How To Make Money As A Music Collector - 500 Ways

How To Make Money As A Music Collector

Copyright 2013 – 2022, by Jeff Napier



Table of Contents

Start Here

Part I, How To Get CDs


Garage Sales

Assessing Value

Thrift Stores and Flea Markets

Buying on eBay

Buying on Craigslist

Free Exchange

Part II, Selling CDs


Selling on eBay

Selling on Amazon

Selling The Common CDs

CD Rental

Shelf Selling

Route Sales

Consignment

Co-Op Selling

Your Own Music Store

Mixed Model

Part III, General Business Advice


Leveraging Craigslist

Partnerships

The Sure-Fire Millionaire

Advertising and Publicity

Websites That Work

The Final Bit



Start Here


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No doubt you have heard that everyone involved in selling new music CDs, from the artists, to publishers, to retail stores, are facing financially troubling times.

What you may not have heard is that for the next several years an opportunity exists for people who buy and sell used music CDs.

People who have iPods, smartphones, or any type of MP3 players, love loading them up, first with ordinary music, and eventually with ever more obscure tunes. These people – which include most of us – will pay any reasonable amount to get CDs containing more music to put on their players.

Once they’ve copied the music to their MP3 players, they don’t need the CDs anymore.

You probably see where I’m going with this. There are several ways to make a nice profit within this situation, by buying and selling CDs. And that’s what this book is about. It is for anyone who is into music appreciation and would like anything from a bit of extra rainy day money, to making a nice living from a music business. In fact, several of the ideas presented in this little book can be built into something that can pay more than any hourly job could ever match. These are not get-rich-quick schemes. They are get-rich-slow schemes.

Most require little or no time, experience or money to start. This is not a huge and complex book, so you’ll find it easy to read in a single evening. Yet, what you are about to discover can positively change your life. No longer do you have to put up with the drudgery of an ordinary job. Now you can be your own boss, doing something you love.

Have fun and prosper! – Jeff Napier, business coach


Part I, How to get CDs



Garage Sales


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I stepped out into the rain, and ran quickly to the open one-car garage where I politely but quickly elbowed my way into half-dozen other wet people milling around. Once inside, I though, “Oh no, another junk sale,” as I surveyed Avon bottles, children’s clothing, and a couple old bicycles. This other stuff might have had value to someone, but I was looking for CDs.

Then I saw it. Under a table was a white cardboard banker’s box stuffed to the brim with CDs. I pulled the box out from under the table and started checking the CDs out quickly. To my delight, there were several albums in the mix that sell well. I pulled two or three disks out of their jewel cases, and good news, they were not scratched, although some had fingerprints. Finally, I approached the owner and asked, “How much for the CDs?” He told me $1 each. ‘Not bad I thought, but let’s see if I can do better.’ There were about 200 CDs in the box. Thinking quickly, I figured I could sell about 40 of them for $10 each, maybe three for $30 each, and another 20 for $5 each. That’s $590. I figured I could spend up to $100 for the box and make plenty of profit. But experience told me, I’d do better. So I asked, “How much for the whole box?” The owner said “Twenty dollars.” I said, “Will you accept $15?” He stood on one foot, then the other, rubbed his chin, and said, “Sure.”

This was not my best buy ever. In fact, it was only a bit better than average. During that Saturday morning, I spent about $200, and came away with more than 1,000 CDs.

If you live in a community where garage sales are common, and if you are in the right season, this can be an excellent way of getting profitable CDs that you can sell in various ways. We’ll talk all about that later in this book. We’ll also talk about many other ways to get CDs, in case garage sales is not your thing, or if you are not in the right place or season.

You’ll discover there are two distinct approaches to buying at garage sales.

If there are more sales than you can possibly visit, you’ll want to operate quickly. On the other hand, on an out-of-season day or in a rural town, you can use the other approach, which is to consider each CD individually.

In the first scenario, the evening before you go shopping, you can look at Craigslist if it serves your area, and make a list of all the sales, excluding those that are not likely to have CDs, such ones advertising primarily baby clothes or oil paintings. You can organize them in such a way that you can drive to them quickly, not criss-crossing all over town. At the same time, you’ll also want to consider what times the sales start. Since some start at 7am or 8am, you’ll obviously want to hit those before the ones that open at 10am.

Actually, you’ll want to start hitting the 7am sales at about 6:30 or 6:45. Some sellers will advertise “no early birds,” so out of consideration, these sales you should not hit until they are ready. But others, even though their advertised start time is set, if you show up a bit early, they’ll generally accommodate you. This accomplishes two things: You can squeeze more sales into your day, and you’ll beat out other CD buyers to those earliest sales.

I used to make a photocopy of a city map, and put marks on it the evening before, laying out the locations and times of every sale I wanted to visit. Then, I’d draw a route, so I could drive to each one efficiently. Finally, I’d make a list of addresses that I would take in the car. If you have GPS, you’ll find it saves you a lot of time, unless you know your area well. In that case, you may spend more time entering addresses into your GPS than you save by just driving to them. Where the GPS is particularly helpful is figuring out which end of the block a sale is on. Without GPS, I found myself doing a lot of K-turns. Without GPS, you can be nearly as effective just by carrying your map around. I used to photocopy just the central portion of the map, because unfolding and dealing with a full-size map wastes a lot of time.

Efficiency is the name of the game when there are a lot of sales. With just a bit of practice, you can drive by some sales, notice that there are no boxes or tables that would contain CDs, and speed along to your next sale. Those that look promising, you park as quickly as you can, then see what you can get. If you have a partner, then one of you can handle parking and studying the map or setting the GPS for the next location, while the other is already picking through CDs.

On a busy day, when you see one or two CDs that you can make a few dollars on, it might be more worthwhile to just ignore them and move on to the next sale, where you might come across dozens or even boxes of CDs. In time, you’ll get a practiced eye for certain ones that have a high resale value and will know how to snap them up quickly.

When you do see a collection of CDs that you might like, you’ll want to check it out for a few details that can be costly if overlooked.

First, are the right disks in the jewel cases? More than once, I have found the disks all mixed up. If you buy a collection like this, generally, you won’t find the disks you want in other jewel cases. You’ll find most of the collection is valueless, with the majority of the cases not matching any of the CDs. You can still sell a CD without a case, or without the right liner, but in most venues, this reduces the price you can get tremendously. You might also find cases that contain nothing at all.

Next, check the condition of the CDs. You’ll have great difficulty selling CDs that have deep scratches, or a large number of small scratches. Any scratch at all greatly devalues a CD. Later on, you can invest in a disk polisher, but for now, beware of scratches. Fingerprints or discolorations of any sort that can be removed do not devalue a CD, but they’ll take some of your valuable time to clean up. Finally, if the jewel cases themselves are cracked, clouded or have broken hinges, you’ll probably want to replace them, and that, too, takes time.

On a busy day, I don’t check every CD in the collection. I just pull two, three or perhaps a half-dozen samples from random locations within the collection, making sure all my samples are not from the top of the pile.

Finally, you want to decide whether the CDs are all too common or all too outside your favorite genres, or for some other reason not profitable to you. We’ll talk about assessing value of CDs in a second, but for now, we’ll assume you have decided that a collection is worth buying.

Negotiating the transaction, also, is something that you want to do efficiently on a busy day. For instance, I have learned to make early eye contact with the seller, so I can have the seller’s attention, even though there may be four other people vying for that attention at the same time.

Typically, there’ll be a sign stating prices for individual CDs. You can disregard that entirely. You’ll want to buy the whole collection on a busy day, which often delights the seller. The idea is to offer a bulk price that is close to what the seller is likely to accept, and quickly wheel and deal from there. The bulk price you can get away with will often surprise you. Often, garage sale sellers are moving out of town, or their primary objective is to clean out their attic. The idea of making any real money is secondary. I have come away with boxes containing a hundred or more CDs for $5 frequently. But it doesn’t always go that way. A seller may feel that each CD in the collection, bulk offer or not, is worth $2. The seller may even be insulted if you offer a low bulk price. The way around that is a little statement I came up with several years ago. It goes something like this:

“You have a lot of nice CDs there. It’s worth more than I’m willing to offer, but would you be willing to accept $20 for whole lot?”

By stating it that way, they can’t be insulted. All they can do is say “no,” or make a counter offer.

The worst case scenario isn’t about price, but about time. On a busy day, the last thing you want the seller to do is say, “Hmmm… Let me get Fred. He’s just down the street. I’ll call him and he’ll be here in a minute,” and when Fred does show up, they have a long conference about who owns which CD, and how much they’re willing to accept. Sometimes it is hard to see this coming, but when you do, all you can do to offset the waste of time it can entail is to say, “I’m going to a lot of garage sales today, so sorry, I don’t have time for that. I hope you understand.”

Then, you can decide if the collection is worth sticking around during their best effort to speed the process, or not. At the peak time of the day, or a busy weekend, I have walked away from collections of hundreds of CDs, so I could scoot down the road, and get hundreds of other CDs.

On the slow days, it is an entirely different story. You can pick through small (or large) collections of CDs, pulling the individual ones on which you think you can make a profit, have wonderful conversations, and maybe colorful wheeling and dealing sessions with the sellers.



Assessing Value


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If you are just starting out in the CD business, and you come across a pile of CDs at a garage sale or elsewhere, it help if you have already done some research on current values, especially in the markets in which you’ll be selling.

If there are used music stores in your area, you can stop in, and just shop around. You can also check prices on Amazon.com, which is the world’s biggest online source for used and new CDs, as well as books, DVDs, and many other things.

One of the best ways to get a good valuation is to check eBay. It turns out eBay has a way to discover what has sold during the past 30 days, and how much people have paid.

Let’s pick a sample item to test on eBay, and discuss it as if it is something you really have on hand and will sell on eBay. The item is Rolling Homes, a paperback book by Jane Lidz, published in 1979. Although this sample is a book, it works exactly the same way for CDs.

At the top of almost any eBay page is a search field. You can enter “Rolling Homes Jane Lidz.” Today, there are three copies for sale, ranging in price from $42 to $59. The prices and quantities will vary from day to day.

So far, we have learned that it seems to be a fairly valuable book, but we don’t exactly know how valuable. These auctions haven’t closed yet. Will anyone actually bid? How high will they bid? Let’s find out.

To the left of the listings, you have a column of refinements you can click, to limit your search based on condition, category and other things. In that column, click More Refinements, then Show Only. Check Completed Listings then click the Go button.

Now you’ll see a list of items that sold during the past thirty days with the prices marked in red and green. Items marked in red mean the item never sold. It may have been an auction that ended with no bids, or the seller may have pulled it off the market to sell to a local customer. Items with the prices in green did sell. Today, I see that six copies sold, ranging in price from $39 to $45. So, it’s worth selling, don’t you think?

You can also assess prices on Amazon. It can be a bit less accurate, because you can see only what’s currently being offered, and the prices the sellers are hoping to get.

You can enter your CD by title and artist in the Amazon search field, where you will see everything that closely matches what you have. When you find an exact match, you can drill in, discovering that new ones are going for a certain amount, and used ones in various conditions are selling for varying amounts.

For example, you may enter “No. 1 Beatles” and discover that new copies of your album are going for one penny, plus shipping. What’s up with that? Very common CDs have no value on Amazon. There are just too many available, and with the most common ones, there’s always someone willing to sell their copy for a penny. The seller may be hoping to make a profit on the shipping charge, but it is less than a dollar in most cases. I believe the ones going for such low prices are due to children learning the ropes under their parents’ guidance, or are people who are more interested in recycling perfectly good CDs, even if for a penny, than in making a profit.

Don’t give up hope, just because Amazon says your CD is worth nothing. There are other markets where you can sell $0.01 CDs for much more, as we’ll discuss later in the book.

Another thing Amazon gives you is something called salesrank. The currently best-selling CD on all of Amazon has a salesrank of #1. The worst one, perhaps a disk in which a single copy sold a couple of years ago, is in the millions. Perhaps with a salesrank like #6,042,971. It may be worth $50, but you may also have wait years until it will sell. Some CDs have a low salesrank only because they are quite rare. You’re in luck if you come across one of these. Maybe you discover a Elton John CD that you’ve never heard of, look it up on Amazon, and it has a sales rank in the millions and you also discover there are no other copies currently available. That may bring a lot of money!

Ideally, you’re looking for CDs for which there are no low-priced copies available, and the salesrank is low, perhaps under 20,000, so you know it will sell fairly quickly.

On most CD liners you’ll find a bar code, with a 12 or 13-digit number underneath. That’s the UPC code, which is totally ignored by almost everyone. But it can be a very nice thing for a CD trader.

Both eBay and Amazon allow you to enter UPC codes instead of having to type in title and author. This can save a lot of time. It saves even more if you get a barcode scanner. These $50 accessories will plug into the UPC port on your computer. Aim the scanner at a bar code, pull the trigger, and the UCP number is input into the search field automatically.

