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Selling CDs, downloads and merchandise

If you intend to sell CDs, downloads or merchandise direct to your fans, or need a way to build a music website that handles e-commerce well, then you might want to try out Shopify for free here.

Top tip: sending e-newsletters to your fans

If you need to send emails to your band fanbase, we recommend Mad Mimi. It's possibly the most cost-effective solution we've encountered and allows you to manage / grow a database and design attractive e-newsletters without a need for any HTML coding. You can sign up for a free account here.

Mad Mimi Email Marketing

Getting your music distributed

Click here for TuneCore, the service that allows you to distribute your music quickly on all major digital retailers and keep all of the royalties.

TuneCore Music Distribution of Your Own Music

Top tip: getting your band typeface right

Getting your band typeface right can make the difference between looking like amateurs, or coming across as a serious outfit. Read our article on the importance of typefaces here, or test your band's name out in a variety of fonts using

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Entries in PRS (2)


10 ways to generate as much money as possible from your music

In this music promo article, we highlight 10 things you can do to ensure that you are always generating as much money as possible from your music – whether you are actually selling any of it or not! 

Music is all about art (yeah right) and not at all about the money (of course), but oddly I hear a lot of bands and artists complain about how tough it is to ‘shift units’ these days. And in a world of Spotify and torrents and general boredom with the sheer quantity of music being released, it undoubtedly is difficult. But selling CDs or downloads is not the only way to generate cash from music, and when it comes to the music you do manage to sell, how you sell it has a big impact on the amount of cash you receive. So I thought that in this post I’d highlight some things you can do to ensure you are always making as much moolah as possible from your musical activities. Sounds nice, huh? 

1. Register your music with the relevant rights organisations

It may sound obvious, but make sure that you are registering all your releases with relevant rights organisations. In the UK this basically means PRS for Music (formerly the Performing Rights Society and MCPS) and PPL (formerly known as ‘Phonographic Performance Limited’). These organisations collect royalties on behalf of songwriters, publishers and composers (PRS) and performers and rightsholders (PPL) and distribute them. They will give you cash any time your music is used / heard – on radio, on TV, via Youtube, on certain streaming services, in public places, live...for a full list of what kind of royalty collection/distribution activities these organisations engage in, visit the PRS and PPL websites, but the point is obvious – you don’t have to be actually selling any music to be generating money from it, and rights organisations put that money in your pocket. One radio play alone on a large station can generate you anything from £20 upwards; not to be sniffed at, particularly if you’re getting 6 plays a day on that station.

2. Ensure you have ISRC codes on all your recordings

The catchily-named 'International Standard Recording Code' is a bit of data that you embed in your songs (usually at the mastering stage). And it's very important, because if you don’t have an ISRC code on a track, the rights organisations mentioned above won’t be able to identify you as the owner of the track easily…meaning that you may end up with a load of radio play, but no royalties. Bummer. You can find out more about ISRC codes and how they work on the PPL website. 

3. Sell direct to your fans when you can

When it comes to selling your music, you basically have two options. You can sell via a distributor or record company – assuming you can convince one to get involved – or you can sell direct to fan. A distributor / label is essential when it comes to selling CDs in record shops, but when it comes to selling via your own website, assuming (1) your distribution/record deal permits it and (2) you have the manpower to fulfil orders, it is generally best to sell 'direct to fan' rather than refer them to any other online store. This is simply because the profit margin on the latter approach is way, way higher. If you take and fulfil your own orders, you keep 100% of the profit rather than seeing just 20% to 50% of it (depending on how crap your deal is!). The trade-off is that your direct sales are not chart-eligible. But unless you are selling tens of thousands of CDs or downloads from your website, this is not really an issue worth worrying too much about.

Tip: if you intend on selling a lot of stuff direct from your site – CDs, downloads and merchandise etc. – you might want to check out a dedicated e-commerce tool like Shopify, which doubles up as a website builder and an easy to use / set up online store.

4. If you are selling via iTunes, use an ‘affiliate link’

You can generate extra cash from purchases of your music on iTunes by using an iTunes ‘affiliate link’ (find out how to get one on the iTunes site). An affiliate link is a unique URL which takes people to your record on iTunes: if somebody buys your album after clicking on this link, you will earn a 5% commission on the sale. So you should definitely grab one and promote it on your website, and indeed on any promo materials that are going out – HTML e-newsletters, press releases and so on. This is a simple, free way of boosting iTunes revenue by 5% and you'd be daft not to take advantage of it.

