Category: Selling Your Music

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Amazon or CD Baby, Which is Better for CD Sales?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 20 minutes

Review of Amazon Advantage and CD Baby for Musicians

It’s true. Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world, with an ambitious goal to eventually sell everything that can be bought. So what does that mean for you, the independent musician? Does it make sense for you to sell your CDs on Amazon? How does CD Baby match up? Well, let’s take a look.

First we should point out that CD Baby clients can already sell their music on Amazon since CD Baby distributes through Amazon. But, you may want to list your CD with Amazon directly without a middleman. Amazon Advantage offers you the ability to sell physical CDs directly. We will explain why this is important.

Overview of Amazon

Amazon boasted 244 million users as of January 2016, of which approximately 54 million are prime members. (Prime members get free 2 day shipping on most items). Amazon has processed up to five hundred orders per second, and sales volume is about $290 million per day. Most of the sales volume has to do with a wide variety of physical and digital products, music being one of them.

Sales growth in the last 5 years has tripled with no end in sight. In terms of your music’s availability and exposure, this could be a big opportunity for you. Amazon features various ways for musicians to sell music – and we do mean various. In this review we are going to focus on Amazon Advantage – the service that Amazon offers directly to musicians and other creative types for the sale of their physical products like CDs and DVDs. The unique part of the Amazon offer is you do not have to submit your music through a third party to get listed on Amazon. In fact Amazon has a simple user friendly application process that you can complete on-line. Check out the link at the end of this article.

Amazon also offers digital download, but the real opportunity to generate meaningful income for independent musicians is selling full albums. Digital download platforms skew very heavily towards the purchase of singles, not albums. In effect, fans might like your music well enough to purchase it but when they are offered the opportunity to purchase one song rather than an album they most often choose to purchase one song. An artist makes 8-10 times as much money on the sale of an album rather than a single, and your fans get exposure to more of your music. In other words, album sales result in better marketing and better income.

Overview of CD Baby

CD Baby is focused on musicians without all of the other non-artist related products. This allows CD Baby to concentrate all of their efforts in this one arena and the result is a variety of tools specifically designed for artists such as digital distribution of your music through iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. If you are primarily interested in digital distribution then CD Baby is a good choice. They also do an acceptable job of selling CDs when musicians refer fans to their personal CD Baby page directly. They are one of a few companies that offer both digital and CD distribution along with competitive up front pricing and a relatively low 9% participation fee to sell your digital download products. Please be aware that the 9% fee is in addition to the fees charged by the partner reseller.

CD Baby does a good job with traffic on their site probably due to the 300,000+ albums that they have signed up. More albums means more traffic, but it is unlikely that the average music fan will visit the website searching for music by artists unless they are searching for an artist they already know. If you are uncertain about this point, ask the next 10 people you meet how they buy music. I suspect you will not hear anyone say CD Baby.

By the way, CD Baby could become a site where fans search for music, but the search and recommendation functions need to improve. Fans choosing an artist on their site do not get recommendations to view similarly styled artists offering music for sale. Instead CD Baby displays artists from the same geographic area as the artist fans are choosing. For example, if a fan is on the Shaun Murphy page they can click on a link for “More Artists from Tennessee”. Not a very effective recommendation tool for most fans.

Getting Started

Amazon Advantage is a consignment service that benefits self-published artists. In some ways it is similar to CD Baby’s retail store.

To use Amazon Advantage you must first have a physical product (i.e. CD or DVD) to sell, among other things, and your product is required to have a barcode – ISBN, UPC, or EAN. Amazon also requires that you have Internet access and an email address, which shouldn’t be a problem – unless of course you’re reading this article on a printed hard copy your great-grandson gave you and you don’t have an email address.

Amazon has an approval process for new accounts (not everyone gets approved). But if your content is good and you meet minimum guidelines you should have no trouble getting approved. Once you’ve created an Advantage account, paid your $99 annual membership fee, and established that you have the rights to sell the music on your album, Amazon will “order” from you. The $99 fee is charged once per year for an unlimited number of submissions, so you can submit as few as one song or 100 albums, either way the total fee is just $99.

This is significantly different from other services that charge you a fee based on the number of songs or albums you submit. If you intend to submit a single song or just one album the $99 charge is quite high, but if you have at least two albums for sale the expense is per album is much better. In the end it’s all about sales volume. The only way to make money on music is to sell it, without exposure and sales the upfront fees will always be too expensive, regardless of which platform you choose to distribute your music.

CD Baby also has an approval process for new accounts but virtually everyone gets approved. CD Baby makes a distinction between submission of albums and individual songs. CD Baby charges $9.95 per single or $49 per album as a one time up front charge per submission, you do not have to pay annually. This is great if you intend to submit one album or song, but multiple submissions in a year can become quite expensive. CD Baby does offer a discount structure if you are going to submit several different selections.

The difference in the way both companies charge for their service can be summed up like this:

CD Baby charges every time you submit a new CD, but you do not have to pay additional subscriptions fees on that CD every year. Each submission has a onetime charge only. (Does not apply to fees charged when a CD is sold – additional charges are imposed when CDs are sold)

Amazon Advantage charges a subscription fee of $99 every year you participate in the program, but you do not have to pay for submitting additional CDs. Whether you list 1 CD or 100 CDs, the price is still $99. (Does not apply to fees charged when a CD is sold – additional charges are imposed when CDs are sold)

Both Amazon and CD Baby will request CDs to keep in their inventory and sell/distribute them as fans order CDs. Both will reorder from you weekly, depending on sales volume, assuming fans are ordering your music and the inventory of CDs is becoming depleted.

