Category: Music Merchandise

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 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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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 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.

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 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.

eCommerce Cost


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

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!


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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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The Cassette Revival: Should You Sell Tapes?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Is your music a little bit quirky? Does your fan base enjoy crazy merch ideas or alternative listening methods? Are they missing the glory days of the mixtape? Are you an 80s cover band?

If any of the criteria above fit your music, you may want to try releasing some music on cassette tapes!

But Why Cassettes?

The cassette revival is the younger brother of the renewed interest music fans have in vinyl. For most people, these analog collections are not a replacement to downloaded or streamed music, but a supplement. They purchase tapes or vinyl in addition to the music they already consume.

This is great news for indie artists. Often the music fan who seeks out new and independent music is going to be the fan who is willing to spend $20-$30 on a vinyl record.

Vinyl shouldn’t replace your physical CDs and downloads, but records can be a great source of income if your fans are excited and willing to purchase. However, pressing vinyl records is cost prohibitive for many independent artists. Not only is it expensive, but it can take months to get the product into your hands.

This is where tapes come in. They appeal to the same demographic, but are much cheaper and easier to manufacture than records.

Is My Release Right For Tape?

Chances are, if you are reading this article, you probably already have a gut feeling about whether or not tape is right for you.

To decide if your release is a good fit for cassette tape, you need to look at your fans. They should be the determining factor in preparing for any release, but you really need to make sure they’re on board if you are contemplating releasing in an alternative format.

If you think tape is awesome but you are 90% sure your fans won’t be into it, then don’t release on tape! Your audience should be the determining factor when you make any decisions about merch, not your personal preference.

You also need to make sure that cassette tapes will be in keeping with the brand you’ve created. If you think releasing music on tape will be way out in left field, it will probably feel odd to your fans as well.

How Do I Get Cassettes?

Surprisingly, it is quite easy to get cassettes professionally duplicated. Googling “cassette tape duplication” will provide you with several companies that can professionally duplicated cassettes and even help you design your packaging! Tapes are relatively cheap to duplicate, so if you are looking at making more than just a few tapes, I would recommend you go with a professional service.

If you would rather DIY, you can get blank tapes and cases online, or you could buy tapes from a thrift store and copy your music over them at home. You will probably have to invest in some equipment, but you can find a basic cassette recorder at Walmart for about $50. This article also has some helpful tips on basic techniques to recording tapes at home.

Creative Tape Ideas:

If you thinks tapes would work for your music, but aren’t sure how you would sell them, here are a few ideas:

  • Full Release-Why not put your next album or EP on tape? The tapes could be a limited edition item!
  • Exclusive Music-A great way to push an alternative format is by offering exclusive music. Got some lo-fi demos you think your fans would enjoy? Put them on tape!
  • Bundles, Bundles, Bundles!-People love exclusives, and they love to save money. So put your new tape into a bundle with a CD, T-shirt, and sticker! Or offer a tape for free when they spend $20 in merch.
  • The Cart and the Horse-If you can transport them safely, you might sell portable tape players (aka Walkmans!) with your tapes! Chances are your local thrift store will have quite a few that you can clean up and sell with your tapes. Then your awesome music is ready and immediately available to listen to!

Cassette Store Day

If you think you are ready to take the plunge and release some music on tape, you may want to take a look at Cassette Store Day. In 2015, Cassette Store Day (CSD) is on October 17th. If you are able to release on CSD, you could talk to local record stores (many of them sell cassettes as well!) about featuring your tape release, and even doing a show in their store to cross promote and celebrate Cassette Store Day!

Have you had success selling cassette tapes to your fans? What other unique merch items do you offer? Do you think analog formats are here to stay? Let us know in the comments below!

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Download Cards That Work

Download Cards That Work – They Are Not All The Same

By Anna F Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Download cards can be a great way to get your music out to people. But, when your band is choosing cards, you need to choose wisely. Not all download cards are the same.

NationWide Disc recognized that musicians need better download cards, cards with options and cards that help musicians. That’s why they created cards that:

Collect Your Fans’ Email Addresses

How does this work? By logging in to your account, you can instantly access your download stats, including the email addresses of anyone who has used one of your download codes! It’s a simple and effective way to grow your fan list.

The best part? It’s free! There are no setup costs, no annual fees, and no hosting costs. Really…It’s FREE.

Let You Get Creative With What You Offer

You’re not restricted to an MP3; we also accept MP4s, JPGs, PDFs, and zipped files.

This means that, if you want to think outside the box and offer your fans ringtones, artwork, wallpapers, band photos, or full albums, you can.