5. Ensure that your promotional material actually mentions where people can buy your music

I have seen tens, if not hundreds of bands omit crucial information regarding where their music can be bought from their publicity materials – and shockingly, it’s often nowhere to be seen near the most important items of all: the band’s music streams and videos. If you put a song up on Youtube or Soundcloud and – whether through luck, talent or some connections secured via a pushy parent – it starts generating serious quantities of views, you are bound to miss out on sales (potentially thousands) if you don’t have a link to your online store bang underneath it. And, as far as Youtube goes, here’s an important tip: you should ensure the link is included in the first few words of your blurb – Youtube only displays a couple of lines of text before cutting off the rest of the description (users need to click a ‘view more’ button to see the remaining info, and let’s face it, we are all lazy buggers and we’re not going to do that). 

6. Don’t forget to sell CDs at gigs

You’d be surprised at how many bands don’t bother with selling CDs at gigs, thinking that if punters really like their performance they will immediately rush home, fire up the iTunes store and download an album. Nope, they won’t. They’ll just go to the bar and forget about you. Always have some CDs on hand that you can flog to gig-goers on the spot. Even in a small venue, you can still make hundreds of pounds from CD sales on the night. 

7. Submit your gig set lists to the PRS

If you are a UK musician and you are gigging a lot, it makes sense to let the PRS know what original material you are playing at your gigs. Because, believe it or not, you’ll get some dosh for it. Read about submitting your set lists to the PRS here. (If you live in another country, it’s worth investigating what the deal is with your equivalent rights organisations – they may well have a similar arrangement in place).

8. Sell other stuff – or enhance your current musical offering

Don't forget that if you are so lucky as to actually have a music fanbase, you have a chance to flog ‘other’ stuff to it. I’m not talking about selling home insurance or double-glazing here (although an attempt to do so by a hairy death metal band would be interesting); I’m talking about things can’t be played on a stereo but are nonetheless somehow related to your music. Yes, that’s T-shirts, posters, mugs and thongs with your face or band logo plastered all over them. If you don’t want to take the financial risk of manufacturing hundreds of thongs with your face on them, there are plenty of online services like Zazzle that let you create ‘virtual’ products that are only manufactured once somebody has actually paid for an item. 

Additionally, you can ‘add value’ to existing music products by creating enhanced, limited editions of them. A die-hard fan (read: your mum) may pay more for a CD if your signature is scribbled all over it; or if they are really sillly they may download a ‘deluxe’ [sic] version of your album containing all the outtakes (read: bad songs) from the recording sessions. Putting the cynicism aside for a brief moment, you may find that creating special physical versions of your releases really IS a good way to entice people in the direction of a purchase, and you’ll find some tips on that here. 

9. Make sure you’re on Shazam

Suppose somebody’s in a bar and they hear your catchy little song blasting out of the speakers. “Damn it, I don’t know who’s making that beautiful music,” they say. If they are technically-savvy, they will at that point whip out their iPhone and head for the Shazam app. Shazam uses a phone's built-in microphone to grab a brief sample of music being played, and thanks to some whiz-bang-jiggery-pokery tells the phone’s owner what the track is. Helpfully from the musician’s point of view, it also gives said phone owner a link to where they can buy it. Useful, no? A lot of digital distributors submit music to Shazam by default, but here’s a useful article I came across about submitting your music to it which you might like to read.

10. Do everything you can to get your music used in films and TV shows, and as elevator music in high street stores

CD and download sales may be in decline, but there is still a lot of cash to be generated as a result of getting your songs used in films and TV shows, and onto the playlists used by big retail stores. Think of all the royalties you might make from your song being used in the background of a make-out scene in an episode of The Good Wife, or played round the clock in McDonalds (and guess what? This kind of exposure might actually help you sell some music too). Yes, it’s a tall order to get your music used in that way, but it’s something you should definitely explore extensively and exhaustively. If you have a publishing deal, get your publisher on the case. And don’t forget those ISRC codes I mentioned earlier.

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today. We offer music PRdigital marketing and music web design services.

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The key things you MUST do when releasing an album independently

This man just released an album independently without reading our tips first and such is his disappointment, he is now about to throw his guitar off a cliff.

Strange things do happen. Not very often. But sometimes they do – and on those rare occasions, when weird stuff with ley lines is going on and there’s a full moon up and a bunch of hippies are doing some sort of summer solstice dance around Stonehenge, a record that has been released independently can end up capturing a national radio DJ’s ears, and then some of his DJ mates’ ears, and ultimately the ears of the great unwashed...and before you know it, you have a hit of sorts on your hands. I say ‘hit of sorts’ because at this point, you’ve got good airplay, but in my book a hit still constitutes a piece of music that generates cash as well as awareness (you can get the latter easily enough by taking off your clothes and running around a cricket pitch, but you probably won’t get paid for it unless somehow your naked antics involve a spot of match-fixing; good luck to you with this endeavour).