Going a step further, you can download a free Amazon app for your iPhone or Android cellphone that lets you just aim your phone’s camera at the barcode, and your phone will access Amazon and look up the CD for you. eBay has a similar app. If you have a CD without a barcode, you can enter the author and artist in the smartphone to look it up, but that is time-consuming. However, for rare items, it might be worthwhile.

You can use your smartphone to look up CD values when at garage sales, thrift stores, or other buying places, or leisurely at your home to see what you have already purchased.

The downside of the app, even if you have 4G or are within a WiFi hotspot, is that it takes around a minute to scan the barcode, have the info uploaded to Amazon, have Amazon shoot back the information, then click around a bit on your screen to discover the actual value. You can imagine that taking a minute per CD on a busy garage sale day may be too time consuming.

An interesting upside is that if you find an item that you want to sell on Amazon, you can list it online right there on the spot. It may sell even before you get home.

Most people do not immediately list their CDs, instead listing when they get back home, because they’d rather take the time to enter condition descriptions, make sure they’re in the right categories, carefully analyze prices, and make sure all the other details are correct.

So, you can also purchased a dedicated scanning system. Some of these work with your ordinary smartphone, some use a dedicated scanning accessory, and some are complete dedicated units, based on a PDA – the predecessor of smartphones. PDA were little portable computers that looked like smartphones, but have no telephone capability. The dedicated scanner downloads the entire Amazon CD database, which is typically done overnight once per day or once per week, because it can take more than an hour. But once downloaded, all the information is in the device. You just point and click at your CDs, and you get instant feedback. This feedback is accompanied by an audio tone. Using a bluetooth headset, you can hear a ‘boop’ or similar tone when a CD falls below the parameters you have set, and a success tone such as the ‘ka-ching’ of a cash register when the CD has enough value. You can set the scanning software to indicate success at any combination of price point and salesrank you wish. So with a scanner, you can test hundreds of CDs per hour, quickly building piles of what you want to sell, and what you want to discard. Scanning software is typically sold as a subscription, costing in the neighborhood of $50 (US) per month. Most professionals using scanners are book scouts, but they work perfectly well for CD buyers as well.



Thrift Stores and Flea Markets


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Most of the techniques for buying at garage sales work the same way at secondhand stores, thrift stores and flea markets. You can be in less of a hurry at these venues than on busy garage sale days, and you can buy at these venues during the week between your busy weekends.

You may find that there are other professional CD buyers in your neighborhood that have already gleaned much of the good stuff from the stores. You may also find that the stores generally charge more than you’d have to pay at garage sales.

This can make it nearly impossible to buy at stores for selling online via eBay or Amazon. But there are other ways to sell CDs discussed later in this book, in which you can sell what you find at these stores.



Buying on eBay


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It is possible to buy CDs on eBay or Amazon then sell them to a local market. In rare cases, you can buy a CD on eBay, then turn right around and sell it on eBay for a profit.

There are two ways to buy on eBay.

The first is as you’d expect. Find something you’d like, then participate in an auction, hopefully offering a high enough bid to win the auction, but low enough that you can sell it at a profit. This is the difficult way, and will usually only work on rare items, or ones for which you have a standing market – someone ready to buy if only you can find a copy for them.

In an eBay auction, you can bid the maximum amount you are willing to pay, but may end up spending less. Your actual bid is increased from the current high bid by only a small increment, typically a dollar. So, if the current price of an item is $6.50, and you are willing to pay $12, when you place your $12 bid, your actual bid is only $7.50. If there are other buyers who have also done the same thing, the actual bid may increase immediately, as the other maximum bids duke it out with each other.

Depending on your business model, you can bid on hundreds of CDs, perhaps only winning a few for prices at which you know you’ll make a profit. You can even invest in “sniping” software that will place last-minute bids on your behalf.

The other way to buy is to study items that have recently been listed at a fixed price, what is often called “Buy-It-Now.” Now and then, people will list something without studying the market. A rare CD worth $50 might suddenly appear for $20. Unlike an auction where anyone in the country, or in the entire world who knows the value of an item, have anywhere from a day to ten days to discover and bid on it, the fixed price items can be purchased instantly.

The professional fixed-price buyer has bookmarked the eBay buying pages so that in “Buy-It-Now” is pre-selected, as are the specific categories in which the buyer is interested, and the specific criteria. For instance, a buyer may have the eBay search results set up so that only items up to $20 are visible, and only in classical music, making it easier to quickly sort through the CDs that buyer may want. This buyer may check the listings several times a day, occasionally buying something from the top of the list that just appeared.

In general, this tactic is more used for higher-value items such as musical instruments, bicycles and laptop computers, because it can be rather time-consuming compared to the profit to be made.



Buying on Craigslist


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You can place a free ad on Craigslist in “Items Wanted” saying that you buy CDs. Pretty much the same tactics you’d use when garage sale shopping apply, except you have more time to inspect the CDs and to wheel and deal. You can drive to people’s homes to see what they have, or insist that they come to you, assuming you live in a place where that makes sense. Having them come to you can save a lot of time.

Either way, you’ll want to rule out what you can when they contact you. Whether you communicate with potential sellers by email or phone, it is important to try to understand whether their collection is in bad shape, not in the genres in which you buy, or whether they are expecting too much money. Another consideration is the size of the collection. It is not usually worth your time to meet with someone to buy two or three disks. Nothing is more frustrating than to drive to someone’s place, only to discover that the collection they have is way out of line in some way.

But sometimes, what they have is amazing. Perhaps they’re moving out of town, and have a wall full of CDs, and all they really want is to find a good home for them. Money may be secondary. More than once, I have picked up 500 or 1,000 good CDs at a time this way.

Since not everyone who might have CDs for sale is going to look in the “items wanted” section, you can also sell something, anything, in the appropriate “for sale” categories on craigslist, and happen to mention in your ads that you also buy CDs.

There was a fellow in Boston (if I remember correctly) who put an ad on Craigslist simply stating that he would be happy to pick up unwanted books. The story goes that he had dozens of people contacting him, and he picked up thousands of free books. In his ad, he didn’t state anything about what he was doing with the books. I believe people simply wanted to feel that their old books were going to have a better fate than going to the landfill. Would it work as well if you put an ad on Craigslist stating that you are willing to pick up unwanted CDs?



Free Exchange


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Perhaps your church or group has sponsored an occasional clothing exchange. I’m not talking about a rummage sale where you donate your unwanted clothes and they sell them to support the organization. I’m talking about an event where everyone brings their unwanted clothes, perhaps on a Saturday morning, and everyone can carry away other members’ unwanted clothes. So, you can get rid of that funky sweater someone ‘gifted’ you with and pick up a great. . .

Could something like this happen with CDs? Imagine a regular location where this free exchange of CDs went on every weekend, or even every day? Do you see where the profit is in this? Since you could be the one who organizes and maintains it, it is only fair that you get first pick on everything that comes in. Naturally, you’d pick CDs that you can sell profitably online. If you let everyone know right up front that that’s exactly what you’re doing, they’ll all be okay with it. I can assure you of that, because I set up a business that grew nearly overnight into a large, ongoing general free exchange in Marin County, California, and that’s what actually happened.

More specifically, I rented a 2,500 square-foot store, primed it with stuff I bought for next to nothing at garage sales, and opened to the public. I allowed exchange of anything of reasonable size (no couches or mattresses, please!) There were many books (another profit-bearing business in itself), garden tools, car parts, sports equipment, you name it. But I could have specialized in CDs. A couple of years later, I set up a quite successful “media” exchange, dealing with books, CDs and DVDs.

This was before the iPod phenomenon really kicked in. Even then, I could have specialized successfully in CDs. But imagine now, when everyone wants to get CDs so they can find new stuff for their MP3 players, and once they do, the CDs have little value to them. For these customers, would a free exchange be perfect, or what?

Never once did anyone complain that I had first pick. Quite the contrary, I received complements all day long for the nature of the business.

Another thing that might surprise you is that I received much more stuff than I gave away. There was so much stuff coming into my exchanges, that much had to be discarded.
When people decide to clean out the attic, basement or garage, they tend to bring multiple boxes full of stuff. There were hundreds of wealthy people who brought things to the exchange just so other less wealthy people could get them. All these donors knew full-well that I was supporting the business by picking the cream off the top.

I only ran my exchanges as experiments for four months each.

During my first four months, in the general exchange, a volunteer ran some math and worked out that I gave away $44,000 per month worth of stuff. This was just wonderful for all the people who came from the poorer areas east of Marin and were able to get good things for their children and themselves. Even though the store was in a rather fancy suburban neighborhood, and many of the ‘shoppers’ came in junky cars and looked kind of scary to the locals, I was often told how much it was a great community service by the well-off locals.

Everyone encouraged the wealthier people to pick up things they fancied also. After all, when someone keeps an old CD in service, that eliminates the need to manufacture, package, and ship a new one. That’s the truest form of living a light footprint on Earth.

I have been more of an experimenter than a do-the-same-profitable-thing-year-after-year person – probably to my detriment, but my exchanges could have been huge successes. Instead of closing them and moving on to the next experiment, I suppose they could have branched out, and I’d be very successful in the exchange business. But, being an experimenter and a writer, I’ll leave starting the next exchange up to you.

Imagine the potential. You’ll get more CDs into the hands of children and adults who couldn’t otherwise afford them. It wouldn’t be surprising if your free CD collection could become larger than what any store in town carries. You could have walls filled with free CDs. Interestingly, your place can become a destination for musicians and music appreciators. Many will volunteer to help your efforts. Everyone will just love hanging out, offering advice, repairing instruments, talking shop, jamming – well, you get the idea. What a place it can become!

Of course much of the stuff that comes in will be in sad shape. You’ll get CDs that are scratched, empty jewel cases, missing liners, and lots of pirated copies with Magic Marker titles scrolled across the top. (All you can legally do with these is throw them away.) But, you’ll also get CDs that are worth $30 or more on Amazon or eBay.

When it’s free, you’d be surprised how delighted someone can be with “Seventies Pop Tunes.” You may not be too happy about selling the collectible CDs that come in, even though that could be quite profitable. But if a CD comes in that you can sell on eBay for $100, that money will go along way to support the exchange, wouldn’t it? That way, you can get a lot more free CDs into a lot more hands.

The reason I created two exchanges was that I wasn’t quite happy with the first one.

My first version started out quite large, and I had a rag-tag assortment of about twenty volunteers. Not being a great manager, I quickly lost a degree of control over these people. Some came in drunk, some complained about everything in sight, some treated the clientele crudely. So, if you’re going to do this, you’ll either want quality employees rather than volunteers, or you’ll want to screen your volunteers better than I did, or you’ll want to have a more alpha personality. Or, perhaps the best solution, is keep it small and manageable, perhaps in a 700 – 1,000 square foot space in a smaller community, or hidden away in a neighborhood, and run it by yourself.

That’s what I did with my second exchange. It was 1,000 square feet in a town of just under 20,000 residents. Initially I did everything myself, no volunteers. I decided to specialize in books, CDs and DVD movies, because I figured I’d have a quieter, more focused clientele. I was exactly right. The second exchange was just as profitable, yet much less hectic, and therefore more fun for me.

Speaking of profit, I spent about $10,000 setting up the second exchange. I could have done it with less, but in my case, I didn’t need to. By the end of the second month, I was making $5,000 per month profit. At the end of the four-month experiment, I sold it quickly for $32,000. (If I had wanted to, I could have held on for a year, and sold it for much more!)

A bit of a problem with the first, general exchange was waste. Since I was taking everything, not just books and disks, I had to rent larger and larger dumpsters to accommodate the things that weren’t worth even giving away. At the end of the fourth month, I was paying $250 per month for dumpster rental.

Later, I learned that I could have reduced the cost of waste disposal by asking for momentary volunteers to each carry away a bag or two of junk.

In my second exchange, I learned to ask for momentary volunteers, simply by putting signs on the shelves. I let people know that anyone could help for five minutes, fifteen minutes, or an hour, whatever they liked, whenever they liked. These would be people willing to organize inventory on the tables and shelves, clean the bathroom, repair items, and so on.

Since I had volunteers in the first exchange, everything was nicely organized on the shelves, by subject, alphabetically, and so on. Without volunteers, this would be a lot of work. In my second exchange, everything was just put out on shelves, in absolutely no order.

Interestingly, no one complained in the second exchange, although they did occasionally comment that being sorted would be convenient. I told those people, “go ahead and sort it!” In a larger exchange, people will often ask for an item by name, and often you can provide it. This becomes impossible in an unsorted exchange. On the other hand, people love rummaging through boxes, shelves, collections of things, because one never knows what will come up. More than once, I’ve had people shout versions of “Eureka!” upon discovering something they really like.

To not discourage people from bringing things, I decided never to decline any reasonable donations. I stand by this, and believe it’s better to spend a bit on garbage pickup than losing donations from people who start to figure you may not accept what they bring.

