Episode #059: Why Physical Music Isn’t Dead & How To Sell More Of It


On the Savvy Musician Show today, Leah and CJ are exploring the world of physical sales and how it is still alive in 2019! Not so long ago it seemed like the formats of CDs, tapes, and vinyl was a thing of the past. But thanks to a resurgence of younger audiophiles and music fans, sales of physical music have actually risen in the last decade. From the almost completely vinyl music stand in Barnes & Noble to new independent record stores and beyond, physical music is not dead and can make up a huge part of your earnings as an independent music business. Leah and CJ unpack just how this could work for you, focusing on touring versus online, how to find and target the right audience for physical products, merch versus music and more! We talk about the vital importance of the visual side of this work, artwork, and coherence can play a huge role in your success. Leah also stresses the value of product photography and testing out markets, so make sure to tune in for this great conversation!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Today’s student spotlight; a special message from Jason! 
  • Barnes & Noble’s music section and the current focus they put on vinyl. 
  • Leah’s attitude towards physical merch from the standpoint of a non-touring artist. 
  • Reasons that Leah’s fans buy her merch; unique, exclusive and part of something bigger. 
  • The shift back to deep appreciation for the quality of audio and music.
  • Determining and targeting people who love vinyl or other physical formats. 
  • The importance of artwork and the visual language and style you use.  
  • Product photography and making the most of displaying your physical products. 
  • Validation and product testing with the minimum risk necessary.
  • Some information on the new Inner Circle monthly membership. 
  • And much more! 


“To do a limited edition of something that would be so fun, because I grew up with cassettes and I always wanted to have my own tape.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:02:46]

“Nothing is as inspiring, or reinforcing as results. It doesn’t matter what they are, long as you see some light, little glimmer of hope that you’re on the right path.” — @metalmotivation [0:03:32]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Savvy Musician Academy — https://savvymusicianacademy.com/elite/call/

Savvy Musician Mastermind on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/groups/savvymusician/

Savvy Musician Spotify course — www.savvymusicianacademy.com/Spotify

Inner Circle — https://savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle

Audible — https://www.audible.com

Stripe — https://stripe.com/

Jason Allender (Student Spotlight) — https://www.facebook.com/JasonJamesWren/ 

Click For Full Transcript

00:23 CJ: Well, welcome once again to The Savvy Musician Show, the podcast for music marketing. This is CJ Ortiz. I am the mindset branding coach here at The Savvy Musician Academy. Of course, I’m the lucky one who gets to sit across from the queen of the realm, her eminence herself, the lovely Leah McHenry. How are you doing, Leah?

00:44 Leah: I am wonderful. Thank you. That just cracks me up every time.

00:49 CJ: I am the king of introductions. I love doing that. Always go where you’re celebrated, never where you’re tolerated, right? Again, always a pleasure to be with each and every one of you on the podcast. I know folks are gleaning so much, Leah. The reports and reviews that we get sent to us every week are just amazing. So thankful for each and every person out there that takes the time to do that.

We want to ask you to take the time to do that by going to your favourite player, if you listen on Spotify, or iTunes, or Stitcher, and leave us a review and leave us some stars. Again, helps with our rankings and helps other people like yourself to discover this important podcast, because we do really want people to hear it. 

We want to help them and we want to bring them even closer to us, in some of Leah’s courses and the Elite Program, so that we can bring about significant changes in the music industry, and no, it’s not all come down to us and what we’re doing here, but we’re certainly going to be faithful to do our part.

Yes, to be ambitious and vision-filled and faith-filled enough to say that a difference can be made, because if anything, Leah, right? It’s mostly when it comes to the contemporary state of the music industry, it’s naysaying, right?

02:10 Leah: Yeah, that’s the truth.

02:11 CJ: A lot of negativity, so we want to change that aspect of it. Today, we’re going to talk about something really, really important here on Episode 59. That is the fact that physical music is not dead.

