sell 1,000 CDs

How to sell 1,000 CDs in ten weeks

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Brian Hazard sold 1,000 CDs in ten weeks using a “free CD plus shipping and handling” offer. He also made over $3,500. Here’s a detailed look at how he did it.

This post originally appeared on Brian Hazard’s Passive Promotion blog. Reposted with permission.

Why would anyone buy a CD in 2020? Let me count the ways:

  • Getting stuff in the mail is fun
  • Superior sound quality
  • Artwork, lyrics, and liner notes
  • It has value as a collectible, especially when autographed
  • To support the artist!

I first heard about the “free CD plus shipping and handling” funnel through Chris Robley. It’s a pretty simple idea: you offer a CD for free. The “buyer” just has to cover the shipping and handling.

Throwing “handling” in there allows some wiggle room on your pricing. $7 is typical, which is enough to cover all your expenses (including the actual CD)! I opted for $5, which is much closer to my actual cost. That way, nobody can argue, “But it doesn’t cost $7 to ship a CD!”

I can already hear your objection: “You said you SOLD 1,000 CDs!”

To that, I say three things:

  1. Money exchanged hands and goods were shipped. Sounds like a sale to me.
  2. If I had framed the same transaction as a $5 CD with free shipping, you’d have no problem calling it a sale.
  3. The majority of the 1,000 CDs were genuine sales beyond the free CD, netting me $3,540.

How did I make money on a break-even transaction?

  1. An order bump
  2. An up-sell
  3. If the up-sell is refused, a down-sell

Here’s how it worked.

My free CD funnel

The offer page is essentially a landing page, with the top navigation removed so visitors won’t roam off.

sell 1,000 CDs offer

Once you enter your shipping info and click on “GET THE CD,” you’re presented with an order bump for a $2 sticker.

sell 1,000 CDs bump

Then you click “LET’S DO THIS” and you’re done, right? Not so fast!

sell 1,000 CDs all in

The up-sell is the remainder of my physical discography for 50 percent off, plus a couple other bonuses. That’s five more CDs for $30 — a pretty good deal, if I do say so myself! The up-sell used to include another two CDs for $40, but I’ve run out, and I’m about to run out of a third. My garage never looked so spacious!

If the up-sell is accepted, the funnel ends. If not, you’re presented with the down-sell.

sell 1,000 CDs how about

The down-sell is for another CD, the spiritual twin of the free CD, for half price plus free shipping.

The Sound was actually the free CD up until a couple weeks ago when I got down to the last box, and swapped in The Thought Chapter. I should add that these really are two of my best albums, perhaps my two best. I’m proud of both and genuinely excited for potential fans to hear them. Anything less wouldn’t be worth the effort.

In other words, this isn’t just some thinly disguised attempt to liquidate old inventory.

You’re welcome to play around with the site. If Depeche Mode and/or The Postal Service is your cup of tea, pick up the CD! Just be aware that if you enter your email address and bail, the site will send out a couple of abandoned cart emails in an attempt to win you back.

My free CD funnel results

To give you an idea of the ratio of free to paid, here’s a weekend’s worth of orders.

sell 1,000 CDs results

The total orders across the entire 10 weeks were:

  • 353 The Sound CDs
  • 167 The Thought Chapter CDs
  • 97 all Color Theory CDs
  • 41 Color Theory stickers

Since The Sound and The Thought Chapter were alternately free and paid at different points in time, their cumulative sales numbers are ambiguous. I added the order bump when I switched the free CD, which is why the sticker count is disproportionately low.

The chief money-maker is the “All CDs” bundle, which started at $40 then dropped to $35 and then $30 as CDs went out of print. Bundle sales account for over $3K and nearly 600 CDs sold.

Here’s the money shot, literally.

sell 1,000 CDs weekend sales

The shipping and handling charges cover all my other costs, including transaction fees, labels, mailers, and the add-on goodies I’ll detail later — leaving $3,540 profit.

Here’s a report on just the up-sells.

sell 1,000 CDs total sales

That $3,540 profit doesn’t factor in the cost of making the CDs in the first place, which is lost to the winds of time, or $1,235 in Facebook ads. I’m currently spending $30 a day. The most successful video ad has so much social proof in the comments that I can’t get newer, objectively better ads to beat it.

So, even though I’m giving away a different CD than the one mentioned in the video, it still beats out my other ads.

The $3,540 figure also doesn’t include the cost to build my website from scratch, which brings me to…

My free CD funnel tech stack

I’m not gonna lie, setting this up was a lot of work! Eight days solid, to be exact. The previous iteration of my site was little more than a single-page brochure, so I had to start from scratch.

Granted, I now have a full-fledged CD store in addition to the offer. It’s really three offers based on shipping costs: one for the US, one for Canada, and another for rest of world.