In the general exchange, I had a sign on the front window that told people not to leave donations after hours. But they did. Most mornings I’d find a pick-up truck full of bags of worn-out clothing, broken lawnmowers, sofas without cushions, and so on. These were the things that people just wanted to dispose of, didn’t want to pay landfill fees, and would be too embarrassed to try donating to the store during the day. Of course this wouldn’t be a problem with a CD exchange. In fact, the nighttime donations might surprise you. Someone once left two banker’s boxes full of old records. I called my friend Ken, who paid $100 per box for the collection. In my media exchange, I learned to solicit nighttime donations. I had a drop box with a slot outside. Hundreds of books, DVDs, and CDs per month came in through that slot. I used a slot rather than an open container, because I didn’t want other people coming by and rummaging through the things before I had a chance to pick through them. I also put a free shelf outside, so visitors could get books, and occasionally music CDs, any time of the day or night.

Taking the concept one step further, you might be able to design an exchange that doesn’t need your presence at all. One way is to man it with volunteers. Another is to have drop boxes around town, much like some clothing companies do, in which you ask people to drop of CDs they’re not using. On the drop boxes, you’d have signs indicating what you’re doing – making a great variety of music free for everyone. But, on your signs I believe you should also state that you’re making a profit in the process. If you’re up front, not only will no one complain, but many will just love what you’re doing. If you try to hide it, people will undoubtedly get the wrong idea. Unfortunately, some of those companies that put out clothing donation boxes a few years ago developed a bad reputation for not actually fulfilling the promise of making good use of the donated clothing.

To round out the picture, it would also be possible to have CD exchanges that are simply shelves in public locations. The idea is people can drop off CDs they don’t care about any more, and pick up ones they like – all for free, of course. Your job, besides keeping the shelves organized and clean, is to go through the stuff that comes in, gleaning what will sell online. Quick oil change places, laundromats, and restaurants would all love to have such a shelf. Musical instrument stores might like to get in on the action, and would accept your shelves because it would bring in more customers. Actual CD stores might feel it is competition, but if they are forward-thinking enough, they may invite a free shelf also. It would be better for you to put a free shelf in their store than to have them put one of their own in, thereby competing with you.

You can tighten up the efficiency of free CD exchange shelves a bit by having a box with a slot on the shelves. Signs tell people to drop donated music into the slot, and take whatever they want. The point is you don’t want people carrying away the obscure and possibly valuable titles. You want to be able to sort everything that has been donated before it gets away.

Don’t forget to have contact info so if someone has boxes and boxes of CDs, they know how to contact you for a free pickup.

If have not tried this exact business model myself. I did, however, put book shelves in eight laundromats. These weren’t exchanges. I purchased the books by the boxful at garage sales, probably paying on average five or ten cents per book. I then put them in the laundromats with signs saying, “Put $3 in the slot per book.” I split the money fifty-fifty with the laundromat owners or managers. Sure, some books were stolen from my shelves, but I never noticed, and it didn’t significantly impact the bottom line. These shelves were quite profitable for the small amount of time involved.

Getting back to the idea of a full-size exchange, when you pick a location, it is important to have good parking. This can be even more important than for an ordinary retail store, because many people are going to be bringing large loads of stuff. If they have to carry boxes of CDs a hundred yards (100 meters), they’ll be less inclined to bring stuff next time. Fortunately, the parking was very close to my first exchange. Even still, I provided hand carts for people to get things from their cars into the exchange. You don’t want anything to come between people and their desire to bring things to your exchange.

And yet, parking was a problem. My store became rather popular within a very short time. (Advertising and publicity is absolutely not necessary in a business that exists to give things away.) The problem was the parking lot became congested. And that, ultimately, was the downfall of my experiment. When traffic started clogging the little strip mall I was occupying, the neighboring businesses started to complain. The property manager suggested I leave. Oh, I could have worked things out, but since I was ready to move on, I just pulled the plug. (This was my first exchange. I sold the second exchange at a small, but nice profit – $32,000.)

So, you can learn from my experiments. One thing I’d recommend if you want to start your own music exchange is to start very, very small. You don’t need to rent a store. Depending on where and how you live, you might want to start it out of your garage. Or you can rent a space in a flea market. Or set up something cooperatively with someone who has commercial space available. For instance, you might find a quick-change oil change place who would gladly donate some lobby space in trade for every music lover in town getting their oil changed there.

I’m not the first one who set up a store to give things away. The precedent was set in late 1967 by the Diggers. The Diggers were a loosely assembled group of free-spirited souls, originally interested in improv acting (one of whom was Peter Coyote), who started making free soup, beans, and bread for the hippies that came to the Haight during the Summer of Love. In time, they rented a storefront in which they accepted donations and gave everything away. I did a bit of research and never found out how they paid the rent. That store, too was a short-lived experiment. Digger Archives

The Diggers did not operate their exchange for a profit. And you may not need to either. Assuming you are not independently wealthy, you will need a reason to offset the time it takes to run an exchange. The reason might be publicity for another music business. For instance, if you run an exchange, virtually everyone who is interested in music in your community will stop by. Then, you can let them know that you’re a gigging musician, that you teach lessons, sell instruments, or whatever you do, and you’ll build your business nicely, because everyone will want to support the exchange and its proprietor.


Part II, Selling


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Once you’ve decided how you’d like to to get CDs, it’s time to go ahead and make a profit!



Selling on eBay


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As a seller on eBay, you have a national or even worldwide market, so rare things of interest to only a few people, things that would gather dust on a retail shelf, can do well on eBay. At the same time, the common CDs by known artists sell for almost nothing.


Setting up an eBay account is free and easy. You’ll also want to set up an account with PayPal, a money-handling website that is part of the eBay empire and makes life easy for buyers and sellers in well over ninety percent of eBay payment transactions. PayPal takes care of all the credit card processing and payment details. PayPal is also free.

When an item sells on eBay, the buyer almost always pays through PayPal. The seller gets to keep all the money collected except for an eBay fee, typically around eight percent, and a PayPal fee, typically around three percent. The money is placed in the seller’s PayPal account, where s/he can transfer it to a checking account, or spend it in a variety of ways. The seller then packages the item and sends it to the buyer. If all goes well, and it usually does, the buyer can leave positive feedback for the seller. Feedback is a point that’s positive, neutral, or negative, along with optional ratings on issues such as shipping time and communication, plus a comment. The seller too, can offer feedback for the buyer.

So, anyone doing business on eBay can check feedback before committing to a transaction. If a seller has mostly positive feedback, you can feel confident in buying that seller’s item. Therefore, as a seller, you want to treat your buyers well so you’ll get positive feedback.

Feedback isn’t as important as it once was because eBay offers a variety of protection for buyers and sellers. For instance, if you buy a laptop computer, but the seller keeps your money and ships you a box of rocks, you can do more than issue negative feedback. You can contact eBay, and they’ll refund your money – as long as you did everything right. That means to stay within eBay’s parameters. If the seller asks you to pay by some means other than PayPal, or if the buyer asks the seller to ship it to a different address than the one listed with eBay, the protection might be forfeited. Still, most buyers do use feedback as a guideline before purchasing.

As a seller, you might want to build positive feedback quickly. One way is to buy a few inexpensive things. You get feedback as a buyer. But most sophisticated eBayers know the difference between feedback as a buyer and seller, and will want to see your seller feedback. Therefore, you can also start your eBay business by selling some inexpensive things. Perhaps you have some common music CDs laying around the house. Sell them quickly, and get your feedback.

Grab your camera and take a few pictures. eBay will allow for up to twelve free photos for each item you list. The first one will appear as a thumbnail – the little image to the left of a listing when shown in a group of similar listings. So, it should probably give an overview image of the front of the liner in the jewel case. It’s best to photograph items against a solid color background, so they are easy to see. I often use a red background, so if there are many similar listings, mine will stand out. You might also prefer a bright blue, green or yellow background. This is only a small advantage, so a white, even a wood-grained background is fine too. You’ll want your lighting about right, clear focus, and medium to very slightly higher than normal contrast. In the case of a CD, shadows aren’t much of a concern, but with non-flat items, you’ll want to make sure shadows don’t obscure important details or make the thumbnail image hard to figure out. With CDs, reflections can be a problem if you don’t position your lights well.

Next you might take some other pictures, such as of the back cover, and maybe the disk itself.

Does your CD have any flaws? If the liner is creased or stained, if the disk has scratches, maybe a close-up of the flaw would be a good idea. When selling on eBay it is very important to clearly note flaws both photographically and in the text description. You don’t want negative feedback, and you don’t want to refund someone’s money because they were disappointed.

From the top of the eBay home page, you can click Sell, then Sell Your Item. You are given a field in which you can enter what you have, and eBay will give you matching categories. In the case of a CD, it is easy. You can simply enter the ten or thirteen digit ISBN number that most published books have. Or you can browse to pick a category.

For music CDs, enter the UPC code found just under the barcode on the back. Most CDs have UPC codes. For all the common CDs, eBay has templates. Once you enter a UPC number, eBay will give you a page that’s mostly filled out, except for the details you’ll want to control, such as shipping price. With rare CDs, you may have to enter Title, Artist, and UPC code if it has one manually.

You can enter or change a title. This is not usually the place to be creative. You want to enter exactly what buyers for your CD are searching for. If there is room left over, you might pitch your CD a bit. If it is in excellent condition, you can say so: add “Excellent Condition.”

Then you get to enter details such as listing the flaws your copy has, the publication year, a condition category, and some other things. Definitely enter the UPC code, or if it isn’t a CD you’re listing, enter a model or part number if one is available.

Then you get to upload your photographs. Below that, you can enter a description. For a CD, if you have already entered condition notes, such as “very minor yellowing, slightly dog-eared” then a description is not usually required. You could give a synopsis of what’s on the CD, but buyers already know about what they want.

There is no limit to how long your description can be. That doesn’t mean your description has to be long. For an ordinary CD, no description at all is adequate. However, you could state something like, “I found this CD fascinating, and so I took a half-hour break to listen to it. A half-hour doesn’t really do it justice. I could certainly listen to all the tracks, over and over for months. I don’t really want to let it go, but you’ll probably enjoy it even more than I did.”

Keep in mind that an overly optimistic pitch like this doesn’t really help most products, so if you value your time, you might limit your descriptions to the basic facts.

Because many people worry about used CDs being too scratched to play properly, you might add to every description: “Guaranteed to play perfectly.”

As you are working your way down the page, you’ll see options that cost extra money such as sub-title and Gallery Plus. Most of these options have no effect on sales, but do generate extra income for eBay. Don’t worry, they have plenty of money already, so I recommend that you do not select any enhancements that cost money.

Now, you get to choose whether to sell it as an online Auction item or Fixed Price, also known as Buy-It-Now.

If you have a CD that’s rare or collectible, and it is possible that two or more people will want it no matter the cost, then Auction is the way to go. You can start the bidding at whatever price you choose, and then decide if you’ll let the auction run for one, three, five, seven or ten days. If after that time, no one was willing to pay your minimum price, you get to keep it, or try selling it again. If only one person in the world wants it, it will sell for your minimum price. On the other hand, two or more people can get into a bidding war.

I listed an old wooden radio with a starting bid of fifty dollars. At the end of the first day, the price had risen to $200. When the seven-day auction closed, the high bidder paid me $1,200 plus shipping. This is a bit unusual in that the price went to $200 on the first day. Many experienced auction buyers wait until the last minute to bid, feeling that if they bid too soon, the higher price will only encourage other bidders. Taking that a step further, there is software that will bid on the buyers’ behalf at the last possible moment.

On the other hand, you might have an item that is common, and many copies are available on eBay. This might be better sold as a Fixed Price item. You can set the price at, or slightly below the other ones currently being offered, unless the condition of yours is above the others. Fixed price items are more likely to sell because many buyers don’t want to play the auction game. They want an item as soon as possible, and they want to know for sure that they won the transaction. They don’t want to wait a week to see if their bid was sufficient.

To get an idea about which items do best as Auction, and which are most often sold as Fixed Price, you can look again at Completed Listings, and see which were offered as Auction and which as Fixed Price. You can also study how other sellers handled shipping charges, and which categories they listed successful and unsuccessful items in. You can click on any item to drill in and see the pictures and read the description to figure out what the seller did, and whether it worked well – made money – or not. From there, you can even click on statistics to find out what kind of feedback the seller has, what other items the seller is currently selling, and what items the seller has actually sold during the past thirty days.

To give you another view on Fixed Price versus Auction, imagine that you have two CDs. One is a regular Celine Dion album that you’ve seen a hundred times before. The other is a Whitney Houston CD that you’ve never seen, and of which there are no copies for sale anywhere. There are two other Celine Dion CDs for sale like yours. So which one will do better sold as fixed price, a which is a better play for an auction?

Another example: You have a James Taylor CD that you’ve seen a hundred times before. There are six of the James Taylor CDs on eBay already. That would be fixed price – that is if the others aren’t already being sold for so little that you won’t make enough money. On the other hand, what if even though you are an expert on James Taylor, the James Taylor CD is an album you’ve never heard of? Some crazy obscure thing. Right, auction!

