The Next Step in the CD Process: How Do I Get People To HEAR It?

by Jason on October 28, 2009 · 2 comments

in Business, Marketing/Promotion, Recording, Thoughts

Is Anybody Listening?

Is Anybody Listening?

Now that the CD Release Party for my new CD “No More, No Less” is behind me I must turn my attention to the next step in the process: How do I get people to actually hear the darned thing?

In this post I will detail a few of the steps I’ve taken to get the music out to the public. Some of these steps get the music directly into the hands/ears of the music fan, while others are more indirect approaches. But I’m hoping that all of them will lead to more people hearing, and ultimately buying, my new CD.

Promotional CD’s

As mentioned previously, I’ve gotten some local and national press, radio and internet radio attention. This has all come from sending out around 100 “promotional copies” (meaning I paid for them but will recoup none of that money) of the disc to magazines, writers, bloggers, radio stations, podcasters, other musicians, friends and the like. This is a necessary expense to take into account when putting the budget together for your release. I imagine I may go through another 100 promo CD’s before I’m done.

Getting CD’s to the media folks will hopefully get them to pass the info along to their readers/listeners, while giving them to friends and other musicians can generate word-of-mouth buzz, which is just as important. Remember that old shampoo commercial “They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on…” Believe it!

Physical CD Sales

Even though digital downloads have become the favorite vehicle for musical acquisition for many people, there are still plenty of folks out there who want to buy an actual CD, especially those from independent artists. And jazz fans in particular seem to enjoy having the liner notes and everything that comes with the disc. As such, I am selling my CD’s through a number of avenues:

  • Directly from my website – This is my preferred method of CD sales, since it allows me to keep 100% of the proceeds from each sale. I do have to package and ship the discs, but until I’m selling boatloads of them this is worth it. I hope that people will want to support me fully by purchasing directly from me.
  • Sales at Live Shows – This is the most effective way I’ve found so far to sell my CD’s. I bring discs to all of my shows and let people know that they are for sale numerous times throughout the night. I have a credit card swiper that I got through CD Baby so I’m able to accept cards, which is a huge help. They take a cut, but it’s still worth it.
  • Amazon.com – Many people like to buy music from stores they know and trust, and Amazon is one of the biggest retailers out there. They keep the biggest chuck of money, but I’d be foolish not to have my CD’s available through their worldwide service.
  • CD Baby (coming soon) – CD Baby is the largest on-line distributor of independent music. They were the first company to offer indie artists the ability to sell their music world-wide, and to get wide-spread digital distribution (more on that below).
  • Sonic Boom Records, Seattle (Ballard location) – I’m a big fan of local, independent record stores, many of which are having a very tough time surviving. Sonic Boom is one of the great ones in Seattle, and I’m proud that my CD is available at their Ballard location.

Digital Sales

Digital music sales have risen astronomically in the last few years and are showing no signs of slowing down. Even though most sales end up as mp3’s, a fairly lo-fi format, there are now companies that are selling higher quality downloads as well. Either way, there are countless ways to get digital downloads out to the music loving public.

  • Bandcamp – This is my preferred method of digital sales. It, too, allows me to keep 100% of the proceeds. Bandcamp is relatively new but has been gaining tons of followers because they are so user-friendly and hugely supportive of the artist. They allow the seller to choose the price at which to sell their music, and allow the buyer to choose from multiple file formats, from mp3’s to high-fi FLAC or Apple Lossless files. Plus, they have great widgets you can embed into all your sites so that people can stream and download your music, like the one in the right sidebar of this page.
  • iTunes – iTunes is the largest digital music seller in the world. They take a sizable bit off the top of each sale, but like with Amazon, it’d be foolish not to have my music available on the largest seller out there.
  • Many others – Through Tunecore I am able to have my music available on all of the big companies, including Rhapsody, Napster, eMusic, Digstation and more. This is a great service and I highly recommend checking them out.

100 CD’s Project

I’m trying an experiment I’m calling the 100 CD’s Project, where I’m leaving copies of the CD in public places, wrapped in a brown paper bag with the words “This is a Gift for You” on it. So far I’ve left 20 CD’s around Seattle, and I have CD’s in the mail to New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Germany, Iceland and other points around the globe. I have no idea what kind of response I’ll get, or if this will lead to CD sales, but when I read about a similar project I thought it sounded cool! So far I’ve received two responses. We’ll see how many more I get.

Social Networking

I have been using social networking to get the word out as well. Through Facebook, Twitter, and to a lesser extent, MySpace, I’ve been spreading the word. This has connected me to many of the press and radio people I now know, as well as other musicians and music fans. I am now in contact with folks I never would’ve been able to find before this new era of communication. I would caution you, however, not to be too relentless with promotion on these sites. A little goes a long way, but you’ll be much more successful and accepted as part of the community faster if you just talk to people and be real. And be sure to help other people spread the word about their projects and news, and you’ll find they’ll reciprocate.


I’m constantly searching for other ways to get the music out into the hands/ears/minds of the music lovers. I’ll keep you updated when I find other avenues. And if you have methods that have been effective for you please share them in the comments section!

I’ll also point out that Cameron Mizell has written a wonderful series of articles at MusicianWages.com detailing much of what you need to know to self-release your album. I highly recommend reading all four parts if you are considering putting out your own music. It’s chock-full of great information.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Will October 28, 2009 at 9:03 am

The concepts for selling cds are the same for any product launch. So you can study the internet marketers (not just the music marketers).

I didn’t see anything about building a following via an email list by offering something of value (free mp3, lesson, etc), although it is losing traction compared to building social communities. Also build up a subscriber base on youtube and other video sites so when you publish new vids (performances of your songs, etc) they all get notified.

Encourage people to contribute, remix the tunes, add their solos, etc people want to be part of the community.

If you don’t have a following when you release a cd, it’s much harder to gain traction started from ground zero.

Jason
Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
October 28, 2009 at 9:50 am

Thanks for checking in, Will. I totally agree that selling is selling and there is much to learn from internet marketers. The only thing I would add to that is that music is slightly different in that there is an emotional element that is not present when selling, say, domain names or iPhone chargers. I think we are well served to remember that music hits on an emotional level.

I do have a mailing list that I still ping regularly, but I find that more and more people are signing up to follow my blog through an RSS Reader and not signing up for the mailing list. The RSS folks are more “active” participants than the email list, who I consider more “passive”. I have never been able to get more than about 30% of the folks on my list to open my emails…

But I do give away free music. There is a widget on my blog for 3 free downloads (one from each JPQ CD) through ReverbNation, and my entire “Live @ JazzTV” is available for free download on http://jasonparkerquartet.bandcamp.com. I could probably do a better job of letting that be known.

As for gaining traction from ground zero…I would say that outside of Seattle my profile has been zero. Until now. Through Twitter, Facebook and the blogopshere I’ve been able raise my profile 100 fold outside of my hometown, and I already see that reaping rewards in purchases from outside Seattle. It’s harder, but getting easier all the time, to gain traction worldwide!

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