Unavailable on CD

I’ve been watching the changes in the music industry for several years now. Every now and then I ask fans, “how do you listen to music?” More and more often people say they download or stream music. That’s awesome. I’m the same way. But it’s also concerning.

You see, years ago I devised my brilliant retirement plan: record lots and lots of CDs. Even if some aren’t popular, all of the best albums will leave me a steady income when I retire.

Then streaming music came along.

Back in 2010, I remember earning over $1000 in digital sales one month thanks to iTunes. I was excited.

Ten albums later, I should be doing great!

Alas, my digital income is less than seven years ago.

I’m not here to whine though. I adjust with the times. It’s why I started a Patreon site. One day I’ll earn enough that I can keep creating music even if my albums aren’t selling.

I haven’t figured out how to adjust to live shows yet.

I used to rely on cd sales at live shows. I could play for free if need be because I would sell boatloads of CDs from my giant catalog. But what happens when people stopping buying CDs after shows? Will they go home and buy on iTunes? Experience says unlikely.

That’s where I’m at right now. Yes, I will continue to offer CDs of my top albums and new albums. But at some point, I have to adjust. I’m having trouble figuring out how.

That’s where you come in.

I desperately need your feedback.

I am trying a bunch of options. Here’s some product ideas I’m testing:

USB drives featuring compilations. This is probably one of the best offerings I have. They cost more, but it’s such a great deal. It’s hard to resist. My problem with them is they are so small. It’s doesn’t feel like a beautiful memory or reminder of an event. Maybe I’m wrong though.

I’ve tried digital download cards by themselves. Thus far, people don’t buy them because it’s easier to buy on iTunes. And one of the drawbacks I’ve seen is the cdbaby download cards don’t have track listings.

“What album is that on?” That’ll be the endless questions I will receive.

I’m considering remedying that by printing greeting cards with the album cover and a track listing and some credits. How does that sound to you?

I’ve had limited success with shirts. Aside from the bulky inventory, which I don’t like, they don’t sell well for me. I wonder if they’d sell better with an exclusive album download?

My Celtic Heartstrings (necklaces made from the broken strings of my heart…um, Autoharp) haven’t sold well, but with that new slogan, when I remember to say it, they are doing much better. But I haven’t found an easy way to couple them with a digital download card. I’m not sure if they should. But I feel like they would mix well. Thoughts?

I started selling songbooks recently. Those seem to sell fairly well, especially when accompanied with a download card. It seems like they take the place of liner notes. But it’s still a little early to tell.

One idea I had was to let people buy from iTunes at shows, but give them a “free gift” for doing so right then. It’s tough to implement though especially when I am pressed for time immediately after a show.

Come to think of it, it might work really well with the songbooks…? Buy the album on iTunes and get a Songbook for $5. Hm. Maybe a decent upsell to encourage immediate purchases.

Would that work with the greeting cards too? I think I could get those inexpensive enough to give that for free, no additional expense.

I thought it might be cool to make products linked to a specific album. Like the Kilted For Her Pleasure shirts. Buy a shirt, get the digital album as a bonus.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm product/album links. But what if someone wants the product but has the album? Could they pick any download card? Does that really matter?

These are all the ideas I’m brainstorming. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

What would you buy from a musician who’s music you enjoyed if it was not on cd?