Hey everyone! Welcome to the latest emission of Teen Jazz Radio, a part of TeenJazz.com, an online community of up and coming musicians. I’m Shannon Kennedy, your host and I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to our show and to the fantastic young artists we feature as part of each episode.
Today on Teen Jazz Radio I’m going to talk about how to boost your music sales. If you enjoy today’s episode, we have more information available on the production and marketing of your music available at Teen Jazz. I’ll mention it again later in this episode, but if you’re interested, you can get The Album Checklist at adviceformusicians.com.
Also in this episode, I’m also going to feature the music of Ryan Saranich, Adam Larson, Bastian Weinhold, Dan Higgins, Evan Stone, and Reggie Padilla.
As I mention at the beginning of each show, I know that many of you are listening to this podcast for different reasons – some of you may be here for the advice offered as part of this episode and some of you may be listening to check out the music we feature as part of the show. So, as I mentioned in the last episode, I’m going to try and space the music and the advice out evenly throughout the podcast so that there’s a little something for everyone.
So, before we dive into today’s tips on how to sell more music, let’s check out our first music set. This week I’d like to introduce you to saxophonist Ryan Saranich and Adam Larson. The first song you’ll hear is Snow (Settle Now, Our Woes) by Ryan Saranich from Story and second I’m going to feature Too Much, Too Soon by Adam Larson from Overdue Ovation.
Once again, the first track was Snow by Ryan Saranich. You can learn more about Ryan at ryansaranich.com. And second was Too Much, Too Soon by Adam Larson. You can learn more about Adam at adamlarsonjazz.com.
Let’s get started.
Musicians have a few different ways to maintain viable careers. For example, two of the most obvious ways to make money at music are to perform live and to sell recordings.
Live performances require a lot of work and you’re only paid for each performance. Once the gig is done and you’re paid, you have to find more shows and continue to perform in order to keep making money.
Recordings, on the other hand, continue to make money even after their initial launch. This is called “passive income” and it’s a really great way to support your music career so that during the slow months gig-wise, you don’t have to worry too much about how much money you’re making because you have a consistent stream of income outside of your performances.
So how do you boost your cd sales?
Role Play (Sort of)
First, it’s important to think about it from the consumer perspective for a moment. Yes, you may produce your own cds, but don’t forget that you are also (or should be) an avid music consumer as well. Especially as a musician, you’ve been shopping for and curating your music collection for years.
The next time you’re browsing iTunes or Amazon or wherever it is you search for music, pay attention to what your process is for selecting new music. Did an album cover call out to you, motivating you to click the “listen” button? Maybe it was because you saw the artist in the “recommended” section for someone you already listen to. Pay attention to what steps you take immediately leading up to a purchase of new music because chances are, the people who might buy your music are doing the same thing.
Make Sure Your Music is Available
If you want to draw in a new audience, your music needs to be available through whichever venues are the “go-to” for your genre. There are three primary formats to consider: physical copies (cds, usb drives of your music, or vinyl which has recently seen a comeback) for live shows or through a store on your site, digital copies (i.e. iTunes or Amazon), or streaming (Spotify). Think about where you’re most likely to sell music and make sure it’s available in that form.
If you do a lot of live shows, having physical copies is a really good idea. Audiences often like to have something to take home if they’ve enjoyed your live performance so having products available immediately is a must. Telling them to look you up on Bandcamp when they get home to download your music isn’t an effective selling strategy. If they aren’t super enthusiastic about your music, it’s unlikely they’ll do it because it requires extra work, that is, if they don’t forget by the time they have the time to do it.
And of course, that being said, in order to sell music, it needs to be recorded (obviously) and you then need to find a way to distribute it online. Bandcamp is a great standalone option that you can embed on your site and CDBaby or Tunecore are a couple more online distributors that you should definitely check out. You can also always sell directly through your website as well using gum road (if selling digital copies) or even something as simple as a Paypal button (for digital or physical copies). More recently though, a lot of artists have been selling their CDs on their website by using software like FastSpring (visit site here to learn more), for example. With payment processing software like that, artists can ensure their customers enjoy secured credit card transactions in multiple different languages and currencies, allowing their international fans to access their music too.