02:25 Leah: Hallelujah.

02:26 CJ: Yeah, hallelujah. For anybody who follows Leah musically, you know she is all about physical products. She’s got vinyl, she’s got CDs, and I’ve heard her talk about even dabbling into cassettes.

02:41 Leah: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that. I haven’t yet, but to do a limited edition of something that would be so fun, because I grew up with cassettes and I always wanted to have my own tape.

02:54 CJ: We’re going to talk about, because some people might say physical music is not dead. First, I’d like to begin with a student spotlight. Today’s win is from Jason Allender. He writes, “I started messaging people on Monday on my lunch break. In three days of messaging, only as many as I could during my breaks, I’ve gotten on two playlists. 

I’ve even made contact with an artist to help with illustrations for one of my projects. Got to get in touch with another musician and find some new music I like as bonuses too. This is getting to be a lot of fun and a definite boost to a really rough week.” 

Results, man. I tell people this all the time, Leah. Nothing is as inspiring or reinforcing as results. It doesn’t matter what they are, long as you see some light, little glimmer of hope that you’re on the right path and there is – you are making a difference in your music business.

03:49 Leah: That’s right. Yeah, that’s awesome.

03:51 CJ: Good for you, Jason. Again, Jason one of our Elite Group members or see – I guess, from the Spotify for musicians course that you offer. Yeah, so that’s a big one. Spotify. If you go to SMA to check that out. 

Again, physical music is not dead. I had an interesting encounter, Leah. I don’t get out much to things, like shopping malls and what-have-you. I became an e-commerce shopper a long time ago. I don’t go to stores, especially to a shopping mall. The shopping mall in my area, I probably have not been to in over 10 years and I’m not joking.

Now I lived elsewhere for a number of years and came back to where I am now, but I have not been to the mall, the closest one to my house, which is about 20 minutes away in probably 10 years. They’ve got nice restaurants there and all the big anchor stores. I took my daughter out to eat and we were going to go to a bookstore and they have a really big Barnes & Noble there, and so we said, “All right, well let’s just go there.” This is on a Friday night, 7:30. I’m thinking, “All right, well let’s get down there before everybody and their grandmother is out there.” Friday night, it’s going to be packed with kids and all of that stuff, teenagers, you know how it goes.

It was a ghost town. It was a literal ghost town. Some of the restaurants were all boarded up. I took a picture from inside the Barnes & Nobles on the very end, so you could see a long corridor of one of the malls, on the upper deck, there wasn’t a single person. Not a single person. The shot was just empty, like it was an empty mall. I mean, there’s other alleyways you could go down, but I mean, from that one shot on a Friday night, because there was little Cinnabons and Chick-fil-A’s and there was nobody there. 

I’m having this surreal moment and so we walk into the Barnes & Noble and I’m just thinking, “Wow, this is really weird. Where is everybody? It’s like a ghost town.” We walked in and I remembered how in a Barnes & Noble, they always had a music section, right? Or video section. I thought, “Well, let me see.” I turned to my left where it normally is and it was still there. I said, “Oh, cool.” I walked over to it and I look inside and, Leah, all I can see in the entire section is vinyl. All I can see is vinyl.

I was talking my daughter about it and I said, “Where’s all the CDs? Where’s everything else?” I had to walk down around the corner and there was a one little back-aisle they had in the very back and that’s where they had the CDs. Everything out front, everything that they were featuring in the music section at Barnes & Noble was vinyl. Look at the just the very strange juxtaposition to be in to be saying, “Okay, here’s the mall. The mall for years has been the epicentre of where people hang out. The mall is virtually empty.” I’m in a Barnes & Noble and I look in their music section and it’s all vinyl. It’s like, what a strange time that we live in.

If you would think that if, “Okay, nobody’s shopping anymore. Everybody’s doing everything online, then they would have gotten rid of a music section because everybody’s listening to it on streaming.” No. They had the music section there and they were selling vinyl records. That spoke to me so loudly about this aspect of physical merchandise, because apparently, Leah, Barnes & Noble has an entire music section dedicated to vinyl, then physical music is not dead, is it?

