Why Your Fans Aren’t Buying Your Music & Merch (And How to Fix it!)

Why your followers aren't buying your music or merch (and how to fix it!)

Written by Leah McHenry, 6-figure recording artist & founder of Savvy Musician Academy

[10-minute read]

Nothing is worse than the feeling of putting a ton of time, money, energy & effort into your latest release, launch it into the world, only to hear crickets and no consistent sales. It’s SUCH a bummer.

I’ve been there and done that.

I thought the fans I had were pumped for this album.
I thought word of mouth would spread.
I thought the single I released would gain traction and people would notice.
I put a ton of work to prep and update my website and shop.
I did all the things I’m supposed to do.
I even paid for a press release, a few small radio rotations, and posted all over social.

The sales aren’t happening.

I have a few hundred new streams on Spotify, but that’s not enough to even cover your costs.

Well... this sucks.

Is my music even good?
Should I even be doing this?
I guess I should forget about making music my full-time career.

See? Social media is a waste of time.
Facebook ads don’t work.
I’m probably not that good and no one has the heart to tell me.

These are the thoughts I had in the past and if you’re like me, you’ve had them too.

Assuming your music is already validated by your existing fans, friends, family, and colleagues, we can say that the problem is NOT your music.

So what is missing? Where are the sales? Isn’t the new music industry supposed to be full of opportunity for unsigned musicians?

If so, why aren’t I seeing any success??


I’ll tell you why.

There is a disconnect in your fan journey.

In the marketing world, we call it a customer journey, however, a fan is not just a customer randomly buying something after a google search -  they are real people who deeply connect with your heart and soul. They are people we have real relationships with in person and as much as possible online. So for the sake of this article, we’re calling it a fan journey.

What is a fan journey?

A fan journey is a path a potential fan takes from not knowing your music from a hole in the wall to falling in love with it and buying all your albums and merch they can possibly get their hands on.

It’s also a relational & psychological process based on statistical human behavior.

Does that sound whack?

Let me explain.

Can you be open-minded for a minute?

Take the time to absorb this like a sponge for 5 minutes.

In the psychology of sales, there is a process that every human being goes through. Doesn’t matter if someone is making a decision to buy gum at the corner store or buying a car. The process is the same. Human behavior is the same.

There’s a secret sequence of events that occur that most people have NO CLUE exists.



This is the moment your potential fan finds out you exist! No purchase or transaction can happen until someone first learns that your music exists in this world. This is Step ONE and the most important part of the process.
This is all about exposure to the right people.

Some people reading this right now have completely missed this step.

They threw music into outer space and expected people to buy when in reality, no one knows who you are and they’ve never even come into contact with your music. Of course, the sales aren’t happening!

You need mass exposure.

How do you accomplish this?

The methods constantly change as the market changes, but primarily we do this in ways we can control. I don’t like relying on organic traffic or word of mouth, because I can’t control it. I like to spend my time and energy in places I can control what happens.

The best way to get exposure to hundreds of thousands of new people every year (without touring, I should add) is through paid advertising. Facebook ads are by FAR the best form for musicians.

And when I say Facebook ads, I don’t mean boosting posts. HECK NO - that’s a surefire way to flush your money down the toilet.

I mean ads that are HIGHLY TARGETED in your NICHE (you do know what your niche is, right?) to specific people who are very likely to love your music.

We do these ads in the Facebook Ad Manager, not boosting posts on your page.

I like to have several ads going at once:

1. A Facebook page like ad.

Even though the algorithms for organic engagement are not in our favor right now it’s still worth it to build your page for the simple fact of social proof. Fans, industry professionals, promoters, and others will take you more seriously if you have a very strong following on social. I just read recently that when casting directors for TV and Film have to make a decision between candidates for a lead role they will automatically choose the actor with the most followers because it means when it comes time to promote the film they will have a lot more exposure/sales in the end.

I am NOT a fan of vanity likes or buying bots or fake followers. I only want people following me who are genuinely interested in my music. Always keep this in mind. Relationships beat algorithms.

Having said that, I teach my students a very specific ad technique that gets them thousands of quality followers cheaper and faster than anyone else can. It works every time and will massively boost your social proof and potential fans you can market to 365 days a year.

2. A video ad.

In addition to a page like ad, I run a video view ad constantly throughout the year. Usually, it’s to a lyric or music video. Why? Again, exposure. It’s all part of the Expose phase of the fan journey. What’s more, I can create custom audiences of the people who watched my video and even get super segmented into % of video watched.

That means if people watched only 10% of my video or 25% or 50%, and so on, I can create a custom audience of JUST those people and show them another kind of ad.Why is this so crazy awesome?Just think about human behavior. If you’ve never seen a brand before and suddenly you’re getting ads to buy something from them, you might find that a bit offensive or at least find it a turn-off.But if you keep seeing great content from this brand, great posts, videos, and people engaging with the content….

You start to think, “Hey, who is this brand? Looks interesting…” Not only will it pique your interest, but now, because it’s in your newsfeed all the time they will become what we call “top of mind”! That means the next time they are thinking of what to buy or listen to, YOUR BAND will be the first thing they think of!


3. Opt- In Ad.

Oh man, this is my soapbox. If you’re not building your email list aggressively… you’re really missing out on the biggest foundation of online marketing! Even though open rates are at an all-time low, it’s still the most important marketing activity you should spend your energy on.

