The ABC's of DIY
So you're all
excited about the CD you've just gotten back from the pressing plant.
Now what? Shop to the major labels and get the usual artist royalty
of 13 points AFTER recoupment? Possibly, if there happens to be
an offer on the table. How about shopping to the more receptive
independent labels for a deal with no "advance" but a more substantial
royalty of let's say 50%? Maybe, if there happens to be an offer
on the table.
If the first
two options to turn out not to be options, don't despair. There
are some very simple and effective methods of marketing and promoting
your CD. And they don't include having to disguise your voice when
calling radio stations, or wearing a fake nose and glasses and pretending
to be your bands manager to visit a retail outlet. You will incur
some marketing and promotion costs, but the return on your overall
investment will be well worth it. More importantly, you can be the
ultimate controller of how the marketplace perceives you or your
companies are looking to break artists nationally rather than regionally
at first, but in reality, it is easier to sell 20,000 units to a
particular region of the U.S. with a population of let's say 15,000,000
people than it is to sell 20,000 units to 272,000,000 people nationwide
using the exact same amount of marketing dollars.
As a new artist
(major or indie label), you will find yourself waiting in a long
line behind pre-existing, established artists that all want (and
will likely get) those one or two slots that open every Tuesday
when radio stations set their weekly playlists. This is why the
window of opportunity for multiple spins at commercial radio stations
is pretty slim.
So how does
a band with a small budget enhance the chances of radio airplay
in order to sell albums at retail? There are several ways and they
all connect with touring.
up a tour, an artist should initially look at an area that is within
a days drive (4 to 6 hours) from their home base. This way the artist
can leave on a Thursday afternoon or Friday morning for a show on
Friday night, then drive to another market (3 to 4 hours) for a
show on Saturday night, then onto another market on Sunday followed
by the drive home (another 3 to 4 hours) so that you can be ready
for getting back to the day job on a beautiful Monday morning.
it is. But developing a strong following of fans is very important
as it allows the artist to support him/herself and eventually radio,
retail, press, and the major labels will be forced to look at what
an artist is achieving in his particular market.
Now that you
know where you're going, what do you do you do when you get there?
- Find out
which radio stations in that area play your kind of music. Invite
them to your show. Take them lunch. Play for the staff. Make friends.
which retail outlets (record stores, Best Buy, etc.) in each market
are the easiest to approach with your CD. Which ones are supportive
of indie music? Invite them to the show. Make more friends.
- What weekly,
regional, daily's, fanzines, and other publications are located
in each market? Send them advance notice of your gig with CDs
for review. Make even more friends.
Now that we've
established the three key ingredients, let's get back to the vehicle
that is going to get those ingredients to work for you: touring.
How do you get gigs in clubs you've never played, in cities you've
never been to? Simple: Offer to play a free show. The club owner
gets customers in drinking at the bar, and you get to show impressionable
young people that you are the Next Big Thing and sell them CDs after
How do we make
the masses aware that you are going to playing a free show? Again
it's simple. Run ads on television.
Did you know that you can buy prime-time TV spots on major networks
like MTV, VH-1, ESPN, and the Home and Garden Channel (OK, you may
not want to run spots on every channel) for as low as $12 for a
thirty second spot? It depends on the size of the market but these
spots are available even in major cities for not much more than
$35 each and can reach nearly a million households.
Yep, all local
cable companies have a certain amount of advertising time for sale
right alongside the "Coca-Cola", "Rogaine", and "Partnership for
a Drug Free America" ads.
I definitely don't recommend making is to press up a thousand CD's
without having a marketing plan firmly in place which outlines how
and to whom you will sell them.
Not only can
you advertise your free gig and pack the house, but if you set up
an 800 number and offer a free two or three song cassette/CD on
your TV spots, you can build a powerful mailing list of fans to
whom you can market your future gigs and recordings.
require lots of homework, research, and dedication, as well as some
kind of a budget, but they can put you in control of a self-sustaining
career that is not dependent on major label whims, while at the
same time making you more attractive to those labels.
when you come up with the idea of making and pressing your own CD,
the ultimate goal is to sell them as well. So many artists press
their CDs then do nothing with them, and end up giving them away
to friends and family. Think about why you are making and pressing
your own CD and have a game plan.