Monday, January 25, 2010

Tip of the Day - The Downside of TuneCore

Copyright © 2010 by David C. Coleman

Considering the fact that my company deals exclusively with independent artists and labels, we tend to hear about all the “latest and greatest” opportunities available for artists/labels to market, promote and sell their music. TuneCore burst onto the scene with what, at first glance, appears to be an incredible offer: the artist/label gets to keep 100% of the revenue received from digital retail sales. This, of course, is great news for artists/labels that have a solid following and are able to generate sales on their own behalf. But there is definitely a downside to the TuneCore model (there’s always a downside, right?).

An in-depth study of the digital retail phenomenon recently discovered that approximately 85% (correction - 77% is the accurate figure) of the content available on digital retail sites is NEVER purchased – not even once! This is a very alarming discovery for all the do-it-yourselfers out there. Considering the nature of the TuneCore model, the initial set-up fees and annual “maintenance and service” fee can cost more than many artists accumulate in a full year's worth of sales. For instance, the initial set-up fee for an album containing 12 tracks delivered to 16 separate stores (iTunes, Napster, etc.) would cost $47.70. Boosting the track count on an album up to 20 tracks delivered to those same 16 stores would cost $55.62. Each year thereafter, a recurring $19.98 charge is assessed to “store” the content in the TuneCore database. As you can see, this can become quite cost-intensive, particularly as the law of diminishing returns begins to affect the sales of an album. Over the course of time, an album will typically begin to generate fewer and fewer sales per month. The various international iTunes stores are all counted separately so if you wish to deliver content to the domestic and five additional international iTunes destinations (Canada, Australia, Japan, etc.), you'll pay $5.94 to deliver content to the 6 separate iTunes destinations.

CLG/JesusWired deals with many digitally distributed titles. Some sell very well but, honestly, a good portion of the titles never accumulate $19.98 in sales for an entire year, let alone the approximate $50 necessary to list a title through TuneCore for the first year. So, as you can see, the TuneCore model can actually be an expense rather than a source of income for artists/labels that aren’t generating a respectable amount of sales. Once the model is dissected, it is a little less attractive than the tagline “get 100% of the royalties” might suggest. Nothing is ever free but the air we breathe! Effective marketing can often disguise the true nature of an opportunity. For those just starting out, a risk-free digital distributor is a safer bet. Besides, TuneCore and virtually every other digital distributor do nothing to address the issue of marketing your title to the various sites.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tip of the Day - Generating Music Sales

Copyright © 2010 by David C. Coleman

If you have music to sell you are in business – like it or not. The old adage, “it takes money to make money” holds true for the music business as well. You can always travel the pathway of the guerrilla marketer – hustling your music to every social networking site on the planet, but that is a long and winding road. When it comes to generating music sales, marketing is the key. Great music, professional packaging and sheer genius are only part of the equation. Exposure is king! Nothing can take the place of hiring a competent team of professionals to handle the various label-oriented tasks that are a part of any successful marketing campaign. I've met artists with great music who never succeeded because their music never made it to the ears of the music-buying public. I've also seen some pretty mediocre artists do very well because their music found life beyond the four walls of their bedrooms. The methods for reaching your target audience are in transition, but one thing remains true – a team of competent professionals can help you reach your goal much quicker. When considering an album release, plan to spend 3-4 times as much marketing the product as you spent recording it. Plan ahead. Seek out professionals with proven track records of creating success for other artists and hire them to take up your cause. If you did your homework and found legitimate professionals to partner with, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tip of the Day - Planning Is Free!

Copyright © 2010 by David C. Coleman

When it comes to releasing a CD project, planning out all aspects of the release is essential. Most independent artists begin the creation process with only one thought in mind – recording the project. They believe the artwork and many other creative/practical aspects of the project are less relevant and can be placed on the back burner until much later in the process. They tend to view those elements as an afterthought. If you seek to move beyond warehousing 1,000 CD's in your garage, you’ll want to think ahead and identify the various tasks which will allow you to actually create a buzz and sell music. Let’s be honest, with all the hype about the digital retail option killing CD sales, the CD is still the predominate vehicle for delivering music to the consumer. Beyond that, concentrating on a digital-only sales perspective is a sure-fire method of surrendering at least half of the potential sales opportunities available to you. An extensive study uncovered the fact that 85% of the tracks available for sale on the digital retail sites are never purchased – NOT EVEN ONCE! That’s a pretty alarming statistic. Even if you are turning sales on digital retail sites, you’re likely bringing in a very small amount of income from the process. At $.50 to $.60 a pop, the sale of a hundred singles barely fills your gas tank. What’s more, you typically can’t sell a digital album or single at a live show.

Selling CDs at shows is definitely a good source of income, so you’ll want to have all aspects of your project ready to send to the manufacturing plant when you receive the mastered CD back from the mastering facility. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you have product in hand to sell as soon as possible. If you’re looking to operate at a higher level, virtually any wholesaler or retailer you may approach will have some sort of schedule by which they conduct business (particularly distribution and retail chain stores). To meet the demands of their schedules, you might need to have certain elements locked in up to six months prior to the date you wish to release the CD. So the message is this – start thinking about all aspects of your project from the very beginning. Don’t leave anything to chance. Artwork, packaging, distribution, etc. are not things you can afford to put off until after you’ve finished recording. Music is a business as well as an art. To truly break through in an ever-increasingly indie-friendly yet competitive world, you’ll need to be able to step up to the plate with some knowledge and, often, some cash in hand. But one thing remains true – planning is free. You don’t have to invest anything but a bit of time and effort to develop a complete vision for the project by setting an agenda based on deadlines and due dates. In an Indie world, the risks are greater and the work harder, but the potential rewards are greater as well.