Category: Merch

Why Vinyl Works: An Intro for Indie Musicians

By NationWide Source - Estimated 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!


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Comparing the Top 5 eCommerce Platforms for Musicians

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Last week we posted a blog about what to look for when choosing what platform to use for your online stone. There are lots of options out there, but creating an online shop doesn’t have to be a headache.

We’ve taken the top five eCommerce platforms for musicians—3dcart, Bandcamp, Big Cartel, ReverbNation, and Shopify—and evaluated them based on 5 different characteristics:

  • Store Customization
  • Product and Sales Options
  • Store Analytics and Promotion
  • Special Features
  • Cost

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

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

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.

Big Cartel

Depending on the package you chose, you’ll be able to use anything from basic templates and color schemes for your storefront to completely customizable themes with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript options. The package also determines whether or not you can use your own domain.

ReverbNation

This platform does offer customizable storefront design. However, it doesn’t look like you can use your own domain name.

Shopify

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

3dcart

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.

Bandcamp

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.

Big Cartel

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.

ReverbNation

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

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

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

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.

Big Cartel

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

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.

Shopify

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:

3dcart

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

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.

Big Cartel

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

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.

Shopify

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.

eCommerce Cost

3dcart

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.

Bandcamp

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

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.

ReverbNation

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.

Shopify

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!

 




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Selling Your Merch Online: What to Look For in an eCommerce Platform

By NationWide Source - Estimated 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?




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