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7 DIY Tips For Making That First Music Sale

By Dwight Brown

Your music is being distributed independently.  

You want to get it heard and sold.  Now what?

The process for selling music isn’t an exact science. But, if you follow these 7TIPS you stand a great chance of methodically making that first sale. And once you’ve done that, you can build on it until your music is being downloaded and streamed everywhere.

1. Encourage friends, family and colleagues to buy your music.

Buying starts at home, work, and school. Personally talk to, call, text and email the people close to you and encourage them to: 

  • Download your music and/or add it to their playlists.  
  • Get excited about your new release and its release date.
  • Check out the stores that carry your music.
  • Recommend your music to their friends.

2. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & Tumblr to spread the word.

  • Post the name of your new music and release date.
  • Tell fans why they’ll love your new songs. Hype them!
  • Tell fans which digital stores have your music.

3. Promote your release based on honest fan feedback.

  • Ask friends and family what they like best about your music and use that information in your promotions.
  • Encourage fans who buy your music on iTunes or Amazon to write a review and share their feedback.

4. Use the convenient Apple iTunes Link to promote your release.

  • The quickest, easiest and most direct way to get a sale is to share an Apple iTunes Link. 
  • Share it personally or on social media.
  • Post the link everywhere you can.  Don’t be shy!

5. Stream music, get discovered by fans and make more money.

  • Use Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Rdio and other such services to get your music streamed. 
  • Streaming is the way music fans discover new songs.
  • Streaming generates revenue over and over again.

6. Put your music on YouTube.

7. Use Daily Trend Reports to make smart business decisions.

  • Discover what city or country merits a tour date. 
  • Find out if a social media blitz helped music sales. 
  • Based on sales data, decide which track deserves a video.

Follow these 7TIPS. Be relentless. When you sell that first single, EP or album, don’t forget that inspiring feeling.  It will keep you motivated.

Amanda Palmer, Independent Musician

TuneCore has a number of amazing independent success stories—The Civil Wars’ two 2012 Grammy Awards, Alex Day’s “Forever Yours” hit #4 on the UK pop charts, Colt Ford’s Declaration of Independence achieved the #1 Country Record in the America,  J. Dash’s “Wop (Official Version)” is a certified Gold Record,…and the list goes on. Insight from these artists is something we want to offer to the TuneCore Community.

On September 11, Amanda Palmer—AFP to fans and friends—will release Theatre is Evil with TuneCore providing digital distribution. If you don’t know Amanda Palmer, you should because the successes of her career should serve as inspiration for many DIY performers. After a number of releases with her previous band The Dresden Dolls, as well as solo releases, Amanda chose a life without a record label. This decision seems to have only energized her efforts and popularity. Amanda is open with her fans, unflagging in her pursuits, and creative at her core. In response to our questions, Amanda discusses her approach to social media, suggestions for building a fan base, thoughts on her Kickstarter campaign, and offers both advice and calls to action for pursuing the life you want.

Was a career as a musician your personal goal?
Yes. I wanted to be a rock star from the time I was twelve. I gave myself no other option.

Was signing to a label one the goals of Dresden Dolls?
No. Signing to a label was never a goal in itself. But making music and not spending all of our time on the phone and on email was. I was managing the band and our label in the early days, and trying to do that on top of touring in a van was impossible. I just couldn’t handle all the work. So signing with a label was – mostly – a way to relieve that pressure.

 I have seen your quote “Nothing happens by accident” regarding your success. As your initial efforts were pre-twitter, Facebook, etc.. massive social networking, what would you recommend to young artists as keys to building your fan base outside of social networking?
Networking in PERSON. PLAYING SHOWS. HANGING OUT. Seriously: there’s nothing more depressing than thinking that a whole new crop of musicians are missing this point. The internet should be the tool, not the end point, for connection. Part of the reason I’m so close with my fans is that I always took the extra time to hang out after shows to talk, sign, gab, hug, listen, learn and connect after shows, even if it meant going to bed at 3 am instead of midnight when we had to wake up at 9 am to drive. You just DO IT. And you act like a person, not a diva. If the venue kicks you out, you all go outside. You don’t expect anybody to help you. You just GO. You talk to everyone who wants to talk to you, you spend your extra energy connecting with the fans, not drinking with the crew. After years and years, you start to understand that when you make that actual connection with people, you have a real relationship instead of a fairweather one.

