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The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section
Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete
reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false
promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians
so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.
How To Increase Your Sales At Amazon.com & CD Baby
By Tim Sweeney (http://www.tsamusic.com)
As the music industry quickly evolves into a more digital and virtual
world, Amazon.com and CD Baby have taken the lead in regards to selling
the greatest amount of independent artist’s CDs. According to various
independent researchers, Amazon.com is responsible for approximately 94%
of all independent artist sales online. CD Baby is responsible for
approximately 3% and the artist’s own web sites are responsible for
(almost) the remaining 3%. This means that besides your site, Amazon and
CD Baby are (practically) the only online retailers music fans will buy
your CD from, if you are a true independent artist.
What does that mean to all the others? Not much. Most of the other major
music sites focus on selling well known past or current major label
artists. Often their largest percentage of sales are Greatest Hits CDs
of well established past or current artists. According to research, most
if not almost all, of the most popular sites are not interested in
carrying independent artist’s CDs because of the lack of sales.
Which brings us to our key question. If Amazon.com and CD Baby.net, are
the two biggest sellers of independent artist’s CDs and they want to
obviously work with you, how do you sell a lot of CDs through them?
Well from my own interviews with the key people at Amazon and CD Baby,
it is clear that they almost see identically to what sells CDs through
their sites and what doesn’t. So lets clue you in, on where you should
focus your promotional efforts in the future (that means in the next 5 minutes!)
1. Live shows and the promotion of them.
As you know, live shows are now more than 75% of all independent
artist’s CD sales around the country. Obviously, people who come to your
shows are interested in your music. If you do a good job selling your
CDs to them after you have played great show, you will see the sales
results you want. If people don’t have the money to buy one at your
show, push them online with a reminder card and emails the next day.
As we have talked about before, the promotion of your live shows beyond
your mailing list is critical. Giving out sample tapes to new fans
(especially the right ones) which include your contact information,
your web site address and the performance date, is still selling
yourself short. Put on your sample tapes (or sample CDs) that your CD is
available at Amazon or CD Baby. If someone drives around with the tape
and likes it, but doesn’t want to go to the show and they see Amazon or
CD Baby on it, there is a good chance they will buy it from them.
Ironically, the independent artists I am working with are selling more
CDs from sample tapes, than at live shows. Why? Because they are not
waiting for an upcoming show before they hand out sample tapes.
. Pushing sales to Amazon & CD Baby through your own site
Lets face it. Dealing with merchant accounts is not only costly early in
your career, it be a pain in the neck. If you are not getting a lot of
direct sales (25+ per week), you may want to consider placing a link on
your order page to send people to buy your CD at Amazon or CD Baby. For
thousands of artists, it has been easier to deal with. Plus some people
just like shopping there.
Even in my own case, even though we get thousands of direct orders for
the books and audio workshops I have written, Amazon get thousands of
orders simply because some people just normally shop there.
. Free standing Internet radio stations
While live shows and the promotion of them, motivate the greatest
percentage of online sales, free standing Internet radio stations have
moved up to third place.
For those of you who may be confused with the term, a “free standing
Internet radio station,” is one that does not just “simulcast” what the
commercial or college radio stations, (which they are part of), is
playing. They are Internet only and make up their own playlists of what
they are playing.
Obviously, music fans have been frustrated by the fact, that they have
to sit in front of their PCs to hear the station. But as technology
keeps developing, we will take internet radio wherever we go. We have
already seen it come into the car and the cell phone.
Internet radio stations offer a great advantage in that, if people hear
something they like, they will look further online for it and possibly
buy it right then. A great advantage over having to drive to the store
to get it or even just look for it.
While there are hundreds of Internet stations out there, most are fans
of or a band themselves, primarily promoting their own music. Look for
Internet stations that “personalize” the station to the individual music
fan that listens to them. Make sure they have a CD sales program with
Amazon or CD Baby. My personal favorite is TuneTo.com.