07:33 Leah: It’s certainly not. I mean, I would say the way we consume it, the way we’re purchasing it, that has certainly changed, but it is not going away. I don’t think it’ll ever go away. We can talk about some of that in the way things are changing, but I can tell you right now as a six-figure recording artist, a large portion of my income is coming from physical sales.

07:58 CJ: That’s pretty amazing. I think, again when people scratch their head about you, it’s like they think you’re some anomaly. Not to say that you’re not unique and you don’t have your unicorn overtones, but they think there’s just no way, right? 

“How is she making money, because everything is being streamed?” Et cetera, et cetera. Why do you think in your case, let’s just start with your case, why in your case would physical music be something that would make up such a significant portion of your income?

08:35 Leah: Well, there’s a variety of things and I think actually in my situation, it’s harder to sell physical music than for other artists who tour. When you’re a touring band and you do live shows, buying physical merch, it’s just part of the experience, so people want to remember the experience they had with that t-shirt and that is usually overpriced and the overpriced everything. Whenever I go to merch tables I’m like, “What? Get out of town. If I charge that on my shop, people would freak out.” They charge it in person and I understand why and that’s where a lot of their income is coming from. A lot of them aren’t making a lot of money on the tickets. They’re making it at the merch table.

For people, why they buy it is to remember the awesome experience they just had. I mean, some people buy the merch before the concert, but a lot of times you’ll see them go out and buy it during the intermission, or between bands. They are wanting to — It’s just memorabilia.

Now in my case, I’m only selling it online. I don’t do live shows. I never have toured and I won’t for a little while. I have to come with a completely different reason. I can give people completely different reason to buy my stuff. It’s actually harder for me but I’m doing it. I have had to ask myself, why do people buy anything? What is the point? Why would somebody buy my $20, $25 shirt, instead of going down to Target and getting the same shirt for 5 bucks? What is the difference? Then you have to look at buyer intent and a whole lot of things.

The answer for me is they want to buy it from me, because with my logo and my brand and everything, is because I’ve put in the work to create that culture around my music. For them, this is part of the lifestyle. It’s more than just the music. There are people even who buy my t-shirts and stuff who are not even familiar with my music, because I made sure the design was cool enough that anybody would like it. Most of the time, the shirts specifically, apparel specifically, is coming from my fans, because some of them have the Leah logo on it, and so it makes more sense that they’re going to buy it.

They are buying, because they want to support me as an artist. That’s one. Also, the design is cool and they can’t find those sort of things in stores. They can’t get it on Amazon. They can’t find it other places. It’s unique, not sold in stores. It’s part of a bigger lifestyle like I just said. When I started treating my music as more than just music and more as a lifestyle brand, things really started taking off for me. I have been teaching that ever since, that you need to look at your music career as bigger than your music. Sometimes depending on what music you make, there’s maybe more of a movement there. Sometimes it’s just silly.

My fans are primarily nerds. A lot of them are total geeks. I’ve had actually the gamut of people email me, I’ve had judges sit in court email me, like, “I’m a fan of your music. I own all your CDs,” to lawyers and doctors, to complete D&D nerds sitting in their dungeon.

11:54 CJ: Who like to collect things.

11:55 Leah: Like to collect things. You never know. I mean, people surprise you. Ultimately, they love where the music takes them. They love the culture. They love that. That’s enough reason to buy it and it’s exclusive. They can’t find this anywhere else. That’s the whole point. 

There’s a lot in the psychology part of this. I teach a lot of that in our Elite Course when we could talk about merchandise and how to source it, when you do a lot – I’m a huge fan of print-on-demand for a lot of reasons, and more speaking, not so much a physical music part of it, but physical items, physical merchandise part of it. 

