Here’s what I want to know: Are CD sales and digital download sales really where musicians are going to make their money now and/or in the future?
My initial thought is, no.
Now, I’m not claiming to have the answer, but based on my own experiences as a working musician, my money is made on live performances.
Should you focus less on recorded music?
That question got me thinking, should I spend less money on recording and releasing an album, or even per-song music production for digital download singles, to be able to get it to my fans cheaper because I’m not making much in return on those efforts?
However, recorded music is still vitally necessary, but do my fans really care if I recorded it in a professional studio vs. my basement to save on production costs if the quality matches their expectations?
My point is, as a musician these days you might be best off to learn and understand how to record your own music very affordably, to the reasonable listening quality expectations of your fans, market it knowing that the recorded music isn’t going to make you tons of money, but if it can help you get fans to your live shows where you’re being paid by a venue and you can sell additional merchandise then it could be worthwhile.
Folks often want to commemorate a live show experience with a purchased souvenir, a CD, or T-shirts, stickers, posters, etc. – from the live shows.
In this scenario concentrating on booking shows and marketing those shows is made easier when using your recorded music as a driving force in your marketing of live performances.
Using a short EP album of 5 songs is a great loss-leader (something you can give away for free to drive attendance at live shows).
Recorded music has always been a marketing tool for musicians – think radio airplay driving the discovery of new artists and songs with the goal to sell more albums. I’m suggesting that you are the “radio” getting your own music out to others (via the internet, etc.) to help people discover your music and instead of driving them to the sole goal of directly buying your album, you are driving them toward coming to a live performance where they can commemorate the experience by purchasing an album…a subtle, but distinct difference.