What Happens Next

Once Amazon receives your CDs, fans can search for your music on Amazon and the CD will show up, just like the toilet paper and running shoes they search for now. When fans purchase your CD, Amazon ships the CD and records the sale on your account. Every month your sales are totaled and Amazon pays you for your portion of the sale. In other words, you can expect to get paid on a monthly basis.

CD Baby works much the same way, but they pay weekly in most cases. Your music is searchable on the CD Baby site just like Amazon.

Setting the Price for Your Music

On Amazon, you set the retail price for your CD, and Amazon charges you 55% of that amount as a fee for selling your CD, so keep this in mind when creating the list price. If your retail price is too high your CD will not sell, and Amazon does reserve the right to sell your CD at the price of their choosing, but don’t worry, your profit remains the same. For example, if the retail price for your CD is $12 and it sells for $12 your income is $5.40. If Amazon chooses to lower the retail price to $10 in an effort to stimulate sales, you still receive $5.40. Ultimately if Amazon cannot sell your CDs at a price that allows them to make a reasonable margin they will return them to you and remove them from the site.

CD Baby charges a flat fee of $4 to sell your physical CD on the CD Baby site. This approach is different than Amazon since it is a flat fee and not tied to the sales price. CD Baby will not change the retail price you set for your CD. If you were to sell your CD for $12 on CD Baby you would take home $8, which is better than Amazon at first glance.

On CD Baby, since your fans will also have to pay for shipping, your overall share of the income can be much less than it is on Amazon. And your fans will not be as happy because they have to pay for shipping. Shipping can easily cost more than the CD itself, so this is no small consideration. One way your fan can avoid the shipping fee from CD Baby is by purchasing 3 CDs on one order. But fans may become frustrated with the free shipping offer if they cannot find 3 CDs they want to buy and abandon the purchase all together.

You can also choose to have CD Baby sell your CD through Amazon or one of their other distributors, but the numbers do not look as good for you when this happens, more on that later.

Returns of Unsold Product. Nobody Wants Them

If Amazon cannot sell some of your music they will return the title that is not moving to you at your expense (shipping and handling). If you have 8 titles that are selling well and one that is not selling at all, Amazon will still keep the 8 titles in stock and continue to sell them.

CD Baby does not generally return merchandise that does not sell because you paid CD Baby an up front fee of $49 for every CD you sent to them as an incentive to list your CD for sale (and provide other digital services). If CD Baby returned your CD for lack of sales they would also have to refund the $49 you paid them to sell that specific CD, which of course would impact their profitability. It’s the difference between offering to sell an unlimited number of items for a single higher fee (Amazon) or charging a fee every time an item submitted (CD Baby). Of course CD Baby is also listing your music on partner resellers, which is part of what you paid them for, so returning your money would mean that these services would also stop. This will not happen with CD Baby.

Marketing Your Music, Who does a Better Job?

Through the Advantage program, Amazon does a good job of marketing on your behalf. That means they will recommend your music to possible listeners – i.e. “People who bought this product also like …” and “frequently bought together…” While this by itself is not unique, (other vendors also offer to help market your music), Amazon is the only provider which sells physical CDs that has the attention of 244 million customers. No one else comes close. This is a significant advantage for artists who list with Amazon.

CD Baby also helps to market your CD on their site, but differently than Amazon. For example, CD Baby will allow a fan to select other musicians that live in the same area as the artist being viewed. A fan can also choose from a selection of sub genre’s by clicking on a link, but your CD will not be suggested to a fan even if your music is similarly styled to an artist the fan has already added to their shopping cart. The best way to find your music on CD Baby is to type in your name. The biggest Pro for CD Baby is all of the additional digital services and tools they offer to musicians, which you can still take advantage of without listing your CD for sale on their site. Trying to compare their marketing reach to Amazon’s is almost unfair.

Both Amazon and CD Baby will stock your CDs in their warehouse. This is nice because order processing and distribution can take a lot of time and effort. Amazon and CD Baby also deal with things like sales taxes. Again, these services can save you the headache of keeping up with taxes and shipping, especially if you don’t have an account with major shipping company.

Shipping is FREE with Amazon

Amazon Prime members get their purchases shipped for free. This is huge because Amazon has 54 million Prime members. Check out the math. If a fan purchases a CD from your account on CD Baby, they will be charged from $3.69 to $11.00 for shipping ($3.69 for ground, $11 for 2 day shipping). All Amazon Prime members get 2 day shipping for free as part of their Prime subscription. While no portion of the shipping charges are billed to you the artist, on CD Baby your fan will have to pay for all of the shipping charges. In effect, this increases the cost to purchase your CD and may deter fans from completing the sale. CD Baby does offer fans free ground shipping (it costs $0.01) if they order 3 CDs at a time.

What’s Your Take?

The nicest thing about the Advantage program is that Amazon only charges you 55% to handle the sale, which includes credit card charges, sales taxes, and the cost to ship and package the CD. That may sound steep, but when you consider that other companies offering a similar service to musicians charge about the same or more, but offer much less, this turns out to be a good deal. CD Baby charges $4.00 plus shipping and handling. (your fans pays for the shipping and handling)

As a point of comparison, iTunes typically charges artists 40% (including distributor fees) just for a digital download, and iTunes tends to sell more singles than it does albums, so you end up with just $0.60 for each single sold. Not much money, but arguably better than streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora which pay almost nothing.

What, You Don’t Want It?

Amazon and CD Baby both handle returns, which would never happen to you. Who would return your music? But, if some rando didn’t like what they got, Amazon will eat the cost of the returned product and the return shipping. In other words your account will not be charged for the lost sale or the shipping. Amazon will resell the CD to your next fan and of course you will not get credit for that sale since it is then coming out of the Amazon inventory, not yours.

