February, 2001

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.

2. 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.

3. 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 Profile.

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 weeklies.

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 directly.

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 shows online.

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?

Tim Sweeney http://www.tsamusic.com

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 http://www.tsamusic.com.

Order Tim Sweeney Books and Tapes NOW!


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