Automate Your D2C: A Case Study

Your Pre-Order. Your Store.

We’ve written about many ways you can automate your e-commerce, so you can focus on what really matters. In some cases this means extra time to write, perform or collaborate. But running an effective artist shop is not hands-off; creating high-quality merch that aligns with your brand takes careful thought and planning.

When we say automate your d2c, we really mean building out systems that power your shop in the background. The branding, developing products and promotion still falls on you, the store owner. Today we’ll provide an example of a pre-order campaign that went exceptionally well.

Screen-Shot-2019-02-05-at-10.58.58-AM_6fcccade-5056-b365-ab2248df70f34d34.png

Through a combination of different services, this artist was able to automate his direct to consumer storefront, reach #1 on the charts, and keep his loyal fans happy. We’ll go over specific methods and actions that his team took so you can apply them to your next release.

Aaron Lewis released his “State I’m In” album on April 12th, 2019. Vector (his management team) partnered with Futureshirts (merchandiser) and Single Music (d2c distribution & reporting) to bring album-branded merch together with his new digital album.

This case study was originally presented during a panel at Music Biz 2019 in Nashville.

Pre-Sale & Product Offerings

For_Jordan_300x300.png

In the months leading up to the release, Aaron’s team ran a pre-sale with product bundles, album-specific merch and an instant-grat track. While he offered the standard t-shirt and autographed album, his team created some “out of the box” offerings. They developed “State I’m In” branded flasks and playing cards, items that fit with Aaron’s brand identity and target demographic.

Because the products were branded specifically to the album, they were recognized as scarce. At the same time they were affordable and added a ton of perceived value when attached to his digital album. And for Aaron, this meant a charting album sale with each purchase from his shop.

Fan Experience

Aaron’s team paid special attention to the fan experience during this campaign. After fans purchased the pre-sale album, they were immediately sent a pre-release single (or “instant-grat” track). Then on release day, each fan received a lossless copy of the new record, straight to their inbox.

This is important because of frequent delays in physical album manufacturing and shipping. Aaron and his team planned ahead for this by attaching the digital album to each purchase. Therefore if a fan didn’t receive the physical album on the release date, they were at least able to listen to the highest quality version immediately.

Can any artist do this?

AL_SII_AlbumCover.jpg

In the case of Aaron Lewis, he had an incredible team supporting him. But what if you haven’t reached the level of bringing on a merchandiser or management? Luckily, the tools they used are available to everyone.

With the Shopify Basic Plan ($30 / month), anyone can customize a storefront and have a central place to manage e-commerce. Because there are no long-term commitments, the shop can exist solely through the duration of the album release. And when artists use the Shopify POS system, inventory is automatically synced between online and live event sales.

But what about creating the merch?

What was once a tremendous hurdle for independent artists, merch manufacturing has now been democratized. Print on demand services allow artists to design products and put them for sale in their shops - without creating or holding any inventory.

When a fan makes a purchase, the POD company prints, packages and ships the product completely behind the scenes. This allows artists to experiment with creative product offerings, just as Aaron Lewis did. Focus on developing merch that stands out, and never worry about being left with unsold inventory.

Release Management Tools

Once you’ve designed your store, it’s time to think about delivering digital music to your fans. In the past you may have sent them to iTunes or a streaming service for your music. Instead, direct them to your own storefront where you keep more revenue and all of the data that accompanies the sale.

Single Music’s release management tools help artists set up a pre-sale, schedule individual track release dates, and automatically deliver music on the dates specified. And most importantly, all sales are automatically reported to SoundScan, the data supplier which powers the Billboard Charts. While an independent artist may not have a chance at reaching the “Hot 100”, there are many genre-specific charts that are accessible with the appropriate strategy and implementation. Breaking onto these charts adds significant credibility to any artist, especially indies.

Take control of your album release by applying tools and strategies that align with your goals as an artist. As always, if you have questions about setting up a digital album or pre-sale campaign, our team would love to help.

The PledgeMusic Saga Continues....

Moving on and Getting Over.

We’ve been following Pledge closely, and as of last week it looks as though all of our concerns have been validated - artists will not be paid as promised. Hundreds of artists have been let down to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Where did they go so wrong?

Instead of specializing in one specific area, Pledge took on “crowdfunding” to mean powering artist storefronts, handling payment processing and acting as the delivery system for digital music.

A couple months ago we wrote about an alternative to Pledge. Rather than relying on one company, artists can use a few highly specialized tech companies that have mastered the roles we’ve stated above. The end result is artists operating their own crowdfunding campaigns and controlling the entire process.

Using Shopify, artists can create a customized web store, track inventory, view sales analytics and so much more. And through Shopify’s dedicated app store, artists have the ability to communicate directly with customers, create music + merch bundles, sell digital music and even automatically report sales to SoundScan.

Take Control.

