With indie distribution now firmly established on the web, we’ll
now cover how to use radio to make online CD sales happen.
We will focus on album CD sales that are purchased through CD
Baby, the largest online CD sales site devoted to indie releases;
and we’ll focus on commercial radio, which is much more suited
to doing this type of thing than non-commercial radio is.
There are two main ways of using radio to drive people to buy
your CD on CD Baby, both of which may also help you obtain
spins: (1) Buying radio spots (commercials) that drive listeners to
your CD Baby page, where you then benefit from album
purchases, or (2) Doing a Per-Inquiry (PI) setup at stations,
whereby the stations run your spots for free, and then they get
paid from each CD sold. While everyone reading this will of
course want to try the second option first, you should know that it
is at least a hundred (100) times harder than the first one. Here’s
the easy one…
Buying spots on a commercial station is straightforward,
controllable, and has predictable costs. If your band name is
XYZ, you simply tell the station to record a spot for you that plays
the song’s chorus at least twice, and then tells listeners to “buy it
online at CD Baby dot com slash XYZ” at least three times.
Simple, and it works every time. But it’s expensive.
Now the tough one: The PI option is difficult for two reasons.
First, a “per-inquiry” setup means that the stations may or may not
actually get paid later, based on how many sales you TELL them
occurred (yes, they have been lied to before.) Second, there has
been a long-standing resistance in the radio business with
regards to them participating in music sales. There are many
reasons for this, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll say that
the way to work around it is just to contact a large number of
stations (at least 100) if you want to end up with just one that will
do it. Once you find a station that will participate:
Create a “partner” page at (you’ll
need a separate partner account for each station.) If your band
name is XYZ, and the station is KPOP, then create a partner
page with a username of “xyzkpop” (or, if the station is WBIG,
then make it “xyzwbig”), and I’d recommend a very easy
password too… maybe even the same as the username. Then
give the username and password to your contact at the station
so they can verify sales for themselves, and so they can compare
these sales to the spins they are giving you.
Now create a simple “radio click-to-order” page on your band site
(you’ll need a separate page for each station.) If your site, then make the KPOP order (this is where the your commercial will direct
listeners to). On this page, put the link that CD Baby gives you,
which will then send listeners to your place on CD Baby for
purchase, where it will pay $1 per CD purchased, to KPOP.
Confused?… see this
However, this $1 is just the standard amount that CD Baby pays
out (you can’t change this amount). It is not enough to make a
PI radio deal work. I’d recommend paying at least another $4 per
CD from your own funds. Even if you make zero profit from the
sales, you’ll benefit greatly from the gigs and merch that you can
sell in the cities where you are spinning.
You will also want to get an 800 number so people can call from
their cars. Get one from your phone company (about $5/month,)
and “piggyback” the number onto your regular phone number
and answering machine. The message should tell callers to
leave their email address, and the station they heard you on, so
you can email them a link to buy the CD (and of course, the link
will be specific to their station, so that station will get credit for the
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