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CD Baby Feature MEME

The 2017 CD Baby DIY Musician Conference was held in Nashville, TN this year on August 24-27. I was CD Baby Skyline imagehonored to be asked to be a mentor.




As I am a regular listener of the CD Baby DIY Musician Podcast, I loved the post-mortem of this year’s conference. I thought I’d share these with y’all and add some of my comments.

Live Streaming 

It’s just getting started and it’s only getting stronger.  

CD Baby Live StreamingMy old friend Rick Barker was there with indie artist Dawn Beyer who cleverly generated $74,000 in less than a year doing live Facebook concerts.


Remember, with regards to the marketing process in today’s market, the music comes second. Again, I’m not saying it’s less important. I am saying that the artist comes first before the music just like your underwear before your outfit. That’s how the consumer will become aware of you.


Your future fans will find YOU before they love your music.


That’s a reality you’d better accept sooner than later.


I simply can’t think of a better way to showcase your talent and charisma than live streaming on any platform.


You need to keep your ear to the ground so you’re up on all the coming technology developments in this area because they’re coming by the truckload.


The ONLY way to master this is to do it often and make a boatload of mistakes.


PRO TIP: Don’t forget while the platform is awesome you still need to OWN the information because organic reach via email or device ID’s is 100% and totally free.


Live Streaming Do’s and Don’ts.

CD Baby The CLIMB Logo


DO be consistent. Make sure that your live streams are something everyone can plan for and depend on. Not for nothing, but the followers of my podcast The CLIMB look forward to Tuesdays because that’s when it drops. Its real.


Don’t trip on the live attendance. Keep recording for the playback, that’s when you’ll get the most views. I’ll do FB live from studio sessions sometimes and I might get 50-100 live attendees. But I’ll almost always get over 1,000 views in the playback.


DO give your live audience 5 seconds to unmute their computers before you start your performance.


DO shoot with your phone sideways (landscape). This way you can use this content in other video platforms later if you need to.

CD Baby Landscape Orientation


DON’T start broadcasting and wait too long before you start your performance because you’ll lose them. Nobody wants to hear you banter with your friends. They’ll feel left out.


DON’T make comments on how many people are on when you’re live. Tons of your replay audience will not know that they’re watching a recorded version. Happens all the time.



Music Streaming Platforms

Never share a link to a single on Spotify.CD Baby Spotify Playlist


Instead, create a link to a playlist with a bunch of your songs on it so if they like your single, then they’ll listen to more.


DO continually update this list. Just think, you get to choose what musical experience the consumer will have.


Music is platform based. Becoming an expert on all these platforms (i.e. Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, etc.) and the different tools that they provide is free.


Why aren’t you well versed in every single one?


Live Show Production

CD Baby Tom Jackson

I have had the pleasure of connecting Tom Jackson with several of my clients now. He’s a live show producer and trust me, EVERY ARTIST NEEDS LIVE SHOW PRODUCTION.


If you’ve ever seen him work, it’s literally breathtaking. Night and day difference in just one hour of work and he’d only get through the first verse and chorus of one song.




DON’T let the song control the show, you control the song and create a moment.


Change your arrangements for the live show. Most artists will walk to the front of the stage to interact with the audience and then hurry back to the mic to start the second verse because that’s the way it was recorded (with a 4 bar turnaround).


What if the audience just soaked in your groove for another 8 bars? Take your time, and go back when you’re ready. Let the band ebb and flow to the vibe of the audience and follow the lead of the front-person.


Let your music breathe in a live setting. It should always be a different arrangement live than on the record.


You can really learn to be a master of controlling emotion.


CD Baby Tom Jackson Trent HarmonEvery night is different. My band was always prepared to continue whatever groove was going on during our shows. You never knew what was going to happen.


By the way, this year Tom did a separate instructional with a couple singer/songwriters. It was ASTOUNDING what a little tweaking could do for a solo acoustic performance.


In one section, he had the songwriter tell his story on how the song was written.


Typical, right?




We all feel that way.


Then he had the songwriter gently play the groove of the song while he told his story. That was incredible.


I cared.


We all cared.




Learn it.




Authenticity sells. Period.


CD Baby Authenticity MEME


This should be the most artistically freeing information you’ll ever hear. Screw perfection. Forget about what you’re perceived level of talent is. Just be you and always try to improve upon that.




You’ll make a living, I promise.


There are only 12 notes. Your interpretation is what will be unique.


Your interpretation is the art. That’s what MATTERS!


Every artist is strong in authenticity but most artists aren’t chasing that. They’re trying too hard to be something else.


This Business Is All About Relationships


Rick Barker (Taylor Swift’s former manager) gave a great presentation but he said something completely hardcore.


I totally agree with it.


CD Baby Authenticity MEMEHe said, don’t come up to me and give me a CD because I’ll tell you “No” to your face. I don’t know you so I don’t care.


Neither does anybody else by the way. Barker was just being honest.


The same holds true for record executives, publishers, booking agents, industry attorneys, and most important; consumers.


You have to create a relationship first before you ask for anything.


