Touring Europe – Part One: Selling Your CDs


Touring Europe.  I’ve written this piece a few times now and I keep ditching what I write because it wants to encompass way too much so I’m going to break it down in parts, small parts that are more easily digestible. In part one, we’ll talk about selling your CDs.

Do you have CDs to sell?

This is a big thing because if you don’t – you really shouldn’t tour Europe, or anywhere for that matter.  

“But no one buys CDs!”  This is not true on the road.  People like to support you and this is the easiest way for them to remember you and share you with their friends and bring friends next time you’re on tour.  CDs still sell on tour.  

Is a demo enough?

Not typically.  What we have learned in Europe is that everyone wants an album, 10 songs, 40 minutes.  Anything less than that and they feel cheated.  They want the packaging, more than just a white sleeve with the band’s name in Sharpie.  But don’t go for the whole plastic jewel case because you will go broke just shipping your CDs to Europe and 20% of them will get cracked along the way as well!  I have heard people say that in the U.S. people like EPs 15 songs or less typicallybut we have not had that experience.  Everywhere we go folks want a full length.  We were once criticized for an album that was only 35 minutes long so we went back and recorded 2 more songs for it.

The first time we went to Europe we brought CDs in jewel cases.  I shipped 120 CDs to Germany and it cost me nearly $80 to ship it there.  Not just that but 10 of them had cracked so we couldn’t sell them at full price.  In the space of 30 jewel cases I can fit nearly 100 of the cardboard “Eco-Wallets” and still have great artwork and plenty of info inside.  This is not just good math but it’s also way better on the environment to use less plastic.  There are many companies out there doing CD duplication, I linked to the Discmakers site because their site is the easiest to navigate.  We also use a CD duplication house based out of Poland.  There are additional taxes you have to pay since Southern California is not in the European Union2Yet but it’s nice to have the CDs waiting for us when we get there and it cuts down on shipping costs.

10 Jewel cases of "Heart Like Mine" next to 24 "Motel Americana" in 6 panel wallet.
10 Jewel cases of “Heart Like Mine” next to 24 “Motel Americana” in 6 panel wallet.

The second time we went back to Europe we had three different CDs for sale and this was even better because you are way more likely to sell two different CDs to someone than two of the same CD to one person.




What about download cards?  I can fit 100 of those in my pocket.  

We sold out of the CDs but couldn’t give the download cards away.  That may change in the future but as of right now that’s how it is.  We are looking into making free download cards to attach to the CDs so people can have the physical CD as well as a downloadable version.  This seems to be the best of both worlds for the consumer right now.  

10 Jewel cases of "Heart Like Mine" next to 32 "Way Out West" in 4 panel wallet
10 Jewel cases of “Heart Like Mine” next to 32 “Way Out West” in 4 panel wallet

Does my CD have to be professionally recorded?

No, your CD doesn’t have to be professionally recorded – but it does need to sound great.  People are making incredible recordings in their homes, bedrooms, living rooms and garages.  It can be done but it is often easier, less expensive and faster in the long run to go with someone who has experience and/or the equipment needed to get you the sound that you want.  If you’re someone who enjoys the challenge of figuring it all out, recording might be for you but if you just want to sing and play, it might be more beneficial to find a studio to record with. 

I own and run my own Wandering Star Studio and having recorded, mixed and produced our last 6 CDs I will tell you to spend the extra money and have someone else master it, no matter who records it – find a mastering person.  Mastering is the last process and at this point having someone else’s ears on it really makes a difference plus mastering software and expertise is a whole other ball of wax from recording.  I won’t master my own material and my friends that do mastering like Peter at Patch Hill Mastering and Jason at New Day Music Studio – they don’t master their own stuff either!

In Part 2 we will discuss what you should bring with you and what should stay at home.

What have been your experiences with this?  Please leave a note in the comments below.

Notes:   [ + ]

1. 5 songs or less typically
2. Yet