The site is built on WordPress, which is free, plus WooCommerce, which is also free. There are a ton of paid add-ons, but I’m not using any of them.

The best part? The WooCommerce iOS app emits a tasteless but satisfying “cha-ching!” every time an order comes in. It’s about twice as loud as it needs to be and scares the crap out of me on a regular basis, but I can’t bring myself to turn it off.

Next up is Elementor, a page builder that is way easier to use than anything I’ve tried before, including Divi and Uncode. It’s $49 per year, or $99 for three sites. I got the three site license and started off by giving “Passive Promotion” a facelift. Eventually, I’ll get around to rebuilding my mastering site.

The linchpin of the operation is WooFunnels, which is responsible for the landing/checkout page, up-sell, down-sell, order bump, and even the abandoned cart emails. You can piece together just the elements you need, but I opted for the full bundle at $299 per year. Contrast that with ClickFunnels, which is $97 per month ($1,164 per year) last I checked.

I need to give a shoutout to WooFunnels’ support. Their team in India is incredibly responsive and goes way beyond the call of duty. I’d email with an issue at night and wake up to find a half dozen test orders and an email full of screenshots detailing a custom-coded solution. Two WooFunnels highlights put the cherry on top:

  1. The checkout form uses the Google Maps API to autocomplete your address, which leaves little room for typos.
  2. Apple Pay automatically pops up as an option if available. Classy!

My old web host was giving me all sorts of problems. After three exasperating calls to support, I gave up and switched to SiteGround, and couldn’t be happier! I’m paying less than half of what I was paying before, but the big win is, again, their support. Put in a ticket and 15 minutes later you get a thoughtful response with a clear solution.

SiteGround offers a bunch of WordPress-specific perks like server-based caching and automatic daily site backups.

[Note: Those last three links are affiliate links for Brian, so if you make a purchase, he might make a small commission.]

Last but not least, I picked up a Rollo thermal printer, which uses 4 x 6 labels. You never need to buy ink refills because it doesn’t use ink. Love it!

A “dream come true” experience

As you might guess, packing up these orders takes a lot of time. But that’s kind of the point. I want to make buyers feel special by exceeding their expectations. After autographing the free CD, I write a note by hand and include a sticker. If they didn’t opt for the 4″ silkscreened sticker order bump, I throw in an inferior-but-still-awesome 3″ circular sticker.

sell 1,000 CDs pad sell 1,000 CDs tape

“All CD” bundles currently include a bumper sticker and are sealed with branded packing tape, which was understandably mistaken for branded toilet paper on social media.

sell 1,000 CDs sticker

The bumper stickers were $19 and the packing tape was $29, both Sticker Mule specials (referral link). I highly suggest getting on their email list to take advantage of their weekly specials, which are generally in the 80-percent off range.

The future of my free CD funnel

I’ve gained nearly 500 new customers since the beginning of May. How many of those customers are now fans remains to be seen. My hope is that after shelling out their hard-earned cash and getting back more than they expected in return, buyers will give my music a fighting chance. After all, “Where money goes, attention flows.”

I’ll soon put it to the test as I just put in a pair of 1,000 CD orders to Disc Makers for my last two albums. I never thought they’d see a physical release, but then again, I never thought I’d reach this many potential CD buyers.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the offer going for another 100 CDs or so, or until Facebook stops finding me buyers at a reasonable cost.

What do you think? Is this something you’d try?

Read the companion post, “How to promote a “Free CD” offer (and find fans and profit, too!).”

Photo by John Lee.

Brian Hazard is a recording artist, with over twenty years of experience promoting eleven Color Theory albums, and head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion.

How to Make More Money With Music, the Complete Guide

About Brian Hazard

21 thoughts on “How to sell 1,000 CDs in ten weeks

  1. While Brian is to be commended for being very talented and working hard, I have to agree with several of the posts here that this is sad. Because of Spotify not paying and not sharing some of the hundreds of millions that they take in each month (that we of course help generate), we as artists (and now Discmakers as well) – are left behind to stoop to this scammy kind of hocking. I’ve never seen Domino’s tell me that they will bring a ‘free’ pizza to my house if I simply cover the 18 dollars in ‘handling’. Yet, we as musicians carry on – thinking that we are somehow going to get through, make a difference, penetrate, or change this crooked system.
    If I worked ANY other job and did not get paid, I would quit. So would you. But in music, the instrument makers, poster printers, CD replicators, streaming services, ….they ALL make money. Everybody else gets paid except the musician. What a sad and shameful thing all of these industries have done to music and those who create it.
    Let me say again, I am a fan of Color Theory. I am not bitter or any of those other descriptive put-downs that lots of people in the music industry like to call you if you stand up for what is right. I have almost 7 million streams in Spotify. What has that gotten me? A chance to play for a couple hundred bucks in a bar each week to squeak by. If I sold 7 million of anything else, I’d be able to live without fear of going homeless.
    Tricking people into buying something that they more than likely cannot even use is most certainly not a sustainable business model.