The way to create a relationship is to reach out first. Love them first. Give first.


Also, it’s about your story. If they are moved or interested in your story in any way, they will listen to your music. They will buy your music, merch, tickets, etc.


But not until then so stop telling people that you don’t know or just met to download your music.


Stop telling or even asking people to discover you on iTunes. They won’t. It never works.


Create a relationship and move forward from there. Your world will instantly change.


YouTube Is Still KING

CD Baby YouTube King MEME

There was a healthy amount of the YouTube team in attendance at the DIY Conference. They were there to help indie artists and gather information to improve their platform.


Listen, YouTube’s whole existence depends on advertising revenue. The more views a video gets, the more money they make.



It’s simple.



This is an incredible platform that algorithmically scrubs the 1 billion videos uploaded every day to search the most compelling content. If people are liking it they’ll watch it and help it after the video hits certain levels of activity.


Think of it like a ladder. Imaging each rung on the ladder having a bell. If you post a video and it gets enough views within a certain amount of time (from the post date) you’ll ring the first bell and YouTube hits a multiplier button.


This multiplier exposes the video to a bunch of new people whose data suggest that they would like this kind of video.


CD Baby YouTube LadderIf the video continues to gain enough momentum to ring the second bell, YouTube hits another multiplier button and so on.


This is why some videos do better than others but you can intelligently increase the odds of ringing the first couple bells and giving the video a life if you’re consistently building an audience.


There are “YouTubers” who regularly post videos and make tons of money simply because THEY’VE CREATED AN AUDIENCE.


When you have an audience, miracles happen.


You can create an audience for free on YouTube.


Therefore, your best excuse about not having any money to market goes up in flames.




I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule but I haven’t heard of any artist who went from obscurity to making an acceptable living in music by uploading their music to iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, Bandcamp, Bandzoogle, Bkstg, etc.


CD Baby Noah Guthrie

I do know some artists who have millions and tens of millions of streams on Spotify who can’t fill up a coffeehouse. No Audience.


I know TONS of artists who make a killer living on YouTube.


I know TONS of artists who have broken on YouTube.



The attention they got from a big viral video has opened tons of doors including record labels, SNL appearances, network TV show castings, etc.


It wasn’t luck, it was work. They set it up and put in a boatload of work to get their respective channels big enough to make a difference.


Why aren’t you consistently posting on YouTube?


I learned a ton at this year’s CD Baby DIY Musician Conference. For the $69 price-tag over 3 days, it’s the best deal around.


They’ve already booked the Omni Hotel in Nashville for next year’s conference. You should be there.







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Artistically Starving To Death

I have amazing conversations with artists and songwriters every day; I love my job.  Some of those conversations are with beginners, some with intermediate artists, and some are with professional indie artists whose careers are well on their way.  I have to say with the exception of the pro artists, the beginners and intermediates suffer from the same disease; they lack marketing knowledge.  I should say they seem to lack the very concept & definition, never mind the methodology of marketing.  Simply put their artistically starving to death.


Marketing vs. Distribution

Yeah, that’s right, the concept and definition of marketing.  I’ll ask and artist “how exactly are you marketing yourself?”

iTunes logo Artistically StarvingThey will undoubtedly answer, “Well, we are up on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, etc.”  I then wait for their retort to continue, and it doesn’t.  Now I think, What the?!?!

Let’s go back to some good ol’ plain common sense for a second.  Why do record labels have promotion and marketing departments?  I mean if marketing meant getting the music up on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, etc., would actually move product why the HELL would a broke record label keep paying the people in the marketing department?  Any moron can place music up on all these sites; right?Spotify Logo Artistically Starving

How about this perspective:  When you used to go into a record store to buy an album or CD, did you always walk in and magically get attracted to some piece of shrink-wrapped plastic or cardboard spend your money and then leave?  NO!!  You already knew what you wanted to buy which is why you were there in the first place; this is called marketing.  Marketing is the art of influencing buying decisions.  The outlet that is available to sell the product to the person whose buying decision was influenced is the distributor.

Pandora Logo Artistically StarvingGet it?  Just having it “on the shelf” isn’t enough.  In fact, I propose that this is actually part of the problem in today’s music industry; no accountability for product that doesn’t move.  This will never change, but if it did, you would find every artist quickly learning the difference between distribution and marketing; necessity is the mother of invention.


