Shopify, Crypto, Music & The Lightning Network

Lessons From the E-commerce Leader.

Last month, the Single team visited our neighbors to the north - during Shopify Unite 2019 in Toronto. After this sneak-peek at their upcoming developments, we’re even more fired up about the future of the Shopify platform.

As just one example of their recent success, last year’s Black Friday sales through Shopify-powered stores peaked at a mind-numbing $37 million per hour. Even more, an incredible 63% of these Black Friday purchases were completed on a mobile device or tablet.

But… How?

In our estimation, Shopify’s success can at least partly be attributed to its willingness to bet on growing trends and emerging technologies. Building out integrations before these technologies reach a tipping point ensures Shopify (and the thousands of stores powered by Shopify) stays ahead of the curve - and is ready when these trends reach the mainstream.

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When Shopify launched its first mobile app in 2010, most consumers didn’t feel comfortable making large purchases from a mobile device. To put it in perspective, the Apple App Store had only been around for two years. Consumers weren’t ordering pizza from their mobile devices, let alone spending $86.37 - the average 2018 Black Friday online order size from more than 650,000 Shopify powered stores.

But Shopify has notoriously played the long game - positioning itself as a mobile-first platform when phones were phones and computers were computers.

This is why we’re paying special attention to Shopify’s recent move towards integration with cryptocurrencies. Mobile devices have advanced tremendously over the past 8 years, and we expect the same from crypto. One technology that we’re watching closely is Bitcoin’s Lightning Network.

Lightning in the Music Industry

The Lightning Network is a “second layer protocol” which allows for instantaneous transactions at virtually no cost. Seems like a good fit - the music business has long been plagued by a lack of transparency and timely payments, mostly at the expense of creatives. Fortunately for artists, technology tends to eliminate inefficiencies.

The first and most obvious outcome of the Lightning Network on the music industry would be a reduced transaction cost for fans purchasing music, merch or concert tickets. These transactions, happening online or in person, would be immediate and cost a fraction of a penny.

New models for music consumption could be introduced. A streaming service that utilizes micro-payments, as opposed to Spotify’s existing “pro rata” system, would result in a much fairer distribution of revenue to smaller artists who aren’t charting on Billboard.

Here’s another example: At the end of a concert, fans could send a small amount of crypto to a posted QR code and immediately receive the official audio from the show. Imagine the quality of fan-captured content that would emerge if iPhone concert videos were matched with official audio.

These are just a few ideas. It’s up to all of us to apply new technologies and bring about a music business in which creatives are paid fairly and on time. But how does this technology work? Where is this all coming from? Let’s take a closer look.

Crowded Places

Cryptocurrencies finally reached a point of popular awareness during the insane run-up at the end of 2017. Hype was at an all-time high and the sheer number of transactions overloaded the Bitcoin network. As a result, transactions became slow and expensive. The brief explanation is that every transaction took place “on-chain”.

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When a user sends bitcoins to another wallet address, they broadcast a digitally signed message to the network, which is essentially a small amount of data accompanied by a transaction fee. Unconfirmed transactions are gathered together in “blocks” and wait to be confirmed by miners in the network.

As per the Bitcoin protocol, blocks are confirmed every 10 minutes, with a maximum block size of 1 mb. As the network expanded and more transactions were broadcasted, this became a problem - and a major source of contention between two opposing parties.

One camp believed that Satoshi’s original implementation (fixed block size) was best, despite the crowded network. The other group (led by Roger Ver) hoped to modify the Bitcoin code and increase the block size. They couldn’t come to a consensus, and this resulted in the first Bitcoin hard-fork and a new crypto was born - Bitcoin Cash.

You can find an excellent visual comparing the transactions taking place on the Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash Networks here.

The Off-Chain Solution

Joseph Poon, creator of the Lightning Network, explains in the LN whitepaper,

“If only two participants care about an everyday recurring transaction, it’s not necessary for all other nodes in the bitcoin network to know about that transaction. It is instead preferable to only have the bare minimum of information on the blockchain. By deferring telling the entire world about every transaction, doing net settlement of their relationship at a later date enables Bitcoin users to conduct many transactions without bloating up the blockchain or creating trust in a centralized counterparty.”

