experienced web designers or are familiar with HTML coding. To meet the needs of those customers, it offers hundreds of templates (some free) and an editing tool called WYSIWYG, which allows HTML editing without knowledge of HTML coding. Of course, if you do know HTML coding, you can always customize a template using that; or, you can use on of their in-house designers to create your website.
You are able to use custom domains.
Bandcamp’s sample sites are all stunning, but there’s not much information about design options. The artists’ info page just says that its set-up process is “so easy even your drummer could…”
If you sign up for Bandcamp Pro, you are able to use custom domain names for your storefront.
This platform does offer customizable storefront design. However, it doesn’t look like you can use your own domain name.
There are three different routes you can take to design your eCommerce site. You can choose from over 100 professionally designed, customizable themes. Or, using Shopify’s Template Editor, a language called Liquid, and some HTML and CSS, you can create a shopping cart as unique as your sound. If you don’t have coding experience, Shopify offers web design services with their professional designers. Tying in to your website’s domain lets your fans seamlessly navigate to your online storefront.
Product and sales options
The number of items is limited based on the plan you choose.
3dcart makes processing and shipping orders simple. With features such as shipment tracking, automated confirmation emails, and drop-shipment support, you and your fans will know exactly when and where their packages are at. 3dcart also offers an optional “Wish List” and “Wait List” for those times when your fans what they simply cannot purchase (yet). Of course, if all they want is to listen to your music (and right away), then they can purchase your digital downloads.
The number of free downloads per month is limited, but other merchandise does not appear to be.
Bandcamp specializes in digital music distribution (and they do it so well). You can upload high-quality tracks and artwork, name your price for digital downloads, and even set up pre-orders and release dates. However, that doesn’t have to be the only thing sold through with this platform. Just upload your merchandise from the “add merch” tab on the header. Here you’ll name and describe the items, set the prices, choose shipping options, and upload photos.
Digital downloads will be available to your fans as soon as a purchase via PayPal goes through (or as soon as the album/track is available). When is comes to shipping other merchandise, however, you will be responsible unless you use a fulfillment partner. Bandcamp lets you hire out your shipping needs to a third-party distributor (or your Aunt Jane) without having to grant them access to your whole store. Bandcamp also makes it easy to track and sort orders from the sales section of your tools page, where you can mark invoices as processing or shipped, search for orders, or filter by date or status.
Bandcamp does offer foreign currencies for transactions.
The number of items you can sell and the number of photos allowed for each item depends on your monthly package (there are four options to choose from), with a grand cap at 300 items; however, you can upgrade or downgrade packages as needed, which means that as your item selection grows, your store can, too.
You can offer anything from t-shirts and CDs to digital downloads (via their sister site, Pulley). Set your price, currency, and tax preferences, then decide how you would like to process payments. You can choose PayPal or Stripe (which processes most other major credit cards). Best of all, your band will get to keep 100 percent of each sale’s proceeds!
Even though Big Cartel helps you manage your sales and payments, stocking inventory and fulfilling orders will be up to you. Don’t leave your fans hanging! Use the “Orders” page to manage your merchandise orders by marking them as either shipped or unshipped, or manage orders through PayPal. Just remember to calculate the approximate cost of shipping from your admin page and add that cost into the price of the purchase.
The Reverb Store is unique in the way it handles its inventory… or the lack thereof, rather. That’s because there’s no tangible product until someone orders it. You create the products online by selecting the items and design options, add them to your store at your desired price, and wait for someone to buy. When the order has been placed, the product will be made and then shipped. ReverbNation takes a flat fee out of the retail price of each item sold, sends a portion to Audiolife, and pays the difference (profit) to you. The amount of your profit is determined by the price you set. You can cash out via PayPal as soon as you have at least $20 in earnings (and after a 35-day hold period).