CD Baby will charge your account for returned product and require the fan pay for shipping to return the item. CD Baby then returns the CD to your available inventory for sale.

Other Things to Consider

Every program has a weakness. For example, if you deal solely with digital files, Amazon Advantage is not for you. And, if you want to sell both hard copy CDs and digital files you have to deal with two different programs. But selling the right product through the correct distributor can make a big difference in your take home pay.

Up front fees can be a problem. What if no one buys your stuff? You’re out $99 bucks with Amazon and $49 with CD Baby (for a full CD). But who are we kidding, that’s not you. Of course your stuff will sell….

Fees for sales through retail partners can also add up. Make sure you know what the real story is when agreeing to sell your product, you might be surprised by how little you make.

The fine print. Differences in Amazon and CD Baby. Important things you should know.

Range of Artists Represented

Amazon features a large number of headliner artists. For example, if you were to look at the top 10 selling artists on Billboard, Amazon usually has all 10 on their site ready for purchase. Amazon also features independent musicians.

CD Baby is a little different. Of the top ten, CD Baby would most likely will not have any of them. Most headliner artists are looking for a bigger platform to sell their music and Amazon fits the bill. This is one of the reasons that Amazon sells more music. (little known fact – Amazon is the second largest seller of MP3 downloads next to iTunes, and Amazon is still growing in this area – iTunes is not).

The significance of this difference is simple but important, fans searching for songs they have heard on the radio do not go to places like CD Baby, but they do go to Amazon. It is hard to be ‘discovered’ by a fan that might be interested in your music if that fan never visits the site where your music is offered.

As an artist you get more exposure from a site that has more music traffic with good marketing and search features.

Fees for Sales of Physical Products

You can choose to deal with Amazon Advantage directly, or you can pay someone else to deal with Amazon on your behalf, but be wary, the costs go way up unless you go direct.

CD Baby will sign your CDs up to sell on partner distributors like Super D, Amazon, and Alliance. All of these partners have their own fee structures so when a partner sells your CD the partner takes out their fees first (in the case of Amazon the fee is 55%*) and then CD Baby also charges a fee of $4 per sale on top of the partner fees.

If you choose to go direct with Amazon Advantage the charge is 55% of the sale as a fee. No additional charges, but you must sign up with Amazon directly, not through another distributor.

Example: Lets suppose you sell a physical CD for $10.00. The first column represents the retail price of the CD and income made by the artist if sold by Amazon thru CD Baby. The second column represents the retail price of the CD and income to the artist if sold by Amazon Advantage directly. The third column represents a sale made on the CD Baby site.

Amazon CD Baby Pay

The purchase of your CD through CD Baby/Amazon costs your fan $21 and the artist gets 50 cents (not good). The sale of your CD through Amazon Advantage without CD Baby costs your fan $10 and you get $4.50. The sale of your CD through CD Baby without Amazon costs your fan $21 and you get $6.00 (assuming 2 day shipping in all cases) The chart shows that the musician makes the most money going through CD Baby if the CD will be sold on the CD Baby site, but it also shows that the fan has to pay an additional $11 in shipping so that the artist can make $1.50.

These numbers change depending on the shipping option chosen by the fan, but we chose 2 day shipping because Amazon offers it for free and fans always want your music quickly. In fact, the speed of delivery might make a big difference in whether the fan makes a purchase or not. There is a pretty remarkable difference in pricing for both the fan and the artist depending on distributor used, so pick wisely.

Amazon has two options for free shipping to customers. As we mentioned before, 54 million Amazon customers are Prime customers, so they get free 2 day shipping. CD Baby charges between $3.69 and $19.14 for shipping depending on where the CD is going and how fast the customer wants their CD. 2 day shipping on my test order was $10.99.

This is significant because CD Baby customers who purchase your CD for say $10 would also have to pay an additional 37% to 120% to have it shipped to them. Amazon customers can make the same purchase for $10 and still have it delivered in 2 days for free.

Another thing to consider is returned merchandise shipping. Amazon prime is free if the product did not meet the customer’s expectations, CD Baby, on the other hand, requires the customer to pay return shipping.

Conclusion

Exposure is everything. Amazon exposes your CD to more fans than anyone else, and if your fan is already on Amazon, you’re making it easy for them to find your music. You could combine the sales exposure of the top 10 independent digital music stores and they would not add up to the exposure you achieve on Amazon Advantage. Plus, Amazon will look at your fans previous purchase’s and recommend music to their taste. And, with Amazon credits they can get your music on the cheap without you taking the hit.

In addition, Amazon is the best experience for your fans, free shipping is hard to compete with – and why not offer it to them? Free returns can also motivate fans to “give your music a try” because returns are painless. Sell through will improve considerably for these two reasons alone.

CD Baby is a great option if you want the other services they offer like distribution through partner resellers and sales widgets for your website. You could choose CD Baby for all of these services, but still use Amazon Advantage to sell your CD. Or you might decide that digital distribution is not all it’s crackup up to be and choose another route, like selling downloads yourself on your own website.

The questions you have to answer for yourself are:

> Which site benefits your fans the most?

> Which site is better at marketing your music?

> Which site has more exposure for your music?

> How many albums will you be listing?

> How are returns handled when a fan chooses not to keep your CD?

> What fees are you charged for each sale (including partners)?

> Have we mentioned FREE shipping?