The LN is a network of bi-directional payment channels. This creates a scenario where any peer on the Lightning Network can pay another peer, even if they didn’t directly have a channel open between each other.

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You can think of the LN like a third-party arbitrator - but instead of a central entity that must be trusted, trust is spread across the Bitcoin network and is subject to the same cryptographic security as the rest of the network. Through this method, transactions still happen on a peer to peer basis, as was initially intended with Bitcoin’s creation.

This is possible because these transactions are happening “off-chain”. For those interested in the technology behind this innovation, take a look at HTLCs (Hashed Timelock Contracts).

Looking Ahead

Despite the LN’s rapid growth this year, we’re still a long way off from a successful mass-implementation. But once the Lightning Network is popularized, the capability of the Bitcoin network as a whole will surpass any payment network in existence today.

A settlement layer that offers instantaneous transactions at virtually zero cost, in an environment that is cryptographically secure and easy for fans to use will open up the music industry in ways we cannot imagine.

In the meantime, we will continue exploring different use cases - each of which expands fan access to music and puts more money into the hands of artists. We believe it will be well worth the wait.

And judging by the way Shopify is positioning itself, they think so too.

- Joe

20 Artists & Labels You Didn't Know Were On Shopify

Powering your favorite musician’s online store.

We love breaking down why Shopify is perfect for artist and label web stores. With powerful storefront customization, inventory management across sales channels, and an expansive app store - it’s clear why the Shopify platform became the top choice for artists around the world. And with Single’s d2c tools, artists maintain full control of music distribution & product bundles.

But enough of that - today we’ll show you examples of high functioning Shopify stores from musicians that you know and love.

1) Billie Eilish

2) Khalid

3) OVO

4) Jonas Brothers

5) Taylor Swift

6) Top Dawg Entertainment

7) Yellow Claw

8) Wolf Gang

9) Rüfüs Du Sol

10) Kacey Musgraves

11) Post Malone

12) The Black Keys

13) Slightly Stoopid

14) Halsey

15) Daniel Caesar

16) Ariana Grande

17) Migos

18) Dreamville Records

19) Marshmello

20) Lil Baby

Building a Brand and a Revenue Stream

“Merchandising” Panel @ A2IM Indie Week 2019

Last month our team visited New York for the A2IM “Indie Week” music conference. You can check out our recap blog here.

Conversations this week focused around maximizing your impact as an independent artist, label or team. One panel really stood out to us, and we wanted to share it with you.

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Sitting in on this panel was Andrew Jervis of BandCamp, Amanda Fiore of Sumerian Records, Luke Hodson of Awesome Merch and Jon Strickland of the famous Sub Pop. We’ve broken this blog into the different questions / topics covered, rather than focusing on who said what. Therefore the answers below are our interpretations of the conversation, and may not reflect the opinions of everyone on the panel.

Why should artists make merch?

T-shirt & CD by  Making Movies

T-shirt & CD by Making Movies

First and foremost, opening another revenue stream besides just selling recorded music is important. Whether you want to earn enough to quit your day job or simply fill the van with gas to get you to your next show, well-done merch can be a gamechanger.

Even more, artists make merch to genuinely connect with fans. There’s something about a piece of physical merch that brings a connection that digital simply can’t. By creating physical products that align with your brand as an artist or label, you give fans the opportunity to carry your brand into the real world.

What effect on marketing does merch have?

If done correctly, physical merchandise stands to complement and enhance the rest of your marketing efforts. We’re in an age where people see through what isn’t genuine. If you just throw your logo on a Hanes t-shirt, you’re likely hurting your overall brand.

But there are many marketing techniques that could just as easily help solidify your brand. For example, design a shirt that is only available with a pre-order of your new album. This creates a sense of urgency, exclusivity and gives your top fans a way to show their loyalty. For an in depth look on some of the most effective merch we’ve seen, check out our “merch offerings” blog

How does merch drive the sale of music?