Audiolife promises to fulfill all orders with more than 99 percent accuracy, and the time between order placement and shipment is generally four to six business days. You can rest assured that your fans will receive high-quality products quickly and accurately. Should there be a problem with an order, they will handle reverse logistics, too.
Shopify promises safe, confidential transactions through third-party payment processors like PayPal or Google Wallet (which is standard for many eCommerce sites), but they also accept many other forms of payment such as CODs, money orders, or direct bank deposits.
In terms of fulfillment, Shopify makes it easy to use fulfillment companies like Amazon Services to do the packaging, shipping, and tracking of orders for you. Shopify is also working on Partial Carrier Integration which will let you calculate the real-time shipping cost of various items, though this feature is still in beta mode.
Shopify does offer foreign languages and currency options.
Promoting and Analyzing Your Storefront
3dcart recognizes how important the right promotional tools are and offers marketing credits with every subscription. Every 3dcart plan comes with built-in SEO tools. 3dcart also allows you to create coupons and promotional discounts (which you can post on social networking sites) that will help increase traffic and boost sales.
3dcart offers the ability to track sales trends. This will give you the opportunity to monitor the interests and buying habits of your fans and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. You can check basic statistics from your home screen, or you can upgrade your package to include Smart Stats.
Bandcamp’s platform includes a wealth of statistics on your site’s visitors and customers, from who links to your site to which items are most popular to SEO data. The site also works to ensure that, when your fans search for you, your store is at the top of the results. The Pro version provides additional details.
Not only does Bandcamp encourage you to share your storefront on your social media platforms, they allow you to add a music player to your profiles (for free) from which you can sell your music. You can also sell your music and merchandise directly from Facebook.
Bandcamp also helps you build your email list.
The amount of statistics available is based on your package. The most basic version simply shows which of your items is most popular, while their top package shows your top item, incoming links, search terms, and incorporates Google Analytics.
You are able to offer discount codes, and you are able to sell your products directly on your Facebook page.
ReverbNation makes it easy to increase traffic by sending emails on product specials, adding the store’s app to your social media profile, embedding widgets in your website, and including banners on your blog.
Other features on the website are available for fan management and communication, but they are separate from the ReverbStore.
The site and its shopping cart offer SEO features, ensuring that your eCommerce site ranks well in search results. It also integrates Google Analytics, so you can learn about where your fans are coming from and what they’re looking for. Coupon codes, which encourage people to “buy now” lest they miss out on an amazing opportunity, can help draw new or lukewarm fans to your site. Advertising on Facebook (which Shopify gives you a credit for) can help reach those who might not know about you yet. Shopify also tracks customers, letting you use their information for email marketing.
Special Features For Your eCommerce Platform
Sometimes, it’s those little extras that push you toward one option over the others. Check out the extra touches that these sites have to offer:
If the process of creating an eCommerce platform still overwhelms you, 3dcart offers live phone, email and chat support, training videos, tutorials, and a dedicated Guru Session, even during the free trial period.
Bandcamp lets you set the pricing for your items. If you want to set that to zero or allow fans to name their own price (which can result in some surprising generosity), you can do so. You also have the option of offering high-quality music formats with no extra effort; Bandcamp will convert your WAV file to the client’s desired format.
Also, Bandcamp sites are optimized for mobile viewing, which reduces frustration for those who shop on the go.
If you’re at a gig or meet someone who wants to buy your merch right then, Big Cartel lets you place orders via an iPhone app.
ReverbNation is one of the few on-demand retail platforms. Its partnership with Audiolife means that you don’t have to keep track of inventory or order fulfillment. Plus, if you already use ReverbNation for other purposes, you’re simply adding to an existing account instead of creating yet another account.
They recognize that, even with an online storefront, you’re still running a merch table at your shows. To make handling in-person transactions a little easier on you, Shopify offers a free credit card reader and optional POS (point of sale) system. Also, if you want to go the extra mile in connecting with fans, Shopify offers a blogging platform.