* We tried to get a definitive answer from CD Baby about the charges on a CD sold by Amazon through CD Baby. We were told that Amazon charges what they charge and CD Baby then charges an additional $4 for every CD sold. CD Baby would not confirm the actual charges by Amazon. In our example we use 55% because this is what Amazon says it charges for the sale of a CD. It would be helpful if CD Baby were a little more transparent about these details. Some numbers are rounded for simplicity.

Link to Amazon Advantage for Musicians:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-product-page.html?topic=200329710

Link to CD Baby for Musicians:

http://members.cdbaby.com/?_ga=1.70752854.771028006.1462566939




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CassetteRevival

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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onerpm

Get Your Music on iTunes and Spotify: Digital Distribution with ONErpm

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

When it comes to digitally distributing your music, there are options galore. From the heavyweights like CD Baby and The Orchard, to smaller companies like Mondotunes, you have options, and can pick the distribution company that is exactly right for you.

In this article we are going to take a look at ONErpm. ONEprm is a digital distribution service based in Brooklyn, NY, with offices in Brazil, and a new office opening in Nashville. They are an iTunes preferred partner, as well as one of the largest multi-channel networks on YouTube. They have quite a few options for independent musicians and labels that distribute through them, and we’re going to give you the run down of their most notable features.  Lets look at what your options are if you choose ONEprm as your digital distributor.

Pricing

ONEprm has 2 main pricing options. But a great feature of ONErpm is their free distribution service.

  • Premium Package-a one time fee of $40 per album, or $15 per single. With the Premium Package, they also take a 15% cut of royalties.
  • Arena Package– an annual fee of $30 per album, or $15 per single. You get to keep 100% of your royalties (besides Youtube, but we’ll get into that later).
  • Free Option– ONErpm also has a free distribution tier. This option will distribute your music to Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and more. If you choose the free option, you can still opt-in to other  stores, you just have to pay a small fee per store. Adding an album to iTunes is only $5, and since ONErpm is a preferred partner, your music could go live in less than 48 hours. This is a really cool option for a single that you only want to release in limited formats, or if you are using streaming services as a marketing tool instead of a distributor.

ONErpm Pricing

All major retailers are included in ONErpm’s digital distribution, although you will have to pay extra for ringtone stores and services like Shazam.

ONErpm Stores
Digital Distribution Options on ONErpm

ONErpm’s services will cover all your basic digital distribution needs, but ONErpm stands out with a few features that aren’t offered on other digital distribution platforms.

YouTube Certified

One of the major advantages of digitally distributing with ONErpm is their relationship with YouTube. Right now, YouTube is the number one music streaming service in the world, and their music infrastructure is only set to grow. ONErpm is a YouTube certified company, and they have one of the largest multi-channel networks in the world. A multi-channel network, or MCN, is simply a company that works with channel owners to effectively monetize their channel, provide digital rights management, funding, and audience management.

When you distribute your music through ONErpm, you have the option to distribute to YouTube. This doesn’t mean that your music automatically get uploaded onto a YouTube channel, it simply means that ONErpm  enters your music into YouTube’s ContentID. When your music is identified in YouTube’s system, you can manage how your music is being used. This means that when people use your songs in their videos, or even re-upload a video that you created, you can locate those videos, and either issue a take-down notice, or file a claim to receive revenue on that video.

ONErpm’s unique connection to YouTube can also help you get extra revenue from your own videos, since ONErpm works directly with advertisers to negotiate a higher ad rate for their channels. They will also help you optimize your YouTube channel for monetization.

ONErpm Youtube

Being a part of ONErpm’s MCN is free and open to any YouTube creator, even if you aren’t a musician, or don’t choose to distribute your music through ONErpm. A nice bonus if you live in the NYC area is that ONErpm has a video production studio that you have free access to as a member of their MCN.

A downside to ONErpm’s YouTube services is that ONErpm takes a 30% cut of all revenue generated from YouTube. However,  it may be worth it to let ONErpm handle your YouTube revenue if the money you gain from their higher ad prices equals out the 30% you pay them for managing your account.

If YouTube is an important part of your music, and you’re interested in joining an MCN, ONErpm might be the best distributing option for you. Neither Tunecore or CD Baby offer YouTube ContentID tracking, and they don’t have an MCN.

Marketing Resources

ONErpm also has several marketing options for artists. Their basic package includes social media management, verified profiles on streaming services, and email marketing. You can also upgrade to their specialized marketing services.

ONErpm Marketing

Much like CD Baby, fans can also go directly to your profile on ONErpm’s website and download music there. ONErpm has several pricing tiers, and lets you choose which one best fits you. In addition to setting your own prices for your downloads, you have the option to give away a free download in exchange for an email address. You can then download those emails and export them into whatever program you use to send email newsletters.

ONErpm also provides a free Facebook app that lets fans download music directly from your Facebook page. You can use this app to sell singles, full albums, or give away a download in exchange for an email. You can make this app the landing page for your band’s Facebook profile, and use “fan-gating” to ask users to like your page before they have the option to download your music.

ONErpm also gives you analytics, and monthly sales reports. You get paid through Paypal, and can withdraw funds whenever you like.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 2.23.46 PM

Your Choice

ONErpm’s digital distribution has some great benefits, and they offer a great deal of flexibility to artists in terms of services and price points. This personalization helps makes them a good choice for indie artists.

ONErpm might be the right distributor for you if:

  • You are interested in flexible pricing options, or free distribution to streaming services
  • You would like to sell your music directly on Facebook
  • You are interested in joining a YouTube MCN, and want someone to help you monetize your YouTube account.
  • You want your distributor to give you marketing support.

As you are looking for a digital distributor, keep your individual needs in mind. With so many companies offering similar services, make sure you find the company that best fits your needs as an artist.