Combining a physical CD with other merchandise is a way to directly increase album sales. CD’s are fairly inexpensive to manufacture, yet add a ton of perceived value when bundled together with merch in your shop.

If new listeners see that you have high quality merch and a focused brand, they’re much more likely to engage with your music. So spending time designing your products and to make sure they align with your brand indirectly drives fans to your music.

Now.. Single wasn’t included on this panel. However that doesn’t stop us from dropping in our thoughts (in hopes we’re invited next time around). As many of you know, our tools allow you to bundle digital music with products in your shop. So if your main goal is charting album sales, run a pre-sale campaign and attach the digital album to every item in your shop.

Can you count on revenue from merch?

On one hand, it can be very hard to predict how your merch will sell across time. It may be a complete mystery why you completely sell out of a shirt one month, yet can’t seem to sell a single one the month after.

Colored vinyl by  The Dollyrots

Colored vinyl by The Dollyrots

However there are strategies you can take to make your merch sales more consistent. The main point here is to continue releasing new, quality products to keep your top fans engaged. If you put time and effort into the design and story surrounding your merch, loyal fans will support you.

Tell a story - whether that be releasing a different piece of merch leading up to a release, a “hometown show” shirt, or a limited colored vinyl. There are thousands of merch ideas you can use to engage fans, or choose to come up with something new entirely.

How do environmental concerns play a role in artist merchandise?

We can start with one of the most obvious issues with merchandise - leftover inventory. Whether your merch didn’t sell as well as you thought or your sizing estimations were off, getting stuck with leftover merch is wasteful. But thanks to advancements in print technology, indies aren’t required to print inventory at all.

Print-on-demand (POD) is a service that allows you to create a product design and put it for sale in your shop - without printing any inventory. Every time a product is sold, the POD company prints, packages and ships your item to the customer - saving you valuable time and energy.

The other side to this is about appealing to your core demographic. If you know that your fans care deeply about the environment, make your next batch of t-shirts from recycled material. Or make an extra point to reduce packaging and tell your fans about it!

Have questions about anything we’ve talked about today? Let us know!

-The Single Team

Single Music Workshop @ A2IM Indie Week

Merchandise Like a Pro: Use the Tools the Majors Use

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Last week the Single team took over the New York Law School for A2IM’s “Indie Week” conference. The panels explored ways that independent musicians can control their careers and stand out in this crowded market.

Our CEO Tommy had a chance to present Single’s suite of tools at a workshop on Tuesday, and fielded a ton of great questions. We love hearing about the problems that independent artists and labels face, because we design future products to solve them.

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Whether that’s structuring a pre-sale, creating product bundles, or setting up your artist / label shop - the tools we make are designed to be as straightforward as possible. Because until recently, it took an entire team or merchandising department to accomplish these things. But not anymore.

We also debuted our new promotional tool: BoostLinks. The idea here is for artists to capture follows, pre-saves and subscribes at the moment when fans are most engaged - after a purchase. Build your numbers by targeting those who are already your biggest fans. Learn how to build your first BoostLink campaign here, and look out for our official announcement next month.

Our message last week was simple: Indies now have the tools to compete with the big guys. Through Shopify + Single, everyone has the ability to sell to fans directly. We’re excited to be a small piece in this shift of power towards indie artists and labels. Here at Single Music we look forward to where this takes the record industry, and are grateful to learn with those committed to paving their own path. Until next time Indie Week!

-The Single Team

5 Merch Offerings That Sell

Master your merchandise.

Single Music powers the data behind some of the largest artist shops in the world. But we also noticed a problem - most successful artists had tools that indies simply did not. This is why we decided to make our app publicly available.

Because of this, we’ve seen album releases across the spectrum: major-label, independent, successful and the “flop”. The point is we are in a unique position to observe and recognize patterns in merchandise that sells.

And given that your digital album can be included with every piece of merchandise in your shop (if you follow these rules), increased merch sales correlate directly with Billboard chart position. Today we’ll share 5 of the most successful merch offerings we’ve seen.

Parachute Lyric Book

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Lyric books are a hit with die-hard fans, including those of the band Parachute. During their self-titled album release earlier this year, they included a lyric book with every bundle sold.