Need some ideas here? If you’re a boy band with a fan base of enthusiastic teenage girls, take a few official band photos and offer them as phone wallpapers. If you’re a singer/songwriter, try offering a pretty photograph with your poetic lyrics on top as a desktop background, or turn your lyrics into a unique printable piece of art. If you have an iconic logo or kick-ass album art, consider offering that as wallpaper for phones or tablets. Or, take a page out of Coldplay’s playbook and offer downloadable copies of hand-written lyric sheets.

Use Them To Market and Sell Your Music In-Person and Online

We give you options. Get your codes printed on physical cards, or have the codes delivered to you digitally.

Physical download cards can be sold (which we’d recommend for a full album and, perhaps, for singles) or given away (for example, included with a purchase or handed out to fans after a show). Download codes can be shared with your fans online (think “To access this fan-exclusive single, visit and enter the following code…”).

You can also choose between Static Codes and Dynamic Codes:

  • Static Codes: This means you purchase one code that has unlimited downloads. This option is great for offering free downloads. You still collect the email addresses, and fans can share your code via social channels or by word of mouth.
  • Dynamic Codes: You can purchase an unlimited number of unique codes. However, each code is only good for one download. This option is ideal for sold codes, where you don’t want the code shared with anyone besides the buyer.

Are Easy And Free

We made it super easy for you to set things up. There’s no hosting, no coding, and no software required. You simply purchase the codes or cards online, log in on the NWDownload site, and upload your file. You can send fans to the site with your download code, you can hand out or sell the cards in person, or you can do both.

NWDownload will do all the hosting for you, and they’ll do it for free.

What can be better than that?

  • Order Your Download Cards or Download Codes
    Order Your Download Cards or Download Codes from NationWide Disc

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Make Money with Merch In Four Easy Steps--Tips for Choosing Your Product Without Losing Money

Make Money with Merch in Four Easy Steps—Tips for Choosing Your Product Without Losing Money

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

With digital music sales declining and music streaming robbing artists of yet another income opportunity, one of the few remaining viable revenue sources for indie musicians is a merch table.

I know. It doesn’t sound thrilling, and it carries nothing close to the rush of performing on stage. You’re an artist and performer, not a product pitch person. But, if you want a sustainable music career and not just an expensive hobby, you’ve got to learn to sell merch. It’s harsh, but true.

Think about the musicians you admire, the big artists who have already “made it”. When was the last time you went to their concert and didn’t see merchandise for sale? Never, right? That’s because these major artists understand the importance of selling merchandise. They rely on that extra income. When done correctly, it’s entirely possible that their profit from merch sales far outweighs their cut from ticket sales. If merch sales are so crucial to the success of these big artists, why would you shrink away from adopting the concept for your own career?

You shouldn’t. It’s time to stop making excuses and start making some choices. The longer you procrastinate, the more income you risk losing. Take some time today—now, even—to figure out what merchandise works best for your band and your fans.

Unless you are bringing in big money without merch sales and don’t need any extra, read on.

Choosing Your Merchandise

Let’s start by talking about the merch itself. Selling merch does require an investment, and choosing the wrong items—those that don’t end up selling—can result in money lost. Since your goal is to increase your income, that’s an especially frustrating and disappointing result.

You might be tempted to jump out and make large purchases of product to place on your merch table only to find that you missed the mark. Or, you might be so afraid of winding up with 700 CDs (or stickers, or shirts) left over in your closet that you haven’t ordered anything. Neither is a good place to be.

The following four tips can help remove some of the mystery when ordering merch and, hopefully, prevent you from making mistakes.

Popularity. Some items—your music on CDs or t-shirts with your artwork on them—are obvious choices, but others aren’t so clear. Ask yourself what your fans want to buy. If you’re out of touch with your fans or haven’t been selling merch, it might be difficult to answer this question. You can start by talking to or observing other artists in your genre or area who are already selling merch. What products are they offering, and what are people picking up and buying? Also find out what hasn’t worked.

Once you find a winner, stick with it; don’t tinker too much with perfection. If an item is a loser, dump it. Replace badly performing product with new choices. Don’t allow your merch table look empty and unexciting.

Quantity: how much should you buy to start? Once you’ve decided on a product to offer, how much should you buy up front? While it’s okay to be optimistic and hope for big sales, it is wise to test the market first. This might mean paying a higher per-piece price at first, but that’s better than a low per-piece price on a large order of product that doesn’t sell.

For example: you decide to sell a beer mug with your logo on it and think you can get $8 each on your merch table. If you buy 500 mugs, your cost is $3 per mug, which means your profit would be $5 per mug. Sounds good… if all the mugs sell. Or, you might decide to test the market and buy only 10 mugs, but then your cost jumps to $10 per mug. This means you lose $2 every time you sell a mug for $8. What should you do? Start with 10 mugs. While you do not want to be in the business of losing money, a $100 loss for 10 unsold mugs is nothing compared to a $1,500 loss for 500 unsold mugs.

