With the rise of the streaming convenience, chances are not a lot of people are buying your CDs at your live shows.
They’d rather know if they can find you on Spotify so they can look you up on their phone.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not because they don’t want to buy your merchandise. They might even be asking you that question at the same time they’re buying a t-shirt you’re selling for five times the price of your EP.
They just like the convenience of streaming anything, at any time.
This is understandable because nothing will ever trump convenience. Anything easier will always be the most commonly elected option, especially for your fans.
Besides, some people might even have a hard time playing your CD at all. Personally, it’s easier for me to play vinyl records at home than a CD since my laptop doesn’t even have a CD drive.
Again, it’s inconvenient for me to plug in my portable CD drive to listen to your CD if I can tap a few times on my phone to bring your music up on Spotify.
What that might leave you with is an inventory of CD singles, EPs or albums that you’re dragging to shows, desperately hoping somebody will buy. The chances of that happening are diminishing every day. But don’t fret, you can still use your leftover CDs for some smart promotional purposes.
The first thing to remember is that your CDs aren’t worthless just because people aren’t buying them. It’s just that the CD format holds less value for your audience. It’s not that they don’t want to have a copy of your CD, it’s that if they have a more convenient solution they will always choose that one.
What that means is that you need to treat your leftover CDs as promotional tools. Although you might be losing a small amount of money (about $2/CD if you use CD Baby duplication), you might be gaining die-hard fans in the process. And a die-hard fan that buys a $20 shirt, tells their friends about you and gets more people to your next show is a worth a LOT more than $2.
With that said, here are a few different things you can do with your leftover CDs:
1. Give them away in exchange for an email address
Having a mailing list is an effective way to keep in touch with your fans. A great way to get more subscribers is to give away an incentive that makes your audience more willing to sign up. So at your next show set up a table where people can sign up to your mailing list and get a CD in exchange.
2. Have a trivia give-away
Banter between songs is a great way to engage with the audience. But instead of just telling stories about what each song is about, create some interaction with the audience.
I recently did a Comic Book Trivia giveaway when we played a venue that was hosting a Comic Con afterparty. I asked the audience random superhero trivia off the top of my head and whoever shouted out the right answer won a CD. It kept the attention on the band because everyone likes the opportunity to get free stuff.
A word of advice: Don’t make the trivia too hard…turns out not everyone knows there are 4 Robins (5 if you count Carrie…)
3. Wrap them up as gifts
If you’re playing a holiday show you can wrap a few CDs up as packages to give away to lucky audience members. At our last Christmas show I numbered our business cards on the back and placed one on each table of the venue. After a few songs we had an impromptu raffle where a random table won a Christmas gift from us. This can create excitement and goodwill because people love to win things, especially when it’s completely unexpected.
4. Buy one, get one for free
If you just want to get your CDs off your merchandise table you can run a buy one, get one free promotion. Just make sure you announce the deal multiple times from the stage so your audience knows that they can get a deal if they’re thinking about purchasing your music.
5. Buy one for $X, and we’ll buy you a drink
You need to be careful with this one because it depends on how much drinks cost in your area. You will need price your CD at a price point where you don’t lose money on the transaction so this only works where drinks are fairly cheap.
If you’re playing in dive-y, “$2 well” bars, this strategy works wonders! Besides, if you have some fans that aren’t your direct friends or family they might love the idea of grabbing a drink from the band. It makes them feel special. Think of it as a Dive-Bar equivalent of a Kickstarter pledge. You pay a little money to the band and they make you feel special in return.
6. Bundle your CDs for free with other merchandise
Let’s say 10 people buy your shirts at every show. If your t-shirts cost $9 to produce and you’re selling them for $20 you’ll make $11 off every sale.
However, if you make the t-shirt offer even more desirable by including a free CD you might get more sales but your costs go up to $11/shirt (because of CD duplication costs). Even so, let’s say five more people buy your t-shirts with the bundled offer. That means that instead of the 10 x $11 = $110 profit you were making before you’re now making 15 x $9 = $135 in profit.
If you can keep the momentum up that’s a lot of extra cash in the long run. Bundling is a very valuable way of charging more money while still giving the customer more value. It’s a win-win situation because you will make more money in the long run while making the fan feel like they got a good deal.
7. Create scarcity to influence action
“Thank you all for coming out tonight! This last song is the first song off our CD. We have five of them over on the merch table over there so if you like the single and you’re one of the lucky five to make it over there in time you can grab it for free”
See what I did there?
I created scarcity while also made people take action. I limited the CD to only five to get people to come over to the merch table. People who acted fast got something for free. Those who were a little bit too late but made it over to the merch table anyway might think harder about buying a CD at that moment than when they were lazily sitting in their chairs.
What Have You Tried?
Those are 7 different ways you can try to get some value out of your leftover CDs. I’m sure there are many more to think about. If you have a cool idea that you’ve had some success with, let us know in the comments.
Björgvin Benediktsson is a musicpreneur who helps musicians and audio engineers make an impact with their music over by teaching them how to promote and produce themselves at The $1,000 Musician and Audio Issues.