There are print-on-demand music services as well. You can do vinyl print-on-demand. I know there are a few companies. I’m not super familiar with those, so don’t email me and ask.

12:43 CJ: Well, let me ask you this because I’m going back thinking of when your first album came out in 2012, right?

12:50 Leah: Yes.

12:51 CJ: Okay. Now I remember you sending it to me and it was a CD that you sent. How long was it before you introduced vinyl?

13:00 Leah: It was a little while. I was selling CDs and t-shirts first. That was back when I was on Bandcamp. If any of you guys know, I wish Bandcamp would come into the 21st century. They just won’t, so I can’t recommend it anymore for anybody. That’s where I got my start. I was just selling CDs and t-shirts, until I could sell enough to put in another order and reinvest into my next run of albums and just kept doing that over and over. 

I didn’t spend all the money. I just reinvested it. Vinyl didn’t come out till I want to say – I think I did an issue of it not till I came out with Kings and Queens and then I think I did vinyl for all three of my – I did two albums in an EP. I guess it’s only been since 2015, maybe? I’m guessing.

13:47 CJ: What was it that prompted that? Were you getting requests from people saying, “Hey, this would be great.”

13:52 Leah: Yes.

13:53 CJ: Really?

13:54 Leah: Yes, that’s what happened. I wouldn’t have even thought of vinyl, because I’m not a big vinyl person. Yeah, just due to popular demand, people just were wanting, “Do you have vinyl? Do you have vinyl?” I would get all these emails, or on Facebook and various places. Vinyl was like, “Uh, I guess we should do a vinyl run.” I’ve sold out of them and had to do reruns of them. It is really interesting. I’ve even thought about, “Hmm. I wonder if I can even sell vinyl players?” If you learn how to source products, you can. It’s really becoming huge and people are starting to get back into it.

It is a small segment of people, but it’s a very passionate segment of people, and it’s a growing segment of people who are becoming audiophiles again. They’re becoming really music connoisseurs. They want to take the time to actually sit and listen to music and experience music again. This is good news. This is very good news. Yes, streaming is on the rise. Streaming is currently the number one source of music revenue at the moment. I think things are only going to improve in that respect as time goes on.

There’s been some laws passed to make compensation better for musicians, where it wasn’t really in our favour up until now. I think even President Trump signed something about that, that was in the favour of musicians, so even if you hate him, you can’t hate him that much for that. There are positive steps towards even that streaming thing.

Here’s the deal and I want people to consider about physical music. I want you to look at your own behaviour of how you consume digital and physical products. Me personally, if someone were to ask how I consume books, I will tell them I consume books in multiple formats. I will often buy the physical copy and the Audible version and the eBook version. Because I like to collect books, I like to read the physical format, so I can highlight it, write in the margins, do all of that. 

Sometimes if I’m in the car, I also want to consume the content. Sometimes it’s not always convenient for me to have it in this format or that format. I like to have it in multiple formats, and that’s what we’re seeing right now in regards to the way people consume music is they like multiple formats.

Yes, streaming is convenient, it’s on the rise. A lot of people want the physical format. They want to collect it. It also says something about who they are. It represents their worldview and how they like to see themselves. Just like I collect books, I like to put them on the shelf. It says something about who I am. It’s been said, if you want to learn about somebody, just go and look at their library. 

Go and take a look at what’s on their shelf. That will tell you a lot about who they are. I think people are like that about music. You can take a look at their music collection and go, “Wow, you have a variety of tastes and genres in here. I can tell you really appreciate – you use different things.” I think that’s the important thing to think about is physical isn’t going to go away, because people still want to consume it into that format.

16:43 CJ: Yeah. We are at a very strange point in history and even my little story at the outset typifies that, where it’s again, a juxtaposition where a shopping mall is tanking, but vinyl is for sale. Just doesn’t seem that would be the case. There is almost a resistance, if you will, a backlash to the advance of technology and social media and all of these things to where people are almost in rebellion against it, where they’re going back and wanting things to be physical, whether it’s a book or drive-in theatres, those are opening up again. People are going to the drive-in.

