This is a tricky kind of thing. I know that in the past I have sat thru shows where the act on stage mentioned their CD’s after ever song; the subtext being that I should buy it. They also went into long boring explanations of what the songs are about. I find that if the song is well written I can intuit what it’s about, or interpret it in such a way that it has some resonance for me. I also find it interesting to hear about the inspiration for the song, as opposed to an explanation of what it is and what it means and what it says. Let the song do that talking for you. Just give us a brief idea of the inspiration. Check it out the next time you are at an open mic. The amateurs are all gonna tell you exactly what the song they are about to sing is about. It’s just tedious. So my first suggestion is to not mention what you think the song is about. If you have to explain it, then you haven’t written it well.
Secondly, don’t mention your CD over and over again. It doesn’t help sell it. It only serves to build up a quiet resentment and a public denial at the CD table. In over twenty five years of traveling the music circuit and selling my music, I’ve learned that you only have to do your pitch once. And that would be before the last song. Just once to let them know that, yes indeed, there are CDs for sale.
And the most obvious and most overlooked decision is what to sing in your show and what CD’s to bring. I use to bring all my CDs and I have over twenty releases. And I would sing what ever I felt like from any of the releases, so that my set list was a shot gun approach to my repertoire and my CD releases. There would be, at best, two songs from any one CD. People would come up to me and they couldn’t make up their minds; they couldn’t choose which one to get. Frequently, they would walk away to think about it. And guess what? Many of them didn’t come back.
So here is an important suggestion to implement. Pick a CD, and if you only have one, this is easy. If you have more than one CD, then pick the CD that has the most songs that you can do in your show. And do all of those songs in your show, that way when someone comes up and asks for a specific song, you can give them the coup de gras, “all the songs you heard this evening are on this CD” Boom! They know what they are going to get and they don’t have to spend a lot of time wondering which CD to buy. And they always buy it. These days, I usually do two sets, so I bring along two CD’s (and perhaps a couple of all the others, just in case a repeat fan would like to have something else) but mainly just two CD’s and I do all the songs from the one in the first set. Take a break and then do all the songs from the second CD. This frequently results in two different purchasing rushes. And the fact of the matter is, we want our music to linger after we’re off to another town. When you come back next time, there is a good chance that the folks who bought your CD will come to the return show.
There’s one other thing that I suggest. Do some kind pitch for your CD’s before the last song and don’t make the pitch long and boring. Short and to the point, and if you can make it funny, all the better. Then on to the last song. And then follow thru on that pitch when you’re in the lobby.
I had a friend in Santa Barbara who was a very successful, professional cartoonist with her own strip in the papers. She came to my show and saw my little pitch. She thought that I would then be out in the lobby with a big display, making all kinds of noise. But I was actually embarrassed to be selling my own recordings, so I was not having any luck selling them. I was just standing by a pillar with the albums under my arm, not saying a word til someone recognized me. Only then did I start talking to them and they would still have to ask what that was under my arm. At which point I would pull out the album and make the sale.
But I digress. She saw my embarrassed little sale and she came over, took the LP’s out of my hand and, holding them over her head, began shouting, “OVER HERE, MEET THE ARTIST!” In no time a crowd had gathered around and I sold all the music I had brought with me. And she raised the price so that I wouldn’t have to make crazy change.
Which brings us to another little tip. Make the transaction simple. Sell the CD for $10, $15, or $20, so that you only have to make the simplest kind of change, if at all.
Remember if you don’t have a big display set up, then stand in an obvious place and let them know where you are and what you are doing. They will be grateful. And have plenty of fives and tens on you. And don’t forget to get folksto sign up on your mailing list. <!--more-->