Shopify also offers an abandoned cart feature, where it automatically contacts potential shoppers who placed items in their cart and didn’t check out.
Shopify makes it really easy to create a mobile store. You can also manage your store’s website through the Shopify Mobile app, which means that you can be in the loop even when you’re out of the office.
3dcart prices start as low as $19.95 per month, which allows you to offer up to 100 items and comes with $175 worth of advertising credits. Upgrading the package increases your store’s volume and marketing capacity and allows free domain registration, among other valuable features. If you’ve got cash up front, signing up for annual rates (as opposed to monthly) will save you some money.
There is no fee to start on Bandcamp and no charge for listing items in your store. Bandcamp makes their money by pulling a percentage of your sales: ten percent for physical merchandise and fifteen percent for digital downloads.
For only ten dollars per month, you can sign up for Bandcamp’s Pro service, which includes more detailed statics reports, batch upload options and private streaming capabilities. You can also offer up to 200 download credits (or free downloads of your music) or download codes (discount codes that you can email or Tweet to your fans) for free each month or purchase additional codes and credits for as little as 1.5 cents each.
Big Cartel does not take a percentage of each sale (except to cover fees for PayPal). Its Gold package, which is free, lets you list up to five products with a single photo per product. For $10 per month, the Platinum package lets you list up to 25 items with three photos per item; or, upgrade to the Diamond package for $20 per month, listing up to 100 items with five photos each. Lastly, the Titanium package ($30 per month) will allow as many as 300 items with five photos each.
It’s completely free to start your store through ReverbNation. If you don’t make a sale, you don’t pay a dime. When you do make a sale, ReverbNation takes a flat fee for each item sold, not a percentage.
Pricing starts as low as $29 each month, which will get you a storefront, access to customer profiles, and even your own blogging platform to help you connect to your fans. This basic package comes with up to one GB of storage space, but you can increase that along with other features by upgrading to more-advanced packages like their Pro package (for $79/month, which includes professional user reports and gift cards) or their Unlimited package (for $179/month, which features advanced statistics reports and unlimited file storage).
What eCommerce platform are you using to sell merch online? Did we miss any major players? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
Chances are, most of your fans use the Internet. That’s why your band has social media profiles and its own website. (If you don’t, you need to.) But if you aren’t selling your music and merchandise online, are you really utilizing your web presence well?
Why Sell Music and Merch Online?
Selling merchandise—from t-shirts to CDs to song downloads—is essential to turning your music hobby into a sustainable career. Why not supplement the income from your already-successful merch table by adding an online retail platform to your own website?
Selling merchandise online lets you reach fans outside the confines of physical proximity and time constraints. Instead of being limited to selling in-person at gigs (which you should still do), you are now able to sell your products around the clock to fans across the world.
Additionally, selling merchandise on your website (instead of through third parties) means that you get the biggest return on sales of your products possible.
Picking An eCommerce Platform
There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform. Think about what your band needs and what your fans want.
Do you want to be able to customize the shop and have it blend with your branding, or are you okay with less flexibility here?
How many products will you offer?
Are the choices as simple as one CD or another, or do they get a bit more complicated (for example: shirt design, then cut, color, and size)?
Do you want the option of selling music downloads through your site?
How easy is the platform to use, both for you and for clients?
Are you able to manage inventory and fulfillment, or do you need assistance with that?
Do you need to ship internationally and accept foreign currency, or are your fans and customers stateside?
Make a list of your goals and needs for your platform, then begin shopping.
Customizing Your Band’s Store
Ideally, your band has gone through a branding process. The elements of your album artwork coordinate with each other, you have high-quality photography, you have a logo, and you have a color scheme. Your website and your merch have a look about them that reflects your band’s background, vibe, or niche. Your social media profiles match your official website (as much as possible), and your fans can easily tell if they are on your official site or profile vs a fan-made page. If you’ve gone through all this trouble to brand your band, why would you want your eCommerce platform to stick out from everything else you have going on?
