Color Theory presents Depeche Mode

How I Promoted My Free CD Offer

In my last installment, I detailed the mechanics of my free + s/h funnel. If “free + s/h funnel” is gibberish to you, you can get yourself up to speed here.

When I started, I had eight titles available on CD. Now I’m down to five, with less than 20 copies of the two I’d been offering for free.

I’m confident those will sell out on their own, so I shut down the offer a couple of days ago.

Free CD Offer Final Results

Over the course of three months, I sold 1500 CDs and made $5353 before ad spend (click to enlarge).

Here’s the breakdown by product:

And how much revenue each of those products generated:

As you can see, the “All Color Theory CDs” bundle is the big money-maker. It started at $40 for 8 CDs and dropped $5 as each title sold out, ending at $25 for 5 CDs.

113 of those 145 bundle sales were upsells. The rest will take a little explaining.

I promised to break down how I promoted the funnel if you asked, and plenty of you did! Most of the interest revolves around how I set up my Facebook ads, so in the spirit of good storytelling, I’ll save that for last.

Spreading the Word

Let’s start with the obvious. I shared the offer on social media. Where I could post, I posted. Where I could pin that post, I pinned. Where I could update my profile to include a call to action, I updated. That includes:

  • Facebook (pinned post, posts to groups)
  • Twitter (pinned tweet, profile CTA)
  • Instagram (post, profile CTA)
  • SoundCloud (bio CTA)
  • Bandcamp (message, bio CTA)

YouTube was a bit more extensive. I updated the descriptions of my most popular videos, posted comments with the CTA, and pinned them. I also posted on my community tab.

Finally, I tweaked one of my ads (in retrospect, one of the worst) slightly and published it as regular content, which generated a couple dozen sales.

I made it the featured video on my channel, for both new visitors and returning subscribers.

Another big traffic source was Spotify. I mentioned the offer in my About section, but I doubt many people saw it.

These two placements, on the other hand, were highly visible:

Last but far from least, I laid out the offer to my email subscribers. Email was the single biggest driver of sales behind Facebook ads.

To make the bundle enticing to existing fans, many of whom already owned the free CD, I put together another offer.

Complete Your Collection

Going through the boxes of CDs in my garage, I stumbled upon the print overage for my Depeche Mode tribute, which sold out over a decade ago. Hidden within the pile of booklets were three pressed CDs!

The album was originally released in the now obsolete Super Jewel Box. I managed to track down a few on eBay to create three good-as-new copies.

The Complete Your Collection offer was for the six (at the time) remaining CDs, a bumper sticker, and a chance to win a copy of the tribute.

The initial announcement generated a good number of sales, but there was a sticking point: many potential buyers already had the free CD, and didn’t want to pay for another copy.

I recently switched email services from FanBridge and Mailchimp to Drip. That’s an affiliate link, which means if you become a paying customer after your 14-day trial, I may receive a small commission.

Drip integrates directly with WooCommerce and makes it trivially easy to segment my audiences by purchase history. I created three new offers tailored to:

  1. Purchasers of The Sound (the first free CD)
  2. Purchasers of The Thought Chapter (the second free CD)
  3. Purchasers of both

Those offers excluded redundant CDs, and knocked off $5 for each exclusion.

They generated over $500 in sales from email alone (click to enlarge):

My Facebook Ads Campaign

On to the main event: Facebook ads!

My conversions campaign included 23 ad sets, 14 of which generated sales (click to enlarge):

Most of the ad sets were limited to the US, because shipping outside of the US and Canada is ridiculously expensive. Worse, European buyers are often hit with custom fees, which sours them to the whole transaction.

In my article on playlist promotion, I rejoiced that I would never need to use interest-based targeting again, because I could fall back on my lookalike audience of video viewers.


The ad set that generated the most sales was interest-based and incredibly narrow:

Note that Detailed Targeting Expansion is enabled, which allows Facebook to search for buyers beyond the strict confines of my targeting.

The Bands Cold US ad set is similar but less restrictive, without DTE.

Cold audiences were responsible for 83% of sales. Not that warm audiences (the GLW ad sets) weren’t worth including! They still delivered a low cost per result, and generated the highest return on ad spend.

I didn’t introduce the best performing ad set until near the end of the campaign.

I created a custom audience of bundle buyers and generated a lookalike audience from it. Whenever someone makes a purchase that puts them over $20 lifetime value, Drip automatically adds them to that custom audience.

The targeting couldn’t be more simple. It essentially says, “Facebook, find me more people like this in the US.”

By the end of the campaign, I was getting sales for under $2 each.

Overall ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) was 1.64, meaning that for every $1 spent, I generated $1.64 in sales. Facebook counts a free CD sale as $0, and doesn’t factor in shipping, so ROAS consists entirely of order bumps and upsells.

Free CD Offer Conclusion

$5353 net revenue minus $2104 in ad spend equals $3249, enough to press 1000 copies each of my last two albums on CD. So far they’ve been digital-only.

My hope is that I can sell them at close to full price, since I have over 700 new CD buyers on my mailing list.

Turns out they’re downloaders too! I offered a 15% discount code a couple days ago on Bandcamp Friday and made $271.

A couple of them even became patrons, after I started including this custom business card with orders:

The free CD offer introduced me to hundreds of people who like my style of music.

It was a ton of work, but it was absolutely worth it.

Of course, I already had two thousand CDs gathering dust in my garage. Even knowing what I know now, I don’t think I’d press CDs just to give them away.

The Complete Your Collection offer lives on as $25 for 5 CDs, until I sell out of the two previously free ones. [UPDATE: it’s dead]

Since posting my first article on the offer, I’ve seen a couple others try it.

Have you? What were your results? Anything else you’d like to know about my campaign?

