CD Sales Success Stories
by Bob Baker
There are nearly as many ways for musicians to sell self-released CDs as there are CDs. The following stories show how two artists colored outside the lines.

Taking Your Music to the People

Tony, an acoustic folk singer/guitarist in New Zealand, says one method he uses to drum up sales is day-long appearances at record stores.

"The best deal I got was through a local retail chain that liked the sound of what I was doing and allowed me to promote through their store on three different occasions," Tony says. "I spent all day in the store, played my CD through a stereo system, handed out leaflets, gave a special discount, talked to people, signed CDs -- all in all, I sold about 60 copies -- and these to people who normally wouldn't have glanced twice at the album cover anywhere else."

Tony also does a lot of busking (playing live for tips in randomly chosen locations) at country fairs.

"I always have a table beside me with CDs," he explains. "The trick here is that I busk acoustically, but take regular breaks during which I play the CD through a Peavey Solo amp and a Sony Discman, both running on rechargeable batteries. I'll sell a dozen albums this way, plus earn busking money and make contact with people who want to hire me or my band.

"As an independent, you've got to do it all yourself -- and there's absolutely no substitute for personal appearances and live performances," Tony adds. "It's all geared to self-promotion, and it just snowballs. If you sit at home like other really good (much better than me) musicians and say, 'You can't make a living from your music in New Zealand,' then it's true, you won't. However, playing music is my full-time job now."

Using Your Unique Qualities to Your Advantage?

Josh of Josh Max's Outfit says his band has sold more than 550 copies of its "Make It Snappy" CD. Not impressed? You may be when you find out how.

Josh explains: "We sold 150 to fans at our shows so far, but the way we moved 400 CDs was to hook up with a fashion magazine for plus-size women and promote our singer, Julie James, who is plus-sized and an amazing, sweet yet powerful singer. Julie has loads of personality -- and the media love juicy people like her.

"The magazine bought 400 copies of our CD," Josh continues, "and distributed them in goodie bags at trade shows around the Northeast. It's a great deal because it's free publicity and the bulk sale made us back a lot of the money we laid out for the disc."

It's also a good example of a band taking what some in the business would percieve as a weakness and exploiting it to the band's advantage. Therein lies the lesson: Any characteristic of your band can be repositioned to be perceived in a fresh light.

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