Why? So many reasons, but here’s a few:

  • It’s an asset I control. No one can take it away from me, unlike social platforms.
  • Putting all your eggs in one basket (like a IG account or FB page) is dangerous. Remember Myspace? It all went away.
  • You can’t contact every individual on social platforms when you have an important announcement.
  • I can upload my email list to Facebook and show the SAME people ads. I do this often during promos, album launches, and for general every day music & merch sales.
  • Email is still the #1 driver of sales in online business.With that said, how am I building my list? I’m doing it with a free song or series of songs. People who say that doesn’t work are either lying or they’ve just never made it work for them.YES people will still download a song from you even when it’s on Spotify or a streaming site.I know because I built my email list to 50,000 people with this method. So.. um.. Yes, it works. And it works in all genres.If and when a free song doesn’t work anymore -- easy. I’ll find something else my fans want that I have and I’ll offer that in exchange for an email address.If you want to succeed, you must be agile and adaptable! The principle works, no matter what.

I have these 3 EXPOSE ads running at all times 365 days a year. I want to constantly expose my music to brand new people all the time, show them amazing content, and then bring them into my ecosystem and get them on my email list so we can build a relationship.

Here’s another crucial misstep most musicians make. They put their music out and expect people to go from barely knowing them to buying, with nothing in between.

The fact remains that a very small percentage of people are ready to elope on the first date. The majority of people want to date before they get married. When I say “get married” I’m using it as a metaphor for a transaction or sale.

This is the case whether it’s a $10 item or a $1000 item. It seems so strange because you think, “Why does $10 seem so precious to someone? The same person will throw their money away on cigarettes or loose change in their couch cushions.. But they take forever to buy one album from me.”

And this is why it’s important to understand just a little bit about human behavior and sales psychology. You don’t need to know everything, just the main point -- that most people need to engage for a period of time in order to build trust with the person they’re doing business with.

It’s no different for fans & musicians.



In the INVOLVE stage, I am looking to make a few things happen:

  1. People who have opted into my email list are opening all my emails and clicking through on the links I send.
  2. Get them into my private Facebook group where I can “indoctrinate” them into my music culture and what it’s all about.
  3. Get them engaging with the content I post on IG and Facebook.

If I can do all three things, I can almost guarantee sales will happen, and probably multiple times.

If I can do even just #1 of the 3, the probability is high that at some point they will buy from me.

The point is to get them in a habit of engaging with me in whichever form is most relevant for them.

I want them inside my eco-system and getting their participation so it truly becomes a 2-way relationship.


Here’s the third part of human behavior - the upgrade. This is the sale or the transaction part of the sequence. I’ve noticed two problems with musicians:

  1. They expect people to buy without first exposing them to great music/content and getting them engaged in the involve phase.

  2. They are afraid to sell!

I understand both positions since I was the queen of them before.

What I hope you’ll take away from this article is that the first two steps are crucial for the upgrade phase to occur.

Granted, the Expose > Involve > Upgrade process can happen in 5 minutes.

But it could also take 5 years

Every fan is on their own journey, hence, why we call it a “fan journey” or “customer journey”.

If you properly understand phase one and two, then you SHOULD start to see sales happen naturally and organically, even without trying very hard, and even without paid ads.

I made my first $100,000 in music sales without touring and without Facebook ads. I will say, however, back then, the algorithms were more in our favor for showing posts so I had a ton of engagement simply by knowing my niche and my audience.
As soon as I was ready for ads I made them work for me.

And then I 10x’ed my results.

Here’s the thing: organic engagement still matters. If you’re not getting ANY results with step one and two (minus the ads), then throwing more money at it will not fix your problem of no sales.

Ads will only amplify what’s already happening in your music business.


Since pages are not currently shown high up in the Facebook newsfeed, but Facebook groups are (see here as to what is going on with the new algorithms), I suggest creating a FB group around your music culture (not a tribute page to your band!) - that way, people will contribute content around that theme. FB highly favors community and meaningful conversation right now. Take advantage of it. If you’re not getting any action whatsoever, it might be time to reevaluate your music, niche, and music culture. I deal specifically with these topics in The Online Musician and Facebook For Musicians 2.0.

If you fall into the 2nd category of being afraid to sell, I can tell you that you will not see success if you let that hold you back.

Do you think because I’m doing well in my career that the fear of selling goes away? It does and it doesn’t. The more you do something, the less it bothers you -- kind of like stage fright. At the same time, there’s always a small trepidation in the back of your mind, worried to bother someone or offend them. That part is always there but I think we should use that to our advantage to keep ourselves in check that our content is good and motives are in a good place.

Without that little voice, there would be a lot more greed in the world!

At the same time, that’s not what I typically see in musicians -- quite the opposite!

Most musicians are terrified to sell and are afraid of turning their fans off. I can assure you this will not happen if you follow the systematic process of EXPOSE > INVOLVE > UPGRADE!

Once you have that in place, sales WILL start to happen organically, and dramatically increase when you learn how to use paid traffic correctly.


I hope this has been very helpful for you!


-Leah McHenry

P.S. If you want to see the PRACTICAL application of how I do this to build a multiple-six-figure music business, I’m holding a LIVE online seminar very soon!


Hey There!

I'm Leah, a homeschooling mom of 5 ankle-biters, lover of Lord of the Rings & castles, and founder of Savvy Musician Academy. In trying to figure out how I could pursue my dream of being a professional recording artist with little kids (and unable to tour) I stumbled into the world of online marketing. My life was forever changed. I hope to change yours.

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