Let me explain.  Anderson Distribution is (I believe) the largest music merchandise distributor in the country right now.  They are an awesome company.  They handle the distribution of all CD’s toAnderson Dist Logo Artistically Starving Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Best Buy stores to name a few.  When a Label wants to put product (aka your CD) on the shelves of a Wal-Mart, they go through Anderson Distribution and they need to ensure that the marketing of the product (aka your CD) is already underway or the label gets screwed.  This is initially exciting because to get product (aka your CD) on a Wal-Mart shelf, the minimum order is like 100,000 units.  Do the math, if the retail price is $11.99 then Anderson is probably buying the product (aka your CD) from the label for $6.99; $6.99 x 100,000 = $699,000.00!!!  YEEHAW!!!  Um, er, wait a minute…

Let’s back up and do a little more math.  Anderson doesn’t send you a check in advance for this order, just like every other major corporation their accounts payable is on a Net-60 day basis, or in this economy probably a Net-90 day basis.  In plain English, the record label doesn’t get their quote, $699,000 check, end quote, for 90 days.  So that means that the label is going to front you, the artist, $50,000 to manufacture 100,000 CD’s (this is JUST manufacturing of the CD and they get them for .50 cents each because of the large order, you can too if you order this many) this does not include the cost to ship them to Anderson Distribution.  Now, here’s the tricky part.  Anderson is a business.  Their business is DISTRIBUTING PRODUCT (aka your CD) and if the product (aka your CD) is not moving, Anderson Distribution is not making money.  Get it?  In fact, if the product (aka your CD) is Burning money artistically starvingnot moving Anderson Distribution is LOSING MONEY.  There are a limited number of spaces to place CD’s on a shelf in Wal-Mart, I don’t know exactly what that number is but they are only going to put product on those shelves that will MOVE and make them money.   So, the label essentially has 90 days to sell enough of that product (aka your CD) to show Anderson Distribution that it’s a product (aka your CD) that already is or will be a money maker for them.

What’s the exact number?  I have no freaking idea, but this is just common business sense, if you think about it.

What happens if the label doesn’t move enough product (aka your CD)?  Then the Net-90 payment the label will get from Anderson Distribution will consist of a check in the amount of exactly how many of your CD’s they sold minus the shipping cost to return the rest of the product (aka your CD) that didn’t sell.  YIKES!  You read that correctly.  If you sold 1,000 units, you would get a check for $6,900 minus the cost of shipping the remaining 99,000 units back to you.

Does the label put the product (aka your CD) on the shelves of Wal-Mart and say, “we marketed it because it’s now available to be purchased”?  NO!!  You see, this is where the real fight begins.

What exactly are you doing to win this fight with your music?

So, let’s put that in terms of your music.  Websites like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and your site; these are storefronts, man, not marketing strategies.  They are an online place to stock product (aka your CD) where interested parties can easily purchase it.  Yeah, yeah, you will get a few sales here and there by just stocking product (aka your music), but you will never get enough to repay the cost of recording and manufacturing.  So after (or even before) you stock the product (aka your CD), you need to market it!  You need to expose it to the world and drive business to these storefronts; then people will buy because their buying decision was influenced by your marketing or sometimes by your music!

Good Marketing = Not Artistically Starving!

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?  If you ask yourself, “what am I doing to market my music” and the answer is “I have it up on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and my website” then you have already lost the fight.  Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” states that every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought.  Think about that for a second.  Internalize some of these Sun Tzu quotes real quick.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Sun Tzu Art of War Artistically Starving Which one are you?  If your music is up on iTunes and you have no marketing strategy then you are the latter; an already defeated warrior going to war first and hoping to win.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This is huge.  Strategy is defined as a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.  Tactics are defined as the maneuvers themselves or any mode of procedure for gaining advantage or success.  In plain English strategy is the plan, tactics are the methods & procedures used to implement that plan.  So a plan to market your music without procedures is the slowest route to victory.  Employing methods or procedures without a plan is wasted time & energy before certain defeat.  Apply this concept to making sandwiches to get a simple perspective on marketing your music.  If you have a strategy for making a sandwich but never get off your ass to go to the kitchen and make one, you can think about it all you want but the sandwich won’t make itself; you go hungry.  If you go to the kitchen and begin preparing to make a sandwich without strategizing as to exactly what kind of sandwich you want you will waste energy pulling out all the breads, mustards, different lunch meats, lettuce, cheeses, etc for no reason because you haven’t decided on the mission critical strategy; what kind of sandwich you want to make.  Until you actually decide to make a specific sandwich your best efforts are fruitless; you go hungry.  It seems so stupidly simple because it is.

Marketing music is no different than making sandwiches, there are just more details to learn.  The smart artist is going to simplify the idea just like this, and start strategizing and creating/learning tactics.  All the information you need is on the web or in a mentor’s brain for the artists who seek it.

One of my favorite movie quotes is from “Auntie Mame” and it says “You’ve got to live, live, live!  Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”  This is a perfect quote with regards to today’s music marketing because there is literally an embarrassment of effective online marketing methods available right now; and their available to everyone.  Many of these methods are FREE OF CHARGE like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.  If you were forced to prepare before you put product (aka your CD) up on iTunes for fear of product returns and non-distribution after a certain amount of time, you would be pretty focused on marketing, wouldn’t you?

So why aren’t you?

Just because you don’t have any repercussions doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach stocking product (aka your CD) the same way.

This final Sun Tzu quote is actually my favorite because it’s so inspirational.

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
Sun Tzu

In other words, the more you dig in to this marketing thing seriously, the more opportunities you are going to uncover.

The more money you are going to make.

This in turn, means you make more music; because you now make a living as an artist.

Think about it.


Stay in Tune


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