Now kids who would have never experienced such a thing, are going out to experience and even – it’s interesting that even a lot of those who are getting into the vinyl records are younger people. We know when I was in the Blockbuster – I’m not Blockbuster. There it goes. Was Blockbuster going to come back? The Barnes & Noble music section, a lot of the vinyl that was for sale was stuff that I grew up with. Rolling Stones.

17:54 Leah: Beatles.

17:55 CJ: Yeah, The Beatles and what have you. There was all kinds of classic stuff. Again, these are connoisseurs who were buying these things, because it takes effort. It takes effort to buy a turntable. It takes effort to take care of records, have a place for them. You know how people handle their albums and they’re wiping them down. They’re taking better care of them now than we did when we were young. We just threw them around, because that was just something that you had.

There really is now, there’s a psyche, a psychology almost, in the marketplace that’s developing that is appreciating this physical aspect of things. There is the collector concept. There is the, I want to touch it and own it. I want to be able to see it. I want to look at something. Again, like you said, audiophiles they’re seriously sitting down like we used to do back in the day, to listen to music. 

These are little escapes. These are meditative times. It’s a great thing. Somebody can literally feature that as a part of their budget. Were you surprised at how well your initial vinyl sales were? Did that take you back?

19:01 Leah: Yeah. When I do advertising and stuff, it all comes down to targeting people who are fans of vinyl. I can actually do that on Facebook. There are segments and pockets of people who are vinyl collectors and they’ll collect all kinds of stuff, even other genres they don’t normally listen to because it’s unique. What I do is unique and there’s a couple things to think about there, is you always want your music to stand out and to have something unique, so that people want to collect it.

Then also, just the power of being able to target and I can write an ad and target people who are fans of vinyl, specific vinyl shops, vinyl lovers. I’ve made a lot of cold sales even that way. They don’t even know what my music is, but they want to collect it. That’s interesting. Yeah, that always takes me by surprise, just because I’m not really into it. I have one now, because I’m like, “Why vinyl? I should probably have a vinyl player.” It got me into it.

I’ve actually ordered some people’s vinyl albums now as well and it’s really fun. Physical music is certainly not dead and it’s not going to be dead. I don’t know if ever. I think, as long as we’re physical in our bodies, still wearing physical clothes and eating physical food, I think there’s always been a place for that for physical books, physical music. That just doesn’t worry me.

The stats might change a little bit on what people consuming — that’ll change over the years, but it’s never going to go away. To this day, my bestseller on my shop is a bundle of my CDs. That’s the bestseller. Out of all the different products I have there and I have lots of different stuff, that’s the best one. That’s the one that makes a lot of my money.

20:36 CJ: Yeah. I mean, we’ve been talking about vinyl here for so much, you forget that physical CDs are physical products. Yes, people still do buy CDs. It’s funny, because people may again as I said earlier, be scratching their head trying to figure out, “Well, how in the world does anybody make money because everything is streaming music now? 

Well, how would Leah going to be able to sell anything?” She just told you, she’s doing some specific targeting. You can actually target people and determine people who would buy these sorts of things. Once you get into an ad manager and you’re able to put in things in relation to your genre, your particular culture and then something in relation to people who would buy this sort of stuff? Yeah, you can start to get out there and do that.

I’ve always appreciated, Leah, the investment that you’ve made in making sure your artwork, for example. I think that plays a part in it. I think, people they look at and they see that and like, “I got to have that,” because they look like they belong in a set.

21:36 Leah: Right. Yeah. Yeah, and I’ve used the same artist up until now as well, so there’s a bit of coherency between them. I think that’s a big deal, you guys. Your artwork needs to be really stunning. It doesn’t need to look like mine. You can have a completely different genre, but your artwork really says so much. People do judge a book by its cover. If you can somehow make all of your albums look cohesive. I actually did a little rebrand. I released my first album in 2012 and I have these other albums now.