4. Online magazines - The future of CD reviews
While the sales percentages are still small, there is increasing
optimism about CD sales through online publications. Many, including
myself, feel that online magazines could possibly replace most printed
music magazines, simply because of their ability for someone to read the
review or article and then instantly hear the music.
This is very important. As I have said for years, no one can hear your
music on a piece of paper. Even if the reviewer tries their best to
describe your music, its still not the same as hearing the songs. So
your job is to search for online publications that you feel, best appeal
to the right audience for your music. Email and mail them your Artist
Now that you know what generates the largest and the smallest amount of
sales on Amazon.com and CD Baby.net, let me share with you those
promotional strategies which basically do not generate any sales.
* College & Commercial radio airplay
While it seems odd even to say it, college and commercial radio airplay,
does not generate any real sales online for independent artists. That’s
not to say there isn’t a few sales here and there, but we want to focus
on what is going to bring us the greatest amount of sales.
Basically, people who listen to traditional radio stations will
instinctively look for the CDs at record stores. Unfortunately, if they
don’t find it, most do not look for it online. Their interest just fades
away. This is why online radio stations provide you with more value.
When someone hears something they like, they can easily push a few
buttons and buy it!
* Reviews in the print media
As we talked about before, no one can hear your music on a piece of
paper. Amazon and CD Baby will get copies of print reviews from bands
who are all excited about the reviews until, they see it has done
nothing to sell CDs.
My suggestion: A lot of traditional media is waking up to the fact that
they can’t just “reprint” what’s in the print version of their magazine.
To add more value, they need to cover other items online to make their
web site more valuable. Look in your home market to start with and see
if this is the case with, your major daily newspaper and alternatively
So now that you know what to focus your efforts on and what to take your
attention off, there are 3 key points to leave you with.
1. Your web site is key.
Having one that is built upon the proper elements of your Artist
Profile, will generate sales. DO NOT use your press kit for a
foundation. Your web site is there for information and a means in which
fans can contact you but, its main purpose is, to generate sales. If you
are not selling at least 50-100 CDs a month through your site, contact
me through my site at http://www.tsamusic.com
2. Deal with Amazon and CD Baby
Both agree that it is a great disadvantage to have your distributor try
to place your CD in their sites. In the case of Amazon, if your CD comes
from a distributor, it will be listed as “special order” and they won’t
stock it. By the time someone places an order it could be 4-6 weeks
before they get it!
Explore the Amazon Advantage Program. Amazon will stock your CD, list
that it ships in 24 hours and pay you directly in 30 days! Plain and
simple. They have it and ship it to the person who gets it in the mail
in 2-3 days and you get paid shortly after. CD Baby works the almost the
same way. Dealing with them direct means they stock it and ship it in 24
hours and pay you in a week! The distributor isn’t going to pay you the
full amount for 3-6 months. Good luck, if people still want your CD
after they are told it will take a month to get it. Deal with Amazon
through the Advantage Program and CD Baby direct.
3. Think creatively when promoting your
Don’t make the same everyday mistake, thousands of bands do when sending
out email announcements for their upcoming shows. Bland doesn’t work. Do
it in a charming and personal way that continues the “bonding” feeling
your fans have.
Visit sites and fan clubs of larger established artists, who are your
influences. Let them know how, that artist has influenced your music and
invite them to check it out for themselves through your site.
One point that should be obvious but commonly forgotten. As I have noted
in The Complete Guide To Internet Promotion For Musicians, Artists &
Songwriters, every page on your site should have the “order” link on it.
Don’t be humble, your site is there to sell CDs.
I know this is a lot of information to take in but hopefully this will
help thousands of you, who email me asking the question, "How do I
increase my sales on Amazon and CD Baby?"
PS. The book, The Complete Guide To Internet Promotion For Musicians,
Artists & Songwriters, has an excellent outline of exactly what a web
site that generate sales should look like and what you should have in
it. You can read the first chapter at