Have you used ONErpm? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!


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What To Do AFTER You’ve Finished Writing a Song

What To Do AFTER You’ve Finished Writing a Song

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

Whether you’ve spent ten minutes or five months working on a song, there’s a sense of satisfaction and relief that washes over you when you know, without a doubt, that it’s done.

But… now what? Time to kick back and relax? Or, maybe you’re headed out to celebrate with friends. Not so fast! If you think your work is over when you’ve finished writing the song, you’re sorely mistaken.

Finishing a song is a victory, but it’s not the final step in the process if you want your music to generate income for you. Here are six steps that you can take after finishing a song to help you transform your songwriting into a profitable business and position yourself for opportunities that may arise.

Finalize Your Lyric Sheet

Once your song is done, it’s a great idea to create an accurate, final lyric sheet.

You should write out every word of the song exactly in the order it’s sung. Yes, this means avoiding shortcuts; no writing “repeat chorus.” Writing everything out reduces the chance of error, omission, or confusion and makes it easier for demo vocalists to accurately read the lyrics as they sing the song.

How you format the lyric sheet can also make a difference for the vocalists. I’d recommend indenting your choruses to make them easily distinguishable from your verses and bridge. I’d also ensure that your lyric all fit on one page; you might have to single-space the lyric, combine shorter lines, or decrease the font size to do this (but not too small). If you still can’t fit your entire lyric on one page, you might seriously consider additional editing.

Lastly, you’ll want to include all the pertinent information about your new song:

  • The date of creation (D.O.C.)
  • The name of the writer (or writers, if you co-wrote the song)
  • The publishing information
  • The performing rights organization (PRO) you belong to

Including this information on a lyric sheet means the information is at hand when you submit it to a record label or music supervisor. If you need an example, my lyric sheets look like this:

©3.1.12 Cliff Goldmacher, Famous In France Music (BMI)

Create A Definitive Rough Recording

Now that your song is done, you’re going to need a recording that captures its melody, lyric, and chord changes. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no Grammy for best rough recording; a simple guitar or piano and vocal recorded directly into your smartphone or laptop is perfectly acceptable.

This recording is useful for a couple of reasons. First, it will prevent you from forgetting how your song goes. This may sound silly to those of you who’ve only written a few songs; but, as you begin to write more often and start to build your catalog, you’d be amazed at how quickly these little buggers can erase themselves from your memory. Second, if you choose to take your song to the next level, this recording will serve as reference for the demo vocalists and session musicians.

Schedule A Demo

Speaking of bringing your song to the next level: it’s time to decide if this song is currently worth a further investment of your time and financial resources. If we’re honest with ourselves as songwriters, we have to admit that not every song we write is worthy of a demo. However, if you believe that this particular song is genuinely ready, it’s time to record a demo.

Since you’ll be presenting this to the music industry at large, the quality of your recording will reflect your talent and your dedication to your craft. This is not the time to hope that music business professionals will be able to “hear through” your rough recording. So, unless you’re prepared to spend the necessary time and effort learning to sing, play, and record your own songs at the highest level, I’d recommend using a professional recording studio, a trained demo singer, and at least one session musician. Yes, that means investing more money in your song, but—in this case—it’s probably best to leave the recording to the pros. You can spend your time writing more music.

Whether you work with a studio or go the DIY route, I would be sure to obtain two high-resolution versions of your song: one with vocals, and one without. Instrumental versions of your songs are great to have, and this is the best time to get one!

Catalog Your Mixes

Ideally, the recording studio will have provided you with high-resolution files of your song. It’s important that you know how to embed necessary metadata (the song title, copyright details, contact info, and so on) and how to convert the high-resolution files (like .wav files) to lower-resolution files (like mp3s, which are easier to email). Both of these steps should be doable in iTunes or similar programs; instructions for your specific program can be found online. While these may seem like daunting tasks, they are important skills to learn. Think of them as preparing your product for shipment and including your return address.

You’ll also need to store the files where they’re both safe and easily accessible. This way, when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll know exactly where to find them. I can’t think of anything more depressing than an artist, label, or publisher asking for a copy of your song, and you not being able to find it.

Create A Backup

Now that you’ve got your songs and all the accompanying information properly labeled and stored, it’s time to set up a reliable backup system. Learn how to back up your computer to a separate drive or cloud storage system. Remember, it’s not “if” your hard drive—with all your rough recordings, lyric sheets, and finished demos—fails, but “when”. My motto is: if it doesn’t exist in two places, it doesn’t exist.

Under no circumstances should you go without some kind of backup. That’s simply a recipe for a catastrophic event.

DON’T brush this off as an unnecessary step or a waste of your time, and don’t put it off until you have x number of songs finished. Make it a part of the process for each and every song. You made a significant investment to write and record those demos, and your songs themselves are irreplaceable; why wouldn’t you want to protect them?

Pitch Your Song

I know this sounds obvious, but once you have a finished demo of your song, you can’t expect if to make money if it just sits on your computer. You have to get your music in front of people!

While I was a tiny bit guilty of this early in my career, it still amazes me how many songwriters make little to no effort to get their songs out there. They make a variety of excuses, too. “But I create music… I’m not a salesman!” To these musicians, selling music might as well be selling dirt. It lacks all the charm and creativity that they associate with being a musician. It might not be exciting, but it is essential if you want to make a career as a songwriter.