If you’re looking for more information on putting an album together, we have a book available at Teen Jazz called “The Album Checklist.” It’s a guide and workbook that helps you with the planning, songwriting, recording, and release stages of creating an album and it’s incredibly affordable – it’s currently $2.99 for the ebook or $4.99 for the audiobook and ebook bundle. You can get it at adviceformusicians.com as well as our free ebook with tons of music advice.
Have Professional Quality Artwork
If you want your album to stand out, the artwork needs to be outstanding. If you don’t have the design skills necessary to do this yourself, it is worth every cent to have it professionally done (don’t use a friend who’s so-so in Photoshop or Illustrator). Make the investment in your music and have the art done professionally.
Even though your music is meant for the buyer’s ears, they still shop with their eyes. If your album cover is a hideous mess, they won’t even consider it.
If you don’t have the money for a professional designer, wait to release your album until you do. Seriously, it’s worth it.
Have Your Music Professionally Mixed and Mastered
Professional mixing and mastering can make a huge difference in the overall quality of your record. If you can’t afford to have your album professionally produced, this is the next best thing.
It gives your music a fresh set of trained ears and can take your record from “okay” to “good.”
Fresh ears are critical through all stages of the music recording process. When writing, arranging, recording and finally mixing, it’s critical to have others listen to the music to tell you where the problems are and even if the songs are truly awful. And that’s okay if they are because you can always write more!
That being said, if the music is poorly written, recorded or arranged, mixing and mastering won’t be life changing. They may improve the overall sound quality of the album but it won’t make the music good. Don’t expect miracles and put in the necessary work prior to this step.
You need to listen to and critique your songwriting and recorded performances, redoing them if necessary. You aren’t done with this “editing” stage until you can’t stand listening to them anymore. In most studios, they should already have some amplifiers to ensure that you can listen to your music clearly to see how it will sound for other people listening to it. If the studio doesn’t already have amplifiers, it might be worth purchasing some from Graham Slee Hifi, for example. One of the best ways to listen to your own music is through an amplifier, this will allow you to hear it much louder. That way, you can easily listen for any mistakes, ensuring you’re happy with your music.
Our second set of music for today’s show is going to feature Bastian Weinhold and Dan Higgins. The first song you’ll hear is Mole Hunt by Bastian Weinhold from Cityscape and second I’m going to feature Black Nile by Dan Higgins from Voicing a Standard.
Once again, that was Black Nile by Dan Higgins and before that was Bastian Weinhold with Mole Hunt. You can find more information about Bastian Weinhold at bastianweinhold.com and Dan Higgins is at danhiggins.net.
Make Sure You Submit Your Music to the Correct Genres with Online Retailers
You may think that your music is so original that it defies being put into any box. Labels and genres are for non-creative types!
Even if you think your music is unique, it fits somewhere. Pick the closest sounding genres because that’s how listeners are going to find it and if your music doesn’t fit their expectations, they’re going to be disappointed. So don’t list your music as “jazz” if it’s really more “ambient” and don’t list your music as “pop” if it’s really more along the lines of “country” or vice versa.
There aren’t any specific rules for what defines a genre, but there are certain characteristics of music that tend to make it sound more one thing than another. You know what they are.
Listeners need to know what your music promises to deliver so don’t try to be deceptive or clever. There are other ways to let them know how clever you are (choosing some obscure or incorrect genre isn’t one of them).
You also need to make sure that the album art matches the genre your music fits into. If you are an RnB singer, it might not make sense for your cover photo to be of you standing in a field in cowboy boots. If you’re a jazz musician, it also wouldn’t make sense if you sported a mohawk and leather pants. Don’t confuse your audience.
As much as you might dislike it, people are going to have preconceptions of what your music is going to sound like based on the album art and the genres under which it is filed. Accept that and don’t try to change it because, as much as you might hate it, you very likely won’t succeed if you try (congrats if you do).
Optimize Your Landing Pages with a Catchy Description, Quotes from Music Press or Fans, and Soundclips
If you’re selling your music through an online vendor like Bandcamp, Amazon or CDBaby, they walk you through a lot of this. But if you’re (also) selling your music directly on your website, you need to make sure that your landing pages are clear and that they draw potential buyers in.
