CD Release Tips from Derek Sivers
As the founder of CD Baby, Derek Sivers has witnessed more CD releases than just about anyone else on the planet. His intelligent and fundamental, yet progressive approach to music and marketing paired with his extensive experience, knowledge and hard work, have made him one of the most respected thinkers in the world of independent music and beyond.
I recently had the chance to ask him about what his approach would be to releasing a CD in 2010. Here’s what he had to say:
Derek, how would you coordinate the launch of a record today if you were a modestly successful independent artist (a couple hundred true fans)? What are the principles that guide your thought process on this?
Wait, stop, back up. Don’t launch a record until people are already freaking out over you.
The worst thing you can do is to take your first 12 songs, call it a record and spend a bunch of time promoting it.
Instead you should aim to write, re-write, and improve your first 100 songs, then throw 90 of them away. Save only the 10 that people are freaking out over.
And by “freaking out” I mean that friends and strangers are telling their friends about you not because you asked them to, but because what they’re hearing is blowing them away so much that they have to tell their friends, “Wow. This is amazing. Check this out.”
(You said “a couple hundred true fans”, but I wanted to make sure we had the same definition of true fans.)
Until you get to that point, don’t release a record or launch anything. Just keep improving and writing.
Leak MP3s to core fans for feedback. Ask people for critique, not praise. Ask them for improvement suggestions. How could your site be improved? How could your show be improved? How could this song be improved?
Eventually try selling MP3s directly from your site using PayPal. This will test your commercial viability. People say they like you, but do they like you enough to open their wallet? Better to test that with MP3s and PayPal before pressing 1000 CDs. Perhaps email your fans to let them know you’re doing this as a test, and if they really love you enough to pay, please go buy their favorite song of yours on MP3.
After this whole constantly-building process, the real answer to most of your questions is “Whatever the fans want.”
You’ll be in such close communication with these hundreds of true fans, that they’ll be telling you all about where they like to buy music, whether they wish you had a physical CD or not, whether they think a free single would help them tell their friends, or what the best timing is.
With the drastic changes in technology and the music business, how does that change what an independent artist needs to do to be successful? Is it much different, or are the principles basically the same?
As you can see by the above process, this is something that was almost impossible before 1995. Communication is so easy now, that you can really build a career on feedback from fans. Let the fans define your strategy. Do what your fans are requesting, instead of guessing what they might want.
For more from Derek Sivers visit his blog here: sivers.org
Follow on Twitter here: @sivers