After some more choices on the eBay page, you get to decide about shipping options. You can have the buyer pay a shipping fee in any amount you choose, or you can include free shipping. Free shipping may make some items feel less costly to the buyers, but most are sophisticated enough to know that the shipping cost is absorbed in an inflated overall price. So, I generally go with an added shipping charge – charging slightly more than the packaging material and actual shipping cost. If the shipping price is too inflated, you may lose sales and get negative feedback.

You can figure out shipping costs at the major shipper websites. For instance at USPS.com (the United States Post Office), you can enter package weight, dimensions if needed, a specific shipping service such as First Class Mail, and figure out how much an item will cost to ship. Don’t forget that it will cost a little bit for packing materials. It’s pretty much the same for UPS and Fed Ex.

USPS tends to be a bit less costly for items under two pounds (one kg) in weight. For CDs in particular, they cost quite a bit less to ship by US Mail than any other way.

While most of your buyers will buy a single CD in a jewel case, you may occasionally sell double-albums, boxed sets, or two or more items at once to the same buyer, so
in time, you may want buy a postal scale. Make sure to get a model that goes to at least twenty pounds (ten kg). When I started out, I had a five pound scale, and was constantly frustrated at having to guess the weights of six and seven pound packages.

Keep in mind that when you just ship an occasional thing on eBay, you can take all the time in the world to develop your own packaging out of old cardboard boxes and junk you have in your garage. But as you start shipping five or ten items a day, you’ll want to spend some money on consistent packaging materials to save valuable time.

For ordinary CDs, I have found the best packaging is the #0 “Poly” bubble mailer, a white plastic padded envelope that you can buy in quantities of 250 from Uline. These cost about 25 cents each, but offer very good protection, so fewer than one in a thousand CDs will be damaged in shipment. I use First Class US mail which costs under $2 as of the time this book is written. I charge $2.92 for shipping, which covers my cost, plus makes me just a bit of extra money. I chose $2.92 instead of $2.99 or $2.95 or $3 because it sounds calculated. It sounds as if that’s the actual cost of shipping the item, so no one complains that it is a bit inflated or rounded up.

eBay has a program called Global Shipping for US sellers. For most categories of items, you can click a check box, and Global Shipping will be allowed on your listing. If someone in one of the qualifying countries (not all countries are supported) buys your item, they pay an amount that’s more than the shipping charge you’re asking. You are reimbursed the same as if you were shipping to a US customer. You are given an address of a building in Kentucky, where your item is packaged with all other packages currently going to the same country and shipped in a big lot. Once it arrives in the receiving country, it is then mailed to the buyer using the best local transportation company. This saves the buyer money, and makes your life much easier. Otherwise, you’d have to figure out a price for the non-USA buyers, and fill out a customs form for each item you send. You’d also be responsible for refunding in the cases of lost packages, which is unfortunately common in overseas shipments. eBay takes care of all those things for you with Global Shipping.

When you list an occasional item on eBay, you pay thirty cents (US) for a fixed price listing, plus closing fees when it sells. If it doesn’t sell in a month, you’ve lost thirty cents. You have the option to keep it listed for another thirty cents per month. You can imagine that for a thousand items, this starts to add up.

The answer is eBay Stores. You can get a store subscription for $20 to $200 per month. At the highest level, you get to list 2,500 items with no listing fee, and after that, each item is only five cents. So, you can keep thousands of items listed month after month for a few hundred dollars per month. Once you have thousands of items, a mere few hundred dollars in listing fees won’t seem like a whole lot. Stores give you some other advantages. Your listings that are similar to what others have are in some situations promoted higher in eBay search results. You can have a ‘presence’ on eBay, with webpages specifically dedicated to your store. eBay will allow users to opt into a mailing list, so you can email advertisements to those people periodically. You get some special features, such as the ability to run a sale across all, or selected portions of your listings. And you get to use a section of eBay called Selling Manager Pro. With this, you can change prices of up to 500 items at a time, as well as many other bulk and individual adjustments. Let’s say you want to add Global Shipping to all your items. Just a few clicks, and they are all changed.

Having sold over 20,000 items on eBay, I have found that eBay, and PayPal are good, responsive, reliable companies. I’ve also heard all sorts of rumors that PayPal does this ‘nasty’ thing, and eBay does that horrible thing. None of these rumors have proven to be true for me. If you have a store on eBay, they offer additional options in support, including as much free support by phone as you’d like.

Reverse Auctions

I’ve found that the best way to get the most profit out of the common, non-collectible items you list, is to use Fixed Price with what I call a reverse auction. I start the prices of everything way too high, then, lower the price by one percent per day using Selling Manager Pro. A few people will buy things at the way too high price. Most others will buy them when the price falls to market value.


Selling on Amazon


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With Amazon, you can list everything you want. There is no cost for having items on Amazon. If you have thousands of CDs for sale, this is a significant improvement over eBay’s $0.05 per item per month. Ideally, you can sell your least common items on eBay, the common items that still have reasonable value on Amazon. Many of the most common items can’t be sold on Amazon for a profit.

For instance, you may find an copy of “No. 1” by the Beatles. On Amazon, you see there are five copies available for literally one penny – plus shipping.

How can you compete with that? Well, you probably don’t want to, at least not on Amazon. I’ll talk about how to make money from the very common CDs in a later chapter.

Oh, you can list it on Amazon if you want to. Sometimes magic happens. Sometimes someone gets on the Tonight Show and plays “Yesterday,” or someone makes reference to the album in a popular book or news article. Suddenly, all the one-penny copies sell out. Then the next higher priced ones sell out. Eventually, your copy, that you may have listed for seven dollars, is the lowest-price copy available, and it will sell.

You can get an account on Amazon.com for free. It takes less than five minutes to set it up. Then, you can sell your CDs just like any of the thousands of second-hand booksellers on Amazon.

For each CD you have, you start by checking the current price on Amazon. Just like a buyer, you enter the UPC code or title and artist in the Amazon search field. You’ll be shown a list of all versions currently available. You can see what prices others are charging for the same thing. You can also check salesrank. This is a number ranging from 1, for the best-selling piece of music, to somewhere in the millions, for an item that sells only rarely. A salesrank of 0 means no one has ever sold that item.

If you find a lot of sellers have the same item as yours, and it has a high salesrank – or zero – you don’t want to waste your time listing it. If it has a reasonable salesrank, and the price is high, just go ahead and sell yours. Amazon changes from time to time, but generally, when you look up an item, you are presented with an option to sell one just like it. You simply describe its condition, and decide on a price. I like to under-price the competition by a couple of pennies for copies in the same general condition as mine, so mine will be the first one to sell.

Just keep listing. Once you have hundreds of items listed, you’ll start selling tens of items per day.

At first you can simply list your items for sale, almost as easily as buying items on Amazon. However, Amazon charges a dollar (US) flat fee for each item you sell, plus a small percentage, unless you subscribe as an Amazon Professional Seller. For forty dollars per month (US), you no longer need to pay the flat fee, just a small percentage for each item sold. With Professional Seller status, you gain several advantages. One is that Amazon gives you web pages where you can keep track of your inventory. Once you have more than perhaps a dozen things listed online, it is easy to lose track unless you assign a number to each item. You wouldn’t want to ship your very good copy of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols to the buyer in New York, and the acceptable copy of the same CD to the buyer in Paris, when it was supposed to be the other way around. So, keeping track is very important.



Selling The Common CDs


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So, on eBay and Amazon, you can sell your rare, and not-so-common CDs for good, sometimes very good money. But the bulk of your CDs will be the common ones. What do you do with those?

Some sellers ignore them, give them away, or try to sell them in bulk for next to nothing on eBay or elsewhere. If your rare CD business is particularly lucrative, this is OK, but you would be giving away a big additional profit.

These common CDs still have intrinsic value to local buyers, ordinary everyday people who will think nothing of spending $3 to get another CD for uploading to their MP3 players. You see them buying disks at flea markets all the time.

Yes, flea markets can be a good place to sell the common CDs. Especially if you are willing to take trades (to get more rare CDs for selling online), and if you don’t mind getting up early on weekend mornings, possibly standing and talking with people until well into the afternoon. It is not uncommon for a CD seller to come away with hundreds of dollars after a day of flea market selling. One big advantage with flea markets is you don’t have to advertise. The buyers, hopefully hundreds of them, are already there.

You can hold a garage sale from time to time, and while scores, maybe even hundreds of buyers will come along, they’ll mostly be expecting garage sale prices, like 25 or 50 cents per disk.

Now it is time for me to introduce three more effective ways to make money from common CDs.



CD Rental


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Since most buyers want CDs just to load the music onto their phones, laptops, or whatever, they need the disks for only a short time. That makes a CD rental business very viable.

When I was a kid, I was into stamp collecting. A saw an ad in a stamp collecting magazine for a system that I tried and loved. It was called “approval albums.” I wrote to an approval company, and without me paying a penny, they sent a book of interesting postage stamps. I could take out the ones I wanted for my own collection, then send the book back along with payment for the stamps I kept. Then, they sent another approval album. The first album they sent was full of low-value (but pretty) stamps. As time went on, and they learned that I was a trustworthy customer, the value increased. Then, when my buying fell off because the prices were to high, they adjusted again, until week after week I was buying a fair amount from each approval album. They also adjusted to suit my needs. They discovered I liked triangle stamps because I was buying a lot of them, so sure enough, the approval albums started containing more triangle stamps. Just like NetFlix, there was no hurry to get the albums back. They just wouldn’t send another until I sent back the one I currently was holding.

So, you see the connection, right? You could send CDs to people, who then send them back so you can send more. In time, you’ll learn that so-and-so wants country music, but someone else wants acid rock. Or, you can ask up front. You might conduct this business through a website, where new users click checkboxes to indicate their initial preferences. Unlike approval albums, you wouldn’t send CDs without cost. Probably in a subscription model, such as what NetFlix uses (for the DVD side of their business, not the streaming side), you could charge $15 or so per month for buyers who want to work with a single CD at a time, and more if they want to keep two or more CDs in motion.

With NetFlix, the users have to pick out the videos they want sent. But as I have alluded already, you might also offer an option in which you send surprises, so people can experience new music in the genres they like. Duplication may be less of an issue than with videos. In other words, if you send a Romance Comedy DVD to someone, there’s a good chance they’ve already seen it. But if you send a classical, or smooth jazz CD, or a CD in just about any genre, there are so many hundreds of albums that the user is less likely to have heard it. You might even offer a guarantee: If they’ve heard the one you sent, you can send another for free.

An interesting thing happens with this rental model. People often forget to send a CD back for weeks or even months at a time. You do not have to worry about that. In fact, it is extremely profitable because they’re paying their subscription fee to you month after month, and you don’t have to do anything at all.

Another way to profit from rentals is when someone looses a CD. Now you may have paid twenty-five, fifty cents, or even a dollar for it, but you can charge $7, $10 or maybe as much $15 for a lost CD.



Shelf Selling


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Earlier in the book, I mentioned that for a while I had small bookshelves in laundromats. These would work the same way for CDs. You can put perhaps a hundred or two hundred common CDs in a laundromat on a shelf that has a sign that says “Put $3 in slot per CD.” Sure, some will be stolen, but if you are buying them at a low price, and then profiting from selling the rare ones online, you can afford a lot of loss. What I did was to split whatever money was found in the cash boxes with the owners or the managers of the laundromat. Some of the managers liked the idea that the cash would go to an employee of the laundromat as a sort of fringe benefit for working there. Once a week, I’d come by with new items to put on the shelves, open the cash boxes, and count the money out right in front of the manager, immediately handing over half. In retrospect, I probably could have paid out only 25 percent, just as well.

I don’t know whether it would be profitable to bolt a little CD player onto the shelf so people could hear the CDs before buying, or not. Perhaps you can run that experiment and find out.

In addition to laundromats, this could work in eating establishments, oil change places, libraries, maybe even offices, such as a dental office that has a waiting room full of people.

A variation of this would be to use the free exchange model. CDs are free, but you are asking for donations as well. You don’t make any direct profit from your common CDs, but among the ones donated, some will have good value when sold online. In this model, you’ll want to put a locked box with a slot on the shelves, along with a sign telling them to put the donated CDs in the box. This way, you get to look everything over first, before someone else may come along and take it. You’ll want to put contact info on the shelf as well, so that when someone wants to donate a basement full of boxes of CDs, they can call you and arrange a pickup. This will happen more often than you might imagine.