You don’t. Instead, you want your shop to blend seamlessly with your website, in both appearance and web address. Luckily, most eCommerce platforms give you options to blend your retail site into the rest of your website, either through adjustable templates, custom shop-building tools, HTML or CSS coding, or web design services.
Product and Sales Options
Is your goal simply to sell your two albums directly and increase your profit margin on those sales, or are you hoping to offer a whole catalog of items? Do you need someone else to handle inventory and order fulfillment, or are you ready and willing (and have enough time!) to take that responsibility on? What payment options do you need? If you have fans all over the world, international shipping and foreign currencies are probably an important option for you to have in your eCommerce site.
Considering product, order, and client options now means that you can find an eCommerce option that meets your needs, both immediate and long-term.
Promoting and Analyzing Your Storefront
Designing a pretty storefront and offering items is only part of running a successful online store. If you want people to buy from you, your fans need to know where your store is. Optimizing your storefront for search engine results is one method of helping fans find your store. You can also add your storefront to the existing navigation system on your website. Link to it (and your main website) on your social media accounts as well. Some eCommerce platforms make social media integration a little easier (or more enticing) than others.
You also need to be able to track the traffic coming to your site and gather customer information (ideally, you’ll use this to maintain connections with your fans).
How Much Does An eCommerce Platform Cost?
Your budget will definitely come into play when choosing an eCommerce platform, but we’ve saved this factor for last because it shouldn’t be the only one you consider. Some platforms charge a monthly/annual flat fee, and others might take a percentage of each sale to make their money. Figure out which option is best for you. For example, if you anticipate many sales and large sales, a small or modest set monthly fee might leave more of your profits in your pocket.
Choosing Your Band’s Retail Platform
Take some time to really explore your eCommerce options Be sure that the platform you choose has the options you need now and the flexibility to grow as your fan base grows.
Finding an eCommerce platform that fits your band’s needs and adapts to match your style and branding without adding hassle means you can get back to what you should be doing in the first place: making music.
Have you added an eCommerce platform to your website? Which one did you choose, and what made you choose that platform over others?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
I am an artist, I am a performer, and I am a musician.
With that sentence comes a full range of stereotypes, preconceived notions, and some things that only other artists will understand.
I am proud to say I fit many of those stereotypes. I am a bit scattered, I sometimes stop what I’m doing to admire a fallen leaf, and I definitely cry more often than most people. I’m a little over dramatic, and I’m really loud.
Those are the things I don’t mind, the things that are most visible to other people. But when we venture into the territory that only other artists and performers understand, I get a bit more hesitant to admit to some of the negative stereotypes.
My least favorite stereotype is that all performers are competitive, that all artists compare their work to others. Unfortunately, this stereotype is often true. Sometimes I look at other musicians, and a variety of unpleasant things run through my head:
“Oh, they just got lucky and knew someone.”
“Their music is okay, but the lyrics were terrible.”
“They are only successful because their genre is more popular than mine.”
It’s human nature to compare yourself to others. But when artists live in that place of comparison and competition, we miss out on so much.”
This is a hashtag I see my photographer friends using quite often. They intentionally hang out with other photographers, talk about photography, and exchange advice and tips
Does it take guts to get lunch or coffee with a direct business competitor? Maybe.
Does it take guts to get lunch with a direct business competitor, and find out how you can help each others business? Definitely.
This kind of intentionality is especially important for musicians. Chances are, your local scene is much smaller than you think it is.
We’ve listed the top 10 reasons to kill your comparative/competitive instincts and learn to love the other members of your music community.
Top Ten Reasons to Be in Your Scene:
1-You have a lot to learn.
The keyboardist who has a composition degree might be able to give you some tips on improving your melodies. And that band that has 50 people coming out to each show instead of 10 can probably teach you a thing or two.
2-It’s healthy to get out of your genre box.