The first album cover that I ever did was from a different artist. He did a great job, but then when I went with this new artist who did the last three, we did a reissuing of my first album and it was a good opportunity to just tweak the album cover. Now they all look like a set and they all look like they go together and that’s why I think why they sell so well is because they’re bundled. They just look like it’s a book series. If you buy a series of novels, they all have a different storyline, but they look like they go together. A lot of times, each book is a different colour, but there’s a coherency between them all. It’s a set. You want them all. I think you need to really take that into consideration with your designs.

In fact, in any physical product, I don’t care if it’s a t-shirt, or a mug, or an album, vinyl, a hat. Design is everything. Design is everything. That is the one thing that people are going to determine if they’re going to buy it or not, is do I like the design? When you’re doing your physical music, make sure you have a graphic artist who really gets it. It should have some wow factor. It should. 

You don’t have to be in Celtic metal. You can be in folk, or whatever you’re doing. When you see that, you should be, “Wow.” That should be your first reaction. If you don’t have that reaction, it probably needs some work. Same thing with your t-shirt design, same with — it should be like, “Wow, that’s cool.” It should have that effect on you. If not, then don’t expect anybody else to get excited about it, never mind, buy it.

23:36 CJ: Right. I can imagine that you probably extend all your fans to send you photos of the stuff that they’ve gotten from you. I’m sure, some of them are probably using your stuff, CD or vinyl as decorative elements on their shelves and things. In other words, your album is not something they just put in the stack, so to speak. 

They may actually put it on display because again, some of them are those Dungeons and Dragons and Game of Thrones types, and so they probably got other stuff, swords and crystal balls and all this other cool stuff, little statues and things from films or whatever. Why not put Leah’s records right up there, because it just – it literally fits in with the culture.

It’s not as simple as just saying, “Well, yeah. People are still buying vinyl.” You still want to be doing things as an artist to make your items appeal, have that appeal for them to want to buy it and see them as again as a package, something that they would want to get to think in terms of bundles, think as a business person when it comes to your music. We can get so trapped in the art side of it, the creative side that we’re just musicians and we’re not going to dirty our hands in this end of things.

But hey, I know that used to be what record labels used to do. If you’re going to take over all this on your own, then you have to think, you are your own record label. You are the one who has to make these decisions. I would not scrimp on that. Now being a designer initially by trade, I can tell you that to get great artwork will cost you more, but it’s nothing like it used to be. Nothing like it used to be.

25:19 Leah: Well, just think of how much it’s going to make you, right? Whenever I come across costs and expenses and it seems like a lot upfront. You can’t just think about that. You have to think, “Oh, yeah. It’s going to cost me this upfront,” and that’s what crowdfunding is for and all that thing. How much is it going to make me after that? 

That’s the mentality you need to have and something that you can sell over and over and over and over for years to come. That small price is worth it. Get over it.

25:50 CJ: Yeah, exactly. Even when it comes down to the simple things of presenting it to your customers. You’ve done a great job of just taking your photos. People may think that you’ve had professional photos taken of your music, but not at all. These are things you handled yourself, right?

26:09 Leah: Yeah. Actually, the guy who does my artwork, he just has the same thing that I have here. He’s taking a couple of photos of me, but it’s just a simple little $25 lightbox from Amazon, which is a little white cube that you set up and it collapses flat into whatever. You set it up. It’s got a white background in a white box and sometimes it even comes with a little stand for your phone. You just set up your CD in there and take some photos on your phone, because every iPhone right now is a fantastic camera. That’s all you need.

I will say, product photography matters a lot when it comes to e-commerce. We go deep into this stuff in our Elite Course and in our Facebook group there, where I give a lot of details on this. Product photography matters. When you’re running Facebook ads and stuff, you have to give Facebook a lot of new creative as well. You can’t just take one photo and then that’s the one you use forever.