Running a crowdfunding campaign with Shopify + Single Music turns your campaign into an actual storefront. Fans purchase “pre-order” products like music and merchandise, knowing that they won’t ship out until the release date. This is a direct to consumer model, so fans pay the artists throughout the duration of the campaign. That’s right, money reaches the artist’s account in just 2-4 days. No more nightmares of not being able to fulfill fan orders because of funds stuck on a crowdfunding platform.

parachute_preorder_campaign.png

Even more, Shopify gives merchants access to Shopify Payments and PayPal. Both of these payment providers have a track record of proven success, so artists never have to worry if or when they are getting paid.

For a detailed look at exactly how to build a DIY crowdfunding campaign, take a look at our step by step instructions. For artists stuck in limbo on Pledge, we feel for you. Take control and run your next crowdfunding campaign direct to fan.

Your music. Your store.

Interested in learning more? Talk to us!

- The Single Team

5 Ways to Market Your Next Release

Connect with fans & get your music heard

Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, said this week that “close to 40,000” tracks are now being uploaded to the Spotify platform daily. That’s almost 15 million songs per year.

It takes more than just publishing your music to Spotify, iTunes or selling directly via your web store to get your music heard. Releasing music that gets noticed takes a focused and creative effort - but that doesn’t necessarily mean a huge budget. Today we will share with you 5 ways to market your next release - so you can connect with fans and get your record heard.

Merch // Unique Product Offerings

Shirt-CD-Lyric-Book_1024x1024@2x.png

An album is a snapshot of your ideas and state of mind. The better you bring together these ideas into a cohesive piece, the more fans can connect with your message. Create album-branded merch to solidify the message even further.

Thanks to the power of print-on-demand, indie artists are able to design merch, publish it to their webstore and begin selling without printing any inventory. Experiment with different products and stick with what sells. Attach digital music to each product and drive sales of your album.

Geotarget Events

Even if you’re not playing Coachella or opening for Ariana Grande, you can still use these events in your marketing plan. Let’s say your target demographic is in line with people who attend Coachella. You can create location-based ads to target those in Indio, California, throughout the duration of the festival.

Location based ads are nothing new - but take this one step further by specifying the dates your ad is displayed and you can now target events. Both Google Ads and Facebook location targeting are easy ways to get started.

davide-cantelli-153517-unsplash.jpg

You know your target demographic better than anyone else, so use that to your advantage. If you make relaxing music, set up location based ads for college campuses during finals week. If you make reggae, consider targeting vacation destinations during spring break season.

Target Sound-Alikes

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.54.21 PM.png

Today’s artists rely less on genre to describe their sound, and instead opt to name 3-5 artists that they sound similar to. Many of these big-name artists already have a following of die-hard fans. Therefore, you should aim to put your music in front of these fans.

This can be as simple as connecting with those who follow / actively engage the artists on Instagram. People who comment or like a photo within the first 5 minutes of the artist posting are clearly engaged fans - they could be your passionate fans. Interact with them and see where that leads.

Album Release Shows (Tix + Digital Album)

Release shows are a great way to connect with fans. They give you a specific date to build hype towards through your socials and other marketing efforts. And with Single Music, you now have the ability to attach your new record to every ticket sold.

Setting this up is easy. Create a product in Shopify called “Release Show Ticket”. As you make sales, you essentially build a guest list. Simply attach the digital record you created in Single to the ticket product in Shopify. On release day, not only do fans get to experience your album live, they also get a digital copy automatically delivered to their inbox.

Email Remarketing

david-clarke-1376277-unsplash.jpg

Email remarketing is a general term for following up with website visitors who have yet to make a purchase. The two main types are “browse abandonment emails” and “cart abandonment emails”. Remarketing emails are more personal than standard marketing because you (the store owner) have some basic customer data.

If you are on the Shopify platform, there are many apps available that handle remarketing. While most are paid-apps, you can easily create a cost / benefit analysis; a successful remarketing campaign will translate directly into sales. You can also use the Google Ads platform for your remarketing campaign. Take a look at Google’s instructions on how to set this up.

Have some ideas that we didn’t mention here? We’d love to talk. Make Single a part of your marketing campaign by engaging us early in your release cycle.

- Joe

3 Ways Single Music Can Work for You

Our Tools, Your Store

Here at Single, we often find ourselves focusing on the biggest questions.

How can we build the best tools for independent artists? How can we empower artists to take control of their own stores and sell directly to fans?

Questions like this remind us who we’re here to help and why we started this journey. But sometimes we need to take a step back. Today we’re going to talk about 3 simple ways that Single Music can work for you.

1) Sell Digital Music Directly From Your Website

Shopify is quickly becoming the platform for artist and label shops. But while many artists sell merch through Shopify, they send fans elsewhere to download their digital music.

When you send fans to a third party for your music, you’re giving up a chunk of revenue and missing out on the data that accompanies the sale. Using Single you can quickly create a digital album and publish it your shop, right next to the rest of your merch. The image below is an example of how an album is displayed in your shop.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 1.34.18 PM.png

The cost to sell music from your own site is roughly half of what it costs to sell music through iTunes. Digital sales are automatically reported to SoundScan, whether or not you opt for our “physical reporting subscription”. And unlike iTunes, fans are given the choice to download an MP3 or lossless format.

