The “Secret” to Selling Lots of Music Article – David Nevue

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I recently received my biggest single payout ever for digital music sales from CD Baby. How much? Nearly $3,000 just in digital music sales. That completely blows my mind. Considering that I make “about” .60-some-odd cents per track sold on average, that means this single payment represents about 4,800 downloads sold.

It’s amazing to know there are that many people buying my music. Lest you think my success is the result of some gimmick, think again. I’m just a pianist. Nothing extravagant. I just play, write, and record my music. I have a few cover tunes, yes, but surprisingly that’s not where most of my sales come from. A hefty portion of my digital music sales comes from my original music. In fact, my best selling song is an original tune called “No More Tears.” If you look at my top ten best selling singles, six of the ten are original tunes I wrote.

I have been enjoying great digital music sales for a while now. I typically average between $1,500-$2,000 over a month period. But to get one single payment of that size (CD Baby pays out weekly) is a marvelous thing. My lovely wife, the love of my life, is rejoicing.

I posted a simple comment about the event on my personal Twitter account ( Here’s what I said:

“I received my largest deposit ever from CDBaby. Record month for digital music sales! I’d do a happy dance if I wasn’t so full from dinner!”

And that prompted this response from a fellow musician:

“Hi, David…to what do you owe your great digital sales success?”

Why Do People Buy Music?
That got me to thinking about it. Why do people buy music? What is it that makes someone, a total stranger, actually go out and PURCHASE your music? Especially when, in this day and age, people can find so much music for free on the Internet? To what do I owe my great digital sales success?

Now, I could get spiritually-minded here. I could say, To Whom do I owe my great digital sales success and then thank God for His great provision. That would certainly be correct and true. However, it would be a bit prideful and silly to say that God is out there telling people to buy my music. Yes, there certainly is a spiritual element to what I do. My music is faith-based. But there’s more to it than that.

My response to my fellow musician was this; two reasons for my success came to mind:
1) I write music that some folks love so much that they can’t wait to share it with others.
2) I have a large catalogue. I have a discography of eleven albums now, containing somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 tunes. More product = more sales. It’s easier to sell a little of a lot than it is to sell a lot of a little. When someone discovers a song of yours that they love, they’ll listen to your other songs as well. And that single sale might turn into a whole lot more sales. The more product you have, the more you have the potential to sell.

It’s All About the Music…
When all is said and done, it comes down to the music. You can be the best online marketer out there, have a fantastic web site, get widespread distribution and all the press in the world and still not sell very much music.

True? Yes, absolutely. A great website and publicity will help you sell great music. But it won’t help you sell mediocre music, or even skillfully played music that people don’t connect with. You can watch someone play and be amazed at their skill on their instrument, but is that what makes you buy their music? No. You don’t buy the music because someone is a great player, you buy the music because you like it. And even if you get caught up in the moment and buy someone’s CD because you were amazed at their skill, what happened when you got home and actually listened to the CD? The excitement faded, didn’t it? Because what you want to listen to for enjoyment is music that speaks to you emotionally, not technically.

It’s About Emotion…
Music is all about emotion. For total strangers to buy your music online, especially if they are hearing it or sampling it for the first time, they have to fall in love with it in that very moment. Call it “love at first listen.” They have to want it, to desire it, and then for you to find real success, your buyer has to love it so much that after experiencing it they can’t help but to share it with their friends, family and co-workers who, in turn, fall in love with your music. That’s how real success happens. That’s how you grow a business based on your music.

At its core, music is more than just dials and buttons. It’s more than good production. It’s more than a great mix, more than a marketing plan, more than a skillfully played instrument.

It’s raw, untamed emotion. Capture that, and you just might have something.

1) Focus on your music and songwriting, first.
2) Then focus on the recording and production, taking great songs and making them sound the best they can possibly be.
3) Then focus on the marketing, distribution, and promotion.

A final word of advice: Never, ever, ever release an album or song before it’s time. Never be in a hurry to release your music. Make sure what you put out there is 100% what you want it to be and that it represents you well. Once you put it out there, you can’t take it back.

Do it right, no matter what it takes. If you settle for doing less than your best, then less than your best is what others will perceive as your “best.” And is what you are about to release really your best work?

Make it your best. Do it right. And then enjoy life.


David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy and Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, “How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.”

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