Releasing music requires a massive amount of work for any artist as they must ensure their music is promoted and marketed in such a way as to actually reach the listener. Here we look at ten different techniques for increasing the revenue earned from your tunes.
Guest post by Randy Chertkow & Jason Feehan from CD Baby's DIY Musician
As musicians, we know there’s an overwhelming amount of work to do when you release your music. You need to get it distributed, promoted, marketed, heard, and generating money for you. With all of the methods that music is being discovered, listened to, shared, and bought today, here are 10 techniques you can use to maximize revenue and sales. By adopting these, you can make the most out of how listeners use digital sales and streaming platforms.
As you create and think on your next release, try these:
1. Cover a Well-Known Song
Most listeners of streaming services or customers of digital stores use the search bar to find music that they like. Leverage this by recording a cover of a well-known song. This can boost your sales since people will often listen to different versions of the songs they are searching for, and if they like it, they often check out the rest of the music from that artist. Keep in mind that if you choose to do a cover, you need to clear the rights with the publisher or through services like EasySongLicensing and Loudr that CD Baby partners with, or the Harry Fox Agency.
2. Use Well-Known Song Titles
If you’re not the type to record cover songs, another method to leverage how listeners use the search feature for digital stores and streaming services is to give your track a similar title to another well-known song or a common phrase. Song titles can’t be copyrighted, so you can legitimately name your song “Hello” or “Uptown Funk” if it makes sense to. That way it may come up in searches and get discovered.
Our own band, Beatnik Turtle, stumbled into this completely on accident. We wrote a song called “I Don’t Want To Work Today” and released it through CD Baby in 2008. A few years later we noticed sales of the song spiked and it became the highest selling song in our catalog. It took awhile, but we tracked it down to a popular dance song that charted in Europe. Our song inadvertently piggybacked on people’s searches for the dance song and spiked our sales in the process and got us some more fans.
3. Create Striking Cover Art
With streaming services, people often hear with their eyes. Browsing a streaming service or digital music store is as much a visual experience as it is about the sound. A striking image that stands out can catch people’s attention and make them click to sample your track. If you create an image or design that stands out next to the other track images on the page, you’ll improve your chances of getting your music discovered, streamed, or purchased.
4. Send Customers to Music Stores They Already Trust
Although you can make more of a cut by selling a track or album direct from your website, you actually can make more money in general by sending people to online music stores where they can make one-click purchases. One of the biggest barriers of online sales is when someone is forced to take out their credit card to type their number, name, address, and other payment details into a new store. Immediately there’s friction. It’s too much work — especially for an impulse or “small-ticket” item like a track or album. Plus, if they may distrust entering their payment details since they’ve never bought there before.
Although you should also use methods and stores that give you a bigger cut, make sure buyers have easy links to stores like iTunes and Amazon where they probably already have their payment information on file and the purchase is a single click away. You can always list digital stores that give you greater margins (such as CD Baby’s store), but listing popular stores first tend to generate more completed sales.
5. Use Smart Keywords in Your Album/Track Descriptions
Make the most of your album/track descriptions by using keywords customers are familiar with. Always mention the genre of music you create and your music description if it helps describe the music (“hip-hop rockabilly madness,” “modern vintage,” “horn-powered geek rock”). Also, if the platform allows you to add additional info, list other well-known artists that you sound like so you can piggyback on their notoriety. Lastly, if there are keywords, topics, or lyrics in your song that touch on a charitable or political cause or topic that resonates with your fan base, add that to the description. These could trigger a play or purchase.
6. Always Use Affiliate Links to Get an Extra Cut
Don’t just link your tracks and albums directly. Doing so leaves money on the table. Instead provide affiliate links to these stores. You can do this by enrolling in sales affiliate programs digital music platforms like iTunes and Amazon have set up to encourage sales. Once you apply, these services will provide you special affiliate links to your tracks and albums. Use these links and ditch the regular, direct ones. You’ll now get an extra cut on the frontend of the sale in addition to what you already get on the backend when you send people to these stores.
There’s another advantage: by using affiliate links, these services will give you a percentage cut ofanything that visitor ends up buying from their store. So, this means if they buy your track and that cool new computer they always wanted, you’ll get a cut of the entire purchase. Also, once you’re an affiliate, you can create affiliate links to the gear you use or other media you blog or tweet about. One word of warning however: there’s a fine balance between someone who doesn’t want to leave an extra cut on the table and a shill. So, our advice is be authentic when choosing to use affiliate links for items beyond your music or gear.
7. Use Positive Quotes from the Press and Media and Add Fan Reviews or Testimonials
People still discover music through word of mouth, and this includes what they read in the press or hear in the media. If you get positive reviews from third party sources, use them. Add quotes from positive music reviews to your descriptions, websites, and, where possible, the digital stores and streaming services. Link to the article and share it through social media. Hollywood has done this for decades to promote audiences to attend their latest films.
Also, encourage your fans to post reviews. These ratings can be influential so ask your super fans to post reviews to seed this section.
8. Drive a “Get Heard” Campaign to Capture New Listeners
Once your music is available for sale or stream, get your music played in places where people are discovering and listening to new music. The number of places to get heard is diverse. We’ve written at The DIY Advisor column about the 28 categories of places you can now get your music discovered and heard. These categories include: MP3 blogs, podcasts, streaming radio, social music playlists, social media, YouTube, social news and entertainment sites, countless music (and non-music) websites, and more. Plus, there’s always terrestrial radio including college and public radio.
A play can drive other platforms to discover your music, so when you succeed in one place, reach out to other outlets and tell them about where else you were just played to give them social proof. This increases your odds of being played on that outlet. And, when you’re played there, leverage that play to push for a play at the next place.
9. Get on Streaming Playlists
Streaming platforms are social networks centered on music and the playlist. For example, Spotify allows anyone to make playlists and some are incredibly popular. Find the most popular playlists that fit your music and contact the playlist curator about adding your track. If you get added to one of these playlists, you’ll help get your music discovered by new fans as well as generate more streams and payments. This work may only result in a small amount of money at first, but playlists rarely disappear — especially the most popular ones — so streams can build over time since songs on a playlist tend to stay on the playlist.
10. Promote Your Music Through Video
YouTube is the most popular music search engine and there’s good reason: videos allow people to freely sample your music and share it with others. But that doesn’t mean you can’t monetize it. Views can create revenue since YouTube makes money through advertising, which is why you should explore YouTube’s ContentID service, explore whether you can apply to become a YouTube Partner, or use a YouTube monetization service such as CD Baby’s.
If you have a music video, don’t give away the track for free! The track is already free since the listener can always play the video again. Instead, provide an affiliate link in the video description so they can buy the music. You should also provide a link as an annotation/hotspot/card on the video too. To further boost your sales, include a video pre-roll or post-roll. Doing so makes the video’s audio different from what they’d get if they bought the track at a digital store since it’s so easy to rip and download the audio from a YouTube video. This gives fans an incentive to buy the track.
Maximizing sales through these ten techniques is a combination of marketing and continual effort. Because of this, you’ll want to capitalize on any success such as reviews, interviews, or song plays and use these wins to reach out and up to more opportunities. Each success can give you a larger platform to promote your music all while generating revenue.