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Is your album a starting line or a finish line?

People often asked, “How much does the average artist on CD Baby sell?”

Others would take the numbers on the “about” page and divide them: $85 million paid out to 250,000 available albums = $340 earnings per album. Now we know how much the “average” album sells!

Problem is: the numbers are right but the answer is wrong, because it groups together two completely different types of approaches to an album release, giving an inaccurate average for your type.

For some artists, releasing an album is like the starting line in a race. The gun goes off! They work it! They spend hours a day pushing, promoting, selling, striving. For the next few months, they never stop. Reaching new people by any means necessary, whether playing live for strangers in strange venues many times a week, or joining new communities online.

For those types, I’d say the average income (through my one little store) was $5000. (And 50 of them earned over $100,000 each.)

But for many artists, releasing an album is like the finish line in a race. They’ve always wanted to make a record. They did it. It’s done. They give some for free to friends and family, and glow in the compliments. They might do a record release concert and make a website, but in terms of effort spent, they’re done. (Sometimes from satisfaction, but sometimes from entitlement: “Now that my brilliant album is done the world will recognize my genius!”)

For those types, I’d say the average income was $20.

The people who would ask about the average were usually artists trying to predict how well they would sell on CD Baby.

Because 50% of all sales on CD Baby were returning customers just browsing for new music, it was possible to sell a few albums without doing anything at all.

But the important thing is it’s up to you which kind of approach you want to take.

Is your album a starting line or a finish line?

Reader Comments (3)

You write: "They spend hours a day pushing, promoting, selling, striving." Can you give some more specifics here? What kinds of promotional activities have you found to be successful? Thanks

September 29 | Unregistered CommenterKen Hiatt

but to "spend hours a day pushing, promoting, selling, striving." well it just takes all the fun out of it.

September 29 | Registered CommenterLuke Echo

Derek is just speaking on artists who are really driven to make a career for themselves. I know it can be tough after you've exhausted your spirit and wallet making an album, but if you want to make a living from music, you gotta think of it as a business.

Here's an idea for all of you musicians who are laboring over an album, and not putting that same energy into promotion:

Don't Make an Album

Well, not in the traditional sense at least.

If you have enough good songs for an album, why not record one song per month as you continue to promote yourself locally and online via myspace, youtube, facebook, twitter, etc..?

1. Fans will come back as they know a new song will be available every month.
2. You won't burn yourself out by being locked up in a studio forever.
3. Each song can be recorded with care
4. You'll free up cash to get merch to sell at your live shows.
5. You'll know if people dig the songs or not without spending money on pressing 1000's of CDs

At the end of the year, you'll have 12 songs recorded and marketed. If people are asking for an album on cd after hearing the songs online, give it to them (in a well designed package with a couple bonus songs of course).

Make Great Music,


September 30 | Unregistered CommenterHoover

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