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Marketing Music on the Net:
An Interview with David Nevue
In this 1999 interview, pianist David Nevue discusses how he went about marketing his music successfully on the net.

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When did you first starting marketing your music on the Internet?

In 1993 I took a day job working for a software development company called Symantec. At that time, there really was no "public" Internet to speak of. Certainly not one that most people were aware of. However, after a year or two working there, the Internet started taking shape and gaining in popularity. I was fortunate in that I was able to watch the Internet grow from an insiders perspective.

During the summer of 1995 the idea occurred to me to put my solo piano music online. There were only a few major music sites at that time, and certainly not a lot of artist sites up yet. I started out by creating my own "personal" web site to advertise my solo piano CD, While the Trees Sleep which had just come out at the time.

How did you do?

Not well. I only sold two CDs off the Internet my first year. Incidentally, that's not uncommon. According to my research, a typical independent artist sells less than 5 CDs a year from their personal web site.

This fact led a few struggling musicians to start what I have come to call "music collaboration" type services. These were places where independent artists would come together and sell all their music in one place. These were usually sponsored by one musician, who would try to make a few extra bucks by hosting other musicians web pages. They'd charge musicians $20 or $30 to put their web site up, plus take a percentage of CD sales.

The result of this of course was that the only independent musicians who profited on the Internet were those who successfully sponsored these kind of sites. They'd make money by hosting other musicians web pages. CD sales were always slow. Even big collaboration services, like the very popular IUMA only accept 5 CDs from each artist that signs up. There's no reason to take more, because most of the time, independent music on this level doesn't sell.

But music is big on the Internet.....

Yes, popular music
is big. But it's a known commodity. If you're going to buy music, a book, a vacation, or a computer product on the Internet nine times out of ten you already know what you want. You're looking to purchase a known commodity. That makes it tough for lesser known musicians or publishers to sell music online. How do you sell to someone who hasn't heard of you?

But you've had some success selling your music on the Internet. How did you do it?

I struggled for a couple of years selling CDs online before I came to realize that people who just stumbled upon my web site didn't care about my music. So, I had to figure out a way to draw in my target audience, then find a way to market my music to them in a way that would get their attention. How could I get the music in their hands? I knew if I could get a piano music fan to listen to my music they'd be sold. I just had to get their attention.

So, rather than waiting for my personal web page to generate sales, I designed a web site specifically for my target audience. Since I'm selling solo piano music, I had to create a site that pianists or fans of piano music would find attractive. I designed and marketed an online Pianist Resource Center, something I knew fans of piano music would be interested in. Once I started marketing this pianist resource center, traffic started pouring in.

Is that all there is to it?

No, not at all. Getting traffic is one thing, but you still have to make the sale. That's much more difficult. Once your target audience has found your site, you still have to interest them in your music. I tried numerous marketing plans for my solo piano CDs before I found a few ideas which, when used together, seemed to generate sales. The result is that I now ship product every week from my web site. I continue to modify, test, and update these plans even to this day. It takes a tremendous amount of time, but it's worth the feeling you get knowing your music is being listened to all over the country, even the world.

Let's talk about your music study, How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet. How did that come about?

I started getting orders for my CD. My ideas started to click. I started thinking about all the time and money I'd wasted trying numerous music marketing plans that didn't work. I had wished that there was some practical, easy to read guide to promoting music on the Internet, something that would have told me in a straightforward manner what music marketing ideas work and what doesn't work. Then I thought, well, why don't I write one? So I did. I started shipping How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet during the Fall of 1997.

What's in the music promotion study?

The study begins with a reality check. We ask the question, what should you as a musician really expect when selling your music online? Next, we talk about some basic web site creation and promotion techniques that are absolutely critical to your success. The next section is dedicated to music marketing; site registration, targeting the audience, referral services, press releases, music articles, banner ads, samplers, and more. We get into the nitty gritty of specific music promotion strategies. We tell the reader exactly what we did to start selling music on our web site, and the little nuances that made all the difference. Then there's a section dedicated entirely to online resources available to the independent musician. The study closes with an overview and analysis of the results we've seen using these promotion techniques.

How has the response been to the study?

Really good. I wasn't sure at first how the music study would be received, but then I started receiving a few messages from customers who said they found the study really useful. That was really encouraging, so I've kept working on it. I started marketing the music promotion study in the same way I market my music. I asked the question, what does my target audience care about? That led to RainMusic.com, which is now a dedicated resource for all musicians and the hub for our Indie Music Resource Center.

And now you publish your music promotion study quarterly?

Yes. The Internet changes so fast that I really have to. I want the study to stay right on top of the Internet industry. If it's going to be a valuable tool to a musician, the music promotion study has to be current and accurate. Each edition of the study has been bigger than the previous, with more ideas, updates on how these ideas are working for us, link updates, new musician resources, promotion techniques, and so on.

So, where do you go from here?

I'd like to publish and market the music promotion guide to a much larger audience. I'm not sure how that will come about, but I'll keep moving forward. When a musician thinks about music promotion on the Internet, I want them to think of RainMusic.com. We have a long way to go to get our name out there to that degree. The competition for media attention on the net is brutal, but all it takes is good word of mouth in the right ears.

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How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet

How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet
This easy-to-read guide to music promotion teaches you how to effectively sell your music online! Learn what works and what doesn't from a musician who's now promoting music on the Internet full time!

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