A download only album release?

I was pleasently suprised the other day to check my CDBaby account and find $40 worth of download purchases. Sure, it’s not a ton of dough, but for me every dollar counts. I am putting it all towards the funding of another cd.

Being an independent musician playing a relatively niche style of music, I don’t exactly sell a ton of albums. I am happy with $100 a month from album sales, both physical and digital. I’ll sell the occasional cd at my coffee shop or wine bar type gigs. At something like a house concert or celtic festival where folks are there to see a specific style of music cd sales are usually better.  The biggest challenge is just lack of visibility. It’s a big world out there and getting name and brand recognition take time. I don’t have a record label or publicity department behind me. Thankfully the internet has partly leveled the playing field in that regard, and I can proudly say that more people know about my music now than a year ago.

I am already starting to contemplate another album. I’ve got ten or so tune arrangements kicking around in my head so far. I am envisioning some additional instrumentation, played either by myself or others. There will still be some solo guitar cuts as well, but more and more I am enjoying interacting with others when playing music.

One thing I have been contemplating is doing a download only album. Manufacturing and shipping physical cd’s adds a decent amount to the cost. For my first album it cost $700 after shipping to manufactur and print 500 units of my cd in jewel cases. I think $200 of that was shipping, jewel cases are kind of bulky, I seem to remember Fedex delivering four or five boxes. One things folks suggested is go with the digipack format instead. They are less bulky, so shipping would be cheaper. I am not sure if the digipack option costs more to manufacture than a jewel case. I do like how they look.

Of course, there are a whole lot of other things to consider if i were to release a download only album. It’s harder than sending a physical cd for review or airplay. I couldn’t sell cds at gigs, though I could sell digital download cards. Handing off a cd to a friend or family member is easy and convenient.

Until recently, guitarist Simon Fox sold only digital download albums, though it seems now he is selling a physical cd. Though more folks are buying music from places like iTunes or Emusic, I think a lot of us still like holding a cd in our hands. Especially if I want to buy something at a live show.

I guess I could always record an album and then not decide till the end if I wanted to print a physical cd. Or do a digital only release and put out a physical cd later on down the line.


Comments 2

  1. We are thinking about this too, but the "buy a CD at the house concert" impulse is pretty strong for most people, and I'm not sure that would last until they got home, logged into CD Baby, found our page, etc. Maybe selling a card with a download code on it at the concert would solve that problem…I just really DON'T want to deal with boxes and boxes of CDs, we still have leftovers from Sheltering Sky's last project and it's hard for us to sell them since we sound *totally* different now!

  2. I agree Angeline. I wouldn't want to depend on folks to go home after a show, log onto CDBaby or iTunes, then buy an album. I think download cards would be a good way to go for digital sales at a gig.

    I know at least for me I still enjoy buying a cd at a show. So even though it adds cost to manufacture a physical disc its probably something I will do for the next album. I had good luck with CopyCat Media for my first cd.

    Boxes and boxes of cds are no fun, I still have plenty left to sell too..


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