What is a Free CD Worth?

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I recently had someone on the Disc Makers blog ask me about a promotion they were thinking of doing for their upcoming CD. The idea was to give out 50-100 CDs to fans who were willing to recruit a certain number of their friends to join the band’s Facebook fan page. I thought it brought up some things that are worth thinking about. Here was my response:

My first thought is that you might get a better return on investment with Facebook advertising. You can advertise your fan page on a pay-per-click basis. It’s pretty easy to set up. Right under your photo on your fan page you’ll see ‘Edit Page’ and then right under that ‘Promote with an Ad’. Just click on that and follow the instructions. Chances are that if these fans are going to give a good recommendation to other people, then they’d buy the CD themselves. Sell them the CD for $10 instead and then invest that money to gain 50 fans per CD via Facebook advertising.

I do like the idea of encouraging fans to spread the word though. You might also consider doing a promotion for people who tweet about you. I’d suggest creating some specific content just for that kind of promotion. Your super-fans are the ones who will make the best evangelists and give the most passionate testimonials for your band. They’re also the ones who would want your b-sides/ live tracks/ bonus videos etc.

If you don’t ask your 50-100 best fans to buy your CD then you might be giving up the money that would have paid for a new website, a professional photo shoot or new video. Your true fans want you to succeed and in most cases, would feel good about their $10 going towards a brighter future for your band.

Also, I would hesitate to advertise free CDs unless you ask for something of high value in return and/or you have a great plan to leverage the free CDs into something profitable. I’ve seen artists who think that the way to go is to indiscriminately give everything away for free or very cheap. I think this is usually because a) they have their own ‘issues’ with money and b) because they think that if they spend enough of their own money to give things away for free then they’ll get so many fans that they’ll somehow become successful. Instead they end up broke, burned out and disillusioned. It doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re doing, but it’s a scenario that you want to be aware of.

You really need to believe in the value of what you’re offering. If you have any doubts about the value of your CDs or anything else then you’re going to have a hard time selling those things. If, on the other hand, you know in your heart that your latest CD is priceless, that it will be the soundtrack to amazing memories for those who buy it and that you, yourself would walk 10 miles to a record store to pay $15 for it then you’ll do a much better job of conveying that value to your fans. Anything less and you’re doomed from the start.

You want to assign massive value to everything that you offer, whether you give it away or not. If someone gets something from you for free then you want them to feel like they really got hooked up. If you don’t give much value to the things you give away then not many other people will either.

If you’re interested in other ideas about selling CDs, check out some more discussion from that post:

One of my favorite ideas for selling CDs came from Terry McBride of the Nettwerk Music Group. He was managing a band who sold an average of $300 per night in CDs. They would mention from the stage that they had CDs in the back for $15 and on average managed to sell about 20 of them. Terry asked them to change their approach. He came up with the concept of ‘everyone leaves with a CD’.

The band would talk about their CD (build value) and how much it means to them and how much they wanted everyone to leave with a copy. They asked people to pay what they could, but even if they didn’t have any money they asked them to take a CD. They made their pitch twice per show. Before long they were averaging $1,200 in CD sales a night! And the best part was that because so many people had left with a CD they had an enormous increase in attendance for future shows.

Brian Mazzaferri of I Fight Dragons learned about this idea through Derek Sivers. The band was selling a disc for $5. They started with the ‘everyone leaves with a CD’ idea and the results were as follows: The average price that people payed for the CD was $4.98, but the total number of CDs the sold per night doubled!

If you decide to go with this approach then my advice is to practice your pitch. Say things that build value for your CD, connect with fans on a level where you really want them to share the experience of your music, and keep your pitch simple. Don’t say things like “pay what you can, but if you can’t pay then just find Tenise and give her your email address and then Joe will give you a CD.” Make it super simple: “Tara has CDs – right over there – pay what you can, but PLEASE LEAVE WITH A CD.” etc. If you can, then have someone collect email addresses from people in line to get your CD, but don’t mention anything about that during your pitch. Give them one simple call to action at a time.

Click here to view the original post, CD Release Tips.

Article by Scott James of The Independent Rockstar Blog.

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