It might cost a little more up front, but applying this practice to all new merch products will save you big money in the long run.

Price point and margin. These two items work hand in hand. Price point is the amount you charge your fans for the product, and margin is the amount of gross profit you make from the sale. For example: if your t-shirts cost you $7 each, and you sell them for $15 each, then your margin would be $8 each. This represents a reasonable margin of 53%.

Only two things really matter here: how much you have to spend to purchase the merch, and how much income the merch generates. The less you have to spend to generate a large income, the better. Spending ties up money and that money is at risk. Keeping your costs low is important. However, you don’t want to sacrifice quality on product or price things far higher than their actual value. Merchandise that falls apart or looks cheap probably won’t sell well, especially if it’s priced like high-quality merchandise.

A good merch decision has a low cost and a high sales price. If you can invest a small amount and still have the potential of high margins, then the item is a home run. The most obvious example of this for the indie musician is a CD in custom packaging.

Here’s an example: You purchase 200 duplicated CDs in 6-Panel Digipaks with overwrap. Your cost after shipping and handling is a total of  $442. The per-piece price is $2.21. Now, a typical sales price for this type of CD is $12 – $15 dollars. If I use $12 (the low end) in my example, your margin is $9.79, or 81%. This is a great margin! You have to sell just 25% of your product to recoup your entire investment.

A bad merch decision involves high cost and low margins. For example, spending $25 each on products you can only sell for $35. Yes, you might make $10 on each sale, but you tied up (risked) $25 to make $10. This is not a good strategy. Products with a higher cost don’t allow you as much room to adjust the pricing if it doesn’t sell well; on the above item, you can only discount the price $10 before you start losing money on each sale. You also have to sell a greater quantity (71% of your order) just to break even on your investment.

Remember this important tip when choosing products to sell: Pick products that require a small initial investment, have great margin, and don’t require you to purchase huge quantities to make the numbers work.

Turns. This is a retail term that describes how often you sell out of your stock of an item and have to buy more. If a product has a high turn rate, it is selling well, and your initial investment is being recovered quickly.

A target turn rate for an independent musician might be between 4-6 turns per year. That means you limit your purchase of a product to the amount you will sell in 2-3 months—no more.

Products that do not turn well might sit on your merch table for 6-12+ months, becoming “worn and tired”. Put a sale price on these products, and get rid of them. Try to get your original investment back, if possible.

In the clothing industry, turn means everything. If a store can’t sell its entire inventory by the end of a season, it dumps the clothing at about 10% of the original price just to move it out of the store. Otherwise, the buildup of out-of-season and last year’s fashion means a waste of their customers’ time and a decrease in customer traffic.

The same principle applies to musicians and merch. Don’t let your merch become worn, and don’t buy more product than you can sell in three months.

Poor turn ratios of merchandise cause more businesses to fail than any other single item.

A Few Points About Your Table

It’s important to have a merch table that looks good with product clearly displayed for sale. Simply throwing it out on a table isn’t going to impress your fans. Consider a table covering and skirt. If possible, add nice displays; custom-printed corrugated displays are cheaper than you think.

Mention the products and your merch table in a tasteful way while you are performing. Offer to sign anything purchased that evening, or—if business is unusually slow—offer to give something away.

Make sure your table is manned the entire time you are in the venue. This means when the doors open, while all acts are playing, and as people head out. Being personally present at your table is also advisable.

Above all else, capture names and email addresses from everyone who purchases your product (and, if you can, those who don’t). These fans represent your best opportunity to sell more products in the future.

Do not treat merch as an afterthought. If you aren’t behind your own merch, what makes you think your fans will be?

Real Examples on How to Not Sell Merch

I just got back from a short trip. We stayed in a wonderful little resort town, and I had the opportunity to listen to some live music—two talented and entertaining acts at two different venues—while I was there. The crowds weren’t huge—sixty-five people at one venue, and 120 at the other—and, like me, most people were visiting the area and hadn’t heard of the musicians. However, quick glances around the room indicated that everyone was enjoying the performances.

This is a prime situation to sell merchandise. You have captive audiences who are clearly enjoying your work and who haven’t likely purchased your product before. Additionally, based on the setting, the audience could afford to spend a little money on something to help them remember their evening or trip. A tastefully displayed quality product would have been a hit.

Yet, neither musician had any merch displayed.

During breaks in the shows, I approached the musicians to compliment them on their performances, and I asked if they had any music for sale. Both musicians dug around in a bag before producing a couple of CDs. The packaging was very basic: a slim line jewel case without any printed material. Both artists priced their music at $25 per disc, or all three discs for $50. The packaging and lack of display suggested that the artists did not think much of their own music, while the high prices said otherwise.

While I bought CDs from each artist, no one else did. Either the audience didn’t realize there was product available, or they were put off by the high price for a poorly presented product. Had the artists offered quality product on a nice display, they might have made several hundred dollars in merch sales that night.

