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Selling music by solving a specific need

(Someone asked me how they could sell more of their instrumental music. My answer:)

For instrumental music, it sells best if you tie it into a purpose.

Massage music sells very well.
Yoga music sells very well.
Instrumental Christmas music sells very well.
… all because they’re selling more than just harmony, melody, arrangements : they’re selling something that non-music people find useful. They solve a problem.

Different example:

Imagine two candlemakers.

One says, “My candles have only the finest wax with the best quality wick!

The other says, “These are prayer candles. Light one whenever you pray.

There are dozens of people who will buy the first.

But there are millions who will buy the second.

Reader Comments (8)

This short and simple entry deserves a short and simple comment: excellent!
Sometimes it just takes someone to say out loud what one already knows. A few days ago I had an idea about 'custom music', meaning music created especially for the listener and what you mention here is the more practical and useful part of the idea and it's much better phrased than my babbling. I thought of it kind of more abstract and more in the future because I have no idea how this could be accomplished, so this entry here is just so much better. Thanks for making it clear.
For anyone interested in my crappy approach here's the link:
I'm sorry if it isn't polite to post such a link - I'm quite new to the blogosphere, so bear with me....

June 15 | Unregistered Commenteraudiot

I love Derek - and not just 'cos I agree with him on this - but because he's been such a supporter of Indie music for a decade now - I would comment on the cdbaby boards back in 2000 and we sold our first album with him.

I have been working on music2work2 for two years now - balancing it in-between my day gig and the concept is working - It's making money and the mailing list grows pretty regularly - but I have an obstacle and I'd love some input from the readership:

How can I make it "easy" for people to buy songs at a price point higher than 99 cents? On my site I use a 3rd party product - coded by my brother - that allows me as the artist to set the price of each track - which is great - but lets face it - the easy button is to have the tracks on iTunes, Amazon, etc etc - but as I understand it - they won't budge above 99 cents for a track.

The kind of instrumental music I produce is way longer than a typical 3 / 4 minute song - normally between 15 and 20 minutes - sometimes up to 40 - it makes sense to me - and to my existing customers to charge more for longer pieces of music. I use Derek for physical CDs and am about to send him 4 more but I was really more excited about the digital distribution that CDBaby offer - and yet - because my Cds may only contain 4 or 5 tracks - with an album price of $9.99 - how will they get represented on iTunes if the individual track price cannot exceed 99 cents?

I understand that the majors have been pushing for higher track prices for years and Mr. Jobs isn't going for that - and to that end - I think that the price of a 3 or 4 minute song will inevitably come down in price - I saw Terry McBride in 2006 postulating the 25cent track - which I kinda dig - but what about for longer pieces of music? Should all music be less than a buck - regardless of length, quality or purpose - and if not - does anybody know how best to use the existing infrastructure to digitally distribute longer tracks at higher prices?

June 15 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Usually I would say same price for everything because it doesn't matter if it's 1:30 Punk number or a 10:30 ProgRock tune - a song is a song. BUT what you're making is some totally different thing, so to me it's absolutely fair to charge a higher price.
If you can't change the price of a song in itunes, is it possible to change the price of an album? Then you could charge maybe 5.99 but declare it as an album (a one track album so to speak). Or maybe you could somehow sell one of your longsongs as three tracks. I'm not sure if I can explain this good enough, the customer buys three tracks, pays for three tracks but gets only one (but long) download. Or sell the song as three pieces that the customer has to put together after downloading but that idea won't be good business policy, not very consumer-friendly (more clicks, software issues...) and therefore only possible as a last hope.
If itunes is not at all flexible and you'd have to work with .99 or 9.99 then forget the .99 - pack two songs together and sell only albums (if at least that is possible).
That's the disadvantage of making things easy. Same price for everything is basically cool but if you happen to offer something out of the ordinary you're rather stuck... I guess it would be a good idea if itunes had a third price. One for songs, one for albums and one in between for specials. The world could be such a beautiful, peaceful, nice, easy and fun place if people would just listen to me - but nobody ever does.......nobody does.....

If nothing works, it might still be a good idea to offer it via itunes because more people see it, more people buy it. Selling something 1,000 times for .99 cents or sell the same thing 10 times for 99.00 is the same money but in the first case you got more customers which is always good. You'd have to reduce the price in the other shops to 99 cents then of course...

If those ideas don't seem to make sense, it's just my crappy English - I'm quite smart....mostly ;-)

June 16 | Unregistered Commenteraudiot

Great post! In an age where there is more music being distributed than ever before and that music is easily sharable, making money off music is a hard task! Because every little bit helps, this post is great!

For more info about the business/law of selling music, check out the post, "WTF is music publishing" that I wrote on If you're selling music, you should know the difference b/w publishing and recording royalties!

How about the notion of selling your music piecemeal, via stems/layers? This seems to be a great way to monetize every track of every song you make. MixMatchMusic, a music making community in its private beta, will soon offer musicians the ability to do this!

June 16 | Unregistered CommenterGavroche

"We're Only in It for the Money." F.Z. 1968

Lord Litter

June 17 | Unregistered CommenterLord Litter

Solving a specific need is a long known business commandment and it's great to see it being applied here to music. We obeyed this 'commandment' when we designed our software to help individual learners access quality music education from anywhere in the world. There's nothing wrong with the marriage of art (or education for that matter) and business. It makes for better products and happier consumers.

June 19 | Unregistered

"One says, “My candles have only the finest wax with the best quality wick!”

The other says, “These are prayer candles. Light one whenever you pray.” "

This merely illustrates the difference between a craftsman and a salesman.

Music 2Work2 seems like it might be a boon to employers; plenty of studies indicate that the right sort of music can boost productivity, particularly in factory settings. It appears to me that such music might have a higher value than the typical three minute pop song.Where is the infrastructure that allows Andrew to reach his potential audience?

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

to sell your music, whatever genre it is, try going to this site lets set up your own digital storefront, package singles, albums, art work, ringtones, etc, market your items on facebook, myspace, etc, and than get paid! ppl can buy it through an sms and you get the money right to your account. check it out - real easy and legit!

May 3 | Registered Commenterjosh smith

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