It is no surprise that this specific offering worked so well for this band. Their music is lyric driven, with soft but powerful vocals. They chose a product that complemented their style and narrative as a band.

What’s great is that integrating lyrics into merch can work at basically any level. Yes, Parachute is a very successful band with 2.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify. But even if you don’t have the capital to print a full leather-bound book, anyone can turn lyrics into a poster or even hand-write them. Tying merchandise directly with the content of your music amplifies your message and brand.

Lil Pump - Esskeetit Chain

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Earlier this year, Lil Pump released his album “Harverd Dropout”. Contrasting sharply with the offering above, he sold chains bundled together with his digital album. In his case, he knew his core fans would appreciate something they could wear around town.

A week after his release date, Lil Pump used Instagram to tell his fans that this chain was now free. But… that’s breaking the rules you linked above! Nielsen states that the album in the bundle has to cost the consumer an additional $3.49 on top of the price of the merch. But because they charged a flat $15 to ship the chains, they met all requirements for the sale and delivered a charting digital album to each fan. And his strategy worked; he landed a #7 charting on the Billboard 200.

Aaron Lewis - Playing Cards & Flask

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One of our favorite examples of album-branded merch this year was from country artist Aaron Lewis. During the release of his new album, “State I’m In”, he sold flasks and playing cards. This was genius for a few reasons. First, he provided his target demographic with merch that they could actually use. The items were practical and unlikely to be tossed in a drawer and forgotten about.

And because the items were relatively low cost, they added a ton of perceived value when bundled together with his digital album. We reviewed his entire campaign extensively in our past blog post, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested in learning more.

Making Movies Test Pressing

Another great merch example is from an up and coming genre-smashing band, Making Movies. They ran a pre-sale for their latest album, complete with signed merch and intangible experiences like “Making Movies will produce your next song”.

The reason they’re on our list today is the test pressing vinyl offering. This is an example of an extremely limited product, numbered to just 5. But even if you aren’t pressing vinyl for your new album, you can learn from this strategy. Introduce scarcity. If your fans see the product as authentic & coming directly from you, it will surely drive demand and boost sales.

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The Rocket Summer Polaroid Pack

The last offering we’ll discuss today is from The Rocket Summer, and also very limited in nature. They are offering a set of signed Polaroid pictures from the making of the album.

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The concept of bringing fans into the creation portion of an album was made popular by the now defunct PledgeMusic. While they failed in an irresponsible and damaging fashion, the company proved that fans wanted more than to just buy the album on release day. They wanted a glimpse inside the minds of those who created the music they love and appreciate.

Have some great merch ideas that we didn’t talk about today? Need help creating a plan for your pre-sale? Talk to the Single Team!

King's Mouth: An Immersive Art Exhibit by Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne @ Fort Houston

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Immerse yourself in the music and visuals of The Flaming Lips’ leading force Wayne Coyne this weekend at a new Nashville art exhibit.

Coyne, frontman of the beloved Oklahoma experimental rock group, brings his “King’s Mouth” installation to Music City through the end of June.

“King’s Mouth” takes onlookers into 10-foot tall chrome head, where they’ll sit on teeth-shaped foam pillows and experience a pulsing light show teamed with Flaming Lips music composed specifically for inside the mouth.

Coyne described the mouth in a 2017 interview as “escapist entertainment.” The exhibit also plans to showcase canon illustrations from the Grammy Award-winning act.

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“Most artists that I like would say the most important and most powerful part of art is what you think of it,” Coyne said. “Your reaction to it should be a subjective thing that is important to you. If I try to tell you, ‘If you think it means this, you’re wrong or you’re stupid,’ … you’re stripping it of its most powerful thing."

"King's Mouth" comes via Fort Houston sponsor Single Music and opens as part of the seventh annual Fort Fest, a musical and artistic celebration of the makerspace's tenure in Nashville.

Interested eyes and ears can see “King’s Mouth” through July 7 for free at Fort Houston. Find more information on the exhibit at forthouston.com.

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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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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”?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!