Mages bundle

How I Promoted My New Album

I’m exhausted.

My 12th full-length album Mages was released on December 3, and I’ve been going nonstop since October.

The album promotion was a series of five distinct campaigns, not counting two singles releases over the same time period.

I’m going to break it down into bite-sized chunks and perhaps draw a conclusion or two. Buckle up, because this is going to be a biggun, serving as both an overview of the album launch and a table of contents for upcoming posts.

Laying the Groundwork

I’d been releasing singles every few weeks since the beginning of 2020, but the album promotion started in earnest with three surveys I put out to my patrons, mailing list subscribers, and social media followers.

The survey results told me what formats to release the album in, what to bundle it with, and what rewards most interested potential patrons.

With some help from Kay Speranza of Email Gypsy, I completely rewrote my 7-email welcome series in preparation for the…

Tunespeak Giveaway

Tunespeak hosted a raffle to give away four prizes in a drawing. It ended last Friday, and they’re in the process of confirming the winners.

Over the two months that the raffle was live, entrants generated thousands of Spotify streams and YouTube views, plus hundreds of mailing list signups.

I’ll be writing a separate article on Tunespeak with all the details soon, so stay tuned!

Make Room for Mages Sale

My garage was not happy. It was filled to the gills with CDs already, and I was about to order another thousand.

The Make Room for Mages Sale was pitched as a way to “clear out the cupboard under the stairs” in order to, as the title suggests, make room for the Mages CD.

I discounted everything in my shop by 50% with the coupon code “mages.”

pre-album promotion sale
Make Room for Mages net sales

I wouldn’t call it a rollicking success, but I netted $543 selling about 85 CDs. The biggest seller was my “all CDs” bundle.

As you can see, the vast majority of sales occurred on the final day. I feel like a nag sending out those “last chance” emails, but they always pay off!

Patreon Special Offer

CD sales come and go, but support from my patrons has been stable and reliable for nearly five years.

My offer was simple: become a patron at the $3 level or higher before midnight November 8, and I’ll include your name on the CD.

Here’s the final result, taking up one of the eight panels on the Digipak:

The offer brought in 13 new patrons, bringing me to 171 patrons total, pledging $780 per month.

Pre-Order Campaign

And now, the main event.

I had five new items for sale, including one premium offering: a laser-engraved 128GB USB flash drive containing my entire 641-track discography. That’s everything I’ve ever released, plus three upcoming 2022 releases!

I also had a new t-shirt design, and of course the CD:

Mages CD

The final two items were swag collections: an $8 goodie bag of stickers, a coaster, and a magnet, and another $10 bundle with a keychain, pin, and holographic sticker.

Here are total sales over the two-week pre-order period:

album promotion sales results

And here’s the breakdown by product (I left some stragglers off at the end):

The biggest ticket item was the $149 combo of the USB discography, t-shirt, and CD. Many chose to just get the USB discography for $129, which already includes the album.

I previously released another USB discography way back in 2011. For those buyers, I offered a $50 discount code on the new one, which explains the mathematical discrepancy in the totals.

That $6470 looks pretty sweet until you factor in my costs: $2484 for 1000 CDs (including design), $1102 for 50 USB flash drives, and $611 for 40 t-shirts, for a grand total of $4197.

That leaves an actual net profit of $2273.

I’ve still got over 900 CDs and a half dozen USB flash drives, the latter of which are sure to sell eventually.

“Dungeons” single release

My fans and I all deserved a break from “buy, buy, last chance!” (which would return soon enough). The single release and accompanying AMV served that purpose nicely:

Single releases have their own promo template, which I hope to detail in an upcoming post!

Black Friday Offer

If I’d waited until Black Friday to open pre-orders, they wouldn’t have shipped before Christmas. Still, I wasn’t going to let Black Friday go by without making some kind of offer!

My Depeche Mode tribute album has always been the best entry point for new fans. Last year I released an updated version of it with three new tracks.

My offer was a slightly tweaked version of 2020’s free + s/h funnel. Instead of simply offering the CD for free, I provided five options, from free all the way to full price.

This one is still going! I’ll be writing about it separately in the near future.

Release Day

Release day just so happened to be Bandcamp Friday. What a coincidence, right?

I didn’t really do much besides my usual single release stuff. Where I could pitch the entire album, I did. Where I could only pitch one track, I went with the focus track that I’d selected on Spotify for Artists – one of the three that hadn’t already been released as a single.

Happy Birthday to Me

I normally let my birthday go by without as much as an acknowledgment, but this year I had an idea.

What did I really want for my birthday? For people to hear my new album, of course! So that cost was no object, I made the album name your price on Bandcamp for the weekend.

To date, I’ve sold 42 units of the album on Bandcamp for a total of $267. The birthday offer pushed it up to #8 on the synthwave charts, but my off-Bandcamp pre-order campaign sabotaged any chance of it gaining serious momentum on the platform.

Conclusions & Future Plans

That was a ton of work! All the while, I still had my regular content calendar to fulfill, including new songs for patrons and new podcast episodes, not to mention studio work for clients.

Hence the exhaustion.

In many ways, the campaign was a success. I built hype around the album, generated solid streaming numbers, gained some new patrons, and made a profit selling merch.

