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How to Promote and Market Your CD

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Now that you've made your CD, you have a choice. You can market, promote, and sell your album, or you can have a lifetime's supply of coasters. If you've read this far, we figure you want to know how to turn your CD, which cost you so much money, back into cash. Read the advice of the folks we talked to and soon your CD might start shipping C.O.D.

First, look at your own CD collection. Which titles stand out? How many can you actually read without straining your eyes? Lisa Dawn Popa, who runs Cabaret Connections and sells CDs directly to the public at the Cabaret Convention, as well as at other performance venues and through her mail-order catalogue, has intimate knowledge of what sells and does not sell a CD. She says, "Put a great 'normal' picture of the artist on the cover, and the name of the artist in large, clear print that makes the CD very identifiable. Solid color backgrounds work well (i.e., golds, reds, yellows, inviting colors)." If you want to look at some great-selling covers, she advises studying "Nancy LaMott: Come Rain or Come Shine," "Margaret Whiting: Then & Now," and "Sharon McNight: Sophie Tucker Songbook." "Less is more," Dawn Popa insists. "All the extra information should be tastefully done in the booklet."

Cari Golden, director of publicity for LML Music in Los Angeles, is even more emphatic. "Don't look like a novice," she warns. "Don't have your mom take the photos, or your neighbor's kid design the graphic layout. If you're going to drop the kind of money that it takes to make a professional recording, do the same with the packaging. You can bet that there is a pretty low expectation of the recording if the packaging looks unprofessional, boring, or just plain bad." If you're going to use a photo of yourself on the cover, pay attention to what Golden says next: "I think the biggest mistake of all is a bad photo of an artist. Have someone do your makeup (yes, even if you're a man). Being in L.A., and having friends in casting here, I've seen my fair share of dreadful headshots, and have learned that you are the product, so showcase yourself looking your best. It's a lesson often learned too late, after you've pressed 1,000 CDs."

Party Time

Okay, now that you've got a spiffy-looking CD, your next step is putting it in front of the public. How will you launch it? With a CD party? "A party is a good thing if you already have a high profile," says singer Charles Cermele, who has two much-praised CDs to his credit: "Look in My Eyes" and "Ask Me Again." "Otherwise, it can be very costly with little gain in terms of attention to you or your album. If you have a good relationship with a club," he continues, "try to work out a deal that is not too expensive."

Cari Golden from LML agrees, noting that "[A CD party] can be incredibly useful, or it can be ineffectual, depending on: a) the organization of the event; b) the attendance of press or lack thereof; and c) the performance itself." She goes on to recall, "I just attended an amazingly successful CD release party. This artist had cocktail napkins printed with his website address, posters and postcards at each table, printed matchbooks, and free drink tickets for all the guests. Now that's a party. Not to mention that his backing band was amazing, and that, yes, he did indeed perform live. He sold a ton of CDs, got offered a movie deal, and had several label executives approach him before the evening was over. His day job? He's a publicist?naturally."

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