I was challenged recently in class by a couple of my music biz course students over the issue of whether an unestablished independent artist should bother trying to sell music downloads from his/her own website when there are online retailers already established and available for that purpose.
My position has always been that going to the trouble of incorporating a retail component in a site doesn’t really make much sense until the artist has generated a certain level of traffic to the site or unless the artist has at least a few other items of merchandise to flog as well. My students countered that it’s not all that difficult these days to set your site up for selling and that they’ve done so because by cutting out the third-party retailer they get to keep almost 100% of what the consumer pays for their music.
This exchange of viewpoints got me going on a subject I think would be valuable to share with you as well, and that is the importance of keeping the bigger picture in mind when focusing on what to do with your music tracks on the Web.
When it comes to sound recordings, I believe too many artists attach too much importance to monetizing their music and not enough to other potential value their tracks can bring to the table.
Drawing people to your site is key and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to offer one or more free tracks to visitors. Yes, it does mean giving your music away. But, the trick is to do this with smarts by getting something of value from the downloader in exchange–in this case we’re talking very useful information consisting primarily of their name, email address and locale.
Why? It’s simple–to build your email list and base of loyal followers. Once they are on your list you can proactively reconnect with them again and again with other offers and news about upcoming gigs, tours, new releases and so on. Sure, you can add to your list each time you sell a track, but a far more effective means of getting downloads in significant numbers and growing your list fast is to entice people to your site with the offer of free track give-a-ways, making sure that when they opt in for a freebie they are required to provide that important information I referred to. I know of acts that have planned and executed highly successful tours almost entirely around the email list they’ve built in this way.
Remember, your home on the web is not a “destination” site and until your buzz is really happening it is unlikely to get a high volume of traffic. So, why not put the horse before the cart. Utilize social media and any other means at your disposal to pull people to your home on the Web with an attractive incentive and watch your list mushroom in size.
Listen, I’m not telling you anything that savvy Internet marketers don’t already know and have been doing for years now with tremendous results. And speaking of Internet marketers, there’s one I’ve discovered recently who focuses on online marketing specifically for musicians, singers and bands. John Oszajca is a former major label artist who has developed a ridiculously inexpensive video-based course designed especially for artists who need help building their buzz, fan base and sales. If this describes you, I encourage you to read more about his “Music Marketing Manifesto” on my home page.