2) Report Physical Album Sales to SoundScan

Shopify gives you complete control of your e-commerce; you can customize your storefront, manage orders, analyze sales and way more. But for these shops selling physical albums, manually reporting sales to SoundScan can be costly and time-consuming.

Registering for SoundScan reporting is expensive - and that doesn’t include time spent each week submitting sales. With Single, this process is affordable and automatic. Our physical reporting service costs just $10 / month. In just a few minutes, tag every physical record in your shop and we’ll report them daily. Never worry about SoundScan reporting again.

3) Bundle Digital Music With Physical Merch

You can also attach a digital release to physical products in your store. Just like the digital standalone album, music is automatically delivered to fans via email.

A great way to build hype for an upcoming release is by creating pre-order bundles. These are various merch packages which include a digital copy of your record.

For more information about why Single should be a part of your next release, check out our most recent blog post. Take a look at the image below to see a pre-order in action.

Shopify + Single Music powered pre-order campaign for  Parachute

Shopify + Single Music powered pre-order campaign for Parachute

Still have questions about how Single Music can work for you? We’d love to chat.

- Joe


Let Single Help With Your Next Album Release

Build a Pre-order Campaign & Sell Directly To Fans

The moment has finally arrived - the album you’ve been perfecting is now released to the world. One of your closest friends and (obligatory) diehard fans texts you and asks, “Hey, where should I go to pick up the new album?” You quickly think through the list of services your digital aggregator has sent your music. After a moment of hesitation you say, “iTunes?”

Using a digital aggregator (like Ditto, DistroKid or CD Baby) is a must. Your music should be available on as many services as possible. But if you don’t have a way of distributing directly to your fans, you’re missing out.

juan-di-nella-966-unsplash.jpg

Using Shopify + Single Music, you can create a fully functional artist store tied directly to your existing website. You’ll have access to powerful release management features, as well as tools to create a pre-sale bundle campaign. This is a great complement to releasing your music through a digital aggregator, because when you control your store, you keep the data and more revenue.

Release Management Tools

Publishing music through Single gives you full control over your release, because it exists on your webstore. As a reward for fans purchasing directly from you, you can provide an “instant grat” track that arrives immediately after they place the order. You can even stagger releases of single tracks leading up to the album release date, which we call “cascading releases”. Simply choose the dates for each track and the music will automatically be delivered, otherwise known as “set and forget”.

Finally, when release day rolls around, you can be sure that fans who purchased the pre-sale will receive a link to download the album via email. Unlike iTunes, fans have the choice of downloading an MP3, FLAC or WAV. Let delivery happen automatically, behind the scenes.

Pre-sale Bundle Campaigns

One of the best ways to build hype for your upcoming release is creating product bundles for pre-sale. This idea was proven by the success of PledgeMusic, through their “direct-to-fan” campaigns. The problem is, Pledge holds the money until the end - and if the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, every fan is refunded.

While the company eventually failed (and hurt many artists in the process…) they demonstrated that fans wanted more than just to hear the new album, but instead be involved in the creative process.

Single + Shopify powered presale campaign w/ product bundles by  HEALTH

Single + Shopify powered presale campaign w/ product bundles by HEALTH

Bundles through Single Music are structured similarly to PledgeMusic. You can tie products together to create different “tiers”. Your digital album can be attached to each tier, and even to intangible things like producer credit or a music lesson over skype. Offering these top level tiers allows your most passionate fans to be a part of the album, and provides you the means to keep creating.

What about the $?

As we mentioned, PledgeMusic pays out funds to the artist after the campaign is over. With a Shopify + Single powered pre-sale, money is sent to the artist as it comes in - throughout the duration of the campaign.

Pledge takes 15% of every dollar you earn. This is true for t-shirts, physical CD’s, bundles, and even the highest tiers. Taking 15% of the revenue from a $3,000 private house show seems excessive - when all Pledge really does is provide an online storefront.

Aside from digital delivery, Single doesn’t touch your revenue. Our digital delivery rate is capped at $2 / album - whether you’re selling a digital standalone album or if the album is attached to every single product bundle / tier.

Pledge popularized the concept of a pre-order campaign surrounding an album release. They familiarized the world with different level product tiers, music + merch bundles, and high-dollar intangible opportunities for artists to engage their top fans. With Single + Shopify, all of this is possible AND you keep more revenue and data.

For the price of a Shopify monthly plan ($30 / month) you can operate your own storefront, maximize the release of your new album and give fans the opportunity to become part of the process. In a world where there are hundreds of ways to find and listen to your music, give fans a way to buy directly from you.

Questions about creating your pre-sale campaign? Talk to us! We’d love to help.

- Joe

The 100% Myth

Ownership & Royalties in 2019

You're a budding independent musician. Not only have you focused on your craft, but you've built a business around it. You are a master of your artistry, from creation to production to marketing.