Super Fans Make For Super Profits

Untapped audiences, like those in the above anecdote, are a nice find, but they aren’t your main targets for merchandise sales. Instead, you should focus on selling to your existing fans, especially your “super fans”. Super fans like and support almost everything you do, and this includes buying your merchandise.

Knowing this, try to set goals. If you want your super fans to purchase $100 of product a year, do you have enough new high-quality merchandise available to reach that goal? If not, it’s time to make some changes.

This might mean that you need to focus on releasing new music to sell. Fans love new music; if it has been a while since your last release, odds are good that your fans are more than ready.

An artist friend of mine just released a new album and sold 350 CDs at just three shows. He made more money on this new release in one week than he made in the last 12 months on merch sales. He already recouped his entire investment in the CDs, plus some. The best news is that his new release continues to sell, and he still has product available. You should also know that this happened after he confided in me that he thought his fans were “worn out” on his music. He could not have been more wrong.

If you’re wanting to establish a long-term, sustainable career as a musician, it’s time to accept the fact that selling merch is in your future. Do it well, though, and it will be more than worth your time and effort.

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Five Tips for Designing Your CD Packaging

Five Tips For Designing Your CD Packaging

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

As an experienced musician, you know your instrument like the back of your hand. You’ve spent thousands of hours with it, memorizing every last detail, exploring every feature, and learning every sound it can possibly produce. You know how to care for it, how to tune it, and how to make it produce the right sounds at the right times.

That knowledge produces some pretty incredible results, and after hundreds or thousands of hours, you’re almost ready to order your new album. All that’s left is creating your album artwork… while that’s something you haven’t spent hours mastering, there are steps you can take and tips you can learn to make the process easier.

If you’re thinking about designing the album artwork yourself, here are some quick tips you should know about setting up your design files.

Bleed is Important…

When you print one copy of something, it’s easy to take time to ensure that it is trimmed precisely. When you have hundreds (or thousands) of the same something to cut, the task of cutting out individual sheets, with precision, becomes daunting.

Commercial printers do have equipment that speeds up the process—either by using pre-programmed measurements to cut each piece, or by cutting large quantities all at once—but even the best pieces of equipment aren’t 100% accurate all of the time (due to the limits of technology and paper stretch). The discrepancy is usually small, but, without bleed, even being half a millimeter off on cutting produces a noticeable white line down the edge of the paper. That’s not what you want for your jewel case insert or digipak. The solution? Extend the artwork slightly beyond the desired cut line—i.e., add bleed. This gives the print shop a margin of error when trimming. That way, if they happen to be slightly off when cutting, the continued artwork shows up instead of the white paper.

In the printing industry, .125” is a commonly requested bleed setting; this means the artwork extends .125” from the cut line on each side. This will be cut off, so do not include anything like text or titles in this area; please see the next comment about safety margins for more details.

Bleed and Safety Cushion

… As Are Safety Margins

While bleed extends artwork out from the cut line to provide a margin of error, safety margins move inward from the cut line for the same purpose. If critical elements—such as your song titles, lyrics, album credits, or a portion of a photograph—are lined up right on the cut line, they run the risk of being trimmed off. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to leave a gap or cushion between essential design elements and the desired cut line.

The size of the margin changes from one print shop to another, but .125” from the edge is a great place to start.

Colors Are Not Created Equally

If you’re not immersed in the design or printing worlds, you might not have heard of CMYK or RGB, let alone know the differences. But if you’re designing your album’s artwork, it’s an important distinction to know.

RGB colors—where each shade is created by combining red, green, and blue pixels—are used by thousands of electronic devises: televisions, phone screens, computer monitors, and cameras. Higher quantities of the contributing colors result in lighter tones, and lower quantities create darker tones. RGB colors can appear to be very vibrant, but this is in part because they are lit on a screen. It’s also important to note that different displays and devices can have different RGB profiles.

On the other hand, CMYK colors are the standard format for the printing industry. With CMYK printing, the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks are combined to create colors. Because physical surfaces like paper don’t generate light like screens, less ink means lighter colors (less ink covering the white paper), and more ink mean richer or darker colors.

These two different color profiles can create issues when designing your album artwork. Not every RGB color has a CMYK counterpart, and vice versa. The two profiles also represent very different technologies—a back-lit computer screen vs. ink on paper. This means two things:

  1. Files designed in RGB can look very different when converted to CMYK for printing. Some CD manufacturers offer digital proofs of your order. If your proof file looks different from the file you submitted (for example, the colors are off, or the blacks look gray), it’s probably because your submitted file was created with RGB and it has been converted to CMYK for printing.
  2. The color you see on your computer screen will not match the printed material. Even if the file on the screen is CMYK, it’s still back-lit. There will always be some discrepancy in appearance between the screen image and the printed product.


