I stumbled across this article at Music Think Tank that gave advice on how to make instant money by playing music. Most of their advice consisted of playing, playing, and more playing. They advised to take on as many gigs as possible, not just live shows with your band (although they recommended plenty of that, too). But the biggest point that stuck out to me was the advice to play covers.
In the article, they say it’s a good way to practice and play different styles of music as your band is starting out. Once your band gets more experience and recognition, then you can start pushing your own original music.
I’d like to look at this from the reverse angle. If you are a band that has some solid playing experience and have written a solid catalog of original songs, try playing a cover and give it your own unique spin. I have a friend who plays in a screamo band (I really hate that term, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it). They’ve been playing and touring the country for about five years now. This summer, they were in a studio and recorded a cover of a hit pop song that was getting a lot of radio play at the time. They posted it on their MySpace page and it blew up. They had over 15,000 plays of this song after only three days! There were loads of new friend requests each day from people saying they loved the cover, and quite a few more who said how much they loved the band. That’s a whole new slew of fans just from playing a cover song.
Here is how I would do it:
- Pick a song that’s compatible with your own fanbase, but crosses genres and potentially draws new fans.
- Put in a solid effort when writing and recording this cover. Nobody will want to listen if it sounds terrible!
- Acquire mechanical use licenses so you can legally distribute and sell this recording. Let’s say my friend from the example 10,000 downloads of this track over that weekend; if their cut after paying the publishers and distributors (iTunes, Amazon) is around $0.50, they would have made $5,000 that weekend! I realize that not every cover would generate that type of response, and a 2/3 conversion rate from plays to downloads is pretty generous (especially since the 15,000 plays probably were not all unique plays), but any additional income stream can help an independent musician, no matter how small.
- Push your original music on website visitors who come to hear your cover. If you are using a MySpace page, set up one of your own tunes to auto-play when a visitor hits your site. This will increase the chances of new fans hearing, liking, and/or buying your other tracks or CDs.
- Make sure you splash your tour schedule and other merchandise all over your site so new fans have more opportunities to support you.
So what’s you opinion? Does your band play cover songs? Or do you think it’s wrong to capitalize on the coattails of another song’s success?
Hypebot is pushing a headline that reads “Pandora Forces $29.95 Payments From Indie Bands.” The title is somewhat misleading because the $29.95 does not go to Pandora; it goes to Amazon.com. Pandora now requires submitting artists to have a CD available for purchase on Amazon. Amazon charges the annual fee to make your titles available for distribution.
From the Pandora FAQ page, here is what they require from you:
* a CD of your music
* a unique UPC code for that CD
* your CD to be available through Amazon (must be a physical CD, not just MP3s for download)
* the legal rights to your music
* MP3 files for two of the songs from your CD
* a free Pandora account, based on a valid email address, which can be associated with your music
While some artists are focusing on the digital realm for music distribution, this is an example of why you shouldn’t abandon physical formats just yet. The CD still has plenty of life left to it. If you only sell digital downloads, then you’ll miss out on lots of opportunities to sell your music. The same goes if you haven’t gotten on board with selling MP3’s yet and are only selling CDs. It’s best to have a mixed media distribution strategy.
If you get your CD duplication services provided by COPYCATS Media, you’ll be all set to submit your album to Amazon and Pandora. We provide a free bar code with our projects along with all the packaging and print.
I came across this post at USA Today by way of @artisthouse’s Twitter feed. It highlights an interesting idea dubbed as “The Music Tee.”
Front of music t-shirt, worn by skinny, pretty people
The concept is simple; purchase a band t-shirt that has a website URL and special code on the tag for you to download the album. The innovators who thought of this idea are going through a fancy-pants clothing company, so the shirt listed here costs $60. Zoiks! I understand paying a little bit more for the shirt and the downloads, but my Midwestern sensibilities tell me that is too much. I think $15-$20 would be a more favorable price, and I’m sure there will be some artists who will sell at that price.
This would be something any artist could do. COPYCATS Media offers download cards that work on the same principle (give a unique redemption code for consumers to enter online and receive downloads). An independent artist could print up T-shirts and tag download cards to them. The only downfall is production cost, since T-shirts cost a lot more to print than CDs. You could enhance your merch stand by still selling CDs along with the T-shirt/Downloads combo.
