Here I am, selling CDs again. Don’t get me wrong, selling CDs can be fun. Very fun, in some cases. A lot depends on the venue. The venue determines selling style, customer types and attitudes, competing distractions, available equipment, customer flow, advertising/eye catchers, and a whole slew of additional factors.

I think my favorite is selling at conventions. The prospective customers are crazy fun, the parade of costumes is (usually) great to watch, the atmosphere is energetic. When selling at a convention, you’re usually part of a larger team. I think the smallest team I’ve worked with was a team of four, plus the musicians we worked for. That allowed us to have at least one person at the merc table during performances, plus two people selling at the performance venue. Outside the performance times, plus about an hour either side, we organized shifts so that each of us could attend panels and events during the day. On the downside, the hours are much longer (a 12 hour day is a short day), there’s much more equipment to carry, much more inventory, and in the crush, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. At times, you reach a point where time not only ceases to matter, it ceases to have any meaning.

After conventions, I like selling at faires. There’s a similar energy as at conventions, but much less concentrated. Assuming allergies are under control, I enjoy the outside. Even when it rains, we usually have at least some fun–not to mention stories to tell later. Since performances happen at stages across the faire grounds, we don’t carry much inventory at any one time. We restock backstage after each performance. Teams are smaller, usually two or three for the weekend, with at least two at each performance. Occasionally, if there’s an act someone desperately wants to see, one person can usually handle a single performance alone. The backstage camping is also fun…more fun, even, than the patron’s camp ground. Other than possible allergies, the main downsides to selling CDs at faires are the weather, and the physical toll being that active all day can take: lots of walking, lots of standing, lots of dancing, very little sitting.

Next on my list are what I call “venue sales”. These are single event, swim or drown jobs. There’s usually a lot of energy, and watching people dance and react to the performance is fun. There’s usually only one or two people selling at these events. There are a couple of major downsides to these events: 1) space is usually cramped, and 2) customers are usually buzzed, if not outright drunk. Drunk people are fun to watch, and sometimes mess with, but they can also be a pain as customers. Selling at venues is where most musicians make their money, though, so it’s a necessary type. It’s often an intense experience.

The last type of CD sales I do, or have done, is the pre-order sales at a live performance. The majority of these are either scholastic in nature (end of year concerts, etc.) or classical music a the pro, or semi-pro level. Inventory is non-existant, and equipment is pretty much limited to order forms, pens, iPad & Square for credit cards, and a cash box. This type of CD sales is my least favorite, though recently the type I do the most. I usually set up in the lobby, so I don’t actually get to hear the music. Of all the types of CD selling, this is both the easiest and most boring. There’s a lot of down time in which to write (this whole blog post, for instance). Salesmanship is limited because you’re selling to family and friends who attend. Except for truly spectacular performances, the energy tends to be low among audience members. At the scholastic performances, at least, most of what energy there is is aimed at collecting the performing kid and leaving.

I wish I had more opportunity to sell CDs at conventions. Unfortunately, most of the musicians I know either don’t perform at conventions, or already have a sales team and don’t have space for me. Ah, well. I’ll make do with having lots of time to write.

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