To reduce the chance of a drastic color shift, it’s best to design and export your file using CMYK settings.

Understanding Resolution

Resolution is described in terms of pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi). When fewer dots are needed to fill a space, the resolution is lower/worse. This is because the dots have to be larger, making them more distinguishable.

Think about a fence. If the boards are eight inches wide and seven feet tall, you’ll be able to pick them out fairly easily from twenty feet away, and it won’t take many boards to span a section of fencing. However, if the fence is made from tiny wooden sticks—the size of toothpicks—all lined up perfectly, identifying individual sticks from twenty feet away becomes difficult, and it’ll take a lot more sticks to cover the same section.

It’s important to design your album artwork at a high resolution and at the proper dimensions. For example, if the image will be used at 4″ x 5″ in the printed material, then it needs to be that size and high resolution in its original form. Trying to increase the resolution of a low-resolution image (say, resampling from 72 dpi to 300 dpi) causes a loss of quality, since it just samples nearby pixels to meet the desired resolution settings. Likewise, taking an image that is high-resolution and scaling its dimensions up (from a 1” square to a 5” square, for example) results in a lower resolution, since each pixel is stretched to meet the file’s new dimensions. Taking a large image and scaling it down in dimension can result in a higher resolution image if you don’t change the number of pixels.

Image Resolution

For printing, 300 dpi is the industry standard for photographic images; higher resolutions are acceptable for other types of artwork.

The Right File Type

Saving your album artwork file in the right format is important, but the right format will vary from one CD manufacturer to the next. Submitting the right file type can prevent errors and delays on your order.

Some print shops will accept design files (IDML, INDD, or PSD files, for example); however, since these file types are not usually readable by the printers themselves, they’ll need to be opened and exported into readable file types. This creates a chance for error, especially if links and fonts aren’t submitted with the design file.

To avoid potential errors and the extra step of exporting files, other print shops will only accept already-exported files. These include PDF, TIFF, JPEG, and EPS file types. Some will even request that you use specific export presets.

To know for sure which file type is right, check with your print shop or CD manufacturer.

Bonus Tip

When you’re ordering your CD and CD packaging, the CD manufacturer wants your order to be as right as possible. It’s true. They don’t want to bug you about missing files or fonts, text that’s cut off, or low-resolution pictures, and they don’t want to ship you finished product that has all of these issues or more. They do want to manufacture your order in a timely, efficient manner and ship you quality product with beautiful artwork—something they and you can be proud of.

To help achieve this goal, many manufacturers have a design team ready to create artwork for the musicians who can’t do it themselves.

For musicians who want to tackle this step on their own, the CD manufacturer might also offer templates for a variety of design programs. These templates are set up to include the correct bleed settings, guide marks, and dimensions. Be sure to use the right template for your project—there is a difference between a 4-panel digipak and a 4-panel jewel case. You’ll also need to open them in the right color profile and resolution settings and save or export them correctly. Using the provided templates will greatly reduce the odds of production issues on your order.

And that’s it! Five tips, plus one, to help you create your own album artwork. Now, get back to that instrument you love!

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Compact Disc Face Printing: What to Avoid

CD Face Printing: DIY Or Not?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

If you’re considering selling merchandise at gigs and including physical CDs (both are great ways to increase your profits from music), then you’ve probably wondered if it would save you some money by making those CDs yourself.

Your choice should primarily focus on just three things: quality, cost, and available time. Some options for printing on a disc face should not be considered regardless of your situation, but you still have a choice to make—should I do it myself or get professional help? For the most part, professional production will provide a less expensive and better product than DIY disc face printing, but DIY might be best if you’re on a super-tight schedule. Read on for some crucial tips.

To help you make your decision, we’ll look at the various options and add up the related costs. This article will focus on duplicated discs since this is the only option available to DIYers.

CDs With Printed Labels Applied

Short of writing on the disc face with a permanent marker, CDs with a label applied to the face is the standard image most people associate with DIY CD printing. We do not recommend this method unless you have absolutely no other options. Labels are expensive, cumbersome, unprofessional looking, and—most importantly—they can come off of the disc and create a real problem for your fans. Can you imagine your fan’s reaction to your disc jamming their car’s disc player? Not good.

Pros: This method is something you can do at home with most standard printers, and it gives you a solution for short run projects. This option is more acceptable for very short runs (10 discs or less) or when you have absolutely no time to get your discs made by the pros (i.e., the gig is tonight and you have to get these on the merch table in just a few hours).