Were there aspects of being on a label that were important your success?
Absolutely. Roadrunner really helped us achieve a presence in Europe and Australia. Had it not been for them, I may have never gotten over there with such ease. For that, I’m very grateful.

Famously, you raised over a million dollars from your fans, do you think the Dresden Dolls would have pursued being on a label if Kickstarter had existed when you were starting?”
Well, it was still possible to burn CDs and be independent back when we signed. The question would have been: WHO’S GOING TO DO ALL THIS WORK? Even if you have a successful Kickstarter, SOMEONE has to do all the office work, the fulfillment, the troubleshooting, the dealing with problems. So I’m not sure about that. Kickstarter isn’t a way to get known, it’s a marketplace. And back then, we would have seen a massive outpouring of support from our local fan base on the eastern seaboard, but we would’ve spent a huge amount of our time dealing with the logistics of keeping the business running. And I think this is a big problem for many musicians nowadays: HOW DO I GET ALL THIS SHIT DONE? It’s very, very hard without help. And you have that moment, sitting in your apartment surrounded by boxes of misprinted CDs that your fans were expecting in the mail two months ago, with an email inbox filled with 1,264 logistical questions and problems, and you shake your fist at the sky screaming “ALL I WANTED WAS TO PLAY GUITAR!!!!!” Finding the balance is…difficult.

You are in the process of releasing, distributing,  and promoting your upcoming release Theatre is Evil as an independent artist, what other members of your team have you assembled? And what are their roles to let your focus on your efforts?
My team is fantastic: I have a full-time personal assistant, Superkate, who helps me clean out and organize my moster email inbox, since I tend to get about 100 emails a day and when I’m traveling and touring, it’s impossible to keep up. My management at Girlie Action deal with the big broad strokes and connect all the publicists, agents, lawyers and general how-to of my day to day existence. They also helped me build, plan and time the release of the Kickstarter, and they keep me on task when it comes to messaging the fans with less personal information like tour dates. They’re also essentially functioning as my record label, since I’m effectively running my own little label with the release of this album. They help me partner up with distribution, they align campaigns and release dates, they literally work on the packaging and all the merchandise with me. They’re indispensable.

Online engagement with fans is a mantra from marketing sites. You do it as well as anyone. What do you find works and helps connect with existing fans, and create new ones?
Honestly…I think the biggest thing I do it I don’t think about it much. I just do it because I like it and I genuinely want to talk to the fans all day via twitter. I love to share. I love to blog. I love to connect, and I love involving everybody in the crazy circus. So I’m not very strategic about that. If I listened to advice from “marketing sites” that said “do this with your twitter, do that, don’t post more than x times a day, blah blah blah” I’d be lost. I do exactly what I want, and sometimes I post over 100 tweets in a day because a topic heats up. And people unfollow, and I just look at that as the cost of doing WHAT I WANT. And I think it’s that general attitude – that I’m using these tools however I want, and to have FUN, not because I’m trying to be clever about it – that keeps people with me.

(Photo Shervin Lainez)

Do you ever feel there is too much honesty or taboo subjects to discuss with your fans? Social is 24-7, do you turn it off sometimes?
I do. There are things I just wont’ discuss at all…no family or relationship drama allowed, no shit-talking other people or musicians, no work gossip. I definitely have my lines.

Are there any new apps, sites, or services that you recommend?
There’s an app for the Oblique Strategies cards for the iPhone now. I’m ecstatic.

In, June, the NY Times quoted your last album had sold 36,000 copies. Do you think this an accurate or valuable statistic anymore with streaming, single song downloads, etc…?
I think it’s probably “sold” four or five times that, at least, if you want to talk about people HAVING the record on their computers and listening to it. I STILL encourage people to avoid buying that one in shops. I’ve given my fans BLANKET permission to download anything.

What else is planned to promote Theatre is Evil? Touring? 
Oh, hell yes. We’ll be going on a tour that will last about a year, or more. The show is going to be an extravaganza…I’d recommend it. We’re going to be trying shit on stage nobody has ever tried before.

What other guidance can you provide to young cabaret punks, metal-heads, DJs, singer-songwriters, etc.. who are trying to succeed with their music?
I think the most important thing is this: why are you doing this? To be a star? To be famous? Or to connect with  people? If you keep asking yourself this question over and over, it’ll help.

