In this age of free I would venture to say the majority of artists that have fallen into the trap of believing they can’t sell anything probably didn’t sell anything before the internet became the main focus of building a ‘real world’ music career. Doesn’t help that they might listen to people that have no clue what they’re talking about with regards to ‘making it’ in music. They give up. They rationalize paying to give away album after album, often with not much to show for it. I’ll spare you the details of my opinion on how it’s come to this point.
I’m grateful for my time spent in the real world realm of hand to hand sales of my cd’s after sets and during events. I wasn’t built for the West 4th street hustle. Post up in front of Fat Beats like Creature, a well known New York artist infamous for his uncanny ability to engage folks, build an enthusiastic following and make a sale all in what seems to be one effortless motion. I had to find my way, which I did with a few similarities but modified and in a whole other space.
There was also a time where I sold the material of others. I would prearrange to set up at shows and run a merch table, back then I even had an online store ‘Conscious Bootleggers’. In some instances I sold more product for artists than they could sell from themselves after a show. I knew about what I was selling. I knew how to sell.
So about this idea of direct to fan I’d have to say what worked most for me was I guess people not feeling they were even being sold to. The level of genuine communication was high. The conversation was what was most important. Another very important part was pretty much the uniqueness of the interactions. Of course first impressions are lasting ones and when it comes to inviting a stranger to not only listen to your music but to purchase it, how do you win them over besides your charming personality?
One summer I decided to sell a cd for $2.99. This is 04, nearly a decade ago.Whoa. I hit up the African street festival that year with a bag full of cd’s. Most people sold their stuff for five to ten dollars but that’s whatever. What made it crazy was that I walked around with a roll of pennies. I gave people change. You’d be surprised by their amazement. Most folks simply got a kick out of it. It was funny. It was cool. It was way different. Needless to say not only did I sell quite a few cd’s I also gained new fans, if not for the music but just my movement in general. There are people still that I run into saying they remember when I sold them my cd and I gave them their penny back.
If you care about the audience you hope to gain, it makes sense to be creative. To approach them like you don’t see a dollar sign hovering above their head. The effort goes a long way. If it’s too much for you to consider your approach, perhaps you’re in the wrong business.