The trick to turning airplay for an independently-released track into a real hit – or cold, hard cash – is to have built a very strong infrastructure that supports this independent release. You may end up surprising yourself (and me) by getting a truckload of spins on Radio 2, but if you are unprepared for this eventuality, then you are shooting yourself, your release, and quite probably any hope of a career in music, in the foot (I’m not sure the latter two entities have feet but the metaphor generally works I think. Or is it an idiom? Anyway, I digress).

In my view there are several important things that you simply have to do when releasing an album independently; these tasks ensure that you receive as much money as possible for airplay and sales. If I had a pound for the number of bands I’ve encountered that neglect these boring but essential tasks I would be covered in suntan lotion quaffing Chateau Neuf de Pape (or perhaps something slightly more refreshing, but you get the gist) in San Tropez. Now, since bands are not likely to give me a pound every time they ignore my sage music promotion advice, I might as well provide a litany of these vital but yawn-inducing tasks that should be ticked off a yawn-inducing ‘to-do’ list before any independent release goes anywhere near a radio station (or more likely, your mum).

So, here goes.

  1. Join PRS for Music and register your tracks with them. The PRS is now an amalgamation of two societies, the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and the MCPS (the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society). For a full explanation of what PRS for Music do, I’d suggest you read their benefits of membership information, but in a nutshell they sort songwriters and publishers out with royalties any time their music is played or performed (Irish peeps: google IMRO instead).

  2. Join PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) and register your songs with them too. It’s a similar sort of organisation to PRS for Music, but it collects and distributes royalties for record companies and performers rather than songwriters and publishers. Now, as you are releasing your album independently, the chances are that you are both a performer on the album and the record company releasing it, so make sure that the PPL know about your music and are giving you due reward for it when Jeff Smith's golden ears finally decide that you are worth exposing to 7 million Radio 2 listeners’ sensitive ears.

  3. Encode ISRC (International Standard Recording Codes) on your CDs. ISRC codes ensure that when your music is played on the radio, PRS for Music and PPL know about it and are able to pay you accordingly. In an era of diminishing music sales, revenue from airplay is more important than ever, and without ISRC codes on your single or promo CD, even if you have a huge radio hit on your hands, you may get a fraction of the revenue owed to you. One spin on national radio in the UK can be worth around £60 - not to be sniffed at.

  4. This sounds incredibly obvious, but ensure that your music is available to buy online on major sites (iTunes, Amazon etc.) before approaching anyone at radio. Ideally, you should have an album's worth of material up on iTunes before you release a single. Why deny people the oportunity to take a punt on a whole album (or a few tracks) rather than just spending 79p on one song?

  5. Consider some physical distribution options at the outset of the project. Despite all the new-fangled digital stuff that's currently dominating all thought in the industry at the moment, most album sales are actually still CD shaped, so if you end up with a massive radio hit on your hands, physical distribution starts to make a lot of sense. So it's a good idea to have a physical distribution plan in place at the start of the project – talk to distributors early on and ideally have a partner ready to step in should you need to get your CDs into record shops.

  6. Make sure you are generally easy to find online, so that when Whistling Bob Harris' listeners go looking for you on the interweb, they end up in the right place. Create a good website, and have strong, up-to-date presences on social media.

  7. Ensure that you have a decent data capture system set up on your website. (We'd recommend using a tool like Mad Mimi or Getresponse to capture email addresses and send e-newsletters.) If you do get a huge amount of airplay for one of your songs – something that might only happen once in your entire career – you may end up with a huge number of people visiting your website. You can future-proof your career a bit by ensuring that your site is optimised to capture as many of these visitors’ email addresses as possible (this is usually done by incentivising your data capture – offering a free download for an email address). A large database means that you can potentially generate a decent amount of income from selling music and gig tickets direct to fans in future, even if you never get played by Whistling Bob ever again.

  8. Ensure your song is on Youtube – even if you don't really have a video for it. Regardless of the increasing popularity of Spotify, Youtube is still effectively the world's de facto music database and if you have a radio hit, people will be looking for your song on there (you can find out more about the importance of having your music on Youtube here).

  9. Create a mailing list of influential music industry movers and shapers that you can get in touch with in the unlikely event that your music starts to become popular. This is always a handy thing to have lying about anyway, but if you suddently get a serious amount of airplay on a national radio station, you ideally want to be in a position where you can quickly and easily email a large bunch of A&Rs, managers and publishers, notifying them of your overnight success and telling them why they should sign your sorry ass.

I could go on, but I've got other things to do and you, dear reader, are not paying me enough. However, I think the above suggestions should act as a decent checklist for bands who are embarking on that most precarious of adventures, the independent album release. In fact, even if you don't have a monster hit on your hands, the above tips should help you maximise the income you do receive from any independent album release. At the very least, they should allow the PPL to procure 5p from your local radio station on your behalf and let your mum find your album on iTunes.

The Prescription is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today.  

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