11 Reasons Why A CD is An Indie Artist’s Best Friend
The news surrounding the music industry might make you wonder if anyone is buying CDs any more. Major-label CD sales are down – downloads are up. As an independent artist, do you really need to make CDs?
There are many factors to consider, and what is true for major-label artists does not often translate to independents. As a matter of fact, amidst the declining major-label CD sales, Disc Makers has seen continued growth in new CD jobs ordered. It speaks to the fact that one revenue model does not fit all markets, and the ingredients for success for a major-label artist vs. an independent are simply not the same.
I know… of course Disc Makers is going to tell you to keep making CDs. Yes, we are a CD manufacturing company, and that gives us a particular stake in the subject. It also gives us a front-line view of what the demands of the market and our client base are. Here are a few things to consider.
1. CDs are an integral part of the indie revenue stream.
Getting paid good money by a club or promoter to play a show isn’t always an easy prospect. And even if you do get a decent fee to play, your merch table and CD sales HAVE to be exploited to buffer your income (if not to double or triple it). So if you’re on the road, even for a weekend jaunt, you need to have something tangible to sell to help increase your take at every gig.
Download cards can and should be sold, but your new fan can’t stick a download card in their CD player to give it a listen on the ride home. Having other things to sell – merch, posters, and stickers – is necessary, too, but your CD is the main course on that meal ticket.
- Up to 75% (or more) of music revenues come from CD sales. You don’t want to cut off that much revenue potential.
- You make more money selling CDs at gigs or on CD Baby than selling downloads on somewhere like iTunes. A CD costs you between $.90 and $1.50 to manufacture. Sold at $15, that’s over $13 per unit.
2. CDs legitimize you.
What major music artist doesn’t have a CD? Physical product, e.g. CDs, demonstrate that you as an artist are committed to your career. Giving a music business professional a professionally produced CD is the fastest way to get them to listen to you and take you seriously. Giving a potential fan a CD (or selling one, of course), is the fastest way to converting them to your tribe. Don’t make people work to hear your music!
3. No connectivity required.
A CD is ready to go. Take them home, pop ‘em in your car’s CD player, a computer, a boom box at a party… CD players are everywhere. There’s no web connectivity necessary, no searching around a website – just plug and play. Plus, you can add bonus material, videos, and enhancements to make your CD an all-inclusive multimedia experience. And the fact is, some customers just don’t do downloads. You’ll lose a sale if you don’t have a CD for them. Even your grandmother knows how to use a CD.
4. Permanence (no crashing computers and lost data).
Your music is virtually permanent on a CD. Hard drives crash and MP3 players die, it’s a sad fact of life. But if you have a disc with the content on it, your message or album is not lost. And of course, if you own a CD, you can easily rip MP3s for storage or use with your favorite media player and still have the disc as a backup and for use with your stereo, car, etc.
5. A CD tells a story.
The artwork in your CD package helps further illustrate your album’s artistic statement. A great looking CD and your specific choice of packaging say something about you and can help you further connect with your listening audience. Plus, listeners experience the track sequence, pacing, and breadth of your work exactly as you intended. Singles certainly have their place and can spark interest in your act, but albums are the only way for you to create a thematic and sonic statement of where you as an artist are at the time the disc is recorded and released.
Not to mention the fact that after spending months (or years) composing, refining, rehearsing, recording, mixing, and mastering, there’s a real sense of accomplishment in having something to physically embody the sweat, money, and tears that went into the work you’ve created. Digital files are a great way to deliver tunes, but nothing beats having a CD to represent the completion of your artistic efforts.
6. A CD gives you something to promote.
Any independent artist who tours knows that the majority of CDs they sell are sold from the stage. Think of it as a fan-building and fan-nurturing tool. It’s one of those moments where a fan, or soon-to-be-a-fan, craves immediate gratification and a remembrance of the event. CDs are the best format for live sales. It’s an instant data transfer – you just hand over the disc. And even more than this being an “impulse” buy, it’s truly a matter of you creating a demand and being there to supply the goods immediately.
As a matter of fact, you should consider the act of pitching your merch and CDs from the stage or your merch table as an invitation for your audience and fans to have a direct and personal interaction with you. There is an art to the pitch, and those who take the time to create an interesting approach sell more CDs and gather more mailing list names for future promotions. If your invitation to meet you at the merchandise table includes a drawing for a free CD, then your CD sales could go up 25%-50% and you’ll collect nearly 100% of your audience’s contact information. That’s easy, low cost marketing that will pay off for years to come. Want to really personalize the experience? You can sign a CD. Try that with a download.
7. Shopping your music? CDs are the way to go.
CDs remain the preferred format if you’re shopping your music for film, TV, multimedia, gaming, or licensing opportunities. An overwhelming number of music editors and journalists prefer a physical CD and press kit when being pitched an emerging – or even an established – artist. Radio stations utilize CDs in their selection of music for airplay. If you choose not to press CDs, your chances for success and exposure on the radio are virtually non-existent.
8. Strength in numbers.
While many artists now feel no need to court major labels to achieve success, if you do want a label’s attention, CD sales are the most important metric they’ll consider. The same is true for managers and booking agents. If you prove you can move product, you’ve got a good chance at impressing those folks.
9. CDs sound better than MP3s.
CDs sound better than an MP3 download, because they’re not compressed like an MP3 file.
10. It makes a swell gift, too.
Want to reward members of your fan club and street team? There’s no better way than giving them a limited-edition CD with music recorded and packaged especially for them.
11. What’s true for majors isn’t true for indies.
The majors are selling fewer CDs, it’s true. But you are not a major-label artist. To sell downloads in significant quantities, you need people actively seeking your music to buy. This requires a large and established fan base, and/or a popular hit single, and/or a tremendous amount of money spent on promotion, and/or a significant buzz on the web. As an indie artist, you may not have any of these things yet, you’re still building your name and awareness about yourself and your music. Chances are you’re giving away songs through digital distribution to promote yourself.
As an indie, you rely on hand-to-hand music sales, personal contact at gigs, something tangible you can hand to someone as soon as you’ve sparked an interest in your act. Nothing does that like a CD.