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Are Indie Musicians Still Making CDs?

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    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    CD vs. MP3

    As the music industry shifts further towards the digital content distribution model and music retail stores continue to shutter their doors, self-funded artists often ask the question: “is it still worth it to publish physical CDs?” The short answer is “yes.”

    Photo By Duplication Centre

    For the unsigned artist, having physical CDs on hand is still the most effective face-to-face method for getting music to fans. Although emerging mechanisms like a download card, an email, or a huge spanning banner with a download link and a QR code are all reasonable ways to drive fans to your music, each lacks the actionable quality of the compact disc and are more passive than the CD. A CD should act as an equivalent to a business card, and an artist’s goal should be to get their business card out to as many fans as possible.

    From the perspective of a large record label, the prevalence of free music has changed the music industry. Record labels are now looking to sign artists with a proven ability to sell units (digital and physical) of their album. Regardless of the format (digital or physical) a business-oriented artist’s end goal should be to sell as many units as possible. The next question then, is to determine the best place and method for selling albums.

    In today’s social media age, any artist or band should have both an online and offline strategy for selling albums. However, the best place to convert fans is typically at a live show where the CD is still king. The live show is where the indie artist typically interacts with most of its fans (new and old). Yes, people can still go home and google your band, take home an iTunes download card or even scan your QR code banner, but nothing is as definitive as handing someone a CD.

    The final decision to make, is determining the price to charge for your album. If you can afford it, subsidizing the album price will allow more units to be sold. A novel idea for bands just starting out, is to have a “pay what you want” approach. Although you may end up losing money this way, fans will often leave twenty bucks and rarely contribute anything at all. At the end of the day, getting your album out to as many fans as possible should be the goal and a prohibitive price point is certainly something you want to avoid.

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