Route Sales


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Many years ago, Jewel Tea and Fuller Brush companies used to have salespeople who did what was called route sales. For those customers who liked, a salesperson would drive to their homes, perhaps once a week, and show them new things they could buy. They sold more than tea and brushes. They carried a rather full line of household goods, gifts and snacks, such as tins of chocolate chip cookies. These sales people sometimes carried samples or things customers could buy on the spot, but more often, they showed their catalogs. Customers would order things that would be delivered by the same sales person the following week. There isn’t as much of that these days, probably because of online venues such as eBay and Amazon. But it still exists in some forms. For instance, a Snap-On Tools truck will make the rounds of car repair shops, tempting the mechanics with all sorts of nifty screwdrivers, vacuum gauges and air wrenches. These tool trucks are large, carrying a fairly large inventory. Most of the sales people from the earlier area used only their own automobiles, or sometimes an ordinary van.

I’m thinking route sales might be something one could revive, in the world of music. Wouldn’t CDs make an excellent choice? The salesperson could specialize in new CDs, purchased from a wholesaler, or could go with used, offering to trade and buy CDs as well as sell them. The person wise in music could buy especially desirable new or used CDs on Amazon.com, and then sell them to the route customers. At the same time, trade-ins could be sold to other customers, or especially valuable ones could be sold online.

How would one start such a business? I think the usual means of publicity – business cards, flyers on bulletin boards, advertising on Craigslist, and perhaps in newspapers would be the way to go. You might want to look at the chapter about advertising and publicity at the end of this book.

It would be advantageous to have big signs on one’s car or truck, with a phone number that’s easy to see from a distance and easy to remember. The signs would tout the concept of home visits. Once you get a few customers, the rest will be easy. As you make your stops, people will have friends and relatives over who will want to be added to your route. Besides that, your happy customers will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on.

I believe a winning personality would help. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys talking with people, you’ll be more successful, unless you’re the kind of person who can talk all day, and forget to actually sell things.

In time, as your schedule becomes full, you can drop the people who don’t buy enough merchandise per visit. In more time, you might set up your daughter up with another truck and her own route, or set up drivers and trucks all over the country.

It might be advantageous to have a CD player and a very high quality headset, to show off CDs in the best possible light, er, sound, actually. A downside would be the time it takes. I’m not sure how you would overcome the customers’ tendency to listen to entire tracks while you just stand there, but no doubt you could figure out a way.

You could act as a sort of musical therapist or advisor, handing specifically chosen CDs to your various clients.

This business may mix well with the CD rental or exchange business models.



Consignment


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Some stores take consignments. Others don’t know exactly what this concept is, but when you explain it to them, they may be interested in setting up a consignment deal with you.

So what is consignment? You can bring items to a store, and they sell them for you. When things sell, you get a percentage of the money the store charged. Typical consignment deals range from 25 to 50 percent going to the store. That’s fair, considering they paid the price to get customers into the store so they’d buy your stuff. The store has to pay rent, utilities, and possibly advertising and employee expenses. Yet with consignment, you don’t! Furthermore, someone has to be in the store all the time. If you had your own small store, that would have to be you.

Imagine the potential. Let’s say you have a hundred CDs. You don’t want to have a garage sale or sell them at the flea market. Craigslist would not be a good option, because you’d have an endless parade of buyers coming to your home.

One of the best options then, is consigning at the local music store. Some other stores can work too, such as flexible antique dealers or upscale second-hand stores. If they are new to the consignment idea, you may have to guide them through how it is best done. If they are already doing consignment, you may have to comply with their ways of doing things, which might not always seem best. Each business has their own rules for how they handle consignments.

You will want to agree on a percentage up front. I like to recommend that you accept anything reasonable. Remember, if they get as much as they want, they’ll be more inclined to push your inventory. In a dedicated music store, They can set a price higher than you can through a flea market or craigslist because they attract people who have come specifically to buy the kinds of things you have. So you can come out ahead even with a steep percentage.

You’ll want to discuss security. Who’s responsible if a CD is stolen or damaged? What security precautions can be implemented? When do you get paid? What happens if a customer wants to return a CD? And, what is the procedure if someone wants a discount?

When customers ask for discounts, many stores just tell them, sorry, it’s consigned, so the price is non-negotiable. Others allow, with the consignor’s permission, a ten percent discount just for the asking. Yet another alternative is that the clerk will call you when someone wants a discount.

If you can both sign a document that spells those things out, it should work fine. Still, unless the store is trusted, you’ll want to start with a small amount of merchandise, just in case the store owner is so hard up financially that he has to delay paying you month after month. This is one of the biggest problems in consignment. Many stores are unfortunately in ongoing financial trouble. When I see a store in trouble, as a former business coach, oh, I so much want to offer some help! But I have learned to resist the temptation. It only works if they ask.

Finally, with consignment, you’ll want to keep careful track of your stuff. Each CD should carry an identifying mark or tag of some sort that won’t easily pull or peel off. You’ll want to have a spreadsheet, or at least a notebook, documenting where every piece of inventory is, the price, and its current status – at your place, at the store, for sale, sold awaiting payment, or paid.



Co-Op Selling


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You may find a cooperative store in town. This is not like a food co-op. A co-op is a store that rents spaces to individual dealers. A typical space is 8 x 10 feet, just enough room for a ten-foot row of shelves, and some display cases or tables. Most co-ops specialize in antiques, or arts and crafts. Some will do general merchandise – clothing, garden tools, books, you name it. As a dealer, you pay rent to the co-op, perhaps $125 per month. In addition to the space, they provide utilities, and retail services. That means, there’s someone at the counter to answer questions, take the customers’ credit cards, and so on.

In addition to renting the space, you also pay a percentage to the co-op when items sell, typically fifteen percent.

In some co-ops, all the dealers are required to put in a few hours at the sales counter. I prefer co-ops in which the dealers pay a slightly higher percentage, but don’t have to spend time in the store. One reason is because you can put CDs in several stores. You can make rounds perhaps once a week to organize your space, bring in more inventory, and of course collect the money. Selling in several coops, you won’t have time to volunteer behind various sales counters.



Your Own Music Store


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Once you have gained some experience selling CDs locally, you can open a retail store. To some people, this seems like a difficult or impossible dream. Having started five retail stores of my own I can tell you it is not only possible, it can be fairly easy, and extremely successful, as long as you keep some basic concepts in mind.

1. You have to take in more money than you put out.

2. Any time you could possibly spend money, discover whether there is a better, lower-cost way to do what you intend to do.

3. Be prepared to work long hours at first. Once you become successful, you can hire people. Or, you might consider a partnership – discussed in a chapter at the end of this book.

If you have even just a few thousand dollars in your back pocket, you can start a store. Of course it is important that you don’t need that money for something else. There are people who aren’t friends with responsibility, or just don’t have the common sense to start a retail business. They forget, or choose to ignore the rules.

Then, too, things that you have no control over, can happen. I recently read about a couple who started stocking their brand new store when an earthquake hit, destroying all their merchandise.

So, when you have the money to invest, and only when you can spare that money, you might consider starting your own store. The prestige and freedom that comes from having your own place can put a long-lasting smile on your face. It’s your place, so you can decide to host musical jams after hours. You can have wonderful conversations with your customers. The local celebrity musicians will drop in from time to time. You’ll probably eventually end up making more than any hourly wage, and you can hand the whole works over to your children many years later. Although, I should point out, the nature of the business is likely to change considerably as people move away from CDs to more online musical archives. The smart retailer keeps an ear to the ground, and stocks what people ask for. In time, your CD store may evolve into something entirely different.

Being impatient, I eventually lost interest in my retail ventures, so I did what you can do with your stores too: You can build your store up, then sell the business for what will seem like a remarkable amount of money. The longer you keep your store, the more it is worth – if you evolve with the market. The downside is that you’ll be making so much after a few years, you may not want to sell it. You may not want to kill the clarinet that lays the golden notes.

The idea of starting a store from scratch seems to scare many people. That’s why so many will pay so much for an established store. Having started several stores, I can tell you it is really quite easy.

The first order of business is finding a building. Most stores rent their space. The only way it would make sense to buy a commercial building is if you could sell or rent the building itself profitably should you have a change of plans or a change of heart.

What you’re looking for is a store that is easily seen from as many passing cars as possible. Or, one that gets significant exposure to walk-by traffic. You want one where people aren’t afraid to shop, where in fact, they have come purposely to shop. Parking should be easy and close by. If you rent a location where your sign can be seen by most of the residents – or tourists, you may not need to do anything about publicity or advertising at all.

You’ll probably want reasonably low rent, so you can have as many square feet as possible. On the other hand, trading square feet for exposure can make a huge difference. If you have a tiny store in a well-populated mall, you can make more money then if you have a huge warehouse located where no one notices it.

You’ll want to make sure the zoning is right. That’s easily done by going to your city or county zoning or business licensing office. You can find that office by asking at the local chamber of commerce. You just give the zoning people an address, and they’ll tell you what can, and cannot be done there. For instance, they won’t allow an auto body repair shop in an upscale residential neighborhood. The residents would never want all that noise and paint fumes.

In some seemingly excellent retail zones, parking meters can be a problem. They are the death of a retail store. People would much rather shop at your competitors’ store than worry the whole time they’re in your store, whether or not the 25 cents they fed the meter was enough.

An aspect of zoning is sign regulations. Most communities don’t want unrestricted neon signs multiple stories tall over a little music store. But some areas might be overzealous in their requirements. I once started a 1,000 square foot bookstore in a neighborhood that let me have a sign no bigger than 3 x 2 feet (1 x 0.6m). In my case, there was a ton of walk-by traffic, so that didn’t really matter. You’ll want to make sure the signage requirements in your area are appropriate.

Generally, they’ll allow an ordinary CD store in any building that has been used for retail business in the past, but you’ll certainly want to make sure before you sign a lease.

Now, before you sign that lease, you’ll want to write in the one clause that is missing from most commercial leases. It’s missing from most residential leases too. You want an escape clause. What if you chose the wrong location? What if a dog barking next door just won’t shut up? What if your business is more successful than you thought, and you need to rent a larger building? What if a family crisis requires you move to Philadelphia? A typical escape clause – one that the landlord will usually accept – is that you can break the lease if you pay three months rent up front.

Finally, before you sign that lease, you need to work out a business plan. Oh, I don’t mean a fancy plan to show a banker for a loan. I do not advocate starting with a loan. If you don’t yet have enough money saved up, and the ability to risk that money, there’s no hurry. You can just keep selling CDs on Craigslist, out of the trunk of your car, the flea market, or wherever, until you do have enough money. This is a better idea, because you’ll be proving to yourself that the musical instrument business is profitable, while you learn the ropes.

A business plan just for yourself can be as simple as scratching some numbers on the side of a grocery bag. What you want to see is whether you’re biting off more than you can chew. Figure that you’ll need to pay first and last rent, then pay the rent for a few months until your business is running and established. You’ll need to cover the electric bill and other overheads. If you’re smart, you won’t figure in employees. They come later, after you’ve become successful. This is a business that you’ll run entirely by yourself at first. Finally, you need a starting inventory. Ideally, you already have plenty of disks. If you don’t, go ahead and step back for a year or so, continuing to do your business out of the flea market or wherever, until inventory surrounds you. Until it fills your garage, living room, bathroom, and takes up all the space under the kitchen table.

Moving forward, let’s say you have crunched the numbers, and secured a store. Now what? There’s just a little bit of paperwork, and it is easier than you thought.

Through your chamber of commerce, find your local city or county business license office. There, you can get a DBA – Doing Business under Assumed name, also known as a business license. This costs anywhere from $20 to $200 per year, depending on your community. You fill out a one or two-page form with the usual stuff – name, address, phone number, and they give you the license. No one is refused. Furthermore, you don’t have to know anything about it. The people in these offices know that you are not an expert in what they do. The typical person coming in wants to start a car repair shop and knows all about car repair, but nothing about business. So, they are there to help you. They want you to succeed, so you can continue to support the community by paying your annual license fee.

You’ll probably want a business checking account, and in some cases, the local government wants to see this account number before they’ll grant you the DBA. No problem, any normal bank can do this for you in twenty minutes. Most banks offer business checking accounts for free.

Customers coming to retail stores often expect to pay with credit cards. In the past, this was somewhat expensive and difficult to set up. Now, you can go to PayPal.com, and get set up to take credit cards easily. In one of my stores, before PayPal, I couldn’t take credit cards for the first couple of weeks after opening. So as to not surprise customers once they approached the sales counter, I let them know up front, and that there was an ATM a block away. I did not lose a single sale during that time.

Finally, you need to get set up to collect sales tax or VAT (Value Added Tax) in most countries unless you are in a place without sales tax such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. This costs nothing, and also requires filling out a simple one or two page application. The certificate, often called a resale certificate or tax number is usually given to you right away. They also hand you a pamphlet explaining how sales tax works in your area. You’ll learn what percentage to charge, and which items and people are tax-exempt. For instance, in New York State, American Indians do not have to pay sales tax if they present the retailer with an exemption form. To find the tax office in your community, simply ask at the business license office. They already know that’s where you’re going next, and will certainly have the address. Now-a-days, you can often set up your sales tax account entirely online or by mail.