  2. I’ve used this exact method to sell over 4000 CDs. It works.

    If you don’t want to do it because of “low profit margins” or whatever, please go back to all those high profit margin activities you were doing.

    Please feel free to list them here….lol.

  3. How many people that saw the Facebook ad clicked through, and of those people, how many purchased? I have had a good click through rate on Facebook ads (10% +/-) but haven’t seen much conversion to a sale.

  4. You won’t publish this, but thats ok; this is for you . . . Selling CDs is probably the best option left for making money in terms of profit margin. Don’t mess it up with gimmicks like this.

  5. My guess is after factoring in not just the Facebook ads but the unspecified manufacturing costs for the CDs, and the unspecified cost of the website, the total profit was probably somewhere around zero, more or less. Maybe less. Which means that this should be considered not a source of income or “profit”, but rather an effective marketing campaign that largely paid for itself. But a marketing campaign is only useful if it drives sales to some other source of income in a cost-effective manner (a greater increase in PROFITS – not just revenues – elsewhere than the total cost of the campaign), and the question is: did it? What other net income was all this exposure driving? Live concerts?

    Not saying it was bad to do – for an artist, just being able to ship CDs to a growing audience and not lose money is a great feeling. But a more accurate title to the post might be “How to Give Away 1000 CDs in Ten Weeks Without Actually Losing Too Much Money.”

  6. Even at a loss of revenue, the brand exposure and social spin-off have an indefinite and evergreen value …if those are important to you. And of course, some consider it’s better to have the CDs in interested hands than setting in storage for years! For me, it seems a workable idea…..we’re going to try it. But, it’s a personal choice; not everything works for or appeals to everyone.

  7. There are always skeptics out there. Personally, while this doesn’t make you rich, I believe the idea is sound and just offers another tool for musicians to add new fans, revenue to their toolbox. The music industry has been screwed up for at least 15-20 years. With no consistent system in placebo assure musicians get paid what they should for their work. The internet has provided us a lot of tools. But it has also greatly devalued our work. First large scale pirating. Then massive cd sales revenue losses. Now being paid minuscule revenue for streaming numbers. I have found the only real way to make any money is to do live shows. And events. And sell, sell, sell! CDs. Shirts. And TONS of different merch! This is another good idea to continue to bring in more brand awareness. And sales that at a minimum, pay for themselves. Also creating new fans along the way. While the world figures out how to get past the virus. And the major disruption of our other revenue stream, shows and events. I for one will be looking to add this to my toolbox of ideas I already created, to add more sales. BTW, in addition to selling back catalogue CDs (a few hundred a year of my 21 year old album), I managed to sell 1,500 copies of my CD single from two years ago! Yeah, a single in 2018-2020! I made a small profit off the project so far. And will re up on the singles. A hundred at a time. Point is, this music thing is hard work. Anyone who ever said it was easy, clearly has not been at it for long…..

  8. If you run the numbers in this article he clearly made a loss. And had to work very hard to do so. Over a grand in Facebook ads on top of steep website costs and the cost of recording the CDs in the first place….who has that kind of money to invest, and then lose?

  9. Did I miss something? The title said 1000 CD’s sold in 10 weeks, but the breakdown shows under 600 sold…?

      1. Maybe this helps with marketing.
        however media mail is $2.80 an item
        so he forgets to mention that.

        Also if Nielsen Soundscan means anything to you. I am not sure that this equates into the $3.49 minimum required for a CD sale 5o qualify.

        However as a MARKETING tool this is a pretty good way to go.

  10. This is sad. Of course its a sale. However, what does matter is profit or lack of it, compared to the effort exerted. I never thought I would see the day when musicians had to resort to scammy internet marketing tactics. Doing what you are doing is completely devaluing your work. This isn’t an Ebook or a set of ginsu knives. It’s original and exclusive. Buyers will value that, if you allow them to. BTW, personally I think the free book/CD whatever…you just pay the shipping is misleading at best and scammy at worst.

    1. I’ve been allowing people to value my work for years now, yet these CDs continued to gather dust in my garage. As you’ll see in the follow-up, I made $3249 over the course of three months, and sold 1500 CDs.

      Since then I’ve sold a bunch of t-shirts and made quite a few patrons of that same audience.

      But hey, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

  11. Hey, that sounds great, but how do you manage to reach 1000 buying customers (including 500 “new” ones) in 10 weeks?
    You don’t explain that… it sounds too good to be true.

    1. In the post he mentioned he had a Facebook Ad Video to promote his free CD’s. See video above titled, “Free CD Ad for Passive Promotion”

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