When it comes right down to it, we’re all selling something. Every day, we’re selling our products, services, brand and our personal selves over and over again. As an artist or band, you have to be aware that sales are a big part of your equation for success. Here are 10 sales tips that can help you not only increase your revenue, but your fan base as well.
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Entries in sales (8)
More goes into impressive merchandise sales numbers than meets the eye. For one, there’s the marketing research that needs to be done beforehand so that you have product fans actually want to buy. After that comes the effectiveness of the person selling the merchandise; getting your band’s gear into fans’ hands is harder than sitting behind the table and letting them come to you.
A few weeks ago Wired posed the question “Is YouTube Bad for Music?”. Their article asks if music fans’ access to almost limitless free music via YouTube is hurting revenue for artists by undercutting premium streaming services, and of course, iTunes/CD sales.
Later on, YouTube responded, stating that “Free Music Can Pay As Well As Paid Music”. YouTube retorted that their monetized views via AdSense and In-Video ads were putting millions of dollars into musicians’ pockets every month. (well, more accurately, into the record label exec’s pockets, but that’s a discussion for another article).
The more interesting debates seemed to happen on various music industry blogs who weighed in on the discussion with their own oped pieces.
This is not another one of those opinion pieces, this is a fact piece.
The recent release of the Beatles catalog on iTunes made me think - what did a ticket to see them at their live peak cost?
Answer: a prime seat to see the Beatles in Chicago 1966 cost $5.75 - in today’s dollars this is $37.60 - almost ten times less than what you would pay for a huge act today.
Things were different then of course - touring was done mainly to promote record sales and tickets were priced below market purposely to make sure shows were safely sold out and to reward fans for their record-buying loyalty. This produced what economists call a consumer surplus. Some of that surplus was soaked up by the secondary ticketing market.
As album sales are becoming a less meaningful component in the overall success of an artist or band, the live performance sector, including ticket sales and merchandise sales, is becoming increasingly important. While the live show itself must be unique in order to encourage repeat customers and ultimately drive ticket sales, the merchandise table has the opportunity to drive significant revenue and first hand, artist-fan engagement. But just having a merch table is not enough, as there are essential elements that must be accounted for in order to make the effort worth while.
Assuming that you have accounted for the typical ‘guts’, such as T-Shirts, CDs, Hats, Stickers, etc. there are essentials to any effective merch table that will do three very important thing:
- Increase your sales
- Increase your long-term engagement with new and existing fans
- Decrease wasteful overhead when investing in the merch for your next tour
In part ii of my 1,000 true fans series I chose to interview my friend Matthew Ebel. I have known Matthew for a few years because he runs in the same geeky podcasting circles that I proudly run in. Matthew is the type of artist I refer to in my book as a “Builder” meaning Matthew is constantly pushing his career forward using not only musical innovation but also technology.
What I find most striking about this interview is the fact that Matthew makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hard- core fans.
Since I started my career in this business. I’ve always been working within the 1,000 True Fans model.
Here’s my story: In 1996, I was living in Boulder, CO and I had just started Ariel Publicity, my boutique PR firm.
Acoustic Junction and Zuba two local bands became my first clients. Both had been staples in Boulder for a couple of years, and both made fantastic livings touring and selling their independent releases from coast to coast. They did this with no label, no distribution, and no major marketing budgets: just a manager, a tour manager, and me.
I also represented The Toasters, Bim Skala Bim, The Slackers, and Skinnerbox, (and practically everyone touring during the third wave of Ska).
These artists and dozens like them all made full time livings from playing and touring. They had a core group of fans that supported them by seeing several shows a year, buying merch and buying albums.
Today, it feels revolutionary when we hear about bands that make a living based on their music.
What happened? What changed?
I thought I would never sell my company. I started it as a hobby in 1997. When NPR did a story about me in 2004, I said I’d stick it out until the end, and I meant it.
In 2007 I did a ground-up rewrite of the the website from scratch. And man, it was beautiful code. My proudest achievement of my life so far is that backend software. Wonderfully organized, extensible, and efficient: the culmination of everything I’d learned about programming in 10 years.
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(Updated November 2, 2013)