Collecting sales tax can be thought of as a right, responsibility, or privilege. I won’t get into the philosophy here. The usual arrangement is that you set aside the tax money you collect, fill out a one-page form, and mail a check to your tax office once every three months.

Once you’re in business, you do need to keep track of income and expenses. You’d want to do this anyway, so you can understand how things are going, and what to adjust from time to time to make sure you’re making a good profit.

The old-fashioned way still works: You can buy an ordinary ledger book, and enter your expenses and income by hand. Domes Monthly is a ledger you can buy in any stationery store in the USA. There are no doubt equivalents in every country. Keeping track isn’t rocket science, although it may seem so at first. The only thing you need to do is list everything you spend money on and enter the amount of money you take in every day. You can optionally break out the income into categories such as “new,” “used,” or “Rock,” “Jazz,” “Classical,” etc. You’ll want to break out the expenses into categories such as “inventory,” “rent,” and “utilities.” You may want to additionally list all legitimate business expenses such as “automotive,” and “advertising.”

It is much easier to use automated software. For under $100, you can buy any of a variety of business bookkeeping packages, such as Quicken, or Microsoft Money, that tell you what to do at every step. The people who make this software know that you’re not an accountant, so you’re not expected to know what to do. The software has a lot of built-in help.

If that still seems intimidating, you can hire a bookkeeper for a single session to set up your system, and tell you what to do. Only after your business becomes successful, unless you are already wealthy, do you want to hire a bookkeeper on a regular basis. Some bookkeepers are better at teaching than others. If your first bookkeeper is not good at explaining things, try another.

At the end of the year, you need to figure out your income tax. This too, is easier than it might seem. In the US, the basic addition to your tax forms for business is a Schedule C. It is a single two-sided page. The categories are obvious. But it is easier to get the automated software that does it for you. At the HR Block website, you can do the whole thing on line, and then just pay thirty to eighty to file your taxes. It takes about twenty minutes longer than for someone who is only filing an ordinary 1040.

What if you make a mistake? All the government officials are on your side. Really! They’d rather have you succeed, than harass you. And again, they know you probably not an accountant with an MBA. They want you to succeed, so you can go on paying taxes year after year. If you make a mistake, they tell you what to do differently. They may issue a reasonable fine – just part of the cost of doing business, and you get to move on. No one goes to jail.

Well, okay, I knew one fellow who did. He was a professional ice skater who paid no income tax at all. Still, he wouldn’t have spent six months in jail if he didn’t stand up to the judge and the whole court and make a big presentation defending why he shouldn’t pay income tax. Only rebels go to jail. In fact, even with all the small mistakes all of us make, almost no one gets audited. I’ve received perhaps five letters from the IRS and sales tax agencies in my 35 years in eighteen various businesses. In each of the three cases where I actually did something wrong, I had to pay a small fine. My fines ranged from $20 to $150. I knew one fellow who didn’t report his income tax at all for several years. This one was a professional juggler. He was probably making around $150,000 per year. He didn’t even keep any records, so no one, including himself, knew how much he made. The IRS stated that he owed them approximately $20,000 in back taxes, which he gladly paid. Of course from that time on, he did have to keep records and pay the appropriate taxes. I know a lot of business people and these two are the worst case scenarios.

Something like a signage violation is so minor that some business people play with them. For instance, in my store that had the three-foot by two-foot sign requirement, I made a much larger sandwich sign and put it out on the sidewalk every day from the first day I opened. I knew this was in violation, and I knew someone would notice it. They did, after two months. The zoning office did not issue a fine. They only issued a ‘cease’ letter, telling me I had thirty days to comply with the law. So I kept my sign out for another 29 days, then I threw it away. It had done its job. I’m not recommending that you play the edge with your local regulations, just letting you know of an experience I had.

Once you are in business, you can get wholesale catalogs and secret price lists. In order to qualify for a wholesale account, all you normally need is to fax or mail a copy of your resale certificate or DBA. Some wholesalers do require a photograph of the front of your store, or they have

protected dealerships. This means that if someone else is selling their brand within a certain distance, perhaps five miles (eight kilometers), you can’t also sell the same brand. This is seldom a problem in the music business. You can find the wholesalers online. Often, they find you, sending representatives to your store, to let you know about their wares.

Whereas you might start your store with only collectible or second-hand albums, you now have the opportunity to sell new CDs. The biggest advantage is that you can buy multiples of things that sell well. I have always imagined how nifty it would be to have a store that sells nothing but 25-pound (ten kg) bags of dog food. Only one brand, only one type. I’d sell them over and over, the same to everyone who comes in. This is of course, is an oversimplified dream, but you can imagine that in a music store it would simplify things if you could sell 100 copies of the latest popular album per day, and always have more copies on hand. On the flip side, selling new CDs has proven to be difficult for the very same reasons that second-hand CDs can do so well: People will pay for obscure music to put on their players. In general, they have already pirated the popular stuff.

In all this discussion I’ve assumed you’re not super-wealthy. If you are, you can start a music store in a 10,000 square foot store, and stock it with thousands of used and new CDs from the first day.

The more reasonable approach is to start safely with what you already know, can get, and can afford to put in your inventory. Keep your quantities small. For instance, a wholesaler can sell you six copies of a Celine Dion album for a dollar less per copy. Seems like a deal, until you figure out how infrequently you may sell recordings by Celine Dion, while your money is tied up in those albums, rather than six assorted CDs by various artists. Better to start with one copy and pay the dollar extra. Even better would be to buy 20 assorted used CDs for the price of the six identical new ones.

In time, you’ll have the big store with the manager, the television advertising, the sponsored concerts, and all the things a big music store can do. You are almost sure to succeed in having that store if you start small.

If you start with your inheritance or a big bank loan, you are almost as sure to fail! You know why, right? It’s about experience, and sense of balance. If you start small, you really get a feel for what it means to have $1,500 tied up in new CDs that take a year to sell through.

If you start small, you understand that investing $600 in a glass display case can wait, because you’re better off investing the $600 in more CDs at the beginning.

You may be amazed at how much a small store can grow, and how it can grow from almost nothing.



Mixed Model


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The unequivocal winner in selling CDs is a mixed model.

Imagine a small retail store in which you have a table of free CDs. A mini-exchange.
You put on that table only CDs that just won’t sell in any market. This automatically brings donations, some of which may contain treasures, others will restock the exchange. Some, you can sell to your local customers.

In the same store, you have a large variety of common CDs that local people will pay $3 – $10 each to have. You also let everyone know that you take trades and buy some music outright.

You might also consider renting CDs, with or without a membership. Perhaps members can pay $10 per month for unlimited borrows, one at a time, much like the NetFlix DVD model. They can keep each disk as long as they want, but won’t get another until the bring the last one back, or buy it. This would be fine by you, because in the meantime, you’re collecting $10 per month for nothing in return.

In the back of the store, you have your online operation, where you list on Amazon and eBay the collectible or rare CDs that bring lots of money per disk.

So, everything that comes in has value. And you can have a large stream of things coming in. What could be more fun!

Going a step further, you can mix and match your CD business with others. Today, on the Oregon Coast, I stepped into a store that sold guitars and bicycles. They ought to carry CDs too, don’t you think? Mixing a CD business with books or musical instruments is a natural. Mixing it with DVD sales or rental may work particularly well. You can go as far afield as makes sense to you. Perhaps you have inherited your father’s vacuum cleaner business. It makes money, but doesn’t excite you. Why not add a rack of used CDs to the showroom floor and see what happens?


Part 3, General Business Advice



Leveraging Craigslist


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I wanted to tell you about a couple of tricks that are useful if Craigslist serves your area.

If you buy and sell CDs, great opportunities exist in the space between Craigslist and eBay. You can often buy common CDs and collections of CDs for nearly nothing on eBay. That’s because people often will not CDs they can’t hold and play personally before buying. Then, you can sell these CDs at a profit locally on Craigslist to people who you will let hold and play them. These people are also more likely to buy locally because they can have their music right away. Many folks don’t want to wait a week or more for their items to arrive.

On the other side, people who are moving out of town don’t want to pack and ship things, and who want immediate cash will sell things, especially large batches of CDs, for much less then they are worth online. They can’t get the full value for these things, because the market is limited to the local community. So of course you can come along, swoop these things up, and list them for a profit on eBay.

First, let’s talk about a couple of tricks for selling things on Craigslist.

When you list an item for sale on Craigslist, it scrolls down the list as other people add the things they have for sale. In a busy community in a busy category, such as cds/dvds, your ad can scroll out of sight within a few hours.

So, here’s what you do: Every couple of hours, add a different item. You can put up an ad for a Rod Taylor CD at 1 pm. Then at 3 pm, you can put up an ad for a Miley Cyrus CD. Then at five pm, a Bach collection, and so on. Each one of these ads carries a link to your website, saying something like, “many more CDs available at mywebsite.com.” You might even have thumbnails for some of your other CDs at the bottom of each ad. This is not spamming, because the main portion of every ad is for something different.

As you may know, with Craigslist, you are welcome to ‘renew’ an ad every 48 hours. This means that your ad will reappear at the top of the list. So, after you’ve built up a sufficient number of ads, you can start renewing them, one at a time, every couple of hours, so you always have something near the top of the list.

The other trick, which I already alluded above, is that you can have a website that has a larger list of your inventory. Every Craigslist ad you place can link to your website. It seems to work well to have a vertical table on your website, with thumbnail images of each item on the left, descriptions to the right, and prices to the far right. I used to do this with bicycles, although you could do it with CDs of course. I kept an inventory of about eighteen used bicycles and each was pictured on my website until sold. I have to admit I didn’t stay up to date with posting on Craigslist. I usually only managed between one and three ads per day, and skipped some days altogether. This was because my bottleneck in the bicycle business was getting bikes, not selling them. After doing it for three months, I moved on to other pursuits, but during that time, strictly from Craigslist exposure, my bike inventory website had received over 20,000 unique visitors.

When an item sells, I think it is better to leave the listing on your website for a day or two, marked “Sold,” while leaving the price visible. When people see that your business is active, an unconscious impulse causes them to want to buy something ‘before it’s too late.’ It also keeps browsers coming back. They want to watch the activity, and eventually when they see an album they’ve just gotta have, what do you suppose they’ll do?

One of the best ways I could have increased my purchasing of bicycles at the time would have been to keep an ad active in the “Items Wanted” section telling people that I buy used and broken bicycles. Or your case, that would be CDs. This has the added advantage that your wanted posting can also link to your website.

One of the best ways to let people you’re buying things on Craigslist is to let them know you’re selling things. Whereas you could post multiple similar ads such as “Cash paid for CDs,” “I buy CDs,” and “I want your CDs,” this is spamming in the “Items Wanted” category. Not only does spamming make a mess out of a good category, and is unethical, and will probably get you a bad name, and Craigslist users will probably get in the habit of flagging and deleting all your ads.

A much better approach is to sell things in the “cds/dvds/vhs” category. In each ad, you also happen to mention that you buy CDs. Of course, you can also have a single ad announcing that you’re buying in the “Items Wanted” category at the same time.

Finally, on Craigslist, you’ll notice that there are forums at the left side of the home page. You can participate in those forums. You can teach what you know. You can answer questions. You can ask questions about what you don’t know. But at the bottom of every posting, you can have a low-key link to your website. Keep in mind that some of the forums are national, so you’ll want to notice that before you post a link for local CDs for sale, unless you are willing to mail them.

Taking that idea one step further, there’s no reason you couldn’t make a splash in forums all over the Internet, participating legitimately, but with every post containing a link to your eBay or Amazon CD listings.



Partnerships


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When considering a partnership, you want to look for someone who has what you don’t have. Starting out with a partner who has the same strengths and weaknesses as you, means something won’t be covered. That’s a recipe for disaster. Generally, the three ingredients that a partnership (or an individual) needs are time, experience, and sometimes money. There’s a fourth ingredient – one that all partners need, and that’s enthusiasm. You absolutely don’t want to start something with someone who is not enthusiastic about the idea.

Before forming a partnership, assess carefully your partner’s personality. Will you be able to get along with this person? How about in cloudy weather? Is the person lazy? Does the person have shoddy ethics? Is the person obstinate?

I once saw a bicycle shop almost destroy itself because one partner of the three who owned it suddenly decided that they needed new wall-to-wall carpeting just a few months after starting the store. That would have cost $10,000. I think any objective person would agree that carpeting was not a top priority in that store. It had a painted concrete floor that was just fine. But, he couldn’t be talked out of it, and the partners nearly came to blows. Finally, the two other partners bought this fellow out, at an inflated price that took them years to recover.

In another case, a partner got evicted from his apartment, and decided to live in the inventory storage area, against his partner’s wishes, leaving little room for the business, and violating the local zoning ordinance. This fellow would do things like wake up, and walk out among customers in the showroom at eleven am unshaven and shirtless. Nice partner, eh?