Other songwriters, who are willing to promote their music, tell me, “I don’t know where to start.” I’ll admit that it can be a bit daunting figuring out who is looking for what you’ve got, so I’ll give you a few places to look. Start with reputable pitch sheets, such as Song Quarters and Row Fax, which can provide you with the information you need… for a fee. You could also turn to organizations like Taxi that will do the pitching for you… again, for a fee. If neither of those options appeals to you, your best bet is to get out there and meet the decision-makers yourself. Travel to New York City, Nashville, or Los Angeles; attend music conferences and workshops. There are opportunities to network if you’re willing to look for them. (When networking, be sure to avoid these common mistakes!)

As I said at the beginning of the article, completing a song is a victory. It’s a remarkable accomplishment! Don’t ever forget that, and don’t think I’m saying otherwise. I’m simply saying that, if you want a career as a songwriter, it’s not the last step… but the above six steps will help you get there.




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You Want a Fan For Life? - Gaining Life-Long Fans

You Want a Fan For Life? Here’s How You Do It

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

One of the artists we work with has been in the music business for years, and he has an established yet growing fan base. He’s worked with record labels in the past, but for a number of reasons he has ended that relationship and gone off on his own. This artist recently dropped by to visit with us after returning from a short whirlwind tour with well over 50 performances.

After hearing about one spectacular show after another, we asked him what his favorite moment was.

He thought for a minute, then shared with us this story:

He was working his merch table after a show when a teen came up to buy a CD, digging in his pockets for every last bill and coin he could find… and still coming up short. Way short.

Our artist noticed the crushed look on the teen’s face, asked how much he had, and discreetly made a deal.

The teen was elated, to say the least, and the smile on the teen’s face is our friend’s most treasured memory from an incredible trip.

While it was a very brief encounter, it’s probably not something either party will forget anytime soon, and it’s an awesome story to hear him tell. Better yet, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from this:

1. Make Yourself Accessible

Fans love personal attention from their favorite artists. You don’t have to hang out on social media all day or share your private phone number with your fans to be accessible. You just have to make an effort to connect with them.

Tips for Connecting With Fans

This artist regularly does just that. Over the past year, he’s launched a new website with pages for fresh content and places for fan interaction; he also stepped up his social media presence to better connect with fans. He does a phenomenal job of replying to, or at least acknowledging, fans’ posts and comments. Because of his international fan base, this sometimes includes translating his comments into a fan’s native language. He regularly shares quick videos, a free ringtone, or pictures from the road with his fans; while the shared items are nothing fancy, his fans love them.

His efforts to connect with his fans in-person are also strong. Like many musicians, he’ll sign autographs or do post-show meet and greets.

It’s important to note where he was in the above story: at his merch table, selling CDs and interacting with fans. Early in his career, he never would have been caught at his merch table. He was convinced that artists were supposed to be mysterious, deific beings that were above the masses, and that selling merch was for groupies, managers, or… well, anyone but the artist. (For what it’s worth, he’s not the only artist we’ve heard share this concept.)

At some point in the not-so-distant past, he had a change of heart; he realized that fans want someone who cares about and appreciates them, someone they can relate to, interact with, and reach. So, he swallowed his pride and started working his merch table.

The results have affirmed his decision. Not only have his sales increased significantly (it’s safe to say he made as much from merch sales on this short tour as he did in the past few years from his record label), but his interactions with fans have become much more frequent and, like the above story, meaningful—both for him and his fans.

2. Make the People a Priority

You can be the most talented musician ever, but if you ignore your fans and make them feel like you only want them for their money, you won’t be left with many fans. With no fans to buy your music and come to your shows, you won’t have much of a career.

So, what does it look like to make your fans a priority? Well, it doesn’t mean giving everything away; you have to make a living, after all. It doesn’t mean taking song requests and polling the masses on every decision you make. It doesn’t mean that you become obsessed with your social media stats, analytics, and gaining traffic.

Photo Cred: Taylorswiftweb.net
Photo Cred: Taylorswiftweb.net

It does mean making eye contact while performing, considering them when ordering merch, sending out exclusive sneak peeks to your followers, and shaking hands and signing autographs after a show. For example, Taylor Swift has mastered the meet and greet. She gives up a few moments of her time to give her fans a moment they will never forget.

It also means going the extra step to connect with them, and remembering that they are people just like you, not numbers and dollars. This can include doing what our artist did and cutting the occasional deal.

Now, merch sales are literally what pay our artist’s bills; he depends on that income, and he knows it. Discounting merch all the time simply isn’t an option. So, while he knew sales had been going well, he also knew that every penny adds up and makes a difference. He could have said no.

But he didn’t.

Our artist wanted to make his fan’s day. He wanted that connection with the fan. He didn’t make the deal for good press coverage or out of greed after quick calculations on the potential lifetime value of a fan. He did it quietly and out of genuine affection for his fan base. To him, that was enough, and it was worth the small one-time hit on his profits. To the fan, it was a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

That kind of mindset—where you make yourself accessible to your fans and you make your fans a priority—has made a big difference for our artist, and it is what can lead you to long-term relationships with fans and a lasting music career.




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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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Rethinking iTunes: It’s An Expensive Cash Register For The Indie Artist

Rethinking iTunes: It’s An Expensive Cash Register For The Indie Artist

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

It’s a story we hear often. An artist thinks that if she can just get her music onto iTunes, it will launch her music career to the next level. After all, she reasons, iTunes is the largest digital music retailer out there, with more downloads than anyone else, isn’t it? Listing my music on iTunes is bound to bring me my big break, or at least a surge of sales, right?  Wrong.

We know that this might fly in the face of everything you’ve heard or believed to be true. Hear us out, and listen to this story.