When you book shows, you probably look for bands that have a similar or complementary sound to your own. So support your music community and find out why everyone is excited about that brand new psychedelic-country band that sounds nothing like yours.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had gear stolen or an amp blow out before a show, but when those things happen—and they will happen— it helps to have a network of people who know and love you AND are musicians who can help you out in a pinch.
4-You might want violin on your next record.
When you get involved with your local music community, you will meet people with different skills than you. This network of highly skilled friends comes in handy when you are looking for studio musicians for your new album.
Did you know the guitarist of that hardcore band is actually a really great mixing engineer? Or that his uncle is a GRAMMY-winning producer and lives down the street from you? No? Me either–until I started intentionally getting to know the other bands in my city.
Sometime musicians have to turn down gigs. Maybe there’s a scheduling conflict or they just honestly feel like they aren’t a good fit for the show. Often when this happens, they have a friend in mind who could take the spot they couldn’t. Trust me; you want to be that friend.
7-The ability to vent to someone who understand you.
I’m not saying that your current friends are not up to the task, but sometimes it’s just nice to talk to someone who actually understands your month-long battle with writer’s block or the inability to get gigs.
We already talked about gig referrals, but many times the people in your music community will need to add another band to the bill next Friday. And they might want you to be that band! What’s better than getting to play a show with a bunch of your friends? Pretty much nothing; that’s what.
9-Growing your network.
Being a member of your local scene will help you get to know musicians, but it will also help you get to know promoters, graphic designers, talent bookers, venue owners, and all sorts of other interesting industry people.
10-Genuine, awesome friends.
Sure, you can gain a lot in your career from being an active member of the music scene, but you can also gain some pretty awesome friends along the way.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
If you’re a musician who has dabbled at all in the world of music licensing, you know that copyright law and royalty payments can be a confusing mess. It’s a daunting task to find out exactly who owns what piece of the pie, and who needs to be paid for the use of that pie. (Or song.)
Because of the complicated and highly specialized nature of copyright, sometimes I like to use my knowledge of the subject to impress people at parties.
One of the more widely known pieces of copyright trivia that I would pull out to impress my friends is the daunting story of “Happy Birthday,” that simple tune that has so long plagued mid-level chain restaurants.
For most of this century, people have been paying out big bucks for the right to use “Happy Birthday”. Whether in a restaurant, a TV show, or movie, “Happy Birthday” was earning about 2 million dollars every year for Warner-Chappell music.
But in a historic ruling earlier this week, a federal judge in LA ruled that “Happy Birthday” was never actually copyrighted properly and will now fall under public domain.
The melody of the song, originally titled “Good Morning to All,” has been in the public domain for years, but Warner-Chappell was standing on a copyright claim to the lyrics from 1935 that they bought from the original publisher.
Apparently, those lyrics were never actually copyrighted at all.
The plaintiffs who sued Warner-Chappell were actually making a documentary about the song when they found evidence that the song was not actually under copyright protection. They then sued Warner-Chappell music…and won. They are now seeking to turn the lawsuit into a class action suit that would require Warner-Chappell to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So Now What?
Since “Happy Birthday” is now in the public domain, you are free to use it without paying any royalties!
While this might not be the most exciting news you’ve ever heard, it does open up a few possibilities for independent musicians.
The Happiest Album Ever!
Did you know there is a whole underground genre of Happy Birthday songs floating around the internet? Just search for “Happy Birthday” in Spotify and you’ll come up with hundreds of customized birthday songs.
So why not release your own birthday album? Pick 12 of your favorite names (or the names of your closest friends) and record a few different versions of the song. Once you’re finished, upload the tracks to YouTube or Spotify (ONEprm will allow you to upload to Spotify for free!) and make a little passive (celebratory) income!
Say Thanks to Fans
Now that you won’t have to pay for a sync license, you can film yourself singing Happy Birthday to your superfans and put the shoutouts on YouTube! Your followers will be so excited.