So, if you’re going to consider a partnership, think about all the things that might go wrong with your perspective partners. Do not mention the idea of a partnership to any of your prospects until you are absolutely certain. It is harder to burst their bubble after you’ve created it, than before they know a partnership is possible.

Family members can be the best, or the worst! I think you know what I’m talking about. A grandfather-grandson (or grandmother-granddaughter) partnership can be wonderful with the right people. I’m sure you can think of several successful family musical groups such as the Trapp Family, Jackson Five, and the Haygoods.

Let’s say you have a brother-in-law who has been in jail twice for drunk driving. He’s unemployed again because he came to work too hung-over. You might think that if you offer this relative a partnership, it will help him. Wrong! You must, absolutely must, consider partners for their strengths, not their weaknesses, if you intend to succeed. And if you don’t succeed, it will not help your brother-in-law in the slightest. It will probably make his lack of self-esteem worse.

How many partners should you consider? The minimum number you can get away with. If all you need is someone with repair skill, or someone who can play drums, then one partner is sufficient. Additional partners means that the profit is split smaller. It also means it is harder to make decisions. Larry Page and Sergei Brin have been very successful with Google. When it came time to make decisions, they had a brief discussion, came to an agreement, and moved forward.

On the other hand, I knew of an organic restaurant that had seventeen partners. One of their specialties was waffles. They had one waffle iron, and so customers had to wait up to 45 minutes for their orders in the morning. So, the seventeen of them had a meeting to decide whether they should buy a second thirty dollar waffle iron. The meeting, argument really, ran until after midnight, and they couldn’t come to a decision. In fact, it was weeks before they could all figure out that thirty dollars was a reasonable price to pay for another waffle iron to satisfy their waffle customers.

Once you’ve sorted out who your partners are going to be, you need to state some things up front. Is one going to be a silent partner? If so, how silent? How will various kinds of decisions be made? For instance, the person who’s just about to book a gig probably shouldn’t have to place a phone call to another partner before the gig can be scheduled. What happens as the business grows? Do you add more partners? Do you hire employees? How do the partners decide on new employees?

In summary, all the terms of partnership need to be discussed. More than discussed. You want the major points in writing, and a contract signed by all partners.

The very most important clause in that contract will be an escape hatch for each partner. What happens if the business loses money? What happens if a partner becomes sick or dies? What happens if two partners can’t stand the sight of each other after a while? Escape clauses need to be fluid. For instance, if a partner wants to leave early on, his value in the business is worth far less than after five years. These escape clauses must be manageable, so that it is truly possible to make changes in the partnership as needed. For instance, a very bad escape clause would be that if a partner leaves, the others have to immediately pay her $500,000. If this is all spelled out in writing ahead of time, all will be well in these eventualities – or at least as well as it can be.

Another consideration in partnerships is your own personality. Take me, for example. I don’t like to share my decisions with anyone. I have always been a sole proprietor. I’d make a horrible partner unless I was allowed to run the show 100 percent.

So, on the opposite end of the partnership spectrum is sole proprietorship. The individual doesn’t have to defer to anyone before making major decisions. 100 percent of the profit goes to the individual. That’s huge, even with just two partners. Let’s say that the profit of a business is $60,000 per year. That means that an individual takes home $60,000. But two partners owning the same business would only get $30,000 each.

There’s also an ego component. I love being able to say, “I own this.” For me, it would be miserable to say, “I own a portion of this.”

Getting back to the original question, what if you don’t have the time, experience or money to start a music business on your own? And once again, there is a very simple answer. Start something evolutionary. Do you really need a drummer, or just a drum machine? How many solo musicians can you think of? Start something that you can manage, and let it build as you gain experience, money, whatever you’ve been needing.


The Sure-Fire Millionaire


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As I indicated in the last chapter, partnerships are expensive. I mean, really expensive. I’m not saying don’t get partners, I’m just saying you should consider expensive options carefully, weighing them against potential profit.

For instance, you might think the decision to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks is simple – just do it. But what if I tell you that cup of coffee will cost you $26? Would you still buy it?

Let me explain. If instead of that three-dollar cup of coffee, you put the money in an investment such as a mutual fund, and leave it there for twenty years, it will, on average, turn into at least $26, maybe much more. I knew a fellow who understood this so well that he made millions of dollars, yet he worked for nearly minimum wage.

When I met him, Brian was 48 years old. He had retired with several million dollars two years earlier at age 46. When he was 26 years old, he got a job for Sears, driving a van, and repairing washing machines and driers in peoples’ homes, which pays just a bit more than minimum wage.

At one home, Brian met a couple who told him that he ought to ‘pay himself first.’ He asked what they meant, and it sounded like a good idea. So every week, he took 25 percent of his paycheck after taxes, and put it in a savings account. Then whatever was left went to rent, food, and fun. That wasn’t very much, but he wasn’t making very much in the first place.

Week after week, Brian kept it up, until he had $10,000 in his savings account. He knew he’d have to learn something about investing. Even though he didn’t feel like learning about that, he went to the library and started studying up – this was before the Internet. He learned about mutual funds, municipal bonds, money market accounts, and even some things that didn’t begin with “m.” He moved the money from the savings account into better investments.

Brian was content with his job at Sears, and not really qualified for anything else. He kept ‘paying himself first’ year after year. Early on, he could certainly have purchased a 35-inch TV, or even a 42-inch TV, but he knew how much that would actually cost. He felt his 21-inch TV was just fine, considering the bigger picture.

He learned to buy only the best car he could buy with cash – no payments. At first, this meant he had to keep his old car a few years longer than he might have.

He couldn’t really impress people with material goods. (He did impress people with his common sense.) He couldn’t buy fancy clothes. It had to be Walmart, and only when necessary. Sometimes he bought clothes at the thrift stores. After twenty years, he retired. He can now have pretty much anything he wants. He dresses well. He travels when he wants. Brian has a new Jaguar that cost $88,000, paid with cash, of course. Now, he can really impress people with material goods!

I think you can see that Brian was patient. Patience is a wonderful attribute in business. Just about any musical business you start, if you are patient, if you are willing to accept the occasional setback, grow it slowly, stay interested, you’ll be successful. Maybe even beyond your wildest dreams!

The Psychology of Making Money

Here’s another little story about patience in business. Steve was a science-fiction writer. Or, well, he wanted to be. He figured that if he could co-write with the big names in science fiction, he’d succeed. He pitched ideas to Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein and others, and some of them accepted the idea of co-writing with him. For eighteen years, he wrote with these famous writers. One after another, the books flopped. The publishers would pay a small advance, then no royalties came in. To make ends meet, he taught English at the local college. Eventually, Steve’s name became poison in the industry. No one would write with him any more. All these great writers learned that if they wrote a book with Steve, it would fail.

Out of desperation, he wrote a book by himself. It became an international best seller.

Now, eighteen years is extreme. I tell the story only to illustrate patience. For you and I, just a few months can seem like years. But if you can stick it out those months, you’ll probably see some level of success. Even if your success is slow, you can stick with it, and eventually you’ll have your major success.

Also, note that the story didn’t go the way Steve figured. He thought he had to co-write. Turns out, a little adjustment made all the difference. Don’t force your story to go the way you figure. Allow for some flexibility. Look around the edges of things. See what you can experiment with. See what you can change. Have fun. You’ll do fine. Better than fine!



Advertising and Publicity


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It is easy to buy advertising. There are many salespeople who would love to have you advertise in their newspaper, in their phonebook, or on their radio or TV station. If it doesn’t bring the results they expected, they’ll just tell you that you didn’t buy enough advertising yet. They’ll tell you people need to hear the same message over and over. But you do need to buy some advertising, right?

Did I say, “buy” advertising? I meant “get free publicity.” Just about any form of advertising that a small music business can afford will be entirely ineffective. Yellow pages ads are the worst. You end up paying a lot of money per month to the phone company, or a phonebook publisher, and get little effect. People don’t use phone books any more. They use the Internet. So you’ll want a website. It can be a simple one-page affair. In many businesses, all most people want is your contact information. You can do some search engine optimization tricks, discussed in the next chapter, to get people to your webpage. If you’re in a city with a dozen other similar music businesses, they’ll all have their own websites, and you might be thirteenth on the list when people google your town name and musical specialty.

You can do more to boost a website in search results, but you may not have to. Remember that most people using the Internet to find a local business will already know your business name, and what you do. They’re just looking for your phone number or the hours you are available. You can bring in new customers through a website in a few ways, but it is perhaps more work than other ways to bring in customers. For instance, your website can have a virtual museum of music. If you have pages of pictures and descriptions of unusual or antique instruments, or old concert posters, or albums with interesting covers, it becomes a valuable Internet resource. You can also become an ‘authority’ site. You might post the schedule of local musical events, a blog for musicians, and things of that nature.

So, when it comes to paid advertising, almost nothing works for a small music business. Good free publicity, on the other hand, can change things overnight.

You may be thinking I’m talking about sending press releases to the local newspapers, radio and TV stations announcing that you have a new business. That can have a small effect. Much greater is to do something newsworthy, meaning, something positively eccentric.

I mentioned this to a bike shop owner, and he said, “Oh, like give away free water bottles printed with the store logo?” He didn’t get it. Better is to sponsor something unique. Sponsoring a compelling but unusual free musical event, or offering a half-hour of free recording studio access is a start. Getting musicians to wear your custom printed T-Shirts is a step in the right direction. Then, they will hopefully tell musical friends to do business with you. That will have a small effect, but it is not newsworthy, and it really isn’t free, because you have to pay for the T-shirts. I’m talking about something newsworthy. Let me give you an example.

Customers of an old bookstore in San Francisco used to complain from time to time because is was sort of dark in there, especially in the deeper shelves. That gave the owner an idea. He held a special sale. All books were half-off. But, the sale ran from midnight to 1am one night. And, he turned all the lights out. At the door, all the customers were handed flashlights. That not only made the news, but it is still talked about today, twenty years later. After reading the story, thousands of new customers visited the store.

At another bookstore, some college students created an art project. Their idea was to rearrange all the books, not by subject and title, but by color. Shopping there during that time may have been tedious, but all sorts of people came by to see it, and no doubt many of them came away with books they would never have noticed normally.

So, what kind of positive eccentricity can you imagine for your music business?

As I mentioned, having at least a basic website is important for most businesses. Fortunately, a one-page site is sufficient for most, and easy to create. You can do positive eccentricity on a website as well. We’ll talk a lot more about websites in the next chapter.

A guy who’s business was repairing Apple computers uploaded a little video to his site that showed him dropping a PC and a Mac computer off a six-story building. Both crashed to the sidewalk. The Windows computer was smashed to bits, but with the aid of trick photography, the Mac had only a couple of scratches.

Then there’s the old fashioned way, business cards and flyers. Putting business cards in everyone’s hands who comes your way can build a business slowly, but surely. Of course, giving them something more interesting such as a keyring tape measure, or an interesting hologram will be more effective. A computer business gives out business cards that have a chart of the common [Ctrl] (or [Command] on Mac) keyboard shortcuts. You know:

[Ctrl] + [A] = Select All

[Ctrl] + [C] = Copy

[Ctrl] + [F] = Find

[Ctrl] + [V] = Paste

[Ctrl] + [X] = Cut

[Ctrl] + [Z] = Undo

So what kind of information could you put on the back of your business cards?

Putting something on all the local bulletin boards can surprise you. You’ll get more business, for less expense than you’d expect. Bulletin boards at laundromats work well, because patrons have to spend idle time waiting for the wash. Bulletin boards at natural food stores work especially well. I’m not quite sure why. Bulletin boards at diners, quick-change oil places, and elsewhere can work well, too. A good flyer makes only a few quick points, because too much text is hard to read. The best flyers have little pull-off tabs at the bottom with your name and/or what you do, and your contact info, generally your phone number. You might want to have full-page and half-page flyers, since many bulletin boards are too full to accommodate full pages. When space is very limited, you can put several business cards fanned out under a thumb tack, indicating to people it is OK to take a card. For this use, the cards ought to have large text that’s easy to read at a distance. There’s a color called “Solar Yellow,” that’s very bright and sometimes used for cards and flyers. It is a bit loud for sure, but in a jumble of white flyers, it gets noticed.

For most people, selling yourself or wares of your own creation is difficult. When you’re selling someone else’s product, you don’t take it personally when a potential buyer says “no.” It is this fear of being defeated by hearing “no” too many times that stops a lot of people from even trying.

But what if you were, or could become, one of the rare individuals who can do that? Here’s a story from Jack Canfield (author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and many related books), as close as I can remember it:

A young man just out of chiropractor school asked at his local chamber of commerce some questions about setting up a chiropractic office. They essentially laughed at him, because in his home town of Pebble Beach, California, there were already way too many chiropractors. There’s no way he could succeed. Undaunted, he started going door-to-door, to every one of the 6,000 homes in his town. He introduced himself, and asked five questions, such as, “Do you think I’d be more successful to set up an office on the North, or the South side of town?” The final question was, “When you need chiropractic help, will you visit me?”