Back of the t-shirt with the track listing
There’s also a good opportunity to cross promote items. If you are an independent artist or label, try to partner up with a local clothing designer to package downloads with their clothing. The designs wouldn’t necessarily be promoting the band or label, but they could still include a sampling of tracks from them. This would help get your music into nontraditional retail outlets. Just an idea.
If you are planning to leak nude photos of yourself in an attempt to increase music sales, you may want to reconsider. This article from Billboard shows that download sales of Rihanna and Cassie remained flat after all the buzz related to nude photos of them that were released onto the internet.
The good news for these performing artists is that their sales did not decline. There weren’t many fans who decided not to buy music from Rihanna or Cassie because of these photos, but there weren’t any fans who decided to buy their music because of these photos, either. It was a push, and there’s a perfectly good reason for this.
This graph shows the spike in blog chatter when these photos were first released:
Chart from www.billboard.com
The thing to remember is that any one can write up a blog post on any subject. It’s a good bet that the majority of these blogs weren’t written by music fans or reviewers, nor were these blogs necessarily targeted to readers who are music enthusiasts. A large portion probably cover general news, pop culture, celebrity gossip, etc. I suspect a larger than normal male demographic driving this huge spike in blog activity. There are lots of guys out there who don’t like Rihanna’s and Cassie’s brand of pop music, but they certainly like to look at nude pictures of female pop singers.
So if you want lots of people to see pictures of you in the buff, by all means, post naked self portraits on the internet. If you are looking to drive up sales of your CD, then you better find a different strategy.
Posted by Chris Brummund
I found a great article over at Music Think Tank that outlines an interesting idea for distributing and promoting new music in the future.
As a musician, you may develop a “survival-of-the-fittest” mentality and see other bands and artists as your competition. Instead of fighting against your fellow musicians, the article suggests uniting together and forming your own internet radio station based on the particular niche market you serve. Get a concentrated group of artists to join in and form a co-op of sorts, then start building a channel for like mined fans to follow.
You can read the article in full to get a better idea about what this author advocating. But I’d like to just focus on this excerpt:
It’s essential to find unencumbered songs (no strings attached - any deal is possible) that squarely appeal to the niche you are targeting. Each song will have to meet a quality threshold and you will have to monitor your traction analytics (plays, skips, session ends, downloads, etc.) to determine when it’s time to say goodbye to certain songs. You will also have to set all politics and personalities aside when programming your station. Death occurs for a proposition like this when you start spinning songs and featuring videos because you like the person more than his or her music.
This paragraph puts the emphasis on quality. You need to play good music to build credibility as a trust source of *insert genre here* music. Analytics are suggested to determine which songs should go and which should stay. But won’t this make your new music channel just like the commercial radio stations and big record labels we were supposedly fighting against? If you boot off the least popular songs and artists, you’re left with playlists that spin the same popular artists constantly. It’s no different then your typical Top 40 radio station.
As a channel manager, you’d be in charge of finding new music to keep your playlists fresh. This would involve quite a bit of hustle. Sure, there are plenty of bands out there, but how many fit within your niche channel? And how many of those bands are willing to become an active participant in your channel? Finally, how many of those bands are good enough to be on your channel?
This is where it gets fun. It’d be a lot of work to make something like this happen, but I’d imagine it gets a lot easier once you have a large group of solid artists to work with. So who’s ready to give this a shot?
We’ve been selling digital download cards at COPYCATS Media for over a year now, and there are many practical and innovative ways to use them. Picture this scenario:
You released an album a couple years ago and it has sold pretty well. You ordered a thousand or maybe two thousand copies and are nearing the bottom of the barrel. There are literally only a couple CDs left in your inventory.
Naturally, you’d think to order more. However, you’re releasing a new CD in the next month and sales of the old album have really slowed down. It wouldn’t make much sense to order another batch of 1000 replicated CDs or even 100 duplicated CDRs of the old album if you have a new one coming out soon. But if there’s a demand for the old CD, no matter how small or infrequent, you feel obligated to supply it. What do you do?