You might also call it an abject failure. I didn’t even sell 100 CDs. The only thing that stopped me from losing money was the USB discography, and that’s not something I can repeat with each album cycle.

In hindsight, the smarter play would’ve been to make the USB discography the sole merch drop alongside a digital-only album on Bandcamp.

That would’ve generated thousands of dollars with minor fuss and zero storage issues.

Granted, I would’ve felt guilty! The majority of my patrons collect CDs, and their support is what allowed me to pay for them in the first place. For some, their support may even be contingent on physical releases.

They’d certainly understand if I made the release digital-only (like last time), but they’d be disappointed.

I’m not ready to swear off CDs entirely, but I can’t keep manufacturing them by the thousands. I’ve been reluctant to settle for CD-Rs, but at the very least, I’m confident I could sell 100 in jackets.

What would you do differently? Share your feedback and postmortem analysis in the comments!

p.s. I just realized I wrote a post in 2018 with the same name, but completely different content.

12 Comments

  1. I enjoy reading your “marketing journey” and what you have learned. It has taught me how much time and effort it takes to being your own successful marketer and ad agency. It’s a lot of work. It’s about so much more than writing and recording music. I knew that, but when I see all you do and what the result is, it is an education.

    Best wishes in the new year!

    Glenn Galen
    https://www.reverbnation.com/glenngalen

    1. Thanks for the comment Glenn!

      I agree, it’s a ton of work. In this case, I’m convinced not all of it was necessary. I’m going to do my best to tilt the balance a little more towards music-making and less towards promotion in 2022.

  2. super informative stuff, as usual, Brian!

    I have the same struggle with the idea of downgrading to CD-Rs, even though each release leaves me with a garage-full of CD boxes. but it for sure would make more sense to simply make 100 or so, just to cover what I know I can sell. oh well. hopeless optimism strikes again!

    I love the USB full discography idea. I’ll have to try that for sure.

    1. My fans are mostly old enough to know the difference between CDs and CD-Rs, and remember the issues with the latter, from not being readable in some players to shortened lifespans. So it would definitely feel like a downgrade for all involved!

      With Disc Makers, I believe the minimum for replication is 300. The problem is, if I press 300 it’ll be tough to even sell 100. If I only make 100, I’m sure they’ll all sell due thanks to our good friend scarcity.

      1. that’s exactly how I feel. (I think we’re around the same age). I use AtomicDisc, which probably has similar minimums as Discmakers. I usually go for 500, since the difference is negligible between that and 300, but yeah, I’m lucky to sell 50-100.

        I guess the hope is, we’ll continue to make new fans over time, and eventually sell out of them?

        you’re killing it with streaming though. and your Patreon seems strong. so you’re definitely doing the right stuff.

        I’ve been thinking about other ways to make limited/collector edition bundles that sell for more. similar to what you’re doing, but more handmade/art-related. I’ll probably double down on that idea in the new year.

        1. I find that if I’m not running any sort of offer, I don’t sell any CDs. I can continuously run some sort of free + s/h offer, but it takes a lot of time for little profit.

          In the long run, streaming + Patreon seems like the way to go, for me at least.

          The handmade stuff is definitely an option, but time-consuming. It probably makes a lot more sense financially for me to take on more studio work.

  3. I always love your transparency and honesty Brian, which genuinely serves as a guide for the unsuspecting adventurer as he tentatively negotiates his way through the dimly lit dungeons of a 1990’s RPG without auto-mapping… the world of music marketing! I was also intrigued about the birthday reference which I think may be uncannily close to my own about which the less said the better. I’ll speak to you soon mate as I’m finalising that new remix of ‘Can You Be Sure’ for which your Facebook Advertising posts will be invaluable now that my previously disabled account has been re-instated without explanation.

    For fear for dating this post, Seasonal Best Wishes to You and Yours!
    Neil (Indelible Scars)
    https://music.indeliblescars.com/cruel_to_be_kind

    1. Always lovely to hear from you Neil!

      Your comment reminds me of my Wizardry days, downloading ASCII maps from a BBS because I was too lazy to hand draw them.

      Glad to hear your Facebook ad account got rebooted! I’ve got a couple of ads related posts in the queue that may help.

  4. I’ve had the CD-Rs made through discmakers, and they’re actually pretty nice for what they are! I think a lot of fans would appreciate them, especially if it’s the difference between CD and no CD.

    My merch page is a bit of a mess at the moment, but you can see some examples here: https://nicholasburgess.bandcamp.com/merch

    The #1 issue I have with their CD-Rs is that the options for on-disc printing are different, so I have to be mindful of that when designing the artwork, but it’s not a huge deal. Let me know if you want any samples to look at (I don’t work there, I just have a lot of CDs in my basement haha)

    1. That’s great to know Nick, particularly about the on-disc printing!

      Your merch looks great. Must be nice to have some graphic design skills!

      I appreciate the offer on the samples, but I’m out of the market for at least a year, probably more like two.

      1. Thank you!

        Well if you remember this in 2 years: The on-disc printing for the CD-R runs through discmakers is either black ink on silver (classic 1990 CD look basically, sharp but limited) or a color process that can tend to look grainy. So you can’t really do flat colors OR detailed artwork, which can really constrain you. But it does look pretty good on gradients/swirls/etc. Just something to keep in mind.

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