The first piece in this series focused on increasing the amount of fans and how this is a necessary step towards success.

Part 2 of the basic three principles is increasing the frequency of purchases.
The cornerstone of this is simple: You can not only sell music.

In order to get the frequency of purchases up you must provide something that actually gets your fans to buy more frequently.

If you are only selling one album or one set of MP3s, it’s pretty near impossible to get this step accomplished because your core fans will only have one thing to buy (therefore making frequency non-existent)

Thousands of record stores have closed in the US in the past decade. This points out to one very clear conclusion: People are buying fewer CDs (of course we already knew this) but think about it – are you only selling music?

I sadly see this all too often. Artists only think about putting out one CD, but to survive and thrive in this industry where music — like it or not — is now widely distributed for free all over the Internet, fans are no longer buying music like they once did.

So, you must create additional products and offerings to sell. At the same time you must be building a two-way conversation with engaged fans.

Remember not to put the cart before the horse here, But if you don’t have a fan base to sell these things to, there’s no reason to build a series of products.

Survey Your Fans

Expert Internet marketers never release products without testing the demand first. Maybe you think you know what your fans want but they might surprise you.

Understanding who they are and what they like/ want becomes critical.

Internet Marketers always ask their core fan group what it is they would like and then they create the products based on their answers.

I have said this may times – that music is a feeling and it’s not like a typical Internet marketing product and its hard to get fans to tell you how they feel about new music that you may be writing but its EASY to get them to tell you what they like.

  • Is it girlie T’s
  • Yoga mats
  • Special non-leaching water bottles
  • Limited edition hoodies

If you don’t ask them they wont tell you…

Online Surveys

Using Your Mailing List

Set up a survey online and use your email newsletter list or Facebook page to get fans to tell you what they may buy from you in the future. Survey Monkey will allow you to create a free survey that you send out to your fans to ask them specifically what they might like to buy from you and how much they might be willing to pay.

Using Twitter

If you do not have a large enough mailing list to get a response, you can survey your fans using this great Twitter app –

Using Facebook

Or you can survey right on your Facebook page using the Survey Monekey for Facebook app or

Then make it and they will!

Merchandise That Works for Artists

Here are some great merch ideas to get you inspired.

Family Force 5 created a limited edition T-shirt of the month club. They offered their fans a new T-shirt every single month and it generated thousands of extra dollars for themselves and their fans loved the limited edition shirts.

John Taglieri, who I talk about often has a marvelous new series of EPs and books called Lives. This new project will consist of four 6-song EP’s, books & graphic novels, as well as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and blogger accounts for the two main characters.

Will Deynes made a Valentine’s Day song, and he would custom record the name of people’s beloveds right into the song. He sold dozens of them to his fan base at Valentine’s Day.

I met Shelter with Thieves, from Halifax, NS and they gave me an awesome USB drive full of music and special bonuses like artwork and videos, and its wonderful because fans can use the USB drive for school projects or at work.

Jen Chapin, being environmentally conscious and clear that her fans are too like purchased a few cases of SIGG Water bottles and had them customized. She sent an e-mail to her entire list that she had wonderful, non-leaching, water bottles for sale and she ended up selling many of them

Carla Lynne Hall is organizing a Bowling Tweetup at The Harlem Lanes near her home just to hang out with friends and fans and bond. She is not selling merch yet but you can be sure that when it comes time for her to sell that extra time she took to make friends with her fans will pay off. Studies show that people purchase from those they like and trust and Carla is building trust.

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  • Ian – Make It In Music

    Ariel – another great article and I love the examples of how artists are finding new ways to bond with their fans and make sales of non-traditional merchandise.

    I know in your Nine Weeks book you talk about the sales funnel, as do many non-music biz Internet marketers and I’ve been applying it to the artists that I manage.

    I’m trying out subscription models, so that people commit to X dollars per month and that will include an album, T-shirt, gig entry, and all sorts of other stuff that you can throw in, but you guarantee a minimum. Admittedly this is easier with an artist that already has some momentum, but if your material is good enough and you can build a fanbase it is viable.

    Check out this Masnick case study on Trent Reznor for ideas – There is another video somewhere on the web where he talks specifically about indie artists using the same techniques (including Corey Smith) but I can’t find it!! If anyone does, can they post it here please – it’s essnetial viewing.

  • Ian – Make It In Music

    Found it – and posted it on our blog. It is a MUST SEE.

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  • Independent Music United

    The USB item by Shelter for Thieves is a great idea. There is a band out of New Orleans that sells a USB drive with their latest album on it for $25.00. But what is really unique is that they record all of their live shows through a laptop and any fan at any show they ever play who has ever bought a USB from them can download the just recorded live show right after they play. A unique item and another great way to involve the fans.

    Thanks for all the hard work and great ideas Ariel!

  • Matthew Leanna

    It helps to get a feel of where and how the market is shifting. People's tastes and interests change, and any service or manufacturing company should know that. Rolling with the current is the way to keep afloat, and that may mean changing your original goals. The most successful enterprises are the flexible ones.