Play It Live!
Technically, you were probably already allowed to do this, since venues are required to pay licensing fees for all the music you play onstage. (Didn’t know that? Click here to learn more!)
It’s always been a good idea to learn “Happy Birthday”, even before it was in the public domain. It gives you the freedom to interact with your audience on a more personal level–if someone is celebrating their birthday by watching you play music, they deserve a shoutout from stage for being so awesome!
You could probably wing “Happy Birthday” (after all, it’s not the most difficult song ever written), but why not take the opportunity to wow everyone in the room with your spectacular rendition of the world’s most famous song?
“Happy Birthday” being moved to the public domain may not seem like an earth shaking decision, but it does underscore the importance of copyrighting your music properly. After all, if the author of Happy Birthday’s lyrics had done that, Warner-Chappell would still be making 2 million dollars a year off of an eight-measure-long song.
Have any other creative uses for Happy Birthday? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet @nationwidedisc your ideas!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 3 minutes
At Source, we want bands to build sustainable careers. The path to a long career in the music industry is a difficult one, but we’ve found two things that are key for independent musicians: great content (music, video, graphics, website, art) and great fan engagement.
We know that in the modern music industry, the intersection of these two keys elements is often social media
We get that posting to social media can be tedious and keeping up with all the new trends and sites can be like drinking water out of a fire hydrant.
That’s where Source comes in. We want to review these services, try them out for ourselves, and then let you know when we think a new social media site is on to something. And that brings us to…
You might not have heard of Flipagram yet, as it is still a growing social network. However, it’s gained traction in recent months, especially with musicians and music fans.
Flipagram’s main use is to make montages of pictures and video, and set them to music. You can also create a montage and record a voiceover. Or choose music, and film a funny video of you lip syncing.
It was designed specifically to integrate with music, so it has some benefits for musicians that other social networks don’t. If your music is available for download in iTunes, a 30 second preview of your song will probably be available for Flipagram users to sync with their “flips.” If your song is used in someone’s flip, a link is posted in the caption to purchase that song on iTunes or listen on Spotify.
Even if your music isn’t on iTunes, if it’s downloaded to your phone, you will still be able to use it in your Flipagram.
Flipagram as a Social Network
Flipagram’s first purpose is as a social network. They have millions of users and all of those users have one thing in common: they love music.
Or at least, they like adding music to their videos and pictures.
Which makes Flipagram a great social network for musicians!
Flipagram also makes it easy to share content. You can follow other users, like their content, and “reflip” their videos.
Flipagram’s demographic is very young, so if your target age group is over 30, this might not be the social network you want to invest your time in. But if teens are listening to your music, it might be worth it to see if your fans are on Flipagram.
Even if Flipagram isn’t your social media bread and butter, it can be used to create good content for your other social sites!
Flipagram as a Content Creation Tool
Flipagram’s visually appealing videos can be shared across almost all social platforms. They are a great way to show off pictures from your last photo shoot, or recap each night of your tour. You can create a flip of all your awesome studio selfies, and use it to preview your unreleased single.
You can even get silly and record an embarrassing lip sync video to make your fans laugh. Try promoting a show by adding text to a picture, and playing one of your songs in the background.
Since visual and video content gets higher engagement rates on Twitter and Facebook, feel free to share your flips to both those networks.
Flipagram will even time your videos specifically to Vine and Instagram’s limits, if that’s where you want to share your flip.
So if you’re ready to experiment with a new content creation tool/social platform, Flipagram is probably the right place for you!
Do you use Flipagram? Has it helped to promote your music? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
Water parks have closed their doors, kids are back in school, and the weather is slowly beginning to cooperate. Fall has arrived.
For many songwriters, fall is a recharge time when new material comes flooding out. The summer tours are over, and those long hours spent on the road turn into hours spent with your favorite instrument, finding new melodies and lyrics.
