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« Is Physical Distribution Worth It for Indies? | Main | we used to pay half a million dollar to be able to give away music »
Tuesday
Oct062009

Why I've Given Up on the Compact Disc

In an effort to look ahead of the trends happening in the music industry, I’m advising all independent artist to give up on the Compact Disc from here on out. Chances are, by the time you put the finishing touches on a new project, it will be like handing over an 8 track tape to a potential fan. Not sexy.

For the naysayers I’ve created this post to show you all of the different ways you can measure your success with a digital release. You can read Part 1 of this post here.  

Google Analytics

googleanalytics

Having a Myspace page won’t cut it anymore. Especially when there are a variety of  easy to use blogging platforms available to us (i.e. WordpressBlogger, and Squarespace). Google Analytics will allow you to see how many visitors, page views, and even the amount of time people spend listening to music on your site. More advanced features like visitor loyalty, can show how many times fans come back to your site for more. It will take some time to get used to the reporting tools,  but here are some valuable tutorials from Google to get you started. If you are a budding artist, I suggest creating a blog with a unique URL, insatlling the Google Analytics plugin and playing around with its functionalities.

Tweetmeme

tweetmeme

This site allows you to determine how many times your links are being shared. Retweeting (RT) is the highest form of flattery on Twitter, so if your links are not being shared, I suggest you work on improving two things:

#1) Your content

and/or

#2) Your delivery

Force feeding mp3s, release dates and random shows held in your Small Town, US is unacceptable. Tweetmeme will put things in perspective by reporting who, when and how many times your content and delivery have passed the RT baramatoer.

Bing vs Google

bingvsgoogle

Googling yourself as an artist is not pretentious at all. In fact, in order for you to maintain a healthy online presence, searching for your bands name is absolutely necessary.You may or may not be aware of some of the following search engines (Technorati , Ice Rocket and Regator), so I’ll refrain from boring you with details on this post.

Bing vs Google allows for a side by side comparison of how you appear in both search engines. Give it a try, you might be suprised by what you find. Come to find out, the most heavily searched person with my name, Kevin English, is a body builder who makes the incredible hulk look like a little bitch. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but its defintaltey kept me in the gym for the last year and a half.

Mail Chimp

mailchimp

Probably the most innovative, user friendly email campaign solution on the market. Not only does it manage your email list, it also provides intelligent analytics on opens, click thru’s, bounce rate, unsubscribes, etc. To make it even more attractive, its free for users just starting out (lists with under 500 subscribers).

Bit.ly

bit.ly

This site creates short links for you to share on Twitter and other social networks. It also turns them into real time statistics on how many clicks and RT’s for each link on a daily basis.

Twitter Search & Twitter Search Widget

 

 

By now you should already know the value of a Twitter search. In my book, it has become even more valuable then a typical search engine, since Twitter users are generally the first to respond to interesting and useful information online and offline. This gadget allows you to enter a certain search query related to your band and embed a real time widget on your website, blog, myspace or facebook profile.

Chart Beat

chartbeat

As I was researching this post I came across this real time analytics site that blew my socks off. After entering a few bits of code in the header and footer of your website or blog, it tracks how many people are currently on your site, how many people are reading what posts, writitng comments, or just idling. It also keeps track of page load times, geographical data and where your visitors are coming from. With Chart Beat, you no longer have to wait until tomorrow to see if what you posted today has had any effect on your visitors. See it in action here.

A site in beta that you should keep your eyes on is, Band Metrics , owned by Duncan Freeman, brilliant programmer and all around nice guy. Also check out, The Next Big Sound, which is more geared to the mainstream artist, but well worth adding your profiles to them now. I’m also hearing good things about Rockdex, but have yet to receive my beta invite, so I’ll leave them off until my follow up post.

I should warn you about the side effects of following all of these metrics. At least from my web designer’s point of view…

Don’t You know looking at all those stats will make you go blind!?!?!

I’ll just have to take that chance. These are just a few of the many sites popping up on the web that can give you a sense of how well or how poorly your music is doing. CD’s are dead to me now. For the sheer fact that CD’s can’t talk but mp3’s sure can.

Reader Comments (10)

First off, I want to thank you for a great list of resources that every independent artist should at minimum explore and play around with. However, I do have to disagree with you about giving up on the CD, at least not yet and especially not for independent artists.

The CD still remains one of the best ways to offer your fans and potential fans your music. If you don't have CD's, what are you going to sell/give to people after your live performance. Of course your fans already know and own your music in what ever form you are offering but what about they guy/gal that wasn't there to see you but liked the song or two the he/she heard. You cannot rely on that person remembering your name by the time the band they came to see tunes up, let alone by the time they get home and jump online.

CDs are cheap with a huge profit margin and every person I know has a way to play them. I am not saying that CDs are not in their autumn years and I am not saying you can't get by without them in your arsenal but to me it still makes sense to release your music on CDs.

October 7 | Unregistered CommenterJC

I respect your position JC, but independent artists should be the first to jump ship. Major label artists have budgets to blow on fancy CD manufacturing and guess what, they still don't sell.

At the end of your show, sell or giveaway Download Cards, Flash drives, Micro SD's, or other merch (T-shirts, Pens, hats, Mugs) with built in download codes. Hell if you want to do it on the cheap, yell out your Twitter ID and everyone that @'s you will get your music.

Bootstrapping indies can't afford to giveaway a CD full of music, even tho it might cost them $1 each to press. The hidden cost of not knowing who, when, why or where a person listened to your music is at the heart of the issue. How much does that cost?

