Do It Yourself CD Distribution!
Here we go...
What do I mean by CD distribution network? I’m not talking about the internet. That’s another story. I want to talk to you guys for a minute about physical CD distribution. That is…where are you selling your physical product, or rather where do you put your product up for sale?
Lets talk about cities and towns first. When you are looking for places to sell your CD, spiral out from the city you play most often. If you played the most in Cleveland Ohio this year then start there and spiral out to the other towns and cities you have played at. Go from played most to played least.
Okay, now you have a list of towns and cities you’ve played at in order from played most often to least often. Next, find the local music shops and record stores in those towns and cities that will let you sell your CD at their shop. It will probably be on some type of consignment basis. Leave them 2 or 3 copies (not too many, they probably won’t sell in a lot of cases). Make sure you have some type of display for your product, either a little poster or a decorated shoebox, anything to go with your CD’s to promote them. Name awareness is a big part of what you’re doing right now so don’t let your CD’s just get tossed on a shelf with a bunch of other names. You could argue that CD sales are really secondary at this point in the game.
NOTE: You can make a display poster easy on your computer and then go to the local office supply store and have them print up however many copies you need and it shouldn’t cost too much, especially if you go black and white. This is important for your CD distribution plan. No one heard about your band on MTV, you have to find a way to stand out a little at the store.
Donate 1 copy of your CD to every library in every city or town on your list of played places. That might seem like your giving away product but your not. Your investing in advertisement. That library CD distribution sidetrack legitimizes your band and introduces your music to the Library CD burning culture. Trust me there is a large group of people who love to just go to the library and check out a bunch of CD’s, take them home and burn them or rip them onto their computer. Obscurity is your enemy, not file sharing when you’re local.
A lot of coffee shops are also up to sell music of local artists if you‘ve played there a few times so hit them up along with the record stores that you have on your CD distribution list.
Make sure to leave all these music stores and coffee shops a contact number in case they run out of CD’s and need to call you for more. (Have some business cards printed up, we’re talking less than 10 bucks and you need them.)
Okay after your done with all that...first, congratulations, you’ve just created a music distribution network for your band. Great job, you’re a step ahead of the game. Next, make sure your checking on your CD’s at least once a month. I’d probably go every two weeks to get a feel for which stores are doing what. It’s real easy. You have your list of stores and coffee shops that have agreed to carry your CD along with their phone numbers. You just go down your handy dandy CD distribution stores list, calling each place and asking about your CD. Ask if they need anymore or if everything is cool. Make a note next to each one like, “everything’s fine, didn’t sell any yet,” or “need more, sold all first day.” Basic stuff like that.
The no-brainer is always “have some CD’s on hand at your shows.” That’s where you get your impulse buys and pity purchases. Dude, it’s all good when you drove 200 miles to play a show and got paid 30 bucks. You need to sell off a few CD’s. That's the guirilla cd distribution tactic that you probably should all already know. But if you didn't, take your CD's to your shows.
Ultimately, a band is a lot like a small business in many ways. You either moving or falling apart. Never make the mistake of thinking you don’t need goals or that money doesn’t matter. It’s the first step on the painful staircase of falling apart. That’s not to say your music is all about the money, because lets face it, we aren’t playing music because of money. We’re doing it because it is what we love, or what we are in love with. I’m not sure which sometimes. At the same time we cannot pretend that it doesn’t matter about gas money, studio time expense, CD production costs, equipment repairs and replacement expense, and a lot of other little things that add up when your in a band. Money does matter. So you just have to approach all the little things head on with some though, and put a plan together to get results.
Now this CD distribution plan I’m telling you about is designed to produce some CD sales for you, produce a lot more name awareness, keep expenses down, and build up a solid distribution network for your band. I’m trying to help you take over the world…err at least your home state.
One more thing, be nice and be professional. You’re trying to build an ongoing business relationship with these store owners. You need a win-win situation here. It makes them look good to support the local music scene and it helps you with name awareness. Think about that for a minute. You both have intangibles to gain even without selling a single CD. Remember that…you are helping each other whether any CD’s sell or not. Selling product was only part of your goal, but a much bigger part was solidifying your band’s presence in that city or town even more. In the long-term, that is a much more valuable currency.
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