Music Sales On The Increase

The music industry is not in crisis – in fact, it’s healthier than it’s ever been, at least for the independent musician. The decline in overall CD sales has been extensively documented in the media, but when you look at it more closely, the ones most affected are the musicians at the top of the sales pyramid – and those who live off their coat-tails…

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Bob Baker recently interviewed Derek Sivers of CD Baby, and you can listen to (or download) the audio of that session here. This is a fairly long recording, but it’s interesting to hear two veterans of music marketing sharing their views on the current state of play for musicians at the bottom of the food chain.

For those of you who don’t know, CD Baby was possibly the first site where musicians could sell their music online, and has expanded into one of the world’s foremost independent music outlets. Bands can go there, sign up and have their music distributed digitally in stores such as iTunes and Rhapshody, as well as having a place to sell their physical CDs online.

Despite the hype over digital downloads, the CD is still the format of choice for the vast majority of independent music fans – and they are still buying. According to Derek, CD Baby’s physical CD sales are up 30% over last year, and they pay out about $1 million per week to independent artists worldwide.

Connecting With True Fans

People are still prepared to pay for music, especially if they feel a direct visceral connection with the artist’s work, and they know that all their money is going straight to that artist.

Last year I referenced some sage Sivers advice, but he is a constant goldmine of useful tips. In the Baker interview, he revisits the concept of niche marketing, citing the example of a musician who wrote an album of songs about sailing. She got herself mentioned in a sailing publication, which wouldn’t normally write about music, and this attracted interest from readers, many of whom bought her album.

Generally, people seeking to ‘make it’ in music think that they need to get a number one hit. A common approach here is to try to create songs that appeal to as many people as possible, but actually end up being bland and uninspiring. To quote Derek again, ‘well-rounded just doesn’t cut it’ – it’s often better to focus on your specific strengths and carve out a niche for yourself that plays to those strengths. You might not get to number one, but you’ll have a much better chance of gaining the momentum you need to quit the day job…


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