The worst thing I’ve seen that people do is use the cover itself, which didn’t really look like — you couldn’t tell it was an album cover. It just looked like maybe a poster, or I don’t know what. They use that as their image to sell it. I’ll just tell you, that’s why you won’t be making sales if you do that. You got to show the physical product. 

Meaning, don’t just use the cover, show that it’s a CD. Open up the jewel-case, or have it standing there with where you can see the CD sitting there. Show that’s a physical product, where they can see the cover, they can see the CD, they can see the artwork. You have to have a bunch of those photos, so you have white background photos. Then you can have real-life photos, where maybe you’re putting the album outside in nature somewhere and you take those photos.

Sometimes they can start to look like not so professional. Get down on the ground and take it at eye-level. Don’t shoot down looking at it. That’s not usually going to look very nice. Then there’s user-generated photos, where there’s other people holding your vinyl or CD and they’re fans with the photos. Those are also very powerful for social proof. I just gave you guys three different kinds of photos you should be using, whenever you’re trying to sell this thing. This just comes down to understanding e-commerce and the way it works. Again, I can’t get into all the details here, but that’s in our Elite Course.

28:39 CJ: Yeah. Again guys, what’s important is that your disbelief and your skepticism is banished from your mind, that these things are possible. Again, the ruling attitude of the day is naysaying when it comes to the music industry, Leah. 

People just don’t believe that such things are possible and therefore, someone like a Leah must be some anomaly. Instead of saying, “No, maybe there’s principles that I don’t know yet, things that I haven’t learned yet that may be the reason why a homeschooling mother of five who doesn’t tour is actually earning six figures a year on her music.”

She’s not getting that money primarily from streaming. No, she’s doing it from physical products. She did mention earlier the merchandise. We’re going to talk about merchandise in another episode, but how much the physical aspect of the music plays such a role in her income. I would imagine, Leah, you would have started a whole lot earlier with this if you had known about it. Now moving forward, if somebody is just getting out of the gates, I mean, would you be so bold as to tell them, “Yeah, be willing to include vinyl and CDs and all that on your very first record?”

30:05 Leah: Yeah. What I would say too is there is an element of validation, where you want to validate that the music is good and there are a market and people like it. Here’s what I did at the beginning like I said, I started out on Bandcamp. That was the best place to host it at the time. What I did before I could afford to print CDs and I didn’t know if anybody would even like my music. I didn’t know if anyone would care. Is I sold digital versions of it, digital copies, downloads, and I raised the money to print the albums.

What that did was it validated the music. It told me that there was a market of people. My risk was greatly reduced because I knew that people liked the music enough that they would even download the digital format. That helped me. Then I had requests of people asking for the physical format, so that helped a lot.

If you’re starting at ground zero and you can’t even afford to do a run yet, just out of the gate, validate it by selling it digitally. This is where I would say, this is why you don’t want to only have singles. We’re not in a single generation. Only in certain genres does that seem to be the case. Even then, all of those artists, all the rappers, all the pop stars, they still release full-blown albums. They still release 15-song albums. Albums sell much better.

You’re not going to raise enough money off of singles. You need to release a full-length album, 10, 8 or more songs, whatever that’s considered. Then raise the money, save it, stop spending it. Create a separate bank account, where every time someone downloads the money and you get it through Stripe or however, whatever payment processor, that money goes into that account and save it up. 

Don’t spend it. Don’t touch it. Pretend it’s not there. Then do your first run. If you can do it in bulk, you’ll get much better prices. That’s what you want to do. Then you have them and then you can sell them and they’ll become an evergreen asset, a physical asset that you can sell over and over and over again.

31:57 CJ: Well there you go. I mean, it’s like you said, prove it first, validate it. I think it’s a great way to do it. I love that, Leah. You’re always out to minimize the risk, all the while taking a big risk, putting yourself out there on your own. Remember ladies and gentlemen, that we’re looking for super fans. We’re not talking about you printing a million vinyl records and hoping that you become a household name. No, we’re talking about a small number of people that are just super fans in regards to your music and you as a messenger.

