Thursday, March 19, 2009

Selling your music online through your web site

Selling Music Online
from the book Web Marketing for the Music Business by Tom Hutchison

For most artists and record labels, the ultimate goal is selling product, especially recordings and concert tickets. To do this, it is probably necessary to get into e-commerce: having a retail presence on the Web. The first decision involves whether to “set up shop” or leave it to the experts.
There are many online retail stores that handle either physical product, digital downloads, or both. Should you decide to do it yourself, there are several online services that handle the complex portions of self-distribution, including financial transactions, setting up the web site storefront, and inventory management and handling. Some of these services simply offer software to interface with your artist’s web site and use a database to manage shipping information, or they simply deal in financial transactions.

Doing it yourself
Doing it yourself requires several components in the process of engaging in commercial transactions: processing orders online, providing financial security, handling the financial transaction, inventory management, and shipping out orders.

Fulfillment is defined as order processing that includes documenting when an order was received, when and how it was shipped, and when and how it was paid for. Record labels, artists, and their managers need to weigh the options when deciding whether to handle their own fulfillment. It requires persistent attention to the web site and prompt follow up on all orders received. If an artist is on the road touring, fulfillment should be left to a third party to handle. Advances in computer technology have streamlined the fulfillment process. With the right software program in place, much of the order processing can be automated, from keeping tabs on inventory levels to actually printing out shipping labels and bar codes for the delivery services.

Financial Transactions

Credit Cards
To set up shop, it is necessary to process transactions and collect money from your customers. Credit cards are the most popular form of financial exchange online because of their convenience and speedy processing. Years ago, mail-order businesses mostly requested money orders or cashiers checks; some would take personal checks but would then wait until the check had cleared before sending out the product. Back then it was common to see the disclaimer “allow four to six weeks for delivery.” In today’s immediate gratification society, four to six weeks is not an acceptable timeframe for most customers. Credit cards increase impulse buys. In “How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet,” David Nevue (2007) stated, “To run a successful business on the Internet, credit card acceptance is an absolute must.” However, credit card processing is not without costs and requires an elaborate setup. There are web service companies now that provide the credit card processing services along with the software to integrate into your web site. To set up a site to accept credit cards, your company must have a merchant bank account, security and encryption measures in place (secure socket layer server or SSL), credit card verification services (also called a payment gateway), a shopping cart page, and the software to process and track orders and shipments. In addition, some customers are apprehensive about giving out their credit card numbers to an unknown vendor on a small web site and prefer to use a more reputable retailer or more secure service such as PayPal.

PayPal is an online service that allows registered users to transfer funds to and from bank accounts set up as their PayPal accounts. It also allows nonregistered users to make a payment to a registered user via a major credit card. The payee will feel more secure providing his or her credit card number to PayPal than the small, unknown vendor who is selling items on the Internet. PayPal then credits the payment to the vendor’s account. The vendor pays a service fee of 30 cents plus a small percentage of each transaction. The service also offers online shopping cart services.

Google Checkout
New on the scene is Google Checkout, a service offered by Google. When combined with Google’s AdWords program (see Chapter 11, the costs are greatly reduced, with merchants waiving the monthly transaction fees on $10 in sales value for every dollar spent on advertising with Google.
Keep in mind that doing it yourself involves a commitment to maintain accurate accounts of inventory on the web site and to promptly respond to each transaction with a confirmation e-mail and shipping information. It also requires being ready to pack up and ship products out the door on a frequent and consistent basis. For musicians who are on the road, this responsibility is best left to the experts.

For handling e-commerce on the web site, it is necessary to follow these recommendations:
1. Provide thorough product descriptions, including graphics.
2. Prominently display the product name and price. If several formats are available, clearly identify the format.
3. Make it easy for the customer to purchase; the fewer clicks, the better. Make the “buy” button obvious.
4. Make sure the customer knows when the order is completed.
5. Once the order is placed, send an immediate e-mail confirmation.
6. Make sure the orders go out as quickly as possible.
7. Make sure the customer knows how long it will take to receive the order.
8. Make sure you have the inventory to fill the orders. If you are out of stock, modify the storefront page immediately to reflect this fact.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Using the Cell Phone to Promote Your Music: part 1

from the book Web Marketing for the Music Business by Tom Hutchison

Many local musicians have yet to discover that the cell phone is a great promotional device for musicians--even at the local level. This new marketing avenue is still in the development stage, but there are some opportunities already for artists.

First, you should start collecting cell numbers from fans now, even if you don't plan on using them right away--much the same as you do for getting email addresses from fans and adding them to your friends list. You can do that at gigs and online with a simple form that your fans fill out.

At this point in mobile marketing, it is not cost-effective for local artists to purchase services for sending out bulk cell messages, so it might be best to have your fans sign up for one of the mobile social networking services (actually SMS--short message services) such as Twitter, Zlango, Jygy, or others. You can find a list at Then type in the keyword mobile.

