MP3.com: A Case Study
For Musicians On The Fence
Article by David Nevue
Written February 2001 - Updated June 2001
Back to Music Promotion 101
MP3.COM: HYPE OR HOPE?
I'm no stranger to the internet. I've been promoting my music successfully online for well over six years now.
Up to this point however, I've more or less avoided MP3.com. Why? Well, I've been somewhat skeptical about my ability
to compete with so many other musicians all in one place. Could I - a simple pianist and composer - really hope
to make a dent on the MP3 charts? It seemed a rather daunting task. However, a recent article about the financial
MP3 success of fellow pianist Ernesto Cortezar spurned me to action! I needed to get off my butt and get with the
program. So, on January 1st of 2001, I began the new year as an MP3.com artist.
WHERE THE MONEY IS
Once signed up, my first act was to upload MP3 files of my best songs. I then did a bit of research into the promotion
opportunities available at MP3.com. There are two primary means of generating revenue. The first is via MP3's ‘DAM’
(Digital Automatic Music) CD program. This very cool sales tool allows musicians to mix-and-match uploaded songs
into digital CD ‘collections’ - which can then be sold to visitors to MP3.com. The artist receives a portion of
the retail price for every CD sold through the site. Even better, once the customer orders MP3.com does all the
work, burning the CD shipping it directly to the customer. Update: In June 2001, MP3.com announced a new 'netCD' program, which
allows visitors to purchase 'downloadable' versions of your albums. You pocket 50% of the profit.
It took me only a few days however to realize that DAM CDs sales are actually the least productive means of making
money via MP3.com. The real money is in the famed payback-for-playback program. Every month MP3.com sets aside
a $1 million dollar pot exclusively for member artists. The more playback activity an artists generates, the bigger
portion of that pot the artist receives. Some artists make literally thousands of dollars per month using this
program. See http://www.mp3.com/payback for statistics on the highest paid artists. It's Pretty unbelievable.
But, to make significant money, one needs to generate *serious* playback numbers. This is generally done via MP3.com
radio stations, of which there are literally thousands. Sorting through them all is a task, but the more stations
you can get to play your music, the more money you make, which also results in higher ranking on the MP3 song charts.
This in turn leads to more song exposure, placement on more radio stations, more radio play, higher rankings, and
on it goes in a continuous circle of promotional bliss. Or at least, that’s the theory.
MY FIRST MONTH @ MP3.COM
So, having discovered all this basic information, I dove right into the world of MP3.com. After creating my own
page (http://www.mp3.com/davidnevue) and uploading my songs, I started my own MP3 radio station and called it ‘Whisperings,’
a solo piano radio station at http://www.mp3.com/stations/whisperings. On it I featured my own solo piano compositions
as well as songs from other artists in the same genre. I then promoted this station via my already existing web
sites and mailing lists, while at the same time pitching my songs individually to other MP3.com radio stations.
It didn't take much time at all to see results. It was actually quite easy. By the end of the first month, my station
‘Whisperings’ had reached (at it highest position) #3 on the classical station charts, #10 on the Easy Listening
station charts, and #5 on the Jazz station charts. One of our songs made it to #2 in it’s specific genre, and I
ranked 4 different songs in the top 40. Wow, that wasn't hard at all.
Using simple promotion strategies and some persistence, I made nearly $100 at MP3.com in my first month. Here is
a day by day account of my earnings.
MP3.com Activity Summary for January 2001
Not a bad start at all. In the following month (February 2001) my total exceeded $260. As we entered into March
and April, I’ve discovered the hard part - staying on the charts - it requires a continual, almost daily effort.
Nonetheless, the money is there for those who do the work. As of June 2001, I've earned over $1000 in payback earnings
via MP3.com. Not bad for a few hours promotion a week.
Update: In March of 2001 MP3.com introduced their 'Premium Artist Service.' To be eligible for
Payback earnings, MP3.com now requires you join this service for a $19.95 monthly fee. Is it worth it? Well, would
you invest $20 bucks if it earned you back $200 a month later? If you spend any real effort promoting your music
on MP3.com, making this $20 back should be no problem at all. Plus, joining PAS has other benefits which we won't
go into detail about here. See http://www.mp3.com/premium/ for more detail on this service.