I’ve said this to a lot of the people that I’ve coached with from the Elite Program, Leah. I’ll often tell them, I said, “When it comes to social media, you have to be the musician and the messenger. You have to not only be the one producing the music, but you’re interacting with a specific group of people who share the love for that particular music, that particular culture, and so you become a leader, an influencer in and of yourself.” Know, like and trust, right? We like to say in marketing. 

This is what’s going to help people fall in love with you as the musician and as a spokesperson for that culture. Because they know you, because they enjoy your post and following you on social media, of course, they’re going to be way more likely to buy your music and your merchandise and even the vinyl and they may even take a collector’s approach to what you do, just because you handled these things so deftly. And all God’s children said, “Amen.”

33:33 Leah: Amen.

33:36 CJ: Physical music is not dead. Thank you, Miss Leah, for sharing your own personal success story. As you like to say, the lab rat. I think you’re more guinea pig than lab rat. What would you like for folks to do today who’d like to learn more?

33:56 Leah: Well guys, today I want to talk just for a second about our new Inner Circle monthly membership, which is a newsletter, old-school-style, which is really fun. Basically, we are sifting and sorting through all the changes that are happening in social media and in the music industry that you need to know about. I don’t care if you are just getting your music off the ground, or if you’re an advanced music marketer and you have all the funnels going, this applies to everybody.

The idea here is that you don’t need to sift and sort for hours a day to find out, “Oh, my goodness. What is the stuff that has changed that I need to know about and then what do I do about it? How does this affect me?” We’re just making this so easy for you. We’re putting it together in a very easy to consume format. It’s a PDF format and an audio format, so you have no excuse. I recommend listening and reading both versions because the audio version has extra little Easter eggs and little things in there that aren’t in the written format.

The idea is to make your life easy and simple and tell you what you need to know. If there’s an algorithm change, you’re going to know about it. We’re going to let you in on exactly what the algorithm change is, how it affects you, how to pivot and how that actually affects you as a musician specifically. 

There’s a ton of information out there and a lot of bad information. Also, you don’t need to be spending your time reading all the different news stories and figuring out what applies. The idea is that we give you a massive shortcut on all of these things and then you know what to do for the next month. That’s the new inner circle.

Now it’s a monthly subscription, so you can go to –

35:38 CJ: Yeah, savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle. Just go –

35:44 Leah: One word.

35:44 CJ: Yeah. savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle, one word. I just was going through the next issue. We’re in that about to publish the next issue. This thing is amazing and there are tips. I love the tips section. There are tips in there. There’s tools of the month, things that Leah recommends. There’s a book of the month. There’s a mindset article in there about just what it’s going to take mentally to succeed. 

There’s more than just with the latest updates on Facebook, ladies and gentlemen. There is a lot in this. Like I said, just great to mention it in the light of going back to the physical product element. This is old school. This is a newsletter, something for you to read, a multi-page document. There’s an audio version of it. You can also download it to your favourite mobile device and listen there. 

All that for just under 20 bucks a month. Man, that’s really, really good. Inner Circle Newsletter, go to savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle. Leah, thank you again for taking your time to teach us.

37:00 Leah: Oh, it was my pleasure. You guys, if you ever have any more questions about this physical music stuff, also leave us comments in the free Facebook group, or if you’re a student in our student group. You can do #podcast and ask your question and we will likely turn that into an episode.

Thank you and thank you also for leaving us a review. We read all of them and we really appreciate it. It also helps us get the message out to more people. Go ahead and do that now.

37:27CJ: Awesome. Thanks again, guys. We will see you in the next episode.

Leah McHenry

It's become my absolute obsession to find out what will make musicians successful today. In the face of many obstacles, and in the vast sea of the internet, we have an opportunity that has NEVER been available to us in the history of the music business.