This article is designed for a new band who are are seeking fame and fortune, but have little money and few contacts. I am going to tell you: How To Make Money Online, How To Sell Music Online and How To Set Up A Music Store.
Ed. Note on 21/04/2010: I wrote the blog post, Make Money From Your Band's Website, using this article 'How To Sell Music Online', however there are some differences and it's worth a quick read.
err, just in case you didn't know; a band is a business. And it's not just any old business, it's a business within one of the most fiercely contested industries in the world, with a multibillion dollar turnover. If you are in a band, you've got big competition. Of course there are bands who do it for the love of music and a few free beers. They consider themselves, "not to be in the rat race and not in it for the money". But they are, they'll knock you off the top slot in the local pubs and clubs because they are very talented musicians. When you're good, you can't do much about it, you'll get bookings and a following, because people will want to hear you play. And that will always make money for some Landlord behind the bar!
If, on the other hand you DO want to join "the rat race" and are seeking fame and fortune, then now is the time to realise that you are in business, Be Businesslike.
How To Make Money Online
The key factor in making money from your website is repeat traffic and lots of it, marketing and sales are a numbers game. A commercial website has to attract repeat visitors in order to make a profit. First time visitors don't usually buy, second and third time visitors are much more likely to. You get the visitors to return by giving them high quality content and by creating the right environment. It really is that simple! Then it's just a matter of constant fine-tuning until you get a decent level of sales - I didn't mention product! A good product is also a key factor.
Content is a much bandied about word in promotional circles on the internet. That is because most website promotion techniques rely on search engines. It works like this: you are looking for a band on the internet, you go to a search engine, you enter in the band's name, the search engine serves up its list of websites that match your search criteria. Exactly how each of the search engines does this, is a secret (not mine, theirs) - but, we all expect them to get it right - we think they do it by analysing the content! That is: your URL (YourBandName.com). header tag information (TITLE, DESCRIPTION and KEYWORDS). the textual content within the BODY of the webpage/website (includes image ALT text and maybe comments). And how the website content relates to the websites it links to and visa-versa. We also think that the search engines are trying to analyse language, that is to say, how words relate to each other, as in: flying lesson, rock and roll, beef jerky etc. Content also means: the quality of what the website has to say, and that's what keeps the visitors coming back, the best way to get that right is by knowing your subject and by being natural.
You have less than 3 seconds to capture your visitors attention and persuade them into action. Visitors who are not interested in your website will not read beyond your main heading - they've got the wrong website. Visitors who are interested in you will read everything in sight, so get the old juices going, your reader wants more, and keep it up-to-date - old content is often worthless.
Creating the right environment
Obviously get a website and your own domain name, visitors will remember your website address better if it's YourBandName.com. Fans, friends and family will expect your website address to be YourBandName.com. Make sure that your website is professionally hosted, you need a true virtual host. I recommend, the a very powerful website hosting solution: iPower Website Hosting, It's got everything you would want for around $7.95 per month (could be less in 2010). They usually give a free domain name or a free marketing package on sign up!
Some technical details of how to layout a webpage can be found in, How to promote your band via its website. The most important thing to remember is that the opening page must be quick to download. And keep the site updated. Also, see my Blog.
What the visitor wants
Your visitors' objectives are simple, they want to: listen to how you sound. buy a CD. subscribe to the mailing list. find gig dates, etc. Each of these objectives requires a series of actions, as in: click on the "Free mp3 Downloads" link, then click on choice... click "Merchandise", press the buy button... click the "Join Mailing List" button, fill in the form... find and click the "Gigs" link... etc. Your visitors must make a conscious decision to continue, and they will only do that if you lead them easily through each stage one click at a time - it's about the lack of choice and getting your visitor to the place of action. This is called "Thread Navigation", and it's the quickest way to sell your music from your website. Revenues on the web are determined by usability.
Create A Mailing List
Email is the ultimate promotion tool if you know how to use it. The cost of sending out an email Newsletter is practically nothing, so it's always good value. When a visitor responds by sending you their email address they are "hot" and are likely to be the most productive - if you reply promptly. Your most valuable asset is your hot list. A mailing list takes quite a lot of looking after if you want results. Spend as much time as possible tweaking your mailing list, as a perfect list, like a "hole in one", is almost impossible to achieve.
The main purpose of a mailing list is: communication, keeping your fans informed of events. It will pay big dividends, it could easily boost already good online sales by as much as 100% and increase your audience size dramatically.
Free!? Nothing on the internet is really free - nothing for nothing. There is always a pay off: "We give you a voucher from the website and you get a free gift at our next gig :: You join our fan club". The problem is, how much to give away? The decision of how much to give away is all yours. How much can you afford? What is your music worth? What are you aiming to achieve? There are no easy or correct answers, sorry. A common free gift for a band to give away is an mp3 - the more people who listen to your music, the more CDs your likely to sell.
Make sure the free gift is easy to find and simple to get, and don't forget the pay off. The best place to put your free gift is on the Merchandise Page next to the 'Join Our Mailing List' form.
Get Your Fans, Friends And Family To Invest In You
Running a band, recording an album, producing and then selling the album requires a lot of dedication, expertise and some money. You should be looking for help. Don't just stick a PayPal donate button on your website and hope for the best, offer something for it, like a link from your website or a credit on your next album or even dedicate a track.