Many of these services are still in beta testing mode, so they are not yet charging for the service. Try to find a service that will allow you to send a bulk text message to a group of fans at once. Then follow these very important rules for sending out text marketing messages.

1. Keep it simple: Include a link to your web site for further information.

2. Don't send out too many messsages. The majority of recipients pay per message so it will cost them money to participate.

3. Make it timely: Only send information that is not better served on the web site, such as a reminder about tonight's gig, etc.

4. Include a call to action: ask them to show up at your gig, listen to your new tune, check out your new album, etc.

I'll be including updates to this blog with more tips on using the web and new media for promoting your band. Meanwhile, check out Web Marketing for the Music Business

Friday, March 6, 2009

Providing Music Samples on Your Artist Web Site

from the book Web Marketing for the Music Business by Tom Hutchison

One safe way to preserve the value of an artist’s music is to provide 30-second samples instead of letting visitors download or listen to the entire song. No one wants to make and distribute copies of 30-second segments of a song. And the sample gives potential customers an idea of whether they might like the song or not. If the artist’s music is featured for sale on one of the major online download services, they usually provide 30-second samples, and it may not be necessary to create them for the artist’s site. Visitors can be redirected to one of those e-tailers to preview the music.

To provide samples on the artist’s web site, they must first be edited from the full song. The idea is to select a sample that best represents the aura of the song, not simply start at the song’s introduction and take the first 30 seconds. One general rule to follow is to capture the end portion of a verse and most of the first chorus. At Nashville Independent Music, John Haring tated, “We’ve found that offering 45 seconds of a song starting from the 20 second point forward captures most of a verse and chorus. We use this standard when creating clips in our automated
process for We also automatically create a one second fade-in and a four second fade-out for better listenability.”

Creating Music Samples from Songs
The process of creating samples can be accomplished using any music editing software such as ProTools, Cakewalk, or one of the less expensive audio editing programs available on the Internet such as Audacity or Gold Wave. From the songs selected for sampling, simply open the song in an editing program and listen to various 30-second sections until you have found a section that best represents the overall song. Then follow these simple steps:

In most audio editing programs, the running time is listed either at the bottom or the top of the song file. The graphic representation is amplitude modulation, with loud parts of the song showing up with large bars and quieter section showing shorter bars. With the highlighting tool, you can select 30 seconds and preview it to determine its suitability.

Once a 30-second sample has been selected that is a good representation of the song, highlight it and copy it to a new file for further editing.

The new file will contain the sample filling up the entire running time of the file—in this case, 30 seconds. At this time, you may want to preview the sample again to verify that it is the best possible representation of the song. If it meets those requirements, it still needs some editing.

To sound like a normal sample, it will need a fade in and fade out. These can be accomplished by highlighting first the beginning section of the song. This will be the area selected for a fade in, from silence to full modulation, so that by the end of the highlighted section, the song is playing at normal volume.

The larger the highlighted section, the longer the fade in (see Figure). Select an appropriate size section for the fade in and use the fade-in tool to reshape the sound. First, highlight the section for the fade in. The appropriate fade-in rate may vary depending on the song and may take some experimentation.

Repeat the process in reverse at the end of the sample so that it fades out to silence. This will permanently alter the sample so that no further manipulation is necessary, and the listener will not be required to make any adjustments. Without this editing, the sample would have abrupt entry and exit points and not seem natural.

Then save the file as an MP3 file and upload it to the server. As each web visitor clicks on a link created to the MP3 file, the browser’s player will open the file and play it on the visitor’s computer. The alternative is to embed the player controls within the web page so that the visitor can click on them to access and listen to the sample. Most web design software programs include multimedia controls. This will allow the web designer to place more than one sample on a page.

When setting up the music file on the web page, the options will generally include the following:
Do you want this to play automatically when the page opens, or have the visitor select play?
Do you want the song to play once, several times, or loop continuously?
Do you want embedded user controls?

The advantage of having the user’s browser open the default media player is that the music will continue to play even if the user moves on to another web page. If the controls are embedded in the page, chances are that the music will quit when the user continues through the web site. However, if there are music files on several pages and all are set to open in the default media player when the page loads, several songs may play at the same time, confusing the visitor.

When including several music samples on one page, it is best not to have any of them play automatically, so that visitors can select if and when they want to listen. A page that automatically plays a sound clip when it’s opened may delay the loading process and cause the visitor to wait or give up.

Goldwave audio editor,
Audacity audio editor,
Audiobook Cutter, divides longer MP3 files into several smaller files; good for samples,
Kristal Audio Engine, winLAME, converts audio files from one format to another (use in conjunction with an audio editor)
Check for updated lists.