An Indie Artist Full Of Hope

We know an accomplished artist who released a new album a few years ago. He’d spent a year perfecting the lyrics and rehearsing the music; then, he went to a recording studio and worked until the sound was perfect. Next, he had it mastered by professionals, who did a wonderful job putting it all together. He hired professional, experienced designers to create the right “look” for the album. He was willing to put in the hours and effort, take all necessary steps, and spend the money to put out a top-notch product. He was thrilled with the results, and his hopes were high.

He hired a company to put his music on iTunes. When the album was available, he told all of his existing fans to go buy it on iTunes. Then he sat back and waited for success. Initially, downloads were strong, and he even moved up the iTunes charts. His fans commented that they loved the release, and everyone he knew seemed to own the album.

Soon, though, his sales dropped off. He began to be pretty concerned. After having his new album on iTunes for a year, he compared his sales to the expense of putting together the album. The results were bleak. The increase in exposure that he had expected was not reflected in the sales numbers. Despite the initial surge of sales (which was likely due to his promotion of the album with existing fans), the album had not sold well on iTunes. His profit from the sales on iTunes would not have been enough to recover the cost* of listing the album on iTunes, yet alone the cost of putting the album together. Fortunately, he had not relied solely on iTunes, and he had sold some CDs at gigs. Overall, though, the experience was extremely disappointing.

What Went Wrong?

In our friend’s mind, something had gone wrong. iTunes hadn’t exposed him to a large number of new fans who would purchase his album. Instead, it had functioned as an expensive cash register for his existing fan base. Additionally, he had no way of knowing who had bought his music, which meant he had no way to contact them about future releases. The same is true for most indie artists using iTunes.

So what actually went wrong? Nothing. His initial expectations of iTunes were wrong. It is a familiar place to purchase digital music; it’s not a marketing engine. If you’re expecting iTunes to market your music, you’ll probably wind up as disappointed as our friend. If you expect it to be the cash register that it is, you’ll fare a little better.

However, there are still issues you should be aware of.

Two Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selling Your Music On iTunes

Question #1 – “Am I willing to pay 25% to 40% in fees to sell my music through iTunes when most of the sales are from fans that I send to iTunes?”

We hope your answer is no. Not because you are unwilling to share your success with those that brought you, but rather because you cannot afford to waste money on an over priced cash register that did nothing to bring you along. If you’re taking on all the work and expenses of writing, rehearsing, recording, performing, and promoting the music, why is a third party who sits back and doesn’t do much to promote you worth at least a quarter of your sales? (Remember, you sent most of those fans to iTunes!)

Question #2 – “Will iTunes tell me who purchased my music so I can create a relationship with these fans and hopefully engage them in the future?”

After all, you did just pay iTunes a large percentage of your income, and most of your sales probably came from people you sent to iTunes in the first place. On top of that, it is critically important for artists to know who their fans are. This is a much bigger issue than price. These customers are the people who are most likely to purchase your music in the future or attend your gigs. Knowing who your fans are and creating lasting relationships with them is much more important in the long run than a fee you have to pay to sell your products.

iTunes agrees that the customer data is important. However, they think they are the primary factor driving your sale, not your music. iTunes claims ownership of the fan relationship, and they will not share all the details with you about who purchases your music. Since iTunes is by far the dominant digital music retailer**, they can get away with this.

Should I Even Use iTunes?

In light of what we’ve said above, this next part is going to sound crazy.

The truth is you need iTunes, but not the way you thought you did. It is true that iTunes will not do much to market your music, but it does recommend similar artists or tracks (thus increasing exposure, albeit minimally) to what buyers have purchased or listened to. Also, millions of people use iTunes to download their digital music selections. If someone gets on iTunes and wants to purchase your music, you want it available for purchase. After all, sales are a good thing. Boycotting iTunes altogether means losing out on sales and exposure.

What you shouldn’t do is send people to iTunes to purchase your music. Look into alternative services to sell your music. There are a huge number of them and many do a good job while maintaining a fair and reasonable price. (We’ll provide more on this in future articles.) This can seem to be an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Do some research and learn what you can. Only agree to a retail platform if it puts you in control of the sale by telling you who bought from you, what they bought, and how you can communicate with them.

As an indie artist, you can’t count on someone else to do the legwork for you or make you famous, especially if that someone eats into your profits and gets between you and your fans. If you want to be successful as a musician, you must work at your music and work at the business side of the music industry as well. Be prepared to sell physical products as well as downloads. Figure out which marketing tools work best for you and use them. Do not overlook social media. Your website should be part of the equation, too, so be sure it’s working for you, not against you. Be sure that your website and social media profiles are more than just a picture and short bio. You want fans to interact and keep coming back. Remember: whatever you do, engage your fans and own that fan relationship.

While you are researching, remember this. iTunes is a cash register that charges a very high rate for their services while not sharing critical information with you about the purchase, but they are still necessary as a part of your selling process. A small part for sure if you are an indie artist. Just do not count on them to make you famous, you have to do that yourself.

* To be fair, at the time he went through this process, the cost to list music on iTunes was higher than it is today.

** This may be changing. 2013 represents the first year that music download sales on iTunes have decreased from the prior year. We could guess that music streaming has been part of this change, but that’s an entirely different story.

 




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Merch Sales: Helpful Tips for Increasing Them

Increase Your Merchandise Sales at Gigs

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As any poor, aspiring musician knows, a great way to make money as an independent and unsigned artist is by selling your merchandise. It can be shirts, CDs, stickers, or anything you think you can sell, as long as you sell enough of it. Regardless of how talented or professional you are, you won’t make money if you don’t learn how to sell.