You’ve chosen to remain independent, so you own 100% of the rights to your music - both the composition and sound recording. No outside influence or hands reaching out for a cut of your creation. So when your music sells you keep 100% of the revenue, right?

oleg-pliasunov-694247-unsplash.jpg

Not exactly.

Even if you own 100% of the rights to your music, you still have to get it into the hands of your fans. And DSP's vary widely on how much they think this service is worth.

If you are able to record and produce a record while retaining all of the rights to the creative work, good on you. This would have been an anomaly in the recording industry of the past. Today this is only half of the battle.

Rights & Royalties in the Digital Age

It is now up to the artist to decide how to distribute their record in the most cost efficient way. Luckily, there are usually no exclusive agreements when it comes to selling your music online. This means that you can release your music on a handful of DSP's (iTunes, Bandcamp, Shopify + Single). Because fans use different DSP's, it makes sense to sell music across multiple platforms.

haley-powers-370161-unsplash.jpg

But as an artist is often their own personal marketing team, they can direct fans to whichever service offers them the best deal and reports album sales to the official charts.

Maintaining copyrights to your music is a luxury that has become commonplace. This is amazing for modern day musicians. Now, it’s time to maximize your revenue from your creative work.

Do you have questions about this post? We’d love to hear from you.

- Joe

DIY Crowdfunding for Musicians

Crowdfunding platforms proudly define themselves as “direct-to-consumer”

But they aren’t. Not anymore.

Platforms like PledgeMusic presented a fresh alternative to the traditional label funding model. For the first time, artists could raise money from fans and include them in their creative process. PledgeMusic is one of many companies that changed the trajectory of the music industry, demonstrating that independent artists operating new tools could hold their own in an industry dominated by major labels.

kelly-sikkema-530092-unsplash.jpg

But something isn’t working. Artists haven’t been receiving money on time from Pledge, and today they advised artists to suspend existing campaigns altogether. We think this is an appropriate time to present an alternative model. Artists can run an entire crowdfunding campaign directly from their own webstore. If an artist already has a direct connection with fans, they can avoid high fees from crowdfunding platforms and run campaigns independently.

The case for Pledge

PledgeMusic has a legitimate use case; they give lesser-known artists a platform to raise money when they might not otherwise have one. But this marketing push is costly. It is hard to rationalize giving up 15% of every dollar raised if you’re an artist who already communicates with fans directly.

How would I build my own “direct-to-fan” campaign?

People build and maintain ecommerce storefronts using Shopify. The owner chooses a starting “theme”, then customizes that theme to build out a store. Shopify has excellent articles about how to do all of that. Today we’re focused on the Jumpstart theme - a free template to create a crowdfunding campaign using Shopify.

Shopify is amazing for generalized selling, but artists running their own campaigns will need music specific features. Single Music powers pre-orders, bundles, digital downloads and SoundScan reporting. Create a digital release in Single and have it automatically sent to Shopify as a product. Add the release to any physical product in your Shopify store to create a bundle.

What about other crowdfunding features?

Well… these are easy to replicate too. In fact, there are a handful of 3rd party Shopify apps that add functionality to your DIY crowdfunding campaign. Using CrowdFunder you can create multiple simultaneous campaigns, complete transactions regardless of your campaign meeting its goal, and create product pages that look nearly identical to those on traditional crowdfunding platforms.

Why is this solution better than Pledge?

While Pledge’s pricing scales linearly (starting at 15% of all funds raised), Shopify’s costs are a flat monthly subscription fee, plus a little under 3% for payment processing using Shopify Payments. Single doesn’t even touch the money - we let Shopify handle that. This means the money you raise from your campaign will be in your account in just two days. Pledge waits until your campaign finishes; a Shopify-powered campaign sends you your money as you go.

Why is this solution better than Bandcamp?

Whether you offer a digital standalone album or a digital album as part of a bundle, Single Music only charges you for album delivery, which is 15 cents / track (capped at $2 / album). This pricing is comparable to a service like Bandcamp (and half the price of iTunes). Except, Bandcamp takes 10% from your physical merch sales. Single does not.

andrew-neel-686610-unsplash.jpg

Let’s say one of your top tier packages is a guitar that you played onstage, going for $12,000. One dedicated fan will jump on the opportunity to give you $12k for this one-of-a-kind item. Would they be so happy to learn that $1,800 goes directly to PledgeMusic? Or $1,200 straight to Bandcamp?

Using Shopify & Single for the same product looks like this: $30 would cover the subscription for the month, $1.50 for the digital delivery (assuming digital is bundled with the guitar like Pledge’s “AccessPass” feature), and $360 for payment processing. That leaves over $11,600 - almost 14% more than Pledge - paid directly to the artist without any delay or middleman.