Cons: For one reason or another—whether the image smears after handling or the label is slightly off-center—this method always looks homemade, which can cheapen the value of your product. CDs with labels are also fairly expensive; most of the time you can get a better product that is also cheaper by buying your CDs from a professional supplier. Lets discuss each of the potential problems in more detail:

  • An off-center label can cause balance issues with the CD, affecting playability; this happens a lot since it is difficult to place an adhesive label on the disc at just the right spot.
  • A wrinkle in the label can cause issues with players (particularly slot-loading players) as the CD may become jammed in the player. If this happens, you have to dislodge the CD; in some cases, that requires taking the player apart (not much fun if the player is in your car’s dashboard). Additionally, the label adhesive can wear off over time; this can cause a big headache if the label comes off while the CD is in a player.
  • Most printers that print CD labels use inkjet technology that is not waterproof. If anyone touches the printed surface with a slight amount of moisture on his fingertips, the image will smear.
  • Lastly, it takes a good chunk of time to print and apply labels on CDs, and the supplies are not cheap. Your per disc price will still be very high when compared to professional production.

Cost: To make your own CDs with labels, you’ll need a few things:

  • Discs
  • Label stock
  • A printer (starting around $40 and up to $100 for a basic model)
  • Ink (between $35 and $80 for a set)
  • Software

Assuming you don’t have any supplies beyond your computer, creating your 100 CDs with this method could cost $130 bucks or more (buying the cheapest printer available). If you have the printer on-hand and don’t buy the software/kit for design/positioning, the price for 100 discs and labels is roughly $65 – $85, or about $0.65 to $0.85 per disc (depending on ink coverage). You still have to attach the labels to the disc face. Since it is likely that some discs and labels will be damaged and made unusable in the process, you should factor this in when calculating your final cost.

Keep in mind that these costs don’t include putting the content on the discs. External disc burners or professional-grade disc duplicators can take the price up drastically. If you choose to burn the discs on your computer one at a time, then no additional investment in equipment may be necessary, but it can take quite a bit of time to burn the discs.

CDs with Directly Printed Faces

Another DIY method of CD printing is printing on the disc face itself. In recent years, a decent number of home printers with this capability were released. While many models have since been discontinued, there are still some available. The majority of these printers are geared toward at-home photo printing, and this is where most of these models shine. The printers come with a special attachment that allows the printer to print directly on a disc face instead of paper. Please note that these machines are not intended for a production environment. Do not go down this path if you want to print a large quantity of discs or use this technology for an extended period of time.

Pros: This method results in a more polished, professional product than labels, since the design is printed directly on the disc face. There is no label to come unglued. Time is on your side when you need a short run quickly—no need to send the project out to get it done.

Cons: Not every home printer is able to do this; special equipment may be necessary. Many of the same challenges that face labels also face direct print. Most printers that direct print CD labels use technology that is not waterproof. If anyone touches the printed surface with a slight amount of moisture on his fingertips, the image will smear. Direct printing your own CDs is also fairly expensive; you can expect to spend $0.85 or more per disc if you already own the equipment, much more if you need to purchase the printer. Most of the time you can get a better product that is also cheaper by buying your CDs from a professional supplier (if time allows).

Cost: To make CDs with direct print on the disc face, you’ll need a few things: (prices are estimates)

  • Discs
  • Printers (from $300 to $800)
  • Ink (from $125 to $270 for a set)

While this option provides a more polished product than printed-then-applied labels, the expenses can add up quickly. Going with a more affordable printer, it can run you over $475 to get started. Even if you already have the printer, the cost of ink and CDs alone starts at $175. This is significant because you can usually purchase your discs from a professional supplier for less money, even if you already own the equipment.

These costs don’t include putting the content on the discs.

Professionally-Created CDs 

Instead of applying CD labels or investing in expensive printing equipment (that you may or may not use for other items), you might consider ordering professionally-created CDs. If time allows (most can manufacture bulk discs in just a few days), then this option will save you money and provide a better product than the do-it-yourself methods. You may have to pay shipping costs (if the company you choose has to ship the CDs to you), but you might be able to avoid sales taxes.

Most importantly, the quality of printing will be better than either DIY option. Check with your supplier to confirm that they use inks that will not smear when exposed to water and that all printing will be done directly on the disc face. No labels of any kind should be used. You might also ask if they can print close to the hub of the disc, which gives you more printed surface on the disc and looks better. Some manufacturers can only print part of the disc face and leave a large unprinted ring (up to 1.25” in diameter) in the middle of the disc face.

Pros: Ordering CDs frees up your time and energy to focus on your music, and you don’t have to worry about putting the content on the CD. Using a supplier has a variety of other benefits, including packaging options, a variety of quantities, price breaks for ordering in volume, and even programs to help make getting the product you want more affordable.

Cons: You’ll need to find a reliable supplier who puts out a quality product at a fair price, and you’ll have to work with production timelines. If you have to get discs for tonight’s gig, then professional production is not likely an option. Plan ahead for next time and save some money.

