[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
People just don’t buy albums like they used to. In fact, so few music lovers opt to purchase a new release these days, some artists and bands just getting started opt not to have anything physical made at all whenever they have a new full-length to share. Sure, the focus has shifted to digital-only, with streaming taking over the music industry in the past few years, but to ignore physical formats entirely is to miss a golden opportunity to make some extra cash from your most ardent followers.
While people no longer need to buy your latest album to hear it, with the right marketing, you may be able to convince your fans that they really want to purchase your music. Physical has gone from a necessity to a luxury, but there are still plenty of people willing to pay for something unique and treasured…but what does that look like these days?
Here are some ideas of new ways to offer your album up for sale that might just get some people to buy.
This is perhaps the easiest option for any act these days, as all it requires is for a musician to have their latest album or EP pressed on CD. May artists still do this, but adding your signature adds a little something, and that may be enough to get some fans to press “buy” on your website. You probably don’t want to charge more for signed CDs, but rather use it as a small bonus, one which might push some people over the edge when deciding whether to purchase or not.
For a long time, it looked like vinyl was dead, but now it’s back, and it gets bigger and bigger every year. A whole new generation of young music lovers has discovered the joy of owning and listening to LPs, and it looks like they’re not going to change their buying habits anytime soon.
Most major acts invest in having their albums pressed on vinyl, even though it’s a lengthy and expensive process. You should seriously consider doing the same, as it’s now common to see this item in everyone’s online stores. If the masses are collecting vinyl records, shouldn’t you hop on that train as well?
Special Edition Vinyl
Yes, there’s a difference between regular vinyl and special edition vinyl, and you may decide you want to try both out! Regular vinyl is simple black, and it’s a good idea for most bands and artists to go that route these days…but if you want to make it extra special, you may want to hang back and make sure it will be worth it financially.
You can pay a little extra when having your album pressed at a vinyl plant and opt for colored wax, see-through LPs, or ones with glitter, gold…you name it. There are a lot of options out there, some easy to find, while others are quite crazy (I’ve seen blood as a selection before). You may want to hold off and see how well your latest release sells before investing in a second pressing, one which will cost more, therefore forcing you to charge more.
Special edition vinyl is a fantastic collector’s item, but only if there are enough people out there interested in collecting it!
Speaking of collector’s editions, this is another physical item you may want to consider…but only if your fan base demands it. If your following is large enough and dedicated enough in you, your brand and your music, you may opt to have your latest CD pressed more than once, making the two (or more) projects different from one another. This was a tried-and-true marketing tactic decades ago, and while it has seemingly vanished from the Western markets, stars in countries like South Korea, Japan and beyond have kept it going, and they’ve enjoyed incredible success with it.
Some of the biggest names in K-pop will have three or four editions of their new CD made, each with a different booklet or other goodies. This encourages fans to buy more than one copy, quickly upping sales counts dramatically.
This can definitely become expensive, so don’t get several different options made if there’s no chance you’ll sell out of even one.
Deluxe editions of albums are nothing new, though how they’re shared and what they look like has changed throughout the years. You can make the simple idea your own, and encourage your fans to buy a new version of your latest drop by adding more content.
Taylor Swift is one musician who knows how to get her massive fan base to buy a deluxe CD, as for her latest several releases, she shared the standard edition on streaming and download sites, while the deluxe, which featured remixes and other previously-unreleased songs, was only available in physical form. The country/pop/folk singer eventually relents and every song is shared on many sites, but the concept still works.
Whether you release your deluxe edition at the same time as the standard, weeks after it comes out or perhaps even months or a year or more following its debut, offering new songs and other audio content only on a physical CD or vinyl can be a convincing argument for someone to buy.
Of all the options listed here, this is probably the riskiest, and the one that takes the most work, so you have to know your fan base and be in-tune with who they are and what they like before you try this out. You can record a full album (or an EP if you prefer) and instead of posting it to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and the like, you let your fans know this collection is only available on CD or vinyl…and it will only ever be available in physical form.
You can go this way with a proper album of all new material recorded in a studio, or perhaps choose to only use demos, live recordings, or maybe B-sides. It all depends on what you have in your “vault,” as well as how much you’re willing to invest in this gamble.