Answered by Michael Laskow, CEO, TAXI
I spent my entire savings account to finance my CD. It came out great, and I ordered 1,000 copies from Discmakers. I planned my CD release party and sent out nearly 300 invitations, but less than 50 people showed up.

I've run two ads in a local music rag, played at least six gigs in local clubs, but my sales are slim at best. I've put my CD up on CDbaby, MySpace, and a few other sites, but I have only sold about two dozen copies and I'm starting to freak out.

All the magazines and Web sites talk about doing an Indie release, but I must be getting something wrong because at this rate, I don't have any hope of making my initial investment back, let alone making a profit. Everybody told me that signing a deal with a major label would be a bad idea, but I'm starting to think that doing this DIY thing isn't such a great idea either.

Am I missing something or doing something wrong? Can you please tell me what to do?


— Thanks,

Lucy Schmidt


Dear Lucy,

I've got a file full of letters very much like yours, and could almost write a book on this subject.

The bottom line is that you've just discovered why major labels don't suck as much as everybody thinks they do, and how they fit into the equation. You need marketing and lots of it to sell any significant amount of your CDs. The problem is that nearly every artist I know will spend his or her last dime to MAKE the CD, but keep nothing in reserve to market it after it's done.

Major labels are far from perfect and maybe not all that artist-friendly, and everybody's got a friend who got signed and screwed by a Major (notice how it's NEVER the music or the artist... always the label's fault?). But they DO typically invest about a million bucks in marketing a new artist — often more. That's why they make most of the money — they take a LOT of financial risk on the front end. They also invest a lot of human capital in the form of marketing people, radio promotion, tour support (which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars), as well as in-store and field sales promotion.


If you've made a CD that makes you happy but doesn't appeal to a wide commercial audience, you might want to just enjoy the fact that you made the CD, but not invest the time or money necessary to find commercial success. Sometimes art IS best made just for art's sake. There's a lot to be said for personal satisfaction and making money isn't always the be all and end all.

That's why you so rarely hear about a true Indie or DIY artist having any significant success. It DOES happen, but not very often. How many true Indie acts do you hear on the radio or see on the charts that COUNT?

I expect that your sights would be set much lower than what a major label artist would expect, but to accomplish that, you'd still need to spend at least $100,000 to expect one tenth the result.

There are two ways to solve your problem. Number one would be to read as many books as you can get your hands on about marketing music, and then borrow a significant amount of money to execute the tactics and strategies you learn about in the books. Once you have the money and the plan well in hand, you're going to need to spend at least eight to 10 hours (if not more) per day marketing your CD.

It's really like starting up a business. Would you expect to sell 1,000 pairs of shoes without setting up shop (even virtual), and marketing like crazy? The same is true for your music.

The second way to go about this would be to invest prodigious amounts of time doing guerrilla marketing on the Internet. I'm talking about at least 12 to 15 hours per day, six or seven days a week! MySpace is a great place to start, but you're competing with at least 3,000,000 other bands and artists on there, so you better work harder than they do, have a better product, and stay in the game longer than they do in order to win it.

One last thing. All of this is predicated on two more critical factors: the quality of your music and the commercial viability of it as well. If you've made a CD that makes you happy but doesn't appeal to a wide commercial audience, you might want to just enjoy the fact that you made the CD, but not invest the time or money necessary to find commercial success. Sometimes art IS best made just for art's sake. There's a lot to be said for personal satisfaction and making money isn't always the be all and end all.

— Good luck,

Michael




I just watched the video you put on YouTube featuring TAXI member Matt Hirt talking about how to get into doing music for film and television. He's extremely knowledgeable on the subject, but I was really surprised to see that most people only watched the first segment or two. I thought some of the best information was in the latter segments.

Considering the entire series took me less than 45 minutes to watch, I'm shocked that my fellow members didn't take the time to watch the whole thing. Oh well, their loss is my gain. :-) See you on TV!


— Thanks for all you do,

Emily Matlock


Dear Emily,

I completely agree with you! That video series with Matt is like the Rosetta Stone for getting your music into film and TV. I got hundreds of nice e-mails about it when it first came out. One guy described it as FAR better than what he learned in four years of going to a famous college that specializes in music!

I guess that the old adage that you can lead a horse to water applies here. I can't force people to watch it all the way through, but I AM amazed that people can't find 45 minutes to learn something that could otherwise take years. I hope your letter serves as a reminder for people to go back and finish the series. Matt really does give everybody the keys to the kingdom. I hope they use them! Here's a link http://youtube.com/watch?v=6FguwMMsDZA

—Warm regards,

Michael




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