Costs: You might be thinking that ordering CDs is outside your price range. Think again:

  • 50 duplicated discs with full color face and content on the disc: $43*
  • 100 duplicated discs with full color face and content on the disc: $77

There are so many choices to make regarding selling merchandise, even when narrowed down to a CD. Whichever you decide, be creative and remember the content matters the most!

* Professionally-created disc prices taken from our parent site,

See also: How Many CDs Should I Purchase For A First Release?, Choosing The Right Packaging For Your Band’s CD

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SongCast: Selling Your Music

Selling Your Music: SongCast

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

With digital music retailers often requiring the use of music distributors or music aggregators, these third party companies are becoming an almost-necessary element in an independent musician’s sales strategy. With many distributors to choose from, selecting the best option for you has never been easier (or harder, depending on how you look at it). In this article, we’ll cover SongCast, one of the digital music distribution options available.

What SongCast Offers

For starters, see if you recognize any of these music retailers: iTunes, Google Play, AmazonMP3, Rhapsody, Spotify, MediaNet, Emusic. SongCast partners with all of them. The service provides access to sales reports for each retail platform, including iTunes Daily Trending Data, to let you to see where your music is selling best.

With its Music Page feature, SongCast offers integration with social media. You can feature your music on your Facebook profile, add purchase buttons, build a mailing list, and post a calendar of upcoming shows.

SongCast’s Indie Artist Radio Network puts your music on multiple networks, including iTunes Radio. The Indie Radio App (for Facebook) allows subscribers to discover new artists, share their favorite tracks with friends, create playlists, and message the artist directly. Participating artists can see who is listening to them and where, which songs are being tagged on lists, and so much more. This service is in addition to the distribution service, and it costs $7.99 per track per month.

Making Money From SongCast

As a SongCast artist, you retain 100 percent of all royalties on digital music, as well as 35 percent on CDs sold through Amazon Disc-On-Demand.

SongCast’s Costs

SongCast charges monthly membership dues of $5.99. To add product for distribution, members pay a single up-front fee of either $9.99 per single or $19.99 per album.

Signing Up For SongCast

Signing up is easy, although a little preparation is required. SongCast will ask you for your album’s title and the titles of all the tracks on it. It will then prompt you to upload album cover art in the form of a 1400 x 1400 pixel JPG, PNG, or GIF file. Uploading the music is next. SongCast takes care of file conversion for you. With many retailers requiring different formats, this conversion service is a huge time-saver.

SongCast’s Customer Support

Customer/user support is solid. If you can’t find your answer in any one of the pages of tutorials, FAQ, or their knowledgebase, you can file a support ticket through the site. There’s even a separate address for inquiries you might have before creating an account.

So, the verdict? SongCast offers a hassle-free music distribution venue that won’t break the bank. Without worries, you can feel freer than ever to share with the world.

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Ordering CDs: How Many Should Your Band Purchase?

How Many CDs Should I Purchase for a First Release?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Hint: Probably not 100 or 1000

There are many decisions to make when ordering merchandise for your band. In general, you need to figure out which products you want, which supplier you want to work with, how many variations you want, and how many of each you should order. Specifically, when ordering CDs, the questions you face are whether you’ll do it yourself or order professionally-manufactured product, which manufacturer you’ll use, whether you want duplicated or replicated discs, what type of packaging is best, whether or not you need special add-ons, and, lastly, how many CDs you should order.

Is your head spinning after reading that sentence? Ours are. The process can be a little overwhelming. To make things easier, we’ll address just one of those decisions today: how many discs your band should order.

There are a few schools of thought on which path you should take:

The Warehouse Shopper Approach

The warehouse shopper argues that buying in bulk saves you money and, therefore, is the best option, always, no matter what. Someone with this mindset probably has 94 rolls of toilet paper for their studio apartment, 7 unopened tubes of toothpaste on standby, a giant box of frozen burritos (okay, that might come in handy), three 48-oz jars of coffee grounds (which is enough to make 1140 6-oz servings), and multiple bottles of ketchup bigger than your head.

Yes, there are benefits to buying in larger quantities. For starters, you’re unlikely to run out of something. Then there’s the financial aspect: increasing the quantity of your purchase generally lowers the cost per piece. For CD purchases, a CD in a six-panel wallet with shrink wrap runs $369* for 200 pieces, or you can get 1000 for $769. While you’re spending more money overall on the larger purchase, the per-piece price drops from $1.85 to $.77. That’s an impressive savings. On the other hand, you might not be considering such extremes; 100 CDs in six-panel wallets are $220, and 200 are only $369. The only real financial consideration here is the $149 that you will pay to get twice as many packaged discs.