You need fans, friends and family to join your band as contributors. They can offer their time and skills to help with the website, online promotion, the mailing list, merchandising, transport and even with the accounts! etc... it's a long list.
Become An Affiliate
Become an affiliate for other businesses and sell products and services from your website. Don't crowd your website with banners and products, sell one or two things and sell them well. It's a simple way to earn a little extra cash, i.e. you could sell Apple's iPod portable MP3 player! Find out how at Commission Junction. You will not get rich, but it should buy a round of drinks once a month.
If you are an independent musician, a record label or into band promotion, iTunes and Amazon (amongst many others) have affiliate schemes - you can set-up a store.
Sell The Band's Merchandise Online
Selling merchandise online, is what most people think of when they think of making money from their website. If successful, it would be a full-time job for an enthusiastic Aunt! You need to be able to: take orders and process payments. package and ship the orders. manage the stock. handle customer service (returns can be quite high!). control the accounts (money). PayPal will allow you to accept credit cards and handle customer contact like invoices, receipts and returns. Sign up with PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.
Here are some ideas: Badges, Bumper Stickers, Caps, Hats and Visors, CDs and Demos, Drum Sticks, Fake Tattoos, Frisbees, Greeting Cards, Guitar Picks, Imprinted Bic Pens, Key-Rings, Lanyards, Lighters, Matchbooks, Mugs, Portfolio of Signed Pictures, Posters, Stickers, Sweatshirts, T-shirts, Wall Calendars, etc.
How To Sell Music Online
Selling your music online is actually no different to selling anything else online - although most of your visitors are probably looking for a free mp3 - it just requires "hard work". It doesn't matter weather you are selling flight tickets, pet food or CDs it is the same equation (remember what I said, "it's a numbers game"), about 1-5% of visitors buy (it is possible to increase the percentage rate for a correctly targeted audience). Ask yourself the question, "Would I be satisfied with fifteen sales per month?" Because that may be all you get. The calculation:
High: (500 unique visitors per day) X 30 = (15000 unique visitors per month)
Low: (50 unique visitors per day) X 30 = (1500 unique visitors per month)
Average: (275 unique visitors per day) X 30 = (8250 unique visitors per month)
about 1% of visitors buy
High: 150 visitors buy per month
Low: 15 visitors buy per month
Average: 82.5 visitors buy per month
Of course it is all a guestimate (there are quite a few variables). But if you are only selling 15 CDs per month at £10 each, your turnover is just £150, not much profit there! Are these your band's sales figures?
Do not concentrate on your website in isolation to everything else, it is important that it is a part of your overall marketing strategy. To make your website sell effectively you must take every opportunity open to you (I mean planned and thought through opportunity, not wild, clutching at straws opportunity). Point your potential customer towards your website using both online and real world techniques. Then give them content, create the right environment and give your visitor what she wants - you will then sell your music.
How To Set Up A Music Store
Setting up an open all hours, 24/7, Internet music store to sell your music world-wide, is an exciting and positive step forward for independent musicians and small record labels. It opens up the world, and allows you to keep full control over your music, your business and be totally independent (no middlemen). It will give you the chance to reach new audiences and be big in New York, Berlin, London, Paris and Japan, as an independent band, without a record deal and without compromising!
What You Need
Your Own Website! You need a store that is designed to integrate seamlessly with your existing website. Obviously it has to be easy to install, easy to customise and above all, easy for everyone to use (you and your customer). The store should be 100% online and 100% automated, with all the tools necessary to: sell your songs and albums as music downloads. manage the communication with fans, customers and the press. You must have a safe, secure and easy payment system for your customers, they will not buy your music otherwise. You can do all that with PayPal.
A Music Store
The easybe.com 1-2-3 music store has been especially designed for musicians and music experts, not for techie computer programmers. Technical skills are not required to get the music store up and running, because the easybe technicians will set it up for you! Caveat/Note: I'm not sure if The 1-2-3 Music Store is up and running very well at the moment? As an ex-affiliate (not as a band using their music store program) I've not been best pleased with their service!
It would be very possible to create a DIY music store that is run completely by PayPal. Fulfil your orders by auto-emailing a link to an .mp3 or .zip file of the album. It's a tad clumsy in this instant gratification age, but could look extremely professional - (ed. note on 21/04/2010: I will write a blog post about this with an example store for you to copy).
There are a plethora of third-party sites that will sell your music, currently I'm liking the sound of Bandcamp, CD Baby is a V.big name, so are iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, TuneCore and MusicMatch! Some sites allow you to become an affiliate and link to your music and/or set-up a music store on your website. You will earn a commission on sales - whatever your visitor buys.
How Payments Are Handled
Your DIY music store should use PayPal to handle all payment transactions, simply because they are the best in their field. PayPal is the market leader in secure internet payment systems - with millions of registered users - they accept, convert and process five different currencies (US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Japanese Yen, British Pounds and Euros), so you can be continuously open for business in 38 countries world-wide.
There are no set-up costs for a paypal account: Sign up here for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.
How To Sell Music Online is offered to you under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, which means, it's yours to use as long as you Attribute the work to Unsigned Band Promotion and Link Back.