So which is better: Selling CDs or download cards?
The answer might seem easy to some (Download Cards, duh!) but you have to think twice. There are advantages that only the CD offers (yes, no matter how outdated it is) which could greatly improve your music career. Here are some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is which.
Of course, the download card wins in this department. You will only need to spend a few bucks to set-up your online store and print your cards. If you’re concerned about risks and your budget, the download card is the better option. However, CD duplication nowadays is much, much cheaper than it was a decade ago. You can get professional-looking discs complete with radiant-looking cover art at less than $2 per CD.
And, of course, the download card still wins when it comes to convenience. I don’t have to explain this. Try carrying 50 CDs in one hand and 50 download cards in the other. Physical convenience aside, there is no inventory to look after if you sell download cards. You just post the songs to your website or a provider, and it keeps track of the sales without you breaking a sweat. However, in defense of the CD, there are plenty of companies that take care of the storage of inventory, packaging and shipping of the CDs. Lastly, it’s just a lot of work to make a physical CD, isn’t it? Which is also one of the reasons why many artists still do it. The download card is just too easy (and probably not as rewarding).
Yes, the Download Card is affordable, convenient, more eco-friendly, and a billion other things. But it is just a piece of paper. Sure you can put your code in a merch (soup can, t-shirt tag, anything), but if you want to be taken seriously, you have to have CDs available. Why? Because some people still want the physical CD. Also, most serious musicians have released a CD at least once, and they have CDs available in their merch table. As much as we don’t want to, the people still look for CDs.
Imagine a fan approaches you and is dying to buy your CD.
“You’re so awesome. Where can I get your CD?”
“ We only have download cards, we hate CDs. That’s just outdated”
“ Oh…”, smiles politely and walks away.
If you have a CD, you can put as many artwork and info about you as you want in the CD booklet/insert. You can also get people to review your album packaging, if it’s something a little bit out of the ordinary. Radio promoters are going to ask for a physical product to send to radio, too. A picture of your CD looks good in your website and social media, too. It kinda makes you legit.
BOTTOMLINE: Have both. The download card is great. Awesome, even. But, at least for now, people still want CDs. It is important to have download cards readily available but it is still important to have CD’s for sale at your gigs.
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