Making April: How To Sell 1,000 Singles a Week On iTunes
I recently was having lunch with my dear friend, music attorney extraordinaire Dan Friedman, who was in town to showcase a band that he represents who he mentioned was selling 1,000 singles a week on iTunes
My jaw almost hit the table.
1,000 singles a week on iTunes?
Who is this band? And how are they doing this? And he coughed up the answer (and luckily for me their phone number).
A few days later, I cold called Greg from Making April, who it turns out are an emo / piano rock band (kind of like Ben Folds Five) and we spent an hour and a half on the phone. Greg generously spilled the beans as to how Making April got to where they are today; selling 1,000 CD singles a week on iTunes and signed to a record deal.
How They Did It…
Greg explained that they decided to make a full time business out of their band. Everyday, three out of the four members met in what they called “The War Room,” which was a room reserved in one of their homes, everyday at 9:00am — and they took it seriously, just like a job — and everyday they would set simple goals. “In the beginning we really did not know what we were doing…the daily goal was to make the maximum amount of friends on MySpace, which is 400 a day, between 3 of them that’s 133 each.” Greg recalls. Here is the system that followed.
The Making April System to Making Friends on MySpace
Step 1: Find Sound Alikes / Similar Famous Bands To You
They started by looking at similar bands in their genre that had large friends lists at MySpace. For example: Dashboard Confessional. They would go and they would ping each and every friend in Dashboard Confessional’s friends list
Step 2: Ping Each Person
And then they would go to the comments and post:
“Hey if you like Dashboard Confessional, you’re probably going to like Making April. Would you please come check us out and leave a comment?” Then, people would check them out and leave comments.
Step 3: Get Personal
The band would then personally respond to everyone that left a comment, and thanks personally. And they always signed their name using a sig file, which included their IM address.
Step 4: Instant Messenger Bonanza
Then they would get their new fans information through Instant Messenger, and they would sit all day long on Instant Messenger chatting back and forth with their new friends, and according to Greg it was crazy. They actually can’t turn on their AIM because the minute they open it up, they get thousands and thousands of people trying to ping them. So they have to leave the “away” on their IM because their buddy list is insane.
TIP: Give Your Music AWAY
The whole time, they were giving away their music for free to build their audience.
Step 5: Run Contests
After several months and thousands of personal contacts a new marketing, Making April decided to create a run a contest for their fans. They asked fans to add them in their “Top 8.” friends and had success with the contest getting even more MySpace traction.
And, the 20 people that were in the contest, each got points for convincing users to add their video, and/ or their song, and they got points and according to Greg it got completely out of control.
After this successful contest, a company called Brickfish took notice and offered to help them launch a second contest. This conteste was a T-Shirt design contest where entrants had to design a T-shirt and in return the band would write a song for the winner.
So, out of a well planned T-shirt contest they got an additional 100,000 hits to their page in two weeks, and the winner got a shirt, a personal call from the band and an original song written about them. “It was unbelievable.”
Step 6: Engage Your Audience Consistently
Create Relationship & Participation
Another one of their strategies was they sent out a bulletin every single day, not a hypey bulletin pushing themselves, But a simple one that would engage their fans by asking a question to their fan base like: “Should we get chunky peanut butter or smooth”
They felt that there was no reason to blog because they weren’t really on the road, they didn’t have a lot of news to report, and so they just kept asking questions on their bulletins, day in and day out.
And, they had a call to action: They would ask everyone on the bulletins to comment back on their pages and what they noticed were hundreds of responses from people saying, get smooth peanut butter, no get chunky peanut butter and then they would get a track play and a front page hit off the daily question and they would get 500 messages instantly every time they would send the stupid question and 600+ comments.
Step 7: MTV Action
After their wildly successful Brickfish contest they got a song placed on Laguna Beach on MTV. They don’t really know how they ended up on that show (they think a fan probably e-mailed the track to MTV). But the episode aired three times and all of a sudden they noticed that people started to buy the download.
Step 8: Get Ready To Charge For Tracks (after a solid fan base is built)
It was only after all of this traction and attention that Making April started pushing their iTunes page. This was after a full year of solid online promotions. They took the free MP3s off of their MySpace page and they started seeing their sales were picking up.
Step 9: Repeat and Repeat and Repeat… and Repeat
They put a big wall mounted dry erase board on the wall of the war room and every day they each had a goal to make 150 friends and comment back personally.
Step 10: Measure Your Goals and Write Them Down
Nothing Gets Manifested Faster Than Goals Written Out
Then they laid out a weekly plan to hit their goals and numbers and at iTunes, which were 200 plays a day and 400 friends a day. They also went after the friends of another a band called Secondhand Serenade (who blew up after becoming the number one unsigned artist at MySpace).
Step 10: Be Masterful At One Thing
I asked Greg if they did blogging and podcasting and Twitter and other social networking sites and he (to my surprise) said no…. They did this all on MySpace alone. The goal for MySpace was tp consistently add 200 friend requests and 400 plays to the traffic they were already generating.
Step 11: A Record Deal
Because of all of their solid dedicated focus a Universal Republic Records took notice and offered them a deal.…. The moral of the story: Making April got a deal.
Was this process easy?
It took solid dedication, trail and error and a hell of a lot of work, but Making April managed to be one of the top selling bands at iTunes in 2007 and they beat a vast majority of artists signed to major labels.
I think this is a phenomenal and an inspirational story and one that teaches us lots of lessons, from my experience musicians tend to give up too easily and to lose focus and then become defeated and give up. Making April proves that with a plan and some dedication you can get very far.
Check them out here:
Or Better Yet:
And I bet you will get a personal response!