When marketing your music, it's ideal to have it available for sale when people find out about it. However, particularly if you're marketing an album, it's best to start putting out the word ahead of time even if you're taking a total DIY approach. A growing number of options are now available for offering pre-orders for both physical and digital releases.
Pre-orders are a great way to offer music and merch for sale before it's actually available. The basic idea is that you can collect payment info ahead of time and then charge the customer automatically when the item is available for delivery. Pre-orders can also be a way to bridge the gap between initial crowdfunding and final fulfillment.
Here are some options for offering pre-orders:
Celery is a new service inspired by crowdfunding campaigns that need an easy way to continue to offer pre-orders once funding is achieved. They manage the pre-order process, use Stripe for credit card processing and take a 2% commission in addition to Stripe's fees.
They do check to make sure the credit card is valid and also offer such tools as order management and email notification though fulfillment is up to you.
If you're using Wordpress, you may also be using WooCommerce, a very popular plugin for creating your own web store. The plugin is free with lots of paid extensions including a new one for WooCommerce Pre-Orders that will be available May 30th.
At $69.99 it may seem over-priced if you're just getting started but if you're in it for the long haul and are happy with Wordpress, it looks like it will be an excellent option.
Topspin has been offering pre-orders for awhile and now do so through their Original Topspin option. It's not a separately available service but they offer a nice solution especially if you're planning to offer multiple options including bundles of music and merch rather than single items.
CD Baby recently began offering iTunes pre-orders with automatic downloads and payments. A neat option is the ability to offer an immediate download of a single track for albums that have 11 or more tracks.
Pre-sales can run for 1 to 4 weeks.
It seems likely that other distributors are now offering iTunes presales and they may even be available to artists going directly to iTunes. You'll need to check with your vendor of choice.
Pre-orders seem to be one of those features that aren't trumpeted by retail outlets. Be sure to ask about that option when you're checking out services.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at All World Dance: Videos and maintains Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.