Lose The Wrap When You Give Your CD Away

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CD sales are one thing, but make it easy when you give away your
music on CD

There are lots of reasons to love a CD. I, for one, enjoy getting a physical disc, browsing the liner notes, reading the credits of the string players on track 8 (who aren’t credited on iTunes downloads), and using one more of my senses (well, two if you count the smell of paper and plastic) during my album listening experience.

CD sales vs. giveawaysFor any independent artist, hand-to-hand CD sales are necessary. I make the majority of my album sales at my live shows in the form of a CD (not a digital download card or a vinyl record). Buying my CD live is one part “I want to listen to this,” one part “I want to listen to this in my car on the way home” and two parts “I want to have a moment with this artist who I just enjoyed the live show and get him to sign it.” It’s the same kind of moment they want to have buying you a drink; however, this moment they’ll actually walk away with some music.

No social network or YouTube video can change the electrifying energy of a physical experience.

When you have a new album out, you most likely will want to give a certain amount away to people that you think could potentially help your career. Be it a venue owner, a booking agent, a record company exec, a radio DJ, a newspaper journalist or your rich uncle. To get these people to actually listen to your album is much more difficult than you expect, and it’s not always just because they’re “too busy.”

When I’m on tour I get handed a CD nearly every other night. However, they almost always give me their CD shrink wrapped. The mental effort it takes to battle with a shrink wrapped CD way outweighs the actual time and effort it will take to unwrap it (10-300 seconds depending on the length of my guitar nails at the moment). In your mind you have thought this out: “It’s more professional if I give them my CD shrink wrapped. It looks like I’m a legitimate artist. They’ll enjoy unwrapping it – like a present!” This is wrong on all accounts.

Always unwrap your CD before giving it away!
This includes mailing it to a radio station or newspaper reviewer or giving it to a fellow musician at a show. If you want them to listen to it, remove as many steps as you possibly can from the equation. If you give someone your disc at a show all they should have to do while driving home is remember they have it and with one hand on the wheel slide the disc out from it’s case and pop it into their CD player (you don’t want to cause them an accident do you?). The same goes for the journalists getting your disc in the mail. They see five discs on their desk. four are shrink wrapped and one is not. Which disc do you think they’re going to start with?

When I finish my tour I have about 30 shrink wrapped CDs cluttering up my car that I eventually throw away and two burned demos and three actual released CDs that were given to me unwrapped and have been in rotation in my car throughout the tour.

One last note – this is only for giving away CDs to people you really want to listen to them (industry folk, radio, press, other musicians, etc). This does not apply to CD sales at shows. I always keep my CDs wrapped when I sell them, it’s almost fun for people when they purchase them to unwrap it.

Ari HerstandSince quitting his day job at Starbucks in January 2008, Ari Herstand has played over 500 clubs, colleges, and festivals in 40 states; opened for Ben Folds, Cake, Eric Hutchinson, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, and Ron Pope; and had his music featured on popular TV shows like One Tree Hill and various Showtime and MTV shows. Ari relocated from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in the fall of 2010 to begin the next phase of his artistic journey. This year he landed two co-starring roles on 2 Broke Girls and TOUCH, as well as a lead role in feature film. Check out his independent music business advice blog Ari’s Take, follow Ari on Twitter,and on Facebook, and sign up for Ari’s Take newsletter.

Read More
Should You Give Your Music Away?
9 Quick Tips to Boost Gig Sales
11 Reasons Why A CD is An Indie Artist’s Best Friend
CD Sales Are Up On CD Baby
11 Ways to Increase Your Sales on CD Baby

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4 thoughts on “Lose The Wrap When You Give Your CD Away

  1. Great advice. Recently, I’ve done a CD and struggled with the idea that it MUST be shrink-wrapped. Due to lack of sufficient funds and the fact that my first batch of CD’s were bought by family, friends and co-workers, I decided to package them in clear cello bags w/ silver ties and included a thank you. I’ve gotten a good response from the packaging. It says I put a little more “TLC” into the packaging. I won’t be doing professional submissions that way, but it’s good to know that I should leave them “unwrapped” anyway.

  2. I agree and some of the info is well known to many and thanks for sharing for the folks that don’t know this yet. Further, one thing one can consider is to slit the wrap and slip a note or card in–once the wrap is slit tearing it off is very little effort. On another note, something else to consider is this–and I have a few points to share: When deciding the nature of ones CD packaging there are a few things worth considering– and these are from a radio DJ’s stand point–even more directly a Community Radio DJs perspective because commercial DJs I don’t think ever even hardly touch a CD anymore. I read this post after it was posted by a bluegrass DJ– bluegrass is almost exclusively played on public or community radio– when considering packaging, while it may seem cool and neat to have a big puzzle with folding tabs and 3-d glasses that you can turn it into a diarama….well, from experience, as a DJ– no thanks and have mercy! That’s the last thing I want to contend with when I need to get the CD in the player and put away properly and quickly. I think it’s even worth it if you produce a thin line CD with no binding–to consider doing a run of radio ready CDs in a traditional plastic jewel case–for sake of ease and ability to see the binding when its on the shelves at the station. As far as I can tell plastic jewel cases are the cheapest-which alternately why I don’t order a full run of CDs in plastic jewel cases-they are heavier, bulkier, and get cracked in travels. But word to the wise–there is a box next to the music directors chair where the thin CDs go that will then need to have new cases made up at great annoyance and time–and sometimes the CDs never come out of that box–most of the time I’d say. It’s a pain. its a sure way to increase your odds of no one playing that CD or even knowing its there. I realize I’m speaking to just a % of the folks out there sending their music around–but this is valuable info–use it or not. And it is for more than Bluegrass artists. Indie folk, just plain folk, hell almost everything except straight pop music is played on community radio– Neil Young’s newest right down to some local hero or upstart. Back to the slitting of the plastic wrap– if you happen to realize that your CD packaging allows the CD to flying out of the sleeve or holder or however it is retained in the packaging– then the slitting of the plastic is extra good for this too—more and more CD are just slipped in a part of the case and it’s not always that it has just one opening–why? I have no idea-but I see it often.
    When you play a show-you play to some folks–maybe a lot maybe a few– when your music is played on radio WAY MORE PEOPLE HEAR IT! If your music is radio friendly don’t ignore this fact. Make a point to see if you can stop into public stations while touring–especially if they already play your music. I hope this info helps some folks– I’ve been a DJ at KVNF Mountain Grown Public Radio for almost 20 years now. I play in a band and have been for almost as long–I see things from both of these sides. I think it has helped my understanding of a lot of issues around being a recording or performing artist and some that I think many don’t even know are issues.

  3. I generally agree, but can’t help but think about the very telling experience when EMI returned my CD with a nice note, “After listening to your music and giving it great consideration, we regret to say that we will pass at this time). My CD was still in the shrink wrap! That’s a story I frequently tell in my music business lectures.

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