File Under: Releasing and Selling Your Albums
A musician on one of this year's SXSW panels was asked whether he sold his music direct to fans via his website or whether he used major retailers. His advice was to sell direct: "Why let iTunes and other distributors get a cut?" It turns out there is a good answer to that question, and none of them were mentioned in the panel because they only focused on the cut rather than the customer.
There's no question there are plenty of options for selling your music all with different cuts that they take out. Many services like CDBaby, Tunecore, and Distrokid charge recurring fees or take a cut of your sales, thus lowering your profit. Others will allow you to sell direct to fans through your website. In this case, you only have to deal with payment processor fees like PayPal before you can get paid. And you should provide these options from your site and tell your fans that if they want to help support you in ways where you keep most of the money, they can purchase your music at your site. But your point of view isn't the most important one in this decision -- it's your fans' needs that you should accommodate.
What customers want is familiarity, trust, and, most of all, a company that is easy to do business with. Major retailers do all of these things right. If you're a popular artist, you might be able to limit your distribution and still make decent sales, but removing options that they already like can cost you sales even as you are chasing a higher cut.
1. Major sites like Amazon and Apple already have your customer's credit card and that's a big deal.
Your fan's credit card is probably already on file with major stores like Amazon and Apple. People are understandably reluctant to share their credit cards and personal information with new websites considering the number of hacked sites in the news. They forgo better priced offers all of the time to avoid giving their credit card out to another website or going through the hassle of signing up. Meanwhile, Apple is so trusted they created their own ApplePay payment service. Most music purchases at major sites are simply a single button click. There's no fields where they have to fill out their names, their addresses, and input their credit card because they've already entrusted the sites with that info. It's frictionless, fast, and that encourages impulse purchases and potentially more sales for your music.
2. The major sites have a music service that your fan is already using.
WIth a single click on a song in iTunes, your music is automatically downloaded to all the compatible devices that fan owns. But, if they buy your music direct from your website, they usually simply get MP3s. They still need to download these and sync them with their library. Although some fans might be knowledgeable enough to do this and might not care about the work involved, many don't want to take on the burden of these steps which can lose the sale.
3. Major sites all have affiliate programs that offset some of your costs and can provide new sources of income.
Apple and Amazon both have affiliate programs that allow you to create a special link to your music on these platforms. This gives you a frontend cut for referring the person to their store on top of the standard backend cut you usually make when someone purchases your music. But it doesn't stop with just your music. These affiliate sales give you a cut of anything else they happen to buy while at their store. If they purchase a new computer in addition to your music, that means you'll get a percentage cut of the computer purchase. This can add up and makes the transactions at these stores potentially much larger than the purchase of one of your tracks.
4. People search major sites for music to purchase or license for use in films, commercials, trailers, advertising, and more.
Apple, Google, and Amazon are as much music discovery services as they are stores. People are searching these site's huge catalogs for new music or fresh new cover versions of well-known songs all the time. Having your music there gives you presence and new marketing opportunities to reach new fans. Also, music supervisors and other licensors of music browse these catalogs to find just the right music for their film, television, trailer, video game, and advertising projects. If your music isn't in these stores, then you're not showing up in search results. This is resulting in lost sales and potentially the loss of lucrative licensing opportunities.
Once you consider your customers' point of view, providing major stores as an option makes a lot of sense. If your fans already trust these platforms and use them daily, you'll make more sales and do more business if you go with them at the expense of the cut that they take out. Naturally, you should offer direct sales at your website for those fans that are willing to use such a method. But your best bet in increasing sales is to offer your fans options they trust, are familiar with where they can buy your music in a single click.
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#retailers #sellingmusic #digitalsales #paypal #iTunes #amazon
Photo credit: frankieleon