When he was done, he rented a space, and set up an office. During the first month his office was open, he booked $12,000 worth of appointments.



Websites That Work


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Just about any musical business will benefit from a website. In fact, some musical businesses can be entirely websites.

While you’ll probably find it much more lucrative to sell your collectible CDs on eBay and Amazon, you can have your own website-based online store. Better yet, you can let eBay provide the store, and you can then customize it to your taste, and even get a domain name, which forwards to your store. For instance, you may have an eBay store called www.stores.ebay.com/albums5001. You can then buy the domain name “albums5001.com” for $11 per year through GoDaddy.com or any other similar service, and set up forwarding so that anyone who goes to “albums5001.com” ends up at your eBay store. (As of August 3, 2013, albums5001.com is actually available.)

You don’t have to be an HTML master programmer to make effective websites. In fact, you don’t have to know anything at all about HTML, Javascript, or any of that.

There are now several places where you can create your own website by simply cutting and pasting or entering text, dropping in a picture or two, and click an OK button. Blogger.com and Tumblr.com come to mind. However, if you want to take advantage of all the ideas below, you might want to learn some basic HTML, or just hire someone to help you with the optimization parts.

Whenever you hire someone to help you with a website, make sure to maintain all access. You don’t want the site on some guy’s server. You want it on a big national company’s server such as Godaddy.com. Because, what if your webmaster goes broke, leaves town, or has an argument with his wife and shuts down his server?

It is very important to get all passwords associated with the site. You don’t want to have to hire the same webmaster over and over again for each little change that you could eventually make yourself, or pay someone else to make for you. I can’t tell you how many times, I, as a business coach, have had to tell business owners (kindly), “I told you not to trust that webmaster.”

When considering hiring someone to build your website, shop around. The prices can vary wildly. Really wildly. One fellow got estimates ranging from $600 to $20,000 for the same job specifications. He checked out the $600 offer, and discovered that the webmaster had references and quite a bit of previous experience. This fellow was so fast at boilerplating or recycling his previous work to create new websites, that he could make a fine profit at $600. Others may spend hours learning at your expense.

Get an estimate in writing that contains a guarantee. The last thing you want is to agree on $600, but have the final bill come in at $2,500.

The most important thing websites need is visitors. There are three main ways to get visitors.

1. Buy advertising. That mostly doesn’t work. Or more specifically, with enough money you can buy visitors, but that would be fewer visitors than you would need to pay for the advertising.

There is one form of advertising that can work for many musical businesses, especially local businesses. That’s Google AdWords. You can sign up for an AdWords account for free. Once there, you bid on keywords. They should actually be called “key phrases” because most keywords are more than one word. Let’s say your keyword is “CDs San Francisco.” You may find that your closest competitor has bid $2.17 per click on that same keyword. You can bid $2.18. Your ad will show up at more websites, and closer to the top of the paid side of search results, than your competitor. So, your ad is then shown on random websites. Well, not random. Targeted. This means that if someone has a website that has to do with CDs in San Francisco, your ad – and your competitors’ ads – will show up on that site. Or if no one has a site about CDs in San Francisco, then you’ll show up on websites about CDs, and other sites about San Francisco. When someone clicks your ad to go to your website, Google takes $2.18 from your account. You can adjust maximums, and all sorts of other settings so that if it runs wild, you won’t go broke. You can do things like change your keyword to “CDs San Rafael” (a small city near San Francisco), which may not cost anywhere near $2.18 per click.

AdWords works particularly well because it is well-targeted. Google’s automated software does a good job of making sure your ad shows up on only the most relevant sites, and with only the most relevant search results.

Think about the results: If you’re selling collectible CDs averaging fifty dollars,
or common CDs to people who buy a half-dozen at a time, how much would you pay to get another buyer? Not everyone who clicks through to your website will buy CDs, but they are well-targeted, so a good many will spend money. Especially if your website is well-designed, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

2. SEO – Search Engine Optimization. You can do some simple things to make sure your website shows up near the top of search results in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. We’ll talk mostly about Google, because it is the elephant in the room. My guess is that at least seventy percent of all searches are done through Google, with the remaining thirty percent handled by hundreds of other search engines, although most of these searches are handled by Bing and Yahoo. If you make a website that works well with Google, it will work pretty much the same with the other search engines.

Google ‘ranks’ pages based on how closely parts of the page match the keyword people are searching for, and on how many other websites link to a page. The first aspect, matching elements of the page to the keyword is easy. The second is more work and takes longer to achieve, but may be less important.

By the way, don’t let anyone tell you they have a magic formula to get top ranking. There are hundreds of companies out there willing to take your money for search engine optimization that is all smoke and mirrors. What you are going to read in the next few paragraphs is the heart and soul of search engine optimization. Oh, there are some complicated schemes that might bring a marginal increase in results, but these companies that promise the sky do not deliver. That’s guaranteed.

So, if people are searching for “CDs San Francisco,” all you need to do is put that phrase in the page title – between the <title> tags, and in the < It can be helpful to have a page filename that also matches the keyword, such as www.mywebsite.com/cdssanfrancisco.htm. Google says that as of October 2012, having an exact match page name is no longer significant. However, I have noticed that if you have an exact match domain name, such as www.cdssanfrancisco.com, Google seems to index your page – include it in their search engine listings – within a day or two, rather than within two to three weeks.

So how many people are looking for “CDs San Francisco?” It would be important to know that, wouldn’t it?

As of now, 210 people per month are entering that keyword. How do I know? I used the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It’s free when you sign up at adwords.google.com. You can enter any potential keyboard, and it will show you how many people are searching for that. It will also tell you how much AdWords bidders are paying for the keyword and some other interesting information. It will then offer a list of related keywords, in case you find there are already too many websites optimized for your keyword.

So, the next step is to see how many people have already optimized websites for your keyword. Good news, well fairly good: Not many people have optimized sites for “CDs San Francisco.” When you simply enter that keyword in the Google search engine, several sites come up, some which have the term in their titles, descriptions or <H1> tags, but none seem to be doing it in all four. So if you were selling CDs in San Francisco, you could be the top page in Google search results, and most of 210 people a month who are actually looking for CDs would click through to your website.

But, if many websites already used your keyword, there are still some things you can do. You can change the keyword a little bit, checking the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and actual search results, until you get something that has enough people looking, and isn’t highly optimized. Maybe “CDs Berkeley” (a nearby community) or “Albums San Francisco,” or “Music Store San Francisco.”

You can optimize for more than one keyword. If you have a local business, you can make a whole bunch of similar web pages each focused on one area, or put several area names in your tags. For instance, “CDs San Francisco, Concord, San Mateo, San Rafael, Sausalito.”

If your business is national or international, then you might use a keyword that addresses a range of similar interests, like “Obscure Music CDs Honky-Tonk, Roadhouse Boogie, Boogie-Woogie Piano” Of course you wouldn’t put such a non-poetic name in the visible portions of your page, but you get the idea.

Next on the list is backlinks. If a thousand websites have added links to your page, Google puts you higher in search results than someone who may actually have better on-page SEO.

This is another place the charlatans go crazy. They tell you they have all sorts of ways to get instant, automatic backlinks, for only $39.95 per month. . .

Don’t fall for any of that. Much of what they do, when they do anything at all, is pure spam, and in the end, may weaken your position with Google. You don’t need to pay money for backlinks, and you don’t need to do ‘spammy’ things to get them.

Getting backlinks is not always necessary. If your on-page SEO is strong, if your keyword is not well-utilized, you’ll be at the top of search results even with no backlinks.

Besides asking webmasters to add a link – many will, without cost, just because you asked, you can trade links, as long as you don’t mind adding a reciprocal links list to your site. Better yet, you can post in newsgroups, forums, discussions. You can answer questions, or ask questions. At the end of every single post, you are allowed a tag line in almost all forums. Your tag line can contain a few words about what your site is, plus an actual link to your site.

Not only will these be noticed by Google as backlinks, but some real people will actually click through, bringing up your visitor count organically. The trick to not spamming is simple: Simply contribute legitimately to the discussions in which you participate. You can answer questions, postulate theories, bring up analogies. If you don’t know much about a subject, it is completely okay to ask questions.

Another little trick that can be helpful when you’re not at the top of the Google search results, is to become a verified author through Google+. You need to join Google+, a social network, but it is free. Then using Google itself, you can look up “verified author Google+” where you will find the details. Basically, you have to state that you are the author or owner of the content on your web page(s), then add a little bit of Javascript code to the page. When Google sees this, they put your picture next to the brief description in the search results. Google also ads some other data for you. But seeing your picture is the main thing. People are more likely to click through when they see who you are. Even if you are not particularly photogenic, they’ll click through because on some subconscious level, they feel they know you now that they’ve seen you.

Once you’ve built or updated your website, you can let Google know it’s there. This is especially important if no other websites link to it yet, otherwise Google has no way to know you’re out there, because Google finds websites by investigating links from other websites, crawling the entire Internet every two weeks or so, link by link. However, you can expedite the process through “Fetch as Google” a simple, free and easy-to-use part of Google Webmaster Tools.

If all goes well, you can have a hundred visitors within 24 hours of building a new website.

Valuable Content

Once you’ve got at least a handful of visitors coming to your site, you can do some more things to make sure it works.

If you can provide some useful content or positive eccentricity, then people will tell people who will tell people. Your site can go viral. Take a look at hamsterdance.com. Especially take a look at the “Hamster Classics” and then “Interactive Dance.” This one dance is similar to how the site originally looked when it was just one page.

It seems a computer science student made a one-page website as a thesis project. All it did was show lines of dancing hamsters with some background music. That was in the late nineties, when it didn’t take much to impress people. There was something about the cuteness of hamsterdance.com that caused everyone to email everyone else, and it went viral almost immediately. Millions of visitors came. The creator saw the potential, and quickly added more pages and advertising to the site.

It will take more than dancing hamsters to impress people these days, but if you can do something sufficiently amusing, or informative, you win the game!

Another example is Crayola.com. There, you’ll find quite a few interesting and interactive things for children. People come to the site because there’s something useful there.

Yet another example is a website you can buy an antenna for specialized electronics. The site has many charts with just the information that radio designers need, so of course this site is where the radio people go to when it is time to order antennae.

Once you’ve got a site that gets visitors, you want to direct their time there. It would be a shame to build a large visitor count, then have all your visitors become confused and leave the site without satisfaction. Or more to the point, you want them to do something that satisfies you, also. Think of your webpage, or your website, as a funnel. The top is wide. Lots of people spill into your site. The funnel narrows, directing people downward. Or more specifically, it holds their interest. Someone told me the average web page visitor stays one and a half seconds, unless something catches their interest in that time. The funnel eventually directs them all through the spout. The spout is the action step. What do you want people to do? Click the “Buy Now” button? Give you a phone call? Set up the page to have this effect. You should have a compelling title, or short bit of text in the upper left corner, since that is where most people look first. The purpose of this top left item is not to sell something, but merely to cause them to feel that your site is worth focusing on. To have them become invested in your site enough to stay on the page and read more, perhaps click through to other pages on your site. Finally, at the bottom of every place they might go within your site, you have your action step – the button to click, the phone number to call – whatever you want them to do. During this process, you also want to convince them that your site is so excellent they should tell all their friends.

One thing you almost never want is links away from your site. In this book, I can tell you about crayola.com, because you already bought this book. I don’t need to sell you anything. But if I did, I would not risk losing you to Crayola. Besides, I think I’ve got your interest by now. Hopefully, I have you well on your way to starting or improving your own music business!



The Final Bit


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A Little Hypnotic Suggestion

Now you have everything you need to start your own music business. If there’s anything I haven’t covered in enough detail for you, you’ll find what you need among the eighteen billion pages of the Internet.

So all you have to do is start.

Ah, but for most most people, that’s the rub, isn’t it? There’s something comforting about procrastination. Being defocused isn’t so comforting, but something wants to keep us defocused, doesn’t it? Yet we know how to stay focused when we really want to. I can’t explain the mechanism, but you know how to stay focused. Right? Perhaps you can think back to a time when you were surprisingly focused.

Now, think back to when you started with music. Your first exposure to music may have been your idea. It may have been your parents who got you into music. In any case, you started. And look where you are now with music! Were there times along the way when it was difficult? Were there times when you didn’t do anything for weeks, months, even years at a time? But there were also times when you progressed, weren’t there? And looking back, it wasn’t that hard, was it? Where would you be today, musically, if you hadn’t started, and eventually pushed forward?

You may be delighted to discover it is exactly the same with a music business. If you can find a way, however you may find that way, to become sufficiently motivated to start, and remember in whatever way you know how to stay motivated and focused, you can become as good in your musical business as you are in some of your other pursuits. Go ahead. That’s right – one little step at a time. . .

What’s today’s step?


You may enjoy more books like and unlike this one by searching for Jeff Napier in the Kindle Store, and at jeffnapier.com

Enjoy and prosper! – Jeff Napier

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