I've read countless posts on innumerable indie music navel-gazing blogs all trying to say the past few years had been the turning point for indies and, well, all kinds of other hogwash that applied exclusively to the indies that just happen to have indie contracts from indie labels that are "indie bed" with the majors... Balderdash.
Truth is... there's been nothing out there for the true indie... The guy like me who happens to have 600+ songs written and zero intention of becoming a rock star but like every artist, still wants his creations out there.
I've personally grilled Derek Sivers (past owner of CDBaby) as well as Tony van Veen new CEO since Discmakers took over (4th Q 2008). CDBaby is the number 1 place for indie music on the planet and quite likely the universe. Still, when a disc manufacturer buys out an on-line music retailer, it doesn't take rocket science to add 2 + 2 together. Here's what I told Tony:
When I heard the news of the merger, my thoughts went immediately toward the possibility (probability?) that CDs could be burned on-demand. The "never out of stock" idea is sooooo enticing and the respectable stature of DiscMakers would only add to overall buyer confidence.God bless Tony, he responded, as he does nearly all blog comments, and said he was taking the company in that very direction in the 1st Q 2009.
Certainly this would be a paradigm shift not only in the way you do business but also for the industry. Quite frankly, I dare say this would toss the entire CD manufacturing world on its ear. Not something to take lightly or to just jump headlong into.
But really... What better company to do that than one affiliated with CD Baby?
So, did he?
Well, not by my "true indie" standards. Check it. The only 5 or 10 CD packages available have limited options (2 panel insert in black jewel case only) and are only available within the continental US. Anything else, for example, 10 CDs in clear jewel case with a 4-panel insert and double-sided tray card would be so expensive as to force you to sell your CD at roughly $25 a disc just to stand a chance at breaking even. Sure hope you don't have any studio & mastering debts to pay off...
I'm going to call an all stop here cause if you think I'm dissing CDBaby and Discmakers, I'm not. If you think I'm dissing Derek Sivers or Tony van Veen, I'm not. CDBaby and Discmakers are both fantastically professional companies with clear minded goals and solid mandates to help their segment of the music business. If anything, I'm just frustrated by the lack of that final step that would have truly brought the indie onto the playing field.
For no cost whatsoever, I put an Audiolife store up on my site and wherever else I want (Facebook, MySpace, various blogs, etc) that sells whatever music and swag I care to create and upload.
If you think that's cool... just wait... it gets better.
For a few bucks more, you can get a full album set-up from CD Baby (about $55 US) which includes a Soundscan recognised barcode (look it up) as well as distribution to every single digital store on the planet (iTunes, Napster, Amazon, MSN Music, Amie Street, to name but a few - actually, right now my OUCH CD is available on 46 stores...) and then you can (and this is the part I absolutely LOVE) you can upload your CD to Audiolife and for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction (that's not a typo) of what it would cost us produce your CD, Audiolife will produce the 5 CDs that CDBaby usually asks for up front and ship them directly there for you at a stupid-low cost of probably about $40 US. Compare that to conventional CD manufacturing costs that get you no barcode and no digital distribution and no swag... well... you get the picture.
Better still, you can upload "preview" versions of your CD onto Audiolife in order to generate funds to pay for your barcode and album set-up and you're on your way.
With Audiolife, if you want some CDs for a show (and I've done this myself with OUCH and the quality is 100%) you can get your CDs and even T-Shirts at cost. Sweet!
But the best part, the cherry on top, if you will, is the fact that once I've finally managed to coax that potential buyer onto my site and I've gotten them interested enough to click on my "store" link, the only thing my potential customer sees is my stuff. Just... my... stuff... No one else's. Not even a "People who bought Luc's music also bought..." Which means there's no chance that my potential sale will be distracted by "This week's new arrival" or any other competition.
I've been waiting for a business model like this for years. This is, I think an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that truly presents the "new music business" those bloggers had been pontificating about for years...
This is it. It's the Mom & Pop type music ebusiness if you know what I mean.
So here's the True Indie business model... the absolute cheapest way to go about it (that I've found in 30 years+ of searching):
a) Make music (see other posts on this blog for help doing that).
b) Upload it to Audiolife.
c) Put your store up in free places like a blog, Facebook, MySpace, etc.
d) If you're lucky enough to get sales, hook up with HostBaby and get yourself one kick-butt web-site or two.
e) Hook up with CDBaby (through your already established HostBaby connection) and get yourself a real bonafied CD (complete with Barcode and presence on iTunes, Napster, and a gazillion other places).
f) Upload the new version of your official CD onto Audiolife.
g) If you are lucky enough to make even more sales, then you can start entering that other level of indie and that's when you'll want to get connected with the professionals behind the scenes at Audiolife or the folks at Discmakers who can and will take your music (and your look) to new heights.
But seriously... Audiolife is where you need to start and if Brandon Hance (CEO) has anything to do with it, this is where you'll stay because, as he puts it:
"...we can do manufacturing for you as well. Whether you need short run orders or a bulk purchase, Audiolife can facilitate the manufacturing process end-to-end. Our aim is to be the one stop shop for artists."One stop shop. Revolutionary.
Check it out... soon.
See how I integrated it... (still lots more to upload)