The landscape of the music industry and music distribution is changing rapidly with the move to digital downloads and streaming.
For music lovers finding and accessing an incredible diversity of music from the world over has never been easier and digital files & mobile phones mean that they can keep a massive amount of music to hand wherever they are.
Yet for bands, especially new bands, digital music distribution is a double edged sword.
On the upside the internet gives the possibility of access to a huge number of listeners while the ease of ‘self publishing’ gives bands control and removes the need to get signed in order to release songs. With the advent of youtube, social media and websites It’s never been easier to publish your own material, build a fan base and start to generate revenue.
The downside is getting paid and making money to pay the bills. Even listens to your music by hundreds of thousands of listeners via streamed music brings in relativly small sums. Zoe Keating, a cello player published a record of her digital streaming revenues and in return for her music being played 232,000 times she received just $906. A far cry* from the £50 a play allegedly paid by the BBC per song on Radio 1.
Setting up your own digital download store is an easy way to gain some revenue, although there are costs. I understand i-tunes take 30% commission, which is now seems to have been adopted as the industry standard. In a different business we sell mobile phone apps and use the ejunkie shopping cart for facilitating digital downloads. It’s worked very well in conjunction with Paypal and the soon to be dead Google Checkout, yet costs still came in at about 20% of sales. So for every 99p single downloaded you get around 69p less any additional hosting or merchant costs.
Why CDs still matter for bands.
Selling physical CDs to fans is still a critical revenue for new bands. While digital download sales and music streaming services can get your music to a wide audience they are only part of the mix.
CDs give you the chance to get creative with your packaging and art and give your fans something real* which can be purchased at your performances and online. Better still you can give someone a CD where as you can’t make them download a music file.
Done well, CDs can enhance the ethos behind your music and contribute towards your image. High quality graphic art and design is key but offers the chance to get talented fans involved in the creative process. A well produced physical CD (or records or tape) is tactile and has value, something that can’t be said of a ethereal binary file.
CDs can also be produced in very small volumes making limited or special edition releases a reality. These keep the buzz around the band going, give you more PR opportunities and sell at a higher price. Don’t forget that CDs can hold Music tracks and Data so it’s possible to include photo’s, video and imagery that’s not possible to distribute with a pure download.
Most of all selling your CDs is profitable and will contribute towards the cost of your next recording session !
* It’s worth noting that the streaming number is really about plays to individual listeners. 1 play = 1 listener. When compared to Radio 1 with a listener numbers into the millions, the streaming fee is perhaps not so bad.
** Back in the day I recall stories suggesting that their early days the band James made more money selling Tee Shirts with their flower logo than in music sales. Physical merchandise counts. #showingmyage !