We talked with Tony van Veen, the CEO and President of AVL Digital Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and CD Baby, who has spent the past 25 years helping independent artists release, distribute, and promote their own music and movies. Read this interview for his advice  about selling albums and merchandise, the mistakes to avoid, and how to push sales....

File Under: Releasing and Selling Your Albums, Creating and Selling Your Merchandise, Making Money With Music, Thought Leader Interviews

We talked with Tony van Veen -- the CEO of Disc Makers, CDBaby, BookBaby, and HostBaby -- about selling albums and merchandise, the mistakes to avoid, and how to push sales.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see musicians commonly make and how can they avoid it?

First, it’s letting their old albums and recordings go out of print. Once they’re out of print, they’re not out there being sold. The easiest sale you can make is to a person that has already bought from you in the past.

If you’re at a gig and you only have your most recent album for sale, chances are most of the people at the show already own it or have it downloaded. That means you’ve got nothing else to sell them. You’re leaving money on the table! If you have your previous CD and the one before it at your merchandise table, you’ve now got the opportunity to still drive incremental revenue from that customer. Keeping your albums from going out of print is cheap nowadays. You don’t have to buy 1,000 CDs anymore, you can buy just a 100 at a time. And selling physical product is still one of the best ways to make the most money.

Second, another big mistake is not asking for a sale! You have to announce and tell your fans -- customers -- what you have available and that you want them to buy and support you. If you tell people what to do, at least some of them will do it. If you don’t tell them what to do, none of them will do it. So talk to them – tell them what to do and have a compelling offer.

Q: Can you share some examples of how to ask for a sale?

Sure. When you’re performing live, use the mic to tell the audience, “Hey, we’ve got CDs available in the back for ten bucks.” That’s a big start, but you can go further -- and should -- by adding, “stop by, we’ll sign them for you after the gig.” Offering to sign the discs that your fans buy, they love that; it really drives incremental revenue, because it personalizes it. It’s an opportunity for them to meet you and it increases the value of what they bought.

You can also bundle some freebies as well. People love getting free stuff and it can incentivize people to make purchases. So, you can announce, “Hey, the first 25 people who buy our newest album get a free poster.” Or, “Hey, the first 25 people who buy a t-shirt get a free CD with it.” Or ‘buy one, get one.’

You can also play with the “name your own price” idea. We have a client, a band by the name of I Fight Dragons, who shared with me an experiment they did at their gigs. They had an EP they were selling for $5, but at some shows they decided to change it up. They told the audience, “Hey, we want everybody to walk out of here with a copy of our CD. So we’re going to let you decide what you want to pay, just come to the back table. If you want to give us $5, great; if you want to give us $10, fantastic; if you want to give us a $1, we’ll take it; if you want to give us nothing, heck, we’ll give you the disc for free; but if all you’ve got is a hundred dollar bill, we’ll take that too.”

They ended up tripling their disc sales with this technique and when they ran the numbers, it averaged out to $4.95. So, yeah, they were getting the same revenue -- but they increased purchases three times! It incentivizes people and moves product. I’ve heard this from other bands as well, the name your own price model is proven time and again to move extra volume.

Second, another big mistake is not asking for a sale! You have to announce and tell your fans -- customers -- what you have available and that you want them to buy and support you. If you tell people what to do, at least some of them will do it. If you don’t tell them what to do, none of them will do it. So talk to them – tell them what to do and have a compelling offer.

About Tony van Veen
As CEO and President of AVL Digital Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and CD Baby, Tony van Veen has spent the past 25 years helping independent artists release, distribute, and promote their own music and movies. Disc Makers is the world leader in CD and DVD manufacturing for independent artists and filmmakers, producing over 60,000 independent titles a year. CD Baby, the largest independent music store and digital distributor in the world with 350,000 independent album titles and over 4.8 million songs in its catalog, is the biggest content provider to iTunes, Amazon, and streaming service providers like Rdio and Spotify. AVL Digital Group companies also offer graphic design services, mastering, and have diversified into web hosting (HostBaby) and eBook publishing (BookBaby) services to artists, filmmakers, and authors.

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#thoughtleaders #makingmoneywithmusic #selling #liveshows #merchandise #TonyvanVeen

Photo Credit: Tony van Veen