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After a Year of Dabbling with Music Promotion, Fan Base Building, Sales, & A Quick March 2016 Status Update

by Hawke Robinson last modified Mar 23, 2016 09:10 AM
This past year I have been experimenting with trying to build a fan base, and the workings of music sales out of curiosity.

In short, I will not be renewing with Tunecore, and I will be trying out Distrokid for the coming year of experimentation.

Also the push, despite all the promotions and support, lead to zero sales alas, but I still support their dream even though their fan base isn't interested in my style of music (whatever that is). :-)

Meanwhile, I have been cranking out a series of live improv performances over Google+ Hangout and my Youtube channel (11 as of yesterday).

You can see all of them, and the progress being made in quality, here:

Costs/Benefit Analysis

Tunecore charged $10 per single release ($9.99 really but I don't play that game), and $30 per album release.

They also charge an additional $10 per item (single or album) to automatically distribute to new stores, or else you have to pay for each store, which can add up.

So really, $20 for the single, and $40 for the album.

Initial membership is $30, but then goes up to $50.

So I thought I would just try a year trial, and learn the various ins and outs since Tunecore was one of the larger distributors. This includes distribution, downloads, physical CDs, and streaming plays on Amazon, iTunes, Microsoft, Spotify, and many others.

It is now about 11 months later, and sales for the single "Logic Default Electronica" = $2.17, and sales for the early draft album "Buddhalicious" = $14.25

I thought the prices were a one-time thing, but I then received notice that they are due for renewal, and I will be charged at the higher rate. Heh, forget that.

I am just hoping I can reach a break-even level for the costs of distribution.

Trying to Leave Tunecore

I tried to find how to cancel renewal, and couldn't find it on their site directly through any of the tools, So I did a quick web search and found it buried in their site, you have to complete a web form and receive an email, that tries to dissuade you, then it provides a link to another web form to complete, again trying to dissuade, and then that goes to support.

I am now waiting for the confirmation that both the single and the album will not renew. The email states within 1 business day they will respond.

Indie Air Radio

Meanwhile, the big push on I was kindly selected by these nice folks as "Artist of the week" late 2015, and "Artist of the Month" in February 2016.

They are super generous in their co-op style profit sharing of memberships.

Unfortunately I don't think my music is anywhere near their fan base, but I will keep supporting their dream while I can afford to do so, to help the other artists and Bob Rice the founder.

Regular listener membership is $10/mo, while Artist membership is $30/mo.

Bob interviewed me for his radio show / podcast on two separate occasions, and on February 20th did a full play of the new album that I have so far only exclusively released through, titled "Zentropy".

So far I have received zero people sponsoring my with their monthly membership, and zero single or album sales through their store.

And I spread the word all over Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Google+, Soundcloud, everywhere I could think of.

That was a LOT of (wasted?) man hours, over many months, experimenting with trying to build a fan base through social networking, to end up with zero sales.

Like it or not, there are some hard realities I have to address. With the combination of getting financially killed by the ironically named Affordable Care Act and related administrations other policies, and with the market, interest rates, and oil being so bad for those depending on them for income, I won't be able to afford to keep supporting the website (and many of my other projects) unless I can get some music revenue to at least reduce some of the costs. But I will hang in there as long as I can, since I believe in what they are trying to do. Though it appears their fan base isn't interested in financially supporting the music I create (or apparently anyone)? I suspect their listeners are more interested in singer-songwriter and classic rock variant genres, and not whatever it is that is most of my music styles.

Testing DistroKid Next

I recently read this review by Ari - - that presented a pretty updated and usefully detailed review of the different distribution services.

Since I have so many songs and albums, and no fan base, it would be crazy for me to keep putting money into Tunecore.

It would add up to hundreds per year or more for my 100+ songs and 13+ albums! (Though most of my music recordings before 2000 are really poor audio quality).

However, for music newbies such as myself, Ari basically all but recommended Distrokid for people who want to release unlimited music and have a flat budget, it is only $20/year for unlimited releases. 

So I am going to try next.

Since I create music so frequently, this is probably the best route even if they don't have all the features of Tunecore or CDbaby, it is a much more affordable "good enough" (hopefully) service.

I will try them out for a year and see how that goes.

The Irony of Free Music

I have been fine sharing my music for free, but was just hoping to find a means to get more people to have a chance to listen.

Apparently the "system" is so flooded with aspiring musicians, that offering music for free, ironically means fewer people will get to hear the music than if it is through a commercial system. Wow!

I have gotten a lot more pass-through traffic from the commercial efforts, though no purchases, no comments of support or requests, very few shares, almost no comments, and very little in follow-through purchase.

I still offer all my music for free on my own website, but downloads there are pretty minimal too, and not likely to have impacted the sales significantly, analytics shows almost no downloads. :-)

So, ironically I get far  more eyeballs/ears by putting the music through commercial channels (which I have to pay for), than just offering for free. 

For more "standard" genres of music, this appears to work for many artists to varying degrees, but since most of my music doesn't neatly fit a single genre, it gets pigeon-holed into one genre and then disappoints the listener for not being what they were expecting (? question mark ?)?


While I will try experimenting for another year, this time with Distrokid. I am not going to put in all the time on social networking that I spent in the past 6 months, trying to spread the word and build a fan base. With my health issues, and overload of other priorities, I no longer have the personal bandwidth of even just a few years ago for most of my projects. I have to focus on getting the degrees finished, getting the CTRS and hopefully AMTA certs, and of course, trying to get well again (if that is possible).

But music is very critical as a coping mechanism for me, so I will keep churning out new music whenever I can, though even if, for whatever reason, it doesn't resonate with any other humans on the planet (that I have yet to find), in-person or online, and I just didn't think I was that unique in my music tastes. This has been surprising.

Just to be clear, I hope the information stated here isn't coming across negative in tone or anything like that. Though definitely insecurities manifest, I'll admit that readily enough. :-) This has  just been an experiment, that I didn't expect to make any money from (though I had hoped to grow somewhat of a small fan base), I was just curious about the "system", and I am just bluntly sharing my observations and thoughts.

I've been on the other side as radio DJ and talk show host at KYRS FM, NEKKID Radio, and such, and I was curious how one builds a fan base. I am still stumped in that area.

This isn't so much about trying to monetize my music, it is much more about trying to develop a fan base, of which even after all these years, I seem to have pretty much next to nil. This doesn't change what I do, trying to get better at expressing musically what is in my mind/body/spirit/whatever, I will keep doing it when I have time, and health allows, as much as I can, it is a great therapeutic tool. But it would be nice to know that I am not just once again "Out standing in a field all his own", and the only person that enjoys or benefits from the time and energy put into yet another of my too many projects ( http://www.hawkenterprising ). I would like to think that others might benefit as well, though it is not a requirement.

I would like to leave this world having helped as many others as possible, to whatever limited ability I may have, and that I gave it my best in trying to contribute during my short existence in this manifestation of the multiverse, and leave the world a better place in some way. I had hoped my music might be another means of connecting with fellow human beings, time will tell. :-)

Anyhow, just some (maybe too open/frank?) thoughts.

Wherever your may be, BE well! Namarie!

-Hawke (Synthetic Zen)

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