Order download cards
Digital download cards can be used to sell MP3 downloads of your album. We host the data for free; all you have to do is sell or distribute the uniquely coded cards to your fans. They are incredibly inexpensive, and you can order as little as 100 units. This would be a perfect way to supply customers with your old album without having to invest in another production run of replicated CDs.
You can sell the cards as a stand-alone item or package them with your new CD to build value. Bundle it with the new album for a few dollars more. You could even bundle the download card with the new album for free. This would give fans two albums for the price of one!
If you decide to give the download card free with your new album, make sure you ask your fans if they want it. If a fan already has your old album, they would have little use for the download card. Sure, they may give it to a friend and help spread some buzz about your band, but more than likely it will just end up sitting in their wallet/desk drawer/trash can and go unused. The cards are cheap enough that you can afford for that to happen, but why waste one if you don’t have to?
That’s just one the advantageous ways you can use download cards to help sell your music. If you’d like a price quote for these cards, feel free to contact us at COPYCATS Media.
I came across this post on Twitter today and it made me happy:
@melodicart I think you should still get the physical cd sent to you when buying album downloads on iTunes. the artwork people! It matters! Missing out
As an employee at a CD duplication company, how can I not like that statement? It really makes the point that you should get some more value when buying an album. There’s really nothing to experience when just purchasing an MP3 download. It’s just a string of binary code (zeroes and ones). Of course, you get the music, but you can find many places online to simply stream (or illegally download) the music for free.
Most people who just buy the occasional single are OK with this. They only plunked down $0.99 for the single song download, and they don’t expect much else other than the song itself. But if you’re paying $10 for an entire album, I think you should get a little something extra. A physical CD would go great with your downloaded MP3s.
It’s getting harder to market recorded music to the masses when so many are enticed to illegally download music for free. That’s why it’s important to add value to the recording you are selling. Invest in good graphic design services that may end up on a list like this. Track your CD sales and give your buyers access to exlusive content like videos or bonus songs. The more value you can add to your products, the more people will be enticed to buy.
Posted by Chris Brummund
A couple days ago, I found a three-part series of articles talking about the good, the bad, and the future of record stores. I wrote up my two cents on the subject and advocated more integration of web-business with their current brick and mortar platform. It appears I’m not the only one with that idea.
This article from the StarTribune came across my Twitter feed this morning. The Electric Fetus, a local record store in Minneapolis, is using a digital music distribution service to sell digital downloads with a focus on the local independent music scene. On top of that, they plan on enhancing their website by including more employee recommendation and employee blogs.
I’d like to think that this is the result of somebody at the Electric Fetus reading my blog post, but I assume that they’ve been working on this for awhile. Nonetheless, it’s great to see a legendary local record shop utilize all the web tools out there to keep their business going strong.
Posted by Chris Brummund
There’s a great 3-part story about traditional record stores over at CNET’s MP3 Insider blog. The first and second part dissect both the good and the bad features of the traditional brick-and-mortar record store. The third part then offers some ideas going forward. It’s a good read, and I like the ideas presented in the third part.
Here’s what I suggest to enhance the value and longevity of these record stores: integrate web business with your regular brick-and-mortar business. The article suggests a few ideas like offering access to a shared iTunes library through their WiFi network or setting up an inventory database with other area record stores.
I’d take it another step further and try selling online. It may take some time and investment to build a fully functional online store, but in the meantime just set up an area on the site where a customer can send a request for a particular item. A store employee would receive that request, look up the item, and call or e-mail the customer back. The customer could then pay for it with a credit card over the phone and have it shipped, or the clerk could put it on hold for the customer to pick up.
I actually came across another articleprofiling an online vinyl dealer who is opening up a brick-and-mortar store in NE Minneapolis. You heard correctly: a new record store is opening. You can read the article here, but this is the best quote:
If I were just to open up a record store, there’s no way it would survive. But I have the online component, which is the main part of my business.
Integration is going to be key. There’s still a place for record stores, but they have to embrace the web and digital formats. They don’t have to build their own iTunes or Amazon.com, but they should be finding ways to use the web to increase sales.