It’ll also help when you’re playing in front of practically nobody, like, just the girlfriends of the shitty band you’re opening up for are watching….and you’re wondering what the hell the point of your life is.

If you really, really want to be a musician, chances are you probably won’t be rich. You won’t be famous. If you want it anyway, if you’re willing to just MAKE A LIVING, then you’re on the right track. And while you may never be celebrated and huge, you might stand a better chance of being happy, and as acting as a conduit for happiness for other people. This is the best thing about being an artist or musician. And that’s better than almost any other job out there.

Amanda Palmer Official Site 

Amanda Palmer Facebook 

Amanda Palmer Twitter

Double Your Income… No Really

By Ari Herstand

(Editor’s note: The post below is from TuneCore Artist Ari Herstand, and it was posted originally on  Ari’s Take.  Herstand’s music has been featured on One Tree Hill and various MTV shows, he’s opened for artists including Ben Folds, Cake, and Ron Pope, and his music has charted on iTunes singer/songwriter charts.)

When you’re on tour, merch is your #1 income generator. This can’t be stressed enough. Believe it. Bands stress over their guarantees and door splits and turnouts. If you want to survive financially with your music you must understand the importance of merch sales and approach it as such. I’ve played shows where 10 people showed up, but they had such an amazing time and I stressed the merch to them that all 10 people bought something averaging about $15. That’s $150 in merch sales. That’s good for any night.

The Display
Have an impressive merch display. This means it needs to be big, attractive, professional and well lit. For all intents and purposes you are traveling sales people. So make your displays as such. If your display consists of CDs tossed in the corner of the room with no light then you aren’t going to sell anything. Bands bitch that their fans don’t buy merch. That’s bull. Every fan buys merch. If you sell it right they’ll buy.

The Pitch
Musicians are traditionally horrible business people and that’s why managers exist. Most musicians hate the business and hate having to “sell” to their fans. The most charismatic front person who can capture every single person in the room while performing can be the most introverted, bland, unimpressive and embarrassing salesman when having to talk about the merch.

You have to get over this. Getting your merch pitch down and comfortable is almost as important as getting your live performance down.

Make combo options, ie “Each CD is $10 but if you want to buy both you can for $15” and then not only announce this but emphasize it. I spend about 45 seconds every show to explain what I have for sale. You may say this is a vibe killer and kills the flow, but on the contrary you can make it a part of your show. My stage banter is a big part of my show so I incorporate it into my banter and turn it into a joke. I title the combo that is $25 for all 3 of my albums, my “Midwest Combo” because I say “I’m born and raised in the Midwest and we love bargains there so I like to pass along the Midwest bargain wherever I go.” People come up to me after the show excited and with a smile on their face and ask for the “Midwest Bargain.”

I have a credit card swiper and I talk about that too – and stress it – because ever since I got a swiper (for my iPhone) my merch sales have about doubled. They hold out their credit card and say while smiling “show me this cool credit card thing… you know what throw in a poster too.” It’s so easy to just keep adding on items with your credit card.

If you haven’t picked up on the subtle hints: GET A CREDIT CARD SWIPER. Right now Square is the best option. It works on an iPhone, Droid or iPad and the device is free and the only fees are to the credit card companies at around 2.7% (these numbers and your best option may be slightly different by the time you’re reading this, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to accept credit).

Putting up a sign with the credit card logos is also good just in case they don’t hear you say it on stage.

Depending on how attentive your audience is you may need to stress the merch a few times during a show.

The Merch Seller
You see tweets and Facebook posts from touring bands all the time asking for merch sellers for tonight’s show in exchange for free admission. Bringing a merch person on the road with you is best, but expensive, and you probably won’t be able to afford that for awhile. Not having someone sell your merch, though, is not an option unless you play very short sets and are certain people will stay the entire show and you can run over and man the table yourself after you finish playing. But most likely, not everyone will stay the entire time – especially if there are multiple bands on the bill or you’re playing a late night, 4 hour bar gig.

Bands think that if they didn’t sell any merch it was because people didn’t want to buy it. But what if they REALLY wanted to buy something but they had to leave at 11 because they have to wake up at 6 and you didn’t take the stage until 10:30 (when you advertised 9) and you are playing a 90 minute set. They glance at the table on the way out, but no one is there to sell them something so they leave.
+Musicians Are Lazy (The Day Of)
+Time To Advertise Your Show (coming soon)

You will double your sales by having someone at your merch table during your set.