But it never fails that the initial rush of creative energy begins to run dry, and you’ve still got half an album to write!
Whether you are prepping for your next release, or just trying to get your juices flowing, we’ve got some tips to help you when your inspiration has run out.
This tip trumps all the others, because it will help you turn all the other tips into actual songs. When you see something inspiring, write it down. Keep notes on your phone, or in an actual notebook. I know a songwriter who carries around an average of 4 Moleskin notebooks—each with its own specific category—to write down creative ideas. You can also take pictures or videos of the things that inspire you. Whatever you do, just make sure that all these little tidbits of creative potential get stored somewhere.
2-Change Your Scenery
One of the simplest ways to get in touch with your creativity is to physically change locations. This doesn’t mean you have to take a writing retreat to a cabin in the woods—though you certainly can! Take a few minutes, and go somewhere in your city you’ve never been before. A new park, a new street, or even an extended walk in your own neighborhood. Explore downtown, or explore suburbia! Go sit next to the tree in your own back yard for a few minutes, or take a day trip to a state park.
3-Notice The Little Things
Even if you can’t physically relocate yourself, there are always new things you can explore. Look at the little things around you that you may not have noticed before. Sometimes an interesting street name could inspire a whole song. Maybe the texture of your ceiling is the same as the house you grew up in, and you turn your nostalgia into a song. Being more mindful of the world around you can help you be inspired to write about it.
People watching can be one of the best ways to get ideas for songs. Just don’t be creepy! Station yourself in a busy public place, and observe the people around you. Listen to the phrases that fly by you. Pay attention to the characters that enter and exit your scene. Notice how people interact with each other, or better yet-
5- Strike Up a Conversation
People watching can help you create fictional stories. But what if you listened to someone’s actual story? A mantra that is often repeated in songwriting is “Write what you know,” but your own experience will be limited. Really listening to someone else’s story and empathizing with them could open up a whole new dimension in your songwriting.
A quick note: Make sure you have the person’s permission if you are going to take their life story and turn it into your next big hit. If you have their approval, write your heart out! But be aware, sometimes it’s better—and easier—to take pieces of real life and mix them in with fiction, instead of writing someone’s life for the whole world (or internet) to scrutinize.
6- Try a Different Instrument
Most songwriters have an instrument that they know well, and love to play. But sometimes shaking things up can help you create a great song, and a new sound.
You don’t have to be highly skilled at an instrument to write on it. Most guitar players will find that they can easily pick up the mandolin or banjo.
If you play piano, try learning a few chords on guitar, or simply move to a completely different piano sound than you usually play with. The song you write on a different instrument might not be a compositional masterpiece, but it will help get you out of your comfort zone.
Pick a highly specific thing-an apple, the color yellow, a particular emotion-and write about it! Be as poetic or as literal as you like, just keep the song highly specific to the topic that you choose.
If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably made plans with a few other writers to combine your efforts and create a hit. But sometimes life gets in the way, and those writing sessions never happen.
Well now is the time! Shoot them a text or email saying you want to get together in the next week or so to write, and make it happen! You can also reach out to a local songwriter you admire and see if they would be willing to meet up for a co-write. Even if you think the writer is too experienced, or too busy, it never hurts to ask. So be brave, and get co-writing!
9-Ask Your Fans
Your fans are the ones who will be listening to (and buying!) your music, so why not get their input in the earliest phase? Ask them for stories or topics to write about. Ask them for rhyme suggestions if you’re stuck on a particular phrase.
10- Just Write
Sometimes, no matter what we do, inspiration just keeps running away from us. When that happens, amateurs give up. Great songwriters keep writing. Sometimes it takes 20 awful songs to finally get a great one. Don’t sweat it if you’re in a funk. Just keep writing. Eventually, it will pay off.
How have you defeated writer’s block? Do you have any other songwriting tips? Let us know in the comments below!