News from the music industry

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If you are a recording artist, listen to this statistic.  In 2008, about 13 million songs were available for sale on the internet.  More than 10 million of them did not sell even one copy.


To make matters worse, 80% of the total revenue came from just 52,000 songs (less than one half of 1%).

There is a theory in the marketing world known as “long tail.”  This means that if you offer 10,000 products, you may not sell many of each one, but collectively, you will sell a lot more than if you were only offering 10 products.

To be very honest, I am a bit doubtful of this kind of thinking.  My experience in marketing for the last 10 years has shown the opposite to be true.  And that is especially true for music.  People are not going to buy something just because it is available for sale. 

This is a sobering thought for recording artists.  The cost of recording has come down.  In fact, more and more musicians are recording music with almost no budget by mixing themselves using their computers.  But the reality is that after selling obligatory CDs to family and friends, there is almost no market for that music.

But I suppose the cheap approach is better than spending $10K on a CD and then finding out that there is no market for the music.  Unfortunately, I know people in that boat as well.  I sometimes wonder what musicians are thinking.  Recording an expensive CD is like throwing money down the drain unless there is something about the music that makes people want it (uniqueness, quality, or whatever).  And even that is not enough.  Unless you have a marketing plan, even the best CDs are never going to pay for themselves.

Let’s be brutally honest about marketing for a moment. 

Many musicians assume that they are going to pay for their CD by selling to family/friends and their home church.  Don’t count on it.  If you go to a church of 1,000, it probably consists of about 300 families.  If you are lucky, half of them will buy your project.  That means you sell 150 CDs for about $2000.  That will not pay for any project.

Other musicians are falling into the trap of thinking a website is their answer.  I can assure you that most websites run by musicians sell less than 25 CDs/year.  While a website can be a good way to move music, it also has to be marketed.  And internet marketing is far from easy.

Ask yourself these two tough questions before you invest a lot of time and money to record. 

  1. Will the music have some characteristic about it that will lead someone who does not know you to buy itDon’t rely just on your instinct either.  Ask qualified people for their opinion.
  2. Do you have a way to market music outside of your friends and family?

I know that recording is addictive and musicians are drawn to recording like a magnet.  I am right there with you.  But don’t do it unless you either can afford to lose the money or have a solid plan to get it back.

2 thoughts on “News from the music industry

  1. Charles Wilson says:


    I am thinking about having my choir do a project. It looks like $10,000 for everything. Our church will use the CDs for promotional purposes. What do you think about that?

  2. Greg says:

    I would guess that will end up being a very expensive promotion. I think an important question is this: Is your product going to be good enough that people will want to listen to it more than once? Most church choirs are not capable of producing music of that quality.

    It is fun to make a CD. There are other good reasons why a choir director might want to do it. But it probably is not a cost effective way to promote the church.

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