In 2019, there is a better way

Instead of costly campaigns ran on crowdfunding platforms, artists can now raise money on their own terms - and keep more of it. Financing a record or tour using a crowdfunding platform was revolutionary ten years ago. But due to the technological growth in the past ten years, those platforms are beginning to look like dinosaurs. If you already have a direct connection with your fans, running a DIY crowdfunding campaign is a no-brainer.

The Musician's Automated Store Part 2: Print-On-Demand

Staying Lean Through Print-on-Demand

If you are an independent artist, you’re also an entrepreneur. Whether your goal is to make just enough from your music to keep creating, or if artistry is your career path - you operate your own small business. The sooner you accept this, the better.

Major labels have seemingly infinite money to develop and market artist merchandise. They have entire departments dedicated to exactly this. But what about you, modest independent musician? How could you possibly stay relevant in a world like that?

sebastian-radu-716155-unsplash.jpg

Believe it or not, without millions of dollars at your disposal, you are actually at an advantage. By utilizing lean principles you can automate, optimize and efficiently manage your e-commerce, without the large overhead required in the past. Thanks to print-on-demand, you now have the tools to design products and test them out in the real world - with minimal investment and time from your end.

What exactly is Print-on-Demand?

POD is a service that allows you to design products and put them for sale online, without having to physically create anything. Whenever a customer completes an order, the item is printed, packaged, and shipped. In other words, print-on-demand companies also handle third-party-fulfillment. This makes POD an integral part of any musician’s automated store.

We’ll walk you through the process using Amplifier, however there are many print-on-demand companies that offer similar services. Amazon Merch specializes in branded t-shirts, but is currently invite only. Zazzle, Redbubble and Printful offer a variety of products to be printed on. Fine Art America and Society6 specialize in art prints. Before we dive into POD, let’s talk about what it means to be lean.

Lean Principles Applied

lean_startup.jpeg

As an independent artist, you’ll try many strategies that don’t work. It’s by going through this process continuously that you find your sweet spot - a place where your music, merchandise and fans’ preferences perfectly intersect. To operate leanly means to reduce your initial investment when developing new products, and instead get something up for sale as soon as possible. The ultimate goal is to quickly figure out what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. This underlying concept was made popular by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup, and discussed in great detail on his website and podcast.

Print-on-demand perfectly illustrates lean principles in action. Bulk ordering merchandise is no longer necessary. Never again will you have to guess the quantity you’ll need of each size. As we mentioned in our musician’s automated store intro, how to order the right sizes of t-shirts has been an unsolved problem for generations. Ordering 500 t-shirts is undoubtedly a nerve racking ordeal. For an artist just starting out with an online store, bulk purchases are risky.

Print-On-Demand in Action

When you subscribe to Amplifier’s Starter Plan, you’ll have access to their design studio. Select which product you’d like to create then decide how much to markup the price. Pick a starting color, upload your logo or art and position it on the product. Hit save and when you’re ready and upload the design to your Shopify store to start selling.

modern-essentials-790188-unsplash.jpg

Print-on-demand makes A/B testing easy and instantaneous. You can create 2 different designs and put them both for sale on your artist store. Keep what sells, adjust the price if you’d like, then take down what people aren’t buying. You can experiment with tons of products: t-shirts, hoodies, posters, phone cases, popsockets, and bandanas, to name just a handful. By avoiding a large upfront bulk purchase of merchandise, you are mitigating nearly all of your risk.

Amplifier offers print-on-demand service in parallel with fulfillment. Meaning… you can sell print on demand products and items that you’ve ordered in bulk side by side in your shop. Amplifier will handle the fulfillment of both.

Say you test out a print-on-demand product that ends up selling really well. You could analyze your store data and predict future sales of this specific product. Through the same Amplifier design interface, you can order this exact product in bulk, increasing your profit on each product sold. Take this as far as you want; you can do basic calculations for every product in your store to determine when to order in bulk. POD allows you incredible flexibility. Test away without drowning in overhead costs.

Be You.

Ultimately it’s up to you, the artist, to choose which tools that work for your music and career. If your goal is simply to keep making music, create few print-on-demand products and essentially let your store run itself. If you want to maximize the revenue of your business and create a lasting and identifiable brand, focus on analytics and adapt.

Print-on-demand services are generally built to be hands-off, or “set and forget”. For the first time, you as the artist don’t have to rely on a major label to have access to affordable design, manufacturing, and automation. You can set up various aspects of your business and continue doing what you love.

Up next in our Automated Store Series: The Musician’s CRM.

-Joe

The Musician's Automated Store Part 1: Third Party Fulfillment

Outsource order fulfillment and headache, spend time making music

This is the year of the independent artist.

Avoiding a record deal means creating your own path, but there’s still no tried and true formula for success. Instead of relying on labels to provide tools, today’s musicians must integrate services from a handful of different music businesses.

These services can be used in parallel to create a musician’s automated store. Today we’ll focus on one artist service: third party fulfillment.

What do you mean “fulfillment”?

leone-venter-469710-unsplash.jpg

Order fulfillment simply means getting your products into the hands of customers who purchase them. If you’re operating your own store online and making just a few sales a week - you can likely fulfill orders by yourself. This is called merchant fulfillment.