If you push your merch from the stage, take credit (and push it from the stage) and have a merch seller at your table during your set, you will absolutely increase your yearly income. Doubling your sales by taking credit and doubling them again by having a seller at the table during your set can take your yearly income from $10,000 to $40,000. And now you’re a full time musician.

Your pitch for them to buy your stuff starts with a kickass performance and ends with you standing by their side after the show with a sharpie out ready to sign your CD (or Tshirt, poster, etc).

Organize Your Merch
I once toured with a band who put a lot of money into creating a lot of merch. The merch guy they appointed in the band was incredibly lazy and irresponsible (don’t appoint someone irresponsible to manage your merch). They played after me, so after I finished my set I hung out by the merch table during their set. People came over to me wanting to buy the other band’s T-shirt, however all of their shirts were tossed with no rhyme or reason into about 3 bins. I put in good effort sifting through hundreds of shirts attempting to find the correct design in the right size, but eventually with a line piling up I had to give up and apologize that they either didn’t have the size or I just couldn’t find it. I told them to come back when the band finished and they could spend more time searching. Sometimes they’d ask if I had their size in one of my designs. 8 seconds later I pulled out their size swiped their card and just made $20 for being organized.
+Allocating the Duties
+The Opener

How I keep my shirts organized is I roll them up and use painters tape or masking tape (painters is better so it comes off easier) and write on the tape the size. I place them in a long clear bin from Target with the sizes ranging from S-2XL left to right. No sifting or guessing. I put Women’s shirts in one bin and Unisex shirts in another. I label the Women’s shirts WS for Women’s Small and the unisex just S.

Sell Quality
Merch is an incredible money maker and should be looked to as such, but it’s also a promotional tool. You want to sell fans shirts that they’ll actually wear with your band name displayed on them to promote you to their friends. It’s a conversation starter. I’ve gotten tweets from people saying they met new friends from wearing an Ari Herstand T – and actually someone got a 1st date out of it once! True story.
+How I Made $13,544 In a Month (on Kickstarter)

Order brands that are comfortable and hip. You’re not just selling a design you’re selling a feel and the vibe. If people get your shirt and after one wash it gets deformed and becomes uncomfortable to wear they’ll associate your band that way: uncomfortable and low quality. I always order shirts that cost a couple bucks more because it’s an investment. Big fans know that I offer quality and when I come out with a new design they’ll pony up another $20 to get it even though they already have one of my old shirts. If a fan buys your shirt and they don’t have a good experience with it they won’t buy another.
+Image Isn’t Just About Your Look (managing your brand) (coming soon)

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Ari Herstand’s Music

Adapting To The New Music Industry

They say one year on the Net is like five years in the “real world,” in regards to the music industry, one year sure feels like 15.

When we launched TuneCore half a decade ago (sounds more impressive than five years) we built a system to change the music industry and empower and serve artists.  Since then, the industry has changed and evolved: new stores have popped up, others have shut down; more music is being released, bought, streamed and shared as major labels downsize, release less music, consolidate, put themselves up for sale or get taken over by banks.  Music sales by unit are up another 1.5% in 2010 (around 1.6 billion units).  With the rumored forthcoming “cloud services from Google, Apple and Amazon and Spotify entering the US, the concept of over a trillion units being streamed or bought per year is no longer fantasy. Over the past 28 months alone, TuneCore Artists have sold over 300 million units generating over $150 million in gross music sales.  Most of these TuneCore Artists are also the songwriter, the publishing company, and the performer, earning them over $100 million more in additional revenue from each of these additional income streams (more on the six legal copyrights that drive the music business can be found here).

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The Emergence of The New Music Industry – It’s Global, Generates A Lot Of Money & Is Based On Six Copyrights

By Jeff Price

There have been six fundamental changes to the music industry that have revolutionized and transformed the business.  It is vital that artists are fully aware of these changes in order to make the most money and pursue their passion on their own terms.

These six changes are:

1)   Music fans now buy and listen to music from digital music stores and services.

2)   There is unlimited shelf space where everything can be in stock at no detriment to anything else.

3)   For no up front cost, there is unlimited inventory always available on demand as a perfect digital copy.

4)   With the launch of TuneCore, there is no gatekeeper to placing a song on Apple, Amazon’s etc store or hard drive.

5)   Distribution of a release is now global and not restricted to just one country.

6)   Artists can market directly to their fans.

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