But there are disadvantages to ordering in bulk. First, that price. It’s a bigger up-front expense, even if it saves you money in the long run. While you’re saving up for the big purchase, you may be missing out on the chance to sell CDs to fans who want your music now. These incremental sales can help grow your fan base, and they are still highly profitable sales. Second: volume. When buying large quantities, you have to spend more money on shipping to have the CDs delivered to your house and use more of your valuable closet space to store them. Third: risk. That’s the biggy. No one wants to lose money on a CD release because they still have 75% of their inventory in storage and sales have slowed to a stop. You never get money back on CDs that don’t sell.

The Overly Careful & Cautious Approach

The antithesis of the warehouse shopper approach is the overly careful and cautious method. This shopper buys groceries daily (or constantly dines out) to avoid their food spoiling before it has the chance to be consumed. They don’t replace or restock something until it’s absolutely needed. Nothing is wasted.

There are some benefits to this concept. First, you don’t have to store ridiculously large amounts of anything anywhere. This means no boxes of CDs sitting in your closet for months if sales are slow. Second, your risk is minimized.  Just like there is the smallest possible chance of food rotting before being consumed, there is less chance that you will lose money on large quantities of CDs that do not sell.

But, when you are thinking about your music and your CD… that’s an awfully pessimistic approach to take. If you’ve been performing, have rehearsed night and day, regularly book gigs and draw crowds, and have recorded your music, why would you say “well, we’d better order the smallest amount possible, in case no one buys our music…”?

Also, you tend to pay more for the convenience and low-risk of small quantity purchases.

So… How Many CDs DO You Buy?

First, tune out the shouting on both sides of the argument. Second, know this: there’s not a universal right or wrong answer on this matter. Now, to answer the question at hand:

Think about what stage your band is at.

Is this your first CD order, and you’re not sure how many CDs you’ll be able to sell? If you’ve been gigging regularly and have a fan base, you’ve already “tested the market”. Look at the data available to you from that testing. How many followers do you have on social media? If your music is online, what does your streaming or download rate look like? How many fans show up at your shows? How many times have you been asked if you have a CD for sale? (If you’ve been asked this question, we hope you kept the questioner’s contact information.) If you don’t have existing support and demand, a large CD order is a big risk.

For more-established bands, how did your past orders sell? Is this a reorder of the same product? If so, how saturated is your fan base with this product? If it’s a new release and you’ve had success selling a large quantity of CDs in prior releases, then you will probably benefit from the better per-piece pricing of a larger quantity, and your risk of unsold CDs is not nearly as high.

Plan ahead.

Consider what events you have scheduled. If you’re heading out on tour in a few weeks, is a small order going to last the length of your tour? How easy will it be to reorder from the road? Also, do you have the space to bring along a large order?

How are you going to promote this release? The right type of promotion can help generate demand. Not all artists can pull Beyoncé’s stunt and release a CD with zero up-front promotion and watch it sell faster than water in the Sahara. Odds are, without good promotion, your eager fans won’t know that you have something to offer them, and your sales will suffer.

Know the reasons.

Why are you ordering CDs? Are you including it in press kits? Is it for fans? Is the project a special edition/limited release deal? Press kits and limited release orders might justify a smaller quantity, whereas standard orders for your fans could probably support larger bulk orders.

The Answer

We don’t know what stage your band is at, what you have planned, or why you’re ordering CDs, so we can’t answer this question for you. If you truly only need 100, then order 100. If you’re good to order 1000, more power to you. If the answer is somewhere in the middle—from regular orders of 500 discs, to a smaller order now to help you afford a long one down the road—that’s fine too.

Regardless of your specific answer, there is a manufacturer who can meet your needs. For example, finding a manufacturer who offers replicated discs in quantities of 100 is difficult, but it’s not impossible. NationWide Disc offers replicated disc packages that start at 100 pieces.

NationWide Disc also has its Indie Club program, which allows artists to re-order replicated discs (with or without packaging) from 100 to 500 pieces at half off the original purchase price. It changes the quantity problem entirely. Purchase a small amount of replicated discs in packaging, and then have the option to re-order more if you have a knock down hit with your release. No need to make a risky investment.

For example: Purchase 300 replicated CDs in a six-panel digipak with shrink wrap for $509. Your release is a hit and now you need to order 300 more. Great! On the first re-order you pay just $254.50. In fact, with the 300 piece Indie Club order program you can also re-order again for an additional 300 packages (making the total 900) and still pay just $254.50 for the second re-order. There is a $49 one-time fee to qualify your project for the Indie program. If you do not need to order more than your original quantity of 300 pieces, you have no obligation to purchase any more discs.

The point is, if you don’t see the option you need listed on an order form, call and ask if it’s something they can do for you.

* All prices are taken from our parent site, Prices do not include shipping.

See also: Ordering Merchandise: CD Duplication vs. Replication, Choosing the Right Packaging for Your Band’s CD

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