Note: If you are an artist and haven’t yet set up your e-commerce, check out our past blog, “Using Shopify Lite to Sell Music From Your Site”.

The process of merchant fulfillment is a familiar one. First, you order boxes of CD’s or other physical merchandise to your house and store it as inventory. When someone places an order, you pack a box with merch, print out a shipping label and bring the completed package to the post office. Send the customer a tracking number and voila! Sale complete. Fulfilling a few orders a week on your own is a cost-efficient and manageable task. But eventually your growth may exceed your capabilities - or you may simply wish to allocate your time elsewhere.

So… what is third party fulfillment?

Third party fulfillment is part of a larger subset, third-party logistics. Large third party fulfillment services maintain a warehouse and complete the same tasks as a merchant fulfiller. In summary, they:

  • Receive and store inventory

  • Package orders

  • Ship boxes

  • Send shipping info to your e-commerce hub

Bringing on a third party to fulfill orders saves you time each week. As most fulfillment services integrate with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, outsourcing this segment of your business can be a key component in automating your entire store. For help deciding if you’re ready to bring on a third party fulfillment service, check out this great Shopify Blog Post.

How do I choose a third-party fulfillment service?

Shopify integrates with most fulfillment services. In fact, their only requirement is that the warehouse can process orders by email. We’ve selected some of our favorites based on ease of use, integrations and resources available. Warehouse fulfillment centers have very specific requirements for receiving boxes of merchandise. So any mistake on your end will translate into late orders and unhappy customers.

Amplifier: a powerful self-service logistics platform

Amplifier stands out to us because of their excellent help center and seamless integration with Shopify. They walk you through packaging and labeling boxes of merch to expedite their receiving process, so your customers get products on time.

PlatformMocksFulfillment.png

Amplifier also allows your suppliers to send merchandise directly to their warehouse. But you can still stay on top of the entire supply chain - Amplifier gives feedback about your suppliers, in real time. If there is a late shipment, an incorrectly labeled box, or missing inventory, they’ll let you know asap. The Amplifier platform is packed full of these features, and many more.

Shopify orders are sent to Amplifier automatically and inventory is synced between the two. They can process incoming shipments from multiple sources (CD manufacturer, screen printer etc). Once Amplifier packages and ship an order, tracking info is sent to Shopify and on to the customer automatically. Whenever a service uses the phrase “set and forget”, that is a good sign - and code for “automation”.

FBA and more

We also love Fulfillment by Amazon - another service completely integrated with Shopify. Products listed by FBA are eligible for free shipping through Prime, which your customers are sure to love. Selecting one of the top e-commerce companies in the world to handle your order fulfillment ensures reliability and cost efficiency.

For tons of fulfillment services that integrate with Shopify, search “fulfillment” in the Shopify app store.

While each service offers something similar, there are variations that may work better for your business. It all depends on how your e-commerce is set up, your sales volume, and of course personal preference. The goal is to find a service you’re comfortable using. But don’t be overwhelmed - once you decide on a third party fulfillment service, you can spend less time managing your growing business, and more time making music.

Up next in our Musician’s Automated Store Series: Print on Demand.

-Joe

The Musician's Automated Store

The Musician's Automated Store

Musicians who avoid traditional record deals have more freedom in both their music and overall business strategies. But this leaves a gap in artist services that labels used to provide. Fortunately, there is a batch of new music companies who provide services that were once only accessible as a package through a record deal at a major label.

What's the difference between MP3 and Lossless (FLAC / WAV)?

It's all about quality.

Steve Jobs changed everything when he told us that you could fit “1,000 songs in your pocket” - yet the first generation iPod was only 5gb.

Some quick math…

The average CD quality audio file size is roughly 10 mb / minute. 10 mb x 3 minutes (average song length) x 1,000 songs (Steve’s magic number) = 30,000 Megabytes. That puts us at 30 gb. If the first iPod was only 5 gb, how is this possible?

Lossy Compression / Voodoo Magic

Lossy compression is a method of reducing file size by removing “unnecessary” data from the original file. In any song there are many overlapping frequencies and tones. Lossy compression (ex. MP3) is an algorithm that eliminates data from those overlapping sounds. The ultimate goal is to limit file size without creating any noticeable difference in audio quality.

So… what’s the big deal?

At first listen, it can be difficult to tell the difference between an MP3 and a lossless audio file. Depending on your headphones / speakers, that difference may be negligible. But not always. Complete a side by side comparison using a hi fidelity audio system and both file types. You might not be able to define exactly why they sound different, but you can generally recognize that the larger audio file sounds more full.

Ok we get it… what does this all mean?

dane-deaner-292184-unsplash.jpg

As data storage becomes ridiculously cheap, (you can purchase a 128 gb SD card from Amazon for $29.98) removing data from audio files has become nonessential. Even as streaming dominates the music landscape, fans still build huge collections of digital audio files - and to them, lossless has become a #1 priority. Why settle for a trimmed down version of your favorite album when you can listen to the mix as the artist, producers and mixing / mastering engineers intended?