What is your landing page? It’s a page upon which your listeners “land” on your site. This is often your homepage, but it can also be the pages for your music. If it’s the homepage, what is it you want your audience to do upon arriving? Do you want them to check out your tour dates or your merch? Whatever your goal is, make it clear that it’s the next step for someone to take (maybe a banner or an obvious button link will help lead the way).
If the landing page is your album page:
First and foremost, the “buy” option needs to be incredibly clear and everything on the page should point to it, not obstruct or confuse it.
You need to draw potential listeners in, make the action you want them to take clear, and provide reason or incentive to take the action.
Experiment with Pricing
The standard for a single on iTunes and most other online vendors is about $0.99 (although more and more are being released at $1.29). If you really want to play around with pricing, why not try listing it at $0.69 just to see what happens? A lower price with a higher sales yield could potentially generate more income than a higher price with a low sales yield.
Release More Music
The more music you have available, the greater your chances of sales because you increase the odds that people will discover you. Not to mention the fact that if someone enjoys one of your releases, they very well might purchase other songs or albums that you have available, and so, you have the potential to make more per customer.
Releasing music using the single-release model gives you a way to create more music more quickly. Rather than waiting until you have an entire album ready, release your music in smaller, more immediate chunks as singles or EPs.
Do Promotion and/or Marketing
There are so many different ways to invest in the promotion or marketing of your music and there is no right or wrong. Different methods are going to work differently for every musician and every genre.
If you print physical cds, consider an insert or a section where you invite listeners to visit your website or join your mailing list.
You can also consider advertising, but if you do this, make sure you do research and implement a highly targeted plan so you aren’t just throwing money into the wind. Put your dollars where they’ll count.
Another tactic to boost your promotion is to ask for reviews and/or submit your music to review sites. It’s worth giving away free copies of your albums to people who enjoy your genre of music in exchange for reviews.
If you employ this method, remember not to expect that everyone you give a copy to will leave a review and they aren’t required to do so either.
So there you have it, our tips for increasing your album sales. Now, to you! I’d love to know your thoughts on boosting your music sales. What are some methods you’ve implemented and have seen success with? Please share them in the comments over at TeenJazz.com!
Our last set of music for today’s show is going to feature Evan Stone and Reggie Padilla. The first song you’ll hear is Grapes from drummer Evan Stone’s Sticks & Stone, Vol. 1 and second I’m going to feature The Second Round by Reggie Padilla from They Come and They Go.
Once again, that was Reggie Padilla with The Second Round and before that Evan Stone with Grapes. You can find more information about Evan Stone in our interview with him on Teen Jazz and Reggie Padilla is at reggiepadilla.com.
Before I close out the show, I’d like to invite you all to check out Teen Jazz if you’re interested in learning more about me, Shannon Kennedy or the community. As I just mentioned it’s TeenJazz.com.
We’re currently celebrating our 10 year anniversary and as a part of that celebration, we’re giving away a ton of great prizes from our sponsors including BG France, Rico or D’Addario Woodwinds, Rheuben Allen Education Foundation, Kenkase Reed Cases and more. You can find out how to earn entries at teenjazz.com/anniversary. You can also earn entries by participating in our scavenger hunt. The clues are posted on our Facebook page – that’s facebook.com/teenjazz. I hope you’ll join in on the fun! The giveaway closes September 9, 2014 so make sure you head over and check it out before then!
All the links that I’ve mentioned as part of the show will be up on Teen Jazz and Teen Jazz Radio, so if you’re interested in learning more about these talented artists, please stop on by – I know they’ll appreciate the love! You can leave comments on any of our posts at TeenJazzRadio.com.
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In this week’s episode, you heard the music of:
- Ryan Saranich “Snow” from Story
- Adam Larson “Too Much, Too Soon” from Overdue Ovation
- Bastian Weinhold “Mole Hunt” from Cityscape
- Dan Higgins “Black Nile” from Voicing a Standard
- Evan Stone “Grapes” from Sticks & Stone, Vol. 1
- Reggie Padilla “The Second Round” from They Come and They Go