October 7 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

"But what about fans who want a CD?"

^^That's the question that keeps me from jumping ship with you. Even if it's just keeping burned, hand-made copies around, it works. I know it works, I've seen it happen for years now. I saw it happen four times in the past week.

I don't think it's dead yet.

This was a great damn list of tools, though. Alerts >> Analytics, IMHO

October 7 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

The Cynical Musician asks: "Where's the money?"

Analitics and net stats are all very nice, but if they aren't translating into sales, "success" is much too strong a word.

Thanks Justin. Your humble opinion is one of the things that has kept me posting on MTT.

Fans may still want CD's, but what do you want? I'm assuming that you want people to enjoy your music and allow you to sustain a living.

You know exactly what to expect if you hand that one fan a CD. Piracy. What we don't know is how they will react if you give them something else instead. Something more valuable. Challenging yourself to come up with ways to harness the repsonse to your music is one of the only things you have left. Its a choice you have to make, but at least the writing is already on the wall.

Be an early adopter, not fashionable late.

October 7 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

Indeed, I count on piracy when I hand people CDs and explicitly encourage people to make copies and pass them around. Saves me work and gains me ears.

We've got another act on the roster, dumate, who gig constantly in Madison WI and work with drop cards and other forms of download code delivery, so we do get a healthy dose of the data you're talking about here.

Personally, though, at this point in my little tiny blip of a career I want people to know I exist. I have no problem with another 2-3 years of day jobs and postponed dreams. I accept that I'm taking a longer road and paying the price for my principles.

However, I have no right to inflict that on the rest of our roster, so I am definitely taking everything you've got into consideration. I really appreciate the dialog, Kevin.

@Kryztzozf:

The question of "Where's the Money?" has been addressed here already, so many times...so many damn times now. You might as well be saying "...but at the end of the day, it's all about THE MUSIC!" Yeah, we know, we've known it for years, too. I think Kevin is well within his rights to talk about something specific without having to address your pet issues. There's other articles for that, and you've probably got comments on them already, too.

October 7 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Utilizing CD's and/or digital downloads probably depends a lot on the demographic your music targets. If you're playing classic rock, chances are the old guys & gals listening aren't too savvy with iTunes or CDBaby yet, or are still clinging to old formats.

For bands in the early stages of their careers, exposure > profit, and exposure leads to future profits. If somebody purchases my band's physical CD, pirates it and shares it with everybody he knows.....I would consider that a successful sale. I mean, the guy/girl liked us enough to try and convince all of his friends to like us too...thats awesome.

Also, not having what a customer wants can be detrimental.

A potential fan came up to my band and I after a show and asked if we had a CD for sale. Long story, but there was a mix up and we had not brought our merchandise that night - the guy was totally disappointed. I told him that he can buy our t-shirts and CD's straight off of our website, gave him the link and directions, but he seemed totally disinterested and was just like "meh, oh well" and walked away.

Lost a fan.

People still want CD's. In fact, according to an industry report by IBISWorld in 2007, CD's accounted for 85.6% of total music sales. I realize that number is probably a bit lower now, but the fact of the matter is it still accounts for more than half of total music sales. Why just give up on that?

_chris

October 8 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

@ Chris Bracco. Great points. Piracy is less prevalent in Rock or Country music today, but I think you are missing my point. Here is where you loose me.

"If somebody purchases my band's physical CD, pirates it and shares it with everybody he knows.....I would consider that a successful sale."

If you don't know who bought your CD, who they shared it with, or why & where they bought it, how do you intend to focus your marketing dollars for your next release? Your only option is to play the same show in the same location and hope the same fans come to pirate your CD again.

Re: IBIS World. Stats can be very tricky. What this doesn't account for is the number of independent releases w/o bar codes (the old school metric) or how many artists account for all of these CD sales. I think I read on your blog that 110 artists account for the majority of the album sales on 2008.

@ Kryztzozf As you can see, success is a relative term. I agree that sales is the common denominator, but i don't agree with being cynical just for arguments sake. Although I truly appreciate your branding ["The Cynical Musician asks"], I find it harder to be positive and progressive on the specific pains of an independent artist.

Thanks to everyone for the healthy dialog on this post!!

October 9 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

Kevin,

your points about statistics are excellent and I'm glad you brought them up because in the heat of replying to you I had overlooked those details.

A good way to keep track of some sales metrics is to have a simple spreadsheet & clipboard at each of your shows and just ask the people buying your CD for some information before they run off and pirate it. Name, location, what they bought & why....and an e-mail address if they are interested in being on the mailing list. Import e-mails to your reverbnation/fanbridge/mailchimp/whatever e-mail mgmt service....and then you've got some information to work with when planning your future marketing budget.

Oh and thanks so much for listing all these resources, I had not heard of some of them.

_chris

October 12 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

"If you don't know who bought your CD, who they shared it with, or why & where they bought it, how do you intend to focus your marketing dollars for your next release? Your only option is to play the same show in the same location and hope the same fans come to pirate your CD again."

Actually, no. I'm hoping the original purchaser AND everyone she shared the CD with will come to the next show and bring a few friends, some of whom might also purchase a CD, and perhaps that some of them will visit my website or blog, check out my back catalog, exchange an email address for an additional web-only track or click something I can measure. Obviously, I won't get data on pirated copies, but I already know where the original was sold, and I don't think I ever knew or cared why. (actually I do; it's because they love my music enough to want to support me, rather than rip me off) If enough of this happens, I'll have to book a larger venue for that next show.

Killer info, I'll be passing it along,thanks!

October 21 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

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