We’re proud to announce that Single Music now supports direct downloads in multiple formats - MP3, FLAC & WAV.

We believe in giving power to the artist, and now they can offer music to fans at the highest-quality possible.

-Single Music

Feature Announcement: Lossless Audio

Studio quality sound. Now available to everyone.

We’re constantly asking our users what new features would help make Single even better. An overwhelming response has been lossless audio - we listened.

Single Music now supports lossless audio downloads for your fans.

After someone purchases your music, they now have the option to “Select Audio Format” - MP3, WAV, or FLAC.

files.png

And the best part… If your music is already released, you don’t have to do anything.

We’ve pushed an update to our digital standalone template for this, but have no fear - whether your music is being sold as a standalone album OR as part of a bundle, fans will have their choice of format.

Stay tuned to our blog this week - we’re taking a deeper look into the history of lossy formats, and why lossless audio is so important to artists and fans alike.

Have any more features you’d like to see added? We’re all ears.

- The Single Team

Shopify Adds Venmo Integration

Use that money Nancy sent you for brunch last week to support your favorite artists

Shopify recently announced that they’ve added Venmo as a checkout option. Here at Single Music, we couldn’t be more excited. Venmo has already proven itself as one of the most convenient and useful peer to peer payment solutions.

We strive to make artist and fan interactions as direct and straightforward as possible - this is why we chose to build our app using Shopify.

According to their press release, 67% of Shopify purchases are made on mobile devices. Many of us already use Venmo - so introducing it as a payment option will only help fans better support the musicians they love.

Artists using Single Music know how simply they can create digital releases, tag for physical reporting, build bundles and publish everything to their Shopify storefront.

Learn more about how Single turns Shopify stores into virtual record shops by scheduling a live demo!

Why Bundle?

The first blog post by our CEO Tommy discussed why Single Music exists. As this is my first post, I’ve decided to follow suit and talk about why we’re driven by this fundamental assumption: bundling content can help you better connect with fans.

Quickly, a “bundle” in this context can be described as a combination of products, both physical merchandise and a digital album download that are sold together by an artist.

Why make them wait?

Physical merchandise is incentivized with an album download, which can be instant or automatically delivered on the release date. If a fan is stoked enough to pull out their wallet and purchase something from your merch store, give them something they can enjoy immediately. They will likely pass your record along to friends and promote it within their social circles. Because artists no longer rely on labels for marketing, this word of mouth promotion is invaluable.

Above the Static

Thousands of songs are uploaded to the web each day. Therefore, finding innovative ways to connect with fans has never been more important. An artist doesn’t just write and perform music; they develop a brand as a complement to the music they create.

In a best case scenario, their personal brand pushes fans to dig deeper into the artist’s catalog. A fan relates to the lifestyle / persona of the musician and can better make sense of the music they hear.

Keep your physical products tied directly with your music

Your music is a reflection of you, ideally you want your physical merchandise to simply be an extension of that. As you come up with new and interesting products to add to your merch store, it can be easy to lose sight of your goals.

Are you simply looking for another revenue stream? Or to develop your brand, provide cool products for fans to proudly wear around town, and push more people to connect with your music?

For the first time ever, artists of any size have the ability to attach a direct digital downloads with any physical product, and have the album be automatically sent out on your release date.

Take advantage of trends

As the music industry experiences rapid change, regulations are constantly forced to play catch up. Some of the biggest artists of today are using merch bundling to propel their albums to the top of the charts. A recent article in Fader highlights some of the recent controversy surrounding Travi$ Scott and his team’s method to boost official album sales.

The point here is that if these top-tier artists are capitalizing on changing trends in the music industry, so can you. In order for a digital album that is part of a bundle to count as an official sale, the fan has to both make the purchase and redeem the digital download.

Boost your official charting

While many metrics exist today that reflect an artist’s reach, the official Billboard Charts still remain the authoritative source. Single Music has done everything possible to remain compliant with Billboard’s policies - as much as we would love to boost the sales of artists who choose to release using our platform, we don’t want to risk falsely inflating numbers.

We look forward to an official statement from Billboard, and will continue to use our understanding of the music landscape to help artists of all sizes. Until then, we will push bundling as an innovative way for artists of any size to better connect with fans.

Check out our recent support article “How do I bundle a digital album with a physical product?” for step by step instructions.

Have questions? Talk to us.

- Joe

Feature Announcement: Digital & Physical Bundling

Bundling made simple.

Over the past few months we’ve been quietly piloting a highly-requested feature with select artists. 

After a long summer of research and development, we are excited to announce our official support for digital & physical bundling! 

Thanks again to for KING & COUNTRY, RL Grime, Masego, and the many others who participated in the beta for the invaluable feedback provided.