Shane Blay—guitarist for the band Oh, Sleeper—wrote a post (referenced here) a while ago regarding how important merch sales are. To put things bluntly, he said that if you’re in an actively-performing band, the little money you make comes from direct merchandise sales… not from the gig, or retail sales, or royalties. In an ideal world, your talent would be enough to earn you a living in music. Sadly, the business world, including the music industry, doesn’t usually work that way.

Selling merchandise goes beyond padding your pocket, though. It can help promote your band. If people wear your shirts or talk about your CDs, others will wonder about your music and, hopefully, give it a listen. If they like what they hear, there’s a new fan. Selling merch spreads your music.

Here are a few helpful tips for improving your band’s merch sales:

Bring Your Product With You.

Don’t show up empty-handed. It’s hard to sell what you don’t have, and it’s hard to sell after the fact. The fans at your gig are a captive and eager audience. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Bundle Your Product.

Offer a shirt and CD combo. Some people may buy a shirt simply because they like the design, while others might be after your CD. However, if you give them incentive to buy both, you have the potential to both make more money and spread your music.

Have Appealing, Professional Merchandise.

It really makes a difference. DIY or cheap merch can do in a pinch (such as while waiting on shipment) and might be better than nothing, but when it’s directly competing against quality product, your sales will probably suffer (we’re speaking from personal experience here). Don’t wait until the week of the gig to take stock of your inventory; plan ahead and give yourself time to restock if levels are low.

While no artist wants money to be the main focus of their music career, learning how to sell your merchandise is essential to supporting your art and continuing on your path.

How heavily do you rely on merchandise sales? What tips do you have for boosting merchandise sales?

See also: How Should I Price My Merchandise?




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Copyright Your Music: The Why and How

Copyright Your Music: The Why and How

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

So, you’d like to register your band’s songs as intellectual property? This is a good idea, especially if your songs are good enough that people might want to use (or steal) them. Copyrighting your music is a simple and effective process for protecting your babies.

Why Copyright Your Music?

The copyright on your music protects you if somebody steals your idea and passes it off as their own. Should this happen, it is your responsibility to file a law suit; you can use your copyright registration to prove that you are the intellectual owner of the music.

A Copyrighting Fairytale

There’s a fairytale about copyrighting that goes something like this: Mail a copy of the CD to yourself before it’s available to the public. Then, if copyright issues arise, you can in court submit the post office’s date stamp on the package as proof that you are the original creator… all for the cost of one stamp!

While this is certainly clever, it’s also flawed. Just because you mail something doesn’t make it yours, and it is possible that you switched the contents of the package at a later date. In short, this method is ineffective at protecting yourself. So, what can you do? Go through the official channel.

How to Copyright Music

The cost of copyrighting an entire CD through the U.S. Copyright Office is just $35 (if done electronically). Processing the copyright application online immediately creates a time stamp, and it is a faster method of registration.You can also submit your application through the mail, but you’ll have to scrape up another $30; physical applications cost $65. While this is more than the cost of a stamp, it’s still enough of a bargain that most musicians can afford to do it.

The good news is that you can copyrighting several songs in a submission, as long as they are being registered to the same individual or group of individuals. You can copyright songs individually (if you really want to, or if the members of your band want each song’s copyright registered to the individual who wrote it), but each submission costs $35. While the most cost-effective way of copyrighting music is to wait until you have several songs or a whole album ready to submit, doing so can leave your songs unprotected in the meantime.

The decisions about whether or not to copyright, and when to do so, are those you’ll have to make at some point in your music career.

Have you already done this? Did you copyright each song separately as they were ready, or did you copyright several at once? If you haven’t copyrighted your music, what is holding you back?

See also: Music and Royalties: What You Should KnowThe Why and How of Music Licensing




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Sell Your Music

Make Money Selling Your Music

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

The music industry is changing quickly and unpredictably, which leaves musicians in a familiar situation: living paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, in the age of the internet, there are many ways to make money from your music. Follow these tips to get started:

Book Live Performances

Although there’s no such thing as a steady income for a musician, getting a regular gig is the next best thing. Finding a bar, club, restaurant, or other venue that regularly advertises live music is a reliable and surprisingly-easy way to earn money and gain new fans. Develop a press kit and email it or, better yet, hand deliver it to different venues around town. Most venue owners are primarily looking for reliable musical talent that draws a crowd. Generally, the better you are at bringing and entertaining a crowd, the better you will be paid.

Go Online

Digital services like iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon (among hundreds of others) are the new-age record stores. iTunes alone has sold over 25 billion songs. These sites are where the ever-growing computer-savvy masses browse and purchase music. Submitting your music to the dozens of online music sales platforms individually can be time consuming, but distributors can help streamline the process. Also, selling music directly from your website usually results in a higher profit margin for you.

Sidenote: listing your music on these sites doesn’t guarantee sales; you still have to get fans there.

CDs Are Still Cool

Despite the increase in streaming and digital sales, people are still buying physical CDs. They, along with other merchandise (t-shirts, posters, CDs, vinyl records) sales, are popular souvenirs for concert-goers. So, take care of business onstage, then man the merch table after the show to network with fans and sell your music.

Music Licensing

Could you imagine your original song in a video game soundtrack? Do you have a piece that would fit into a film score or television commercial? You might consider licensing, then. Nearly every industry uses music, most frequently for marketing purposes. If you have specific uses in mind, find the “music supervisor” of the show or outlet and contact them directly. Or, reach out to local advertising firms or independent filmmakers. Have a stellar 30 seconds of your selected song ready to win them over.

Keep finding places to perform your music, and keep your online presence strong on sites like Facebook, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp. If your music is impressive enough, the money will follow.

The most effective method for making music will vary for each musician. Which method works best for you?

See also: How Should I Price My Merchandise?, Finding Music Distributors




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