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Selling CDs Online: A Three-Pronged Approach

by David Nevue
March 19, 2002

Recently, a visitor to the Music Biz Academy asked me a very common question; "How can I sell more CDs on the Internet?" Good question, though very open-ended. How you go about marketing your music successfully depends on a great many factors. This article contains some suggestions where to start.

I recommend musicians take a three-pronged approach to selling their music on the Internet. The first 'prong' is what I call 'targeting with buzz.' That is, you create a buzz about your music and get people talking about it. To do that, however, you need to promote your music where people are already searching for new music to try out. That is, instead of trying to bring people to you (or your web site), you go to where the people are already hanging out. Go where the action is, so to speak. So, where's that?

The first place I recommend any musician start promoting their music is MP3.com. Though some independent musicians feel MP3.com has 'sold out' (actually, they literally have) to the commercial record industry, the fact is that for pure exposure it's the place to be. MP3.com is a huge magnet for music-loving traffic. Perform a search at Google for 'music' and MP3.com the #2 site listed. Search for 'mp3' and it's the #1 site. You just can't find a better place to put your music right in the path of cyber-traffic. With proper promotion, you'll have hundreds, even thousands of new people listening to your music every day. For example, for January 2002, I was able to generate over 50,000 plays of my songs. And that was with just basic, simple, inexpensive promotion. That exposure resulted in more CD sales, lots of email from new fans, and more importantly, name recognition. Once you've mastered MP3.com, you can start setting up shop at other, similar sites such as Vitaminic.com, GarageBand.com, CDStreet.com, Ampcast.com, JavaMusic.com and others.

The second 'prong' to increasing CD sales on the net is what I call 'targeting by site.' With this option, your objective is to create a web site that targets the people most likely to be interested in your music. The question to ask yourself is, 'what are the people who are most likely to buy your music already searching the Internet for?' Once you have that answer, design a web site to target that specific audience. Then, promote your web site using tried and true web site marketing techniques (see spider-food.net for search engine promotion tips). In this scenario, you don't focus on promoting your music per se, you focus on promoting the web site. Then, since your web site is attracting visitors that tend to enjoy your style of music, you advertise your music on your specialized web site, marketing directly to those targeted visitors.

The final 'prong' is where you will create long term fans; your own 'official' artist web site. This personal web site is the place where you will provide your fans with complete details about your act. You'll include song lyrics, news, CD info, pictures, a discussion board, chat room, sheet music, whatever you can think of. Your official site is the place you will drive traffic to from prong #1 and prong #2. It's where, ultimately, long-term fans (and friends) are made and, if it's well-designed and updated frequently, it's the place your fans will keep coming back to. Here's a tip: if you have more than one CD, sell them in 'bulk'. Give your visitors the opportunity to buy more for less. I currently have 5 CDs, and give my visitors the option of buying all 5 CDs for $50. Guess what? Most of my orders from new customers are for the entire collection. So, if you haven't yet purchased a domain name for your act, do so. I recommend using DirectNic.com, where you can purchase a domain name for $15/year.

All three of these prongs work together in tandem. The first (targeting with buzz) not only sells CDs, it creates buzz, name recognition, and career opportunities where none were before. My time on MP3.com has directly resulted in song licensing opportunities, as well as a distribution deal with a Korean record company. The second method (targeting by site) allows you to target visitors who have a predisposition to your style of music. Maybe they didn't search the Internet looking specifically for new music, but as a result of their search they did discover you, and with some keen marketing strategies you can gradually, over time, turn some of these casual visitors into fans. Finally, the third 'prong' is where you keep them coming back, your own, official web site. There, long-term fans are made. Think of prong #1 and #2 as a funnel, that channels your visitors to prong #3.

I'm sure you're thinking this is a lot of work. You're right, it is, and it's only the beginning. There's a lot involved in marketing and selling your music online - much more than I can go into in this short article. But, hopefully this will whet your appetite and inspire some creating thinking. If your music is truly good music, and you (and others) really believe in it, there are many marketing and career opportunities for you online. You just have to dig them up, and be very persistent about it.

David Nevue is the founder of the The Music Promotion Academy (http://www.musicbizacademy.htm). He is a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

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