There’s a lot to unpack with this update, but here are the main points:

bundling.png

1. Instant Digital Copy

In 30s you can now attach a digital release to any (or all) physical products in your shop! If you've ever used our physical reporting tool, you'll know how simple this process is.

Search your existing inventory, confirm whether the product contains a physical copy, and save! 

Single will automatically categorize your bundles into Digital Only or w/ Physical Copy and report in accordance with the updated SoundScan rules.


2. Transparent Reporting Counts

We've added new "Digital Release Stats" sections to help clarify reporting counts for digital standalone v. attachments. You can see which bundles have been the most successful and their individual reported sales categorized as Standalone Digital, Attachments (Digital Only), and Attachments (w/ Physical Copy).


3. Smarter Fulfillment

smart-fulfill.png

Many artists and merchandising companies use fulfillment apps like ShipStation to manage their inventory across the web. We ensure compatibility with these apps by only updating fulfillment status for standalone digital releases - this includes instant grats & pre-orders!


4. Variant Support

We've added support for variant-level tagging to the Physical Reporting & Create Digital Attachment tools. This makes it possible to create album "one-pagers" with each format as a separate variant (e.g. digital, vinyl + digital, CD + digital, etc.)

If you have any questions about setting up a digital attachment, check out our support article or schedule a demo.

Happy bundling!

-Single Music

Using Shopify Lite to Sell Music From Your Site

You drive traffic to your website. Why do you send fans elsewhere to download your music?

Not only are you giving DSP’s a cut of your revenue, you’re also missing out on data that accompanies the sale. Who purchased a digital version of your album after they bought your new t-shirt? If 1,000 fans purchased the deluxe version of your album, where are these passionate fans located?

This is crucial information when planning releases, bringing on a producer, collaborating with other musicians, hiring a manager, getting radio airplay, working with a PR firm, and booking a tour.

Shopify.png

One way to create your own web store is through Shopify, a powerful e-commerce platform packed with tons of tools for merchants. From invoicing, setting up a domain, building out a web store, managing products and inventory, fulfilling orders and handling payments - Shopify does it all.

But what about artists who already operate a store on their own website, or aren’t interested in a full-featured service?

Welcome Shopify Lite

Shopify Lite’s Buy Buttons help you to integrate your store with your current website - whether you use Squarespace, Wordpress, Weebly or built it entirely yourself.

This $9 / month service is a great way for artists of any size to manage e-commerce. It allows you to sell music directly from social media and provides a POS system so you can take your store on the road. Communicate with customers via messenger - to both provide support and even complete entire orders.

When paired with the Single Music app, Shopify Lite provides even more benefits for artists:

1) Physical & Digital sales reporting to Nielsen Soundscan for the Billboard Charts

2) Bundle a digital download with any product sold through your store

3) Release management tools including automated digital delivery on release date

Shopify Lite + Single Music = Freedom for Artists

Questions? Our team would love to chat.

- Joe

"Start With Why"

The most common words of advice in marketing nowadays are “start with why?” - essentially asking for the reason your company exists.

As this is our first post I figured it was only fitting to begin with an introduction and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Back in 2010 my co-founder and I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University - one of the largest Music Industry programs in the U.S.. Due to the affordability of Nashville at that time - my first rent was $350/mo - all of our closest college friends stayed in the area to pursue careers in various parts of the industry. We’ve grown together and worked on each other's projects as we’ve tried to navigate the complex maze to succeed in music. Some of us are musicians. Some of us started labels. Some of us manage. It’s been an all-encompassing view of the industry from the ground up and our passion since we were kids.

My path took me down the website development and ecommerce route, eventually landing a job at a digital agency where I learned much of what I know today. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the largest names in country music - Kenny Rogers, Charlie Daniels, Lady Antebellum, Sam Hunt - and hundreds of independent artists while directing product development for Bombplates.com.

I have massive respect for the musicians I’ve worked with regardless of where they are in their career - it’s an extremely tough profession. It’s why I’ve always focused on making things that will hopefully grow their careers.

Taylor’s post-MTSU path took him to Virginia Tech to pursue a Computer Science degree, ultimately landing back in Nashville after securing a second degree and more student loans. Prior to this endeavor he was an Architect at a mortgage bank - it’s why I tend to joke “if he can help secure money, he can secure your music”. I could always tell he wanted to be focusing on music in some capacity and I’m glad I was able to convince him to join me on this path.

The idea for Single came to me one night while thinking about the issues my agency was having with Shopify and the 50+ artist shops they managed. If this is where most high-level artists are headed, why are there no publicly available music solutions? Seemingly simple things like a tracklist with previews and reporting physical sales to SoundScan would cost thousands - prohibitively expensive for indies and “not worth it” for many majors. I sent Taylor a text that night and the rest is history currently being written.

We have many ideas how this can be something much bigger than simple tools and direct-to-fan music distribution, but we also don’t want to exist in a bubble. If there are any ways you’d like to see us improve or features you’d like to see added, just let us know.

We’re here to help.

-Tommy