When I first started making music this was relatively straightforward – make a record, put it on a physical format and make it available to your fans. In the age of the Internet the playing field has changed everything. Not only do we now have digital product but also anybody can enter the market and sell their music with just a few clicks of a mouse. As you get bigger you’ll probably end up going through a distributor but when you’re starting out here’s what you can do.
*It is important if you are going to sell physical copies of a release that you understand how MCPS works so if you don’t read my post here.*
I like physical, especially vinyl. It has a tactile quality and whereas a CD feels a bit like a pretty coaster, a slab of vinyl feels like I have really invested in something special. So to the point in hand, physical. It means just that, something physical – cassette, CD, vinyl 12″, 7″, limited edition picture disc… So once you’ve made it how do you get it to market?
- Sell it at gigs. You’ve just played a storming set and everybody is really excited about your band. This is a captive audience. I’m not a massive fan of alerting your crowd to your merch table after every song but definitely have one there, preferably by the door so people can’t miss you on their way in and out.
- Online. You can use services like PayPal and Google Checkout to sell your music on your website. If you don’t want to get into the fulfillment side of things companies like CD Baby, State 51 Conspiracy and Sandbag provide an alternative and can build you a store page for your website.
- Shops. Either online or real high street there’s a whole network of independent music retailers who, if your music is good enough, will sell your music for you. My personal favorites are Norman Records Emporium, Piccadilly Records and Rough Trade
No 1 is great because it won’t cost you any commission. However point 2 and 3 will expand your reach and take your music to a new audience. The three shops I mention send mail outs and will list your record on their sites.
Here are some words of advice from Phil, the boss of my favourite shop Norman Records Emporium – staunch supporters of the indie community all year round. They also tend to review your record which is really useful.
Advice for new artists?
If we’ve not heard of the artist before it’s best to send us a CD instead of a download. We get sent so many CD’s that anything else tends to get missed and you also get a better idea of what something is when you’re holding it in your hand.
How many albums will you stock?
We choose how many copies to take dependent on the kind of thing it is and how many we think we can hopefully sell for the artists/labels. We prefer to work sale or return (SOR) and we like to keep it pretty informal and folks can get in touch every so often and ask us how things are selling.
Any tips to boost sales?
Any kind of special packaging is always a bonus. People love limited editions and people still buying the physical format love fancy packaging so I’d always recommend that! Our customers seem especially fond of CD’s in clothing so anything covered in material does well. Not sure if that makes our customers more fashion conscious? It always helps things coming with free downloads and if there’s bonus mixes/ tracks etc then that’s always a good thing.
By digital I mean iTunes, Amazon, EMusic and the rest. To get onto these services you’ll need to go through either a distributor or an aggregator. iTunes, understandably, don’t really want to talk to millions of artists but will happily talk to a company that represents them. I use AWAL. The process is simple, you send them your music, they upload to iTunes and the other stores and pay you the profit from sales. So for the sale of a track on iTunes for 79p you might see 41p. The rest goes to iTunes, MCPS and your aggregator % or fee.
It is worth mentioning Spotify and the other streaming services. If your music is uploaded to Spotify you make money every time it is streamed. The jury is out as to whether this is a good model or not. To put it into figures I reckon you make about £0.0015 per stream or to put it in terms of downloads 300 to 400 streams = a download. So this is definitely a long game strategy!
As I mentioned I distribute my records through AWAL, so I asked Jonathan Quarmby , producer (David Bowie, Richard Hawley, Sugababes), musician (he supported U2 at Wembley once) and co founder of AWAL for some tips. AWAL were founded in 1997 with a view to empowering independent artists and represent over 6000 acts from Radiohead to the Arctic Monkeys.
1. Make sure the music is ABSOLUTELY AS GOOD AS IT CAN POSSIBLY BE.
2. Don’t be seduced by quixotic goals. Have a plan that doesn’t rely on – getting played on the radio – getting an iTunes feature – signing a major deal. Build a cottage industry, enjoy your creativity, let the world come to you.
3. Theres no point trying to sell anything until you have engaged your fans. Make sure that the initial marketing points back to the artist. Once you have them, talk to them, entertain them, THEN sell them something.
If you want to read more of this sort of thing check out my other articles here
Next week: How To Get Paid Part 3 – Live