Are CDs Still Relevant Marketing And Merch Items For Musicians?

TThough it may seem that the world is quickly digitising itself in as many ways as is possible, and the recording industry has certainly experienced a lot of change, altering the playing field that as musicians, we are now on, hardcopy media formats, such as CD’s and vinyl are still being produced, sold and otherwise distributed, though at lesser rates than in previous years. This begs the question, are CD’s still a relevant marketing and merch item for musicians?

In a word – yes.

In the next five years or so, it’s true that we may move on to other formats such as USB Flash Drives as the digital music transferral medium of choice, or who knows, perhaps the disc will stick around – but today the indie musician can benefit immensely from not only having CD’s as an item for sale, but to use as a promotional tool to be put in the hands of the right people – and these do not have to be the same CD, in fact, they can be quite different from each other to serve their individual purposes.

We know that to earn a living from this we need to have music available for sale to fans – both online and offline – and if you’re about to go out on tour, or even just playing a show down the street, you really, really, must bring CD’s as a merch item. Fans want something they can take home from the concert with them.

Image credit: yourendlessdream on deviantart

Your CD, from the cover art to the CD itself should look as professional as possible – whatever ‘professional’ means to you. If you are a DIY punk band, then it should have a DIY punk aesthetic that matches your sound and style, and if you are a rock band with a stadium sound, your CD should also reflect that big image – it should never look “hokey”. Fans want to feel they are getting a quality product that will provide them value for your hard earned money. Save the plain cardboard sleeves and home-made discs for giveaways to those interested in your music, another great way to utilise the CD to promote yourself – if you have the budget to make some freebies you can earn back the money and/or time spent making them in triplicate – everybody loves free stuff! And people like to talk about the things they love. So make them love you.

A separate CD (or even DVD) to consider having made if you do want to get signed some day, or do other things such as get on big festival circuits, is one that is polished, exceptionally-professional looking and tailored specifically to whomever is going to be listening to it. Are you sending your disc in to college radio? To potential bookers, venues, agents? Magazines, blogs, MTV?? What is your goal, are you trying to get a video game or movie soundtrack deal? Are you just trying to get booked at your local bar?

Think about this and come up with some ideas of what would best help you achieve your goal, for example if you’re sending to radio, do you just want to send the ‘single’ if you have one, or do you want them to have your whole album to choose from? Trying to get signed? Think anyone at a record label has time to listen to a whole album of a band they’ve never heard of if you don’t give them a reason to? That’s why it may be a good idea to shuffle the tracks on your usual album, taking out any intros etc if necessary and putting the meaty tracks first to get them hooked enough to listen to the whole thing – sometimes it’s a good idea to do without the rest of the tracks altogether and just narrow it down to two or three of the best ones and have say a few hundred discs made just like this to send out for this specific purpose – whereas if you want your music reviewed in a blog, you’re probably going to want to send them the whole thing, particularly if it’s a concept album.

Don’t be afraid to make these tailored discs more promotional, you can even include things that might be usually included in your press kit such as photos, bio etc in the CD cover/ on the CD or DVD, or make a nice digipak with a foldout poster of your band or foldout bio sheet for the magazine or blog or agent to get their info from. Don’t be afraid to stand out, in a world where it seems as if there are a lot more musicians than market, get noticed, don’t be afraid to utilize CD’s as a merch item and marketing tool, as the physical and tangible is still most definitely still relevant.

This is a guest post by Pandie Suicide of Mixonic, a CD duplication service based in San Francisco.