PAYING FOR PROMOTION
In March of 2001 MP3.com started offering several new pay-for-promotion packages for registered artists. That is,
in addition to the Premium Artist Service, you can now pay to have your songs displayed in a variety of MP3.com
‘hot spots.’ For example, for a price you can be featured in the MP3.com artist newsletter, get highlighted spot
on Page 1 of your genre listing, or even get placement on the MP3.com home page. These hot spots are auctioned
off on a weekly basis at http://www.mp3.com/auction . Currently these hot spots are auctioning off for anything from a few bucks
to over two thousand dollars. Are they worth the investment? We intend to find out, and will post our results to
this web site shortly.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED SO FAR
So, can musicians make money promoting music at MP3.com? You bet. And with a little effort on your part, it's easier
than you might think. There really no secret to it, but there are a few key elements certainly help. Here are some
tips based on my experience so far:
#1) Take advantage of past successes: I am very fortunate to already have a very successful music-oriented web
site targeted directly to musicians and music lovers. This really helped get the ‘Whisperings’ station off the
ground, generating airplay almost immediately.
#2) Get your fans involved. Those making the most money using the Payback for Playback system have one thing in
common: they've gotten their fans involved in promoting and playing their music on MP3.com. You would be surprised
what difference a few dedicated fans can do.
#3) Song titles matter: The only thing you have to draw attention to your song in the charts is your song title.
If you can come up with a catchy or interesting song title, you're more likely to get curious listeners. Look over
your own song titles - if you had to choose, what would YOU click on?
#4) Focus your energy: Pick one song - any song with an interesting title that's well crafted - and promote the
snot out of it.
#5) Create multiple stations: Why only have one station? Create multiple stations and use stylistic variations
to populate the station charts. Once you get your first station established, start working on another, and use
your successful station to promote your new station to your repeat visitors.
#6) Make your stations GOOD stations: You MUST gain station fans and repeat listeners. Without them your station,
even if it gets a good start, will begin dying a slow death. If the music is lousy, why would anyone come back?
MP3.com artists play a lot of 'put me on your station and I'll put you on mine' games. Avoid this mentality and
don't include bad music on your station just because the artist guarantees they'll play your station. If you like
the song, fine, include them, but if it's mediocre at best, then your station will be mediocre. Your station is
only as good as your worse song.
#7) Pitch your best songs to new stations every day. Start the morning by checking your genre charts to see if
any new up-and-coming stations are on the rise. If so, check them out, see if your music will fit in the format
and if so email the station creator. If you do well, 1 in 5 stations will play your music. The more stations you're
on, the more song plays you'll get. Do realize that some of these stations are 'play for listing' stations - and
will demand you listen to them a few times a week to participate. If the station is a HOT station, that might be
fine to commit to. However, if the station is doing mediocre in the charts, don't bother. If you do well promoting
your music on MP3.com, you won't have time to listen to every station that agrees to play your music - so pick
and choose wisely.
#8) Encourage your station participants to listen to your own station - but don't be dogmatic about it. There's
nothing wrong with *asking* your station participants to help out by listening whenever they can. And, if your
station is successful, they'll WANT to help. Everyone wants to be on a HOT station, so if you become fortunate
enough to make the top 10 or 20, enjoy it, and get your participants involved.
#9) Develop working relationships with your station participants: This also goes toward #8 above. If your station
does well, the artists on your station will be grateful, and will have a definite incentive to help you succeed.
#10) Having my music on MP3.com has resulted in several big breaks. First, I was approached by a Korean record
company (Musicmine Records) who now licenses and distributes my music overseas. I got a nice, fat advance from
that. Secondly, one of my songs was chosen as the opening theme for a television documentary called America's Most Haunted Town.
Finally, I've been approached by a publisher interested in releasing sheet music of my songs. These are just a
few of the contacts made as a result of having my music on MP3.com.
So there you have it. After spending a few short months promoting my music on MP3.com, I'm a believer. So, if you,
like me have been riding the fence about MP3.com, take my lead - and jump on in.
David Nevue is the founder of RainMusic.com and the The Music
Biz Academy. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet." You can find his MP3.com station at http://www.mp3.com/davidnevue
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