[Editors Note: This article was written by Chris Greenwood aka MANAFEST. MANAFEST is an award-winning songwriter and artist who has been using TuneCore to distribute his music for years. In this excerpt from his free book, MANAFEST breaks down how he utilized the tools available at his fingertips to build excitement around a release and land it on the Billboard charts, which ultimately made him more money. While it’s just an excerpt, you can grab yourself a copy of Songs Promotion Book for free online.]
There are four secrets I used to hit the Billboard charts. I’ll break them down into four strategic phases for you. Each one is super important to build your momentum and keep your sales up so you have the best chance at hitting the Billboard charts.
Phase 1: The Crowdfunding Campaign
Phase 2: The Pre-Order Campaign
Phase 3: Promote Like You’re on Fire
Phase 4: Tour and CD Release Party
The goal for every phase is the same: rack up sales and get them reported to Billboard, so you hit the charts and catapult your sales even further.
Phase 1: Crowdfunding
Doing a three-to-four-month crowdfunding campaign with Kickstarter or Indie GoGo allows your fans to support you and pre-order the album before it comes out.
When we do this, we hit it hard.
First, I registered a web domain, ManafestKickstarter.com, because that’s easier for people to type in. It forwards people to the actual page where we’re doing the crowdfunding campaign. We create images for Instagram. We create merch packages. We go all out, pushing this every single day to get as many pre-sales as possible so it goes towards the charts.
Honestly, I was scared to do a crowdfunding campaign my first time. I remember the first one we launched was for my book, Fighter: 5 Keys to Conquering Fear & Reaching Your Dreams. I was so nervous that I launched it at 9:00pm on a Sunday night—the worst time ever to launch a campaign.
Look, it’s not if you do a crowdfunding campaign, but when you do a crowdfunding campaign. Since I did my first one, I’ve done one now for every album I’ve released. I will never go back to just throwing it out there and seeing what happens. I will always do one, because they’re so effective and it’s part of the overall strategic plan.
Maybe you’re like me, and think, “Oh, but my fans are gonna think it’s just a money grab, or they’re gonna think I’m just asking for money and all this stuff.” No, they won’t. They’re going to support you. Your friends want to support you. Your family wants to support you. And definitely your fans—especially if you make some cool merchandise packages and experiences for them to purchase—want to support you.
There are two important advantages crowdfunding gives you that I want to focus on: it makes you money, and it saves you money.
It makes you more money than just a regular pre-order campaign on iTunes or something similar, because you can sell higher-priced packages. The maximum you’ll make on iTunes is $10-$14.99, and Spotify only pays you per stream.
It saves you money because you know how much merchandise to order beforehand. With a crowdfunding campaign, you can sell T-shirt packages, hoodie packages, and Skype 1-on-1 calls for upwards of hundreds of dollars. Some artists do online concerts or house parties, and charge a thousand or more. I like to make USB keys, so we did this 8GB skateboard USB key which had all 13 of my albums on it. You can create experiences, like guitar or vocal or songwriting lessons, or maybe a signed copy of your lyric sheet. Whatever works with your genre. You can make a ton more money, and you connect with your fans in a deeper way. It’s freaking incredible.
When you do a crowdfunding campaign, you know your numbers way in advance, so you know how much merchandise to make. You won’t get stuck with a garage full of old t-shirts that didn’t sell. It puts more money in your pocket and allows you to recoup all the money you invest before you’ve even spent anything, in some cases.
Phase 2: Pre-order Campaign at Online Stores
Once the crowdfunding campaign ends and you’ve shut it down, the next step is to start a four-to-six-week pre-order campaign (via TuneCore) to sell your music online. TuneCore makes your music available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and a whole bunch of other places. When you switch to Phase 2, remember to update all the banners on your website and social media to direct people away from the crowdfunding platform and towards the new campaign. I like to use countdown images saying there’s only four days left, then three days, two days, 24 hours, etc. Then go to “available now” or “get it now.” This all prompts more sales towards making those Billboard charts.
With TuneCore, you can pay $25 extra to do a pre-order campaign on iTunes and Google Play. When I add a new album to my TuneCore account, I fill in all my songs with the ISRC codes and upload the files. Once that’s done, I click on the pre-order option and set a date the pre-order campaign ends. If you promote this pre-order until the album comes out, it will increase your sales so you can hit the charts.
You can also set up a pre-order campaign on your website store and submit those sales to Nielsen Soundscan (go to Nielsen.com to see how you can set up an account).
When you make your album available for pre-order, you can give them three to four tracks right away— we call them ‘grat tracks’. I give away five tracks on my pre-order to really encourage the pre-order sales and push the numbers.
So far, you’ve done three months of crowdfunding and six weeks of an online pre-order: that’s more than four months creating buzz around your album. You might be sick of promoting your album, but if you continue to talk about the album from different angles, your fans will not. Remember, when you think you’re screaming at the top of your lungs, people are just beginning to hear you.
Look at how much promotion we’ve gotten, and how many sales, as opposed to just whipping it out and hoping someone will buy it. We call this planned marketing instead of hope marketing. Just think about all of the buzz this has generated and all the excitement it creates. We’ve been talking about this album for months now, so there’s a much more likely chance of people taking action. Remember, for some people they have to see something seven times before they make a buying decision.
To continue reading, check out MANAFEST’s free book here.