Think Atoms, Not Bits

by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan

File Under: Making Money With Music, Creating and Selling Your Merchandise

When you think about making money from your music, even though it’s easy to sell your music on iTunes or distribute and sell them on YouTube, you shouldn’t just limit yourself to just digital products. Why? Because people tend to value that which is rare, not that which is abundant. And ”bits”, in the language of computers, is the most abundant thing there is.

With bits, you can make perfect copies of your entire music collection and transfer it to someone else with no loss in sound quality. This makes music incredibly easy to share. And, because it's so easy it lowers the perceived value in the heads of people -- even though we musicians all know the amount of work, passion, and time that go into our music that justifies its value.

This is perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the music business today. When buying music in the past required you to purchase a vinyl disk, cassette tape, or a plastic disc, most people don't do it for the physical item, they do it to get access to the music on it. This was confirmed as soon as music became freed of these physical forms as bits and could go into devices such as portable MP3 players, computers, and eventually our phones. People converted their entire collections into bits as quickly as they could, and dumped their physical storage. But once we could sell high quality recordings of the music digitally, worldwide, and satisfy their desire to own just the music within seconds, it seemingly became less valuable.

Although you can and should make income selling digital products, because people value physical items more, you need to make sure that you offer them to fans for sale. What this means is that you need to create as many different physical products as you can based on your music and brand.

While you are making your music, consider the following:

1. Merchandise

Don't forget that creating physical merchandise doesn’t mean you have to shell out a lot of money in advance. You can make merchandise for free. And, if you need ideas on what to make, see our earlier article Making T-Shirt Designs That Sell.

2. Products with Content

CDs are the most obvious physical product to sell for shows or in-person appearances (we even wrote a free guide to help you do that). However, you may also want to think about unique items like USB drives which have value even after the music is transferred off of it. Don't forget that you can also make and sell DVDs with your videos, or other content.

3. Trendy Items

Keep an eye on trends to provide your fans with products that they might enjoy. For example, vinyl records have come back into favor as an item that many people want and collect. There are vinyl record manufacturers that can help you create an inventory to sell.

4. Limited Run Merch

Making a short run of physical items makes the product rare which raises its value to buyers. It also reduces your investment in an inventory. You could make a limited run of any of the items listed above; for example a short-run t-shirt design. 

Finally, don't forget that playing live shows is perhaps the ultimate way to sell atoms and not bits. You can only be in one place at a time, and an actual appearance can't be copied. In a lot of ways, each show is as unique as anything you could create and sell. Plus, a show gives more sales opportunities for your fans. (And don't forget to make sure you can get paid when you do it.)

Challenge: Create a physical, non-digital product out of your music and make it available for sale.


#makingmoneywithmusic #merchandise #challenge

Photo credit: net_efekt

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