Like it? Share it!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Brian Hazard

Brian Hazard

Catch more of my promotional escapades in my How I’m Promoting My Music This Month email newsletter.


20 Responses

  1. You are THE man! I appreciate how thorough you are with your strategy and how much you share! We are about a month out from our record release, but I am in awe at how much our “tuning fork method” pales in comparison to what you do! However, if we can take even a LITTLE of what you do and implement it, we will be rock stars! I hope you don’t mind, but I WILL be sharing this post with our Facebook group community (who are interested in building a similar creative empire). Thanks, again, for inspiring us to do more with what we already have.

  2. As usual super insightful Brian. I find retargetting doesn’t quite get the volume I expect either and finding the right niche on cold sales can be lucrative. I haven’t set up my Drip to automatically create a custom audience for buyers over a $ so I’ll defo implement that.

    I think one of the things you have going for you is selling physical product. In an age of Spotify streaming I think fans are looking for physical products that represent the music and we are going to find a resurgence of CDs in the next 5 years much like we saw with vinyl five years ago and counting.

    More so when instagram kids start buying 90’s CD boom boxes as they become retro. I can all most hear them saying ‘oh the 16 bit stereo cd sound is superior to vinyl….’

    1. I hope you’re right! Other than overseas shipping headaches, running a “merch store” has been a fun experience so far. A big part of that fun for me is automating the connections between Drip and Facebook and my email list, and even Patreon through Zapier.

    2. Maybe, but… I think that’s a ways off, if it ever happens at all. If anything, the boom box folks will buy cassettes… yes, cassette sales and niche cassette labels are booming, albeit from a very low base (no, I don’t buy them). Vinyl is a listening experience; CDs are just an inferior digital substitute to streaming. Cassettes are some beyond-hipster thing that’s making a resurgence. I don’t get it but, whatevs.

      Some stats to consider. CD unit sales fell by 11% in 2019; vinyl LP units grew by 14%. In total sales volume, vinyl outsold CDs for the first time in multiple decades (I forgot the year) – vinyl is much more expensive. Total physical music sales – CD + vinyl – outsold Itunes downloads in 2019 – downloads are plummeting (not surprisingly). At the current pace, vinyl units will surpass CD units sold in just a few years; by $ sales, vinyl is already there. The resurgence of vinyl is going to slow, I’d imagine – it’s slowing now – but it has legs; the decline in CD sales I think is more permanent… there’s not much of an “experience” there – little nostalgia, as with vinyl – to differentiate it from streaming. I say this as someone who has a whole lot of all of the formats.

      More interesting stats. These are from 2018 or 2019. 63% of CD buyers are over 35; 10 years ago just 36% of CD buyers were over 35. 38% of CD buyers are over 50. None of these are that surprising. What is surprising, however, is that 56% of vinyl buyers are under 35 (young hipsters!) and – wait for it – almost half of them don’t even listen to the records. Ha! They’re considered collectibles. Urban Outfitters (!) is one of the largest vinyl sellers on the planet.

      I’d say over the next decade, vinyl has legs but the rate of growth is going to continue to slow. CDs are dying but the rate of decline won’t increase. Vinyl units will surpass CD units in about 4-5 years or so. Downloads are deader than dogsh1t… they’ll start to approach zero at some point. Streaming is king; long live the streaming.

    3. Thanks for sharing all this data David!

      As you’d probably guess, my audience pretty well lines up with CD buyers. My fans and I are old and set in our ways. 😉

      I’ve polled them but the demand for vinyl just isn’t there. Many of my fans are overseas, and several have told me outright that the shipping cost is a dealbreaker.

      That said, I really want to do it with my next album anyway.

  3. I just recently found your blog and I can’t wait to try to apply some of what I’m reading! I’m curious what you’re using to produce the reports you have in your images. It looks like a valuable way to get ahold of who your core audience is.

    1. That’s good to know. I was actually most curious about the first screenshot in your Facebook ads campaign section. I haven’t run a FB ad in a long time because while it does get me some likes, they rarely turned into followers who will actively engage with my content.

    2. That’s a screenshot straight out of Ads Manager, with custom columns I selected to provide the fullest picture possible in the least amount of space. I definitely wouldn’t recommend running ads for likes!

  4. Hello did you started off your campaign with A conversation objective? Or did You waited until you gotten buyers and than switched ur campaign to the conversation objective and also was your campaign $5 A Day for all 14 interest

    1. It was a conversions campaign from day one. For Facebook to best optimize, you want 50 conversions per ad set per week. $5 a day wasn’t going to get me there. If you figure I spent roughly $2100 over 90 days, that’s $23 per day average. The last few weeks my budget was $30/day.

  5. Hello I have 1 more question I forgotten to ask was your ad on Automatic placements? Or choose edit placements and choose your own places to where you wanted your ad to show

  6. hey brian! you touched on this a bit in the comments already but regarding daily budget: did your budget start at around $20/day and work it’s way up to $30 or how did you approach budget allocation on the whole? Also were you following the typical 20% rule for scaling the budget?

    thanks for all the insight!

  7. Hi, Brian
    Is it accurate to say that the bottom line profit was approximately 1,000 dollars? If you factor in the costs of making 1,500 CD’s?

    And a second question: what do you think of doing the same thing but with digital downloads only?

    1. Let’s see, I calculated the final net at $3249. 1500 CDs cost definitely no more than $2K but I’m still not sure that’s a great way to look at it. It was either get rid of them or continue to let them rot in my garage.

      I don’t think it would work with downloads, because there’s not much perceived value there. Free downloads are everywhere!

Share Your Thoughts

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with over twenty years of experience promoting eleven Color Theory albums, and head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion.

All Posts