July-August 2014

The CD: An Electronic Business Card, Part II

By Dennis Roger Reed

Songs about Tractors and StuffI recently released my third CD. It’s been eleven years since my last solo release, and the music industry has changed a lot in that time. So have I.

Recording is fun, selling not so much. My last CD was one that I promoted mightily, doing tons of research on radio stations, print media and internet media. I spent a lot of time and money mailing CDs around the world. I got some radio air play and some good reviews. It was exhausting. I’m not as thrilled with the concept of being exhausted as I was when I was eleven years younger.

So what will change this time around? Probably a lot.

I would still like radio play, and I’d still like reviews in print and internet media. So the first thing is to find out/remind myself of who played my last CD on the radio, and who wrote about the CD. I occasionally check to see if I’ve garnered any radio airplay. This isn’t hard. Usually just putting your name or your project’s name in Google or any search engine will bring up radio play, or hit the website for a station you thing might be playing your stuff. I was somewhat shocked to find that a CD that I did in 1997 had a song played from a show in Wisconsin recently, and four songs from my 2003 CD were played on a station in Spokane, Washington in recent months. In other words, it’s highly likely that the Beatles got more airplay in the same time period.

So I will definitely send those stations copies of my new CD, and I’ll research airplay on other stations that featured my work after the release of the two prior CDs. The same goes for print and internet media reviews. The gent who likes my stuff in Belgium, the disk jockey in Australia and the Americana reviewer on line that gushed over the last CD will definitely get a copy.

But the college stations: probably not. 99% of the folks from college stations that played my 2003 CD have either graduated long ago, or should have. So instead I’ll have to research this area again, looking for stations that have specialty programs that might play music like mine.

And I’ve learned the hard lesson that radio play doesn’t necessarily equal sales. This is truer today than in the past, since many stations keep their shows archived. You can find the song you liked on the air and copy it, often in CD quality. And the consumer has changed, too. CDs are not the first listening choice of lots of people now. There are lots of ways to listen to music, and the best bet is to sell your product in as many ways as you can. My meager music income has become far more based on digital download that the actual sale of physical CDs.

But radio play apparently leads much more to sales of downloads, which is why I actually sell product to Australia or Canada… but often one song at a time. The days of hearing one song and deciding you want to hear more from that artist may be over, or at least over as far as running out to purchase everything the artist has done. Today you can check out sound samples, and perhaps decided to purchase one or two songs instead of a full CD.

One quick word about sound quality. I was completely shocked when the record company told me that the replication company said we could send my music as MP3s… I would not pay a lot of money for mastering to have my music dumbed down to a poorer sound quality. Thank our lucky stars (and Neil Young) for Pono, the upcoming technology product that will allow one to purchase CD quality downloads, and store those in the Pono device, or download current CDs into the device without depravation of sound quality. For those of us who grew up with a transistor radio glued to our ears, MP3 sound quality can be quite nostalgic. But not in a good way.

So support your local artists, go out to hear live music and use sun block or appropriate clothing if you decide to catch a daytime outdoor concert.

Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He’s released two solo CDs, and appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band and two CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News and Sing Out! His oddest folk resume entry would be the period of several months in 2002 when he danced onstage as part of both Little Richard’s and Paul Simon’s revues. He was actually asked to do the former and condoned by the latter. He apparently knows no shame.


All Columns by Dennis Roger Reed