Money and the Musician – CD sales

Creating a full length CD is a very intensive undertaking. Microphones, audio engineers, hours upon hours of editing, album art work, replication, and remembering to thank your mother in the liner notes. In the weeks leading up to holding that first CD in your hand the prospects of selling mountains of recordings, both physical and digital, can seem very alluring. But when all is said and done, who is going to buy your CD?

In my own experience, and in the experience of colleagues, the production of a CD does not turn a monetary profit – at least not in the short term. Everyone will have different expenses for their recording so some will find it easier to break even than others, but for many the creation of a CD is a large investment of money with little return.

So who does buy classical guitar recordings these days?

If your name is not John Williams, David Russel, Julian Bream or Andres Segovia, you will be fighting an uphill battle to sell your CD to strangers in a marketplace that has a tiny demand for classical guitar music. You simply have to ask yourself the question: “When having to decide between Julian Bream or me to download Asturias, who will they choose?”. As an alternative to battling it out in the realm of standard repertoire you might choose to record works that are seldom heard or newly composed. A good idea in theory, however, the average consumer will stick to what they know in terms of repertoire and you will be appealing to a smaller and smaller market as the music becomes more obscure.

So I’m doomed to spend my life with 1000 shiny coasters?

No, not at all. You will sell CDs and downloads to people who know you. “People who know you” is a much larger group than you might think and it is very expandable. A word to the wise, however, be conservative at the amount of CDs you get printed if it is the first time you are going through the process. Many friends of mine have made orders of 1000 CDs because it is cheaper per unit and they had dreams of grandeur. But the sad truth is that they now have piles of boxes sitting in their attic. Do a realistic count of how many CDs you can sell in the first 6 months after printing and go from there. You can always make more…

Who will buy your CDs:

Close friends and family – the inner circle

Even though your mother might be happy that she was mentioned in the liner notes, she might take a dislike if she has to fork out $20 for your new CD. On the other hand it is people like your mother (i.e. close friends and family) who would actually be happy to give some money in support of your career. The choice is yours in this inner circle – my choice has been to give recordings to very close friends and family as gifts, I feel they have given me a ton of support over the years and it is a nice way to say thank you.

When we look outside our inner circle we find a big market of buyers that will be some of your most reliable and appreciative buyers.


School friends, sports friends, spelunking friends, larping friends, you name it they will be there for you as a great group to market your new CD. It is really fun to share what your passion is with your friends and they will get pleasure out of being a part of that. Send out personalized emails, have a CD launch and invite them all, announce it on social networks, etc. There is obviously some tact needed when marketing your CD to friends as they might get a bit turned off if they feel like you are spamming them with advertisements. With some tact and patience, however, you can easily sell a large portion of your recordings to a very appreciative group.

Concert Audiences

These people get to know you through a performance they attended. Simply put, if they like the performance and they have some expendable income (which they probably do seeing as they attended the concert) they will most likely purchase a CD. Be sure to let the audience know that you have CDs for sale and price them reasonably – remember it is better to sell 50 CDs at $10 than 5 at $20!


Fans are people that know you through your music and follow your career. Whether that means they are a fan on facebook, signed up for a website mailing list, or simply come to your concert when you are in town, this group feels a connection with you and this connection is something you should sustain and grow. In the long run, it should be your goal to turn members from all other groups into fans. Fans are not only great because they support you by coming to concerts and buying CDs but they will also spread the good word and do marketing for you!


This group will often include many classical guitarists. There may be a selection of audiophiles who simply love to listen to guitar music, or classical music in general, but for the most part this group is made up of university students, retirees that have taken up guitar late in life and the rarest of all, someone who simply just likes classical guitar music.

You may also like...


3 Responses

  1. Daniel Epp says:

    I play classical guitar, but I’m a hobbyist. I doodle around with no real expectation of grandeur. However, I do follow many extremely dedicated classical guitarists on Youtube. Like this article stated, there seem to be a million and one guitarists who can play all the classical guitar “hits”. The ones I really stop and listen to, and ultimately purchase the work of, are guitarists that really separate themselves from the ocean. Artists that expand the art by writing their own compositions, those that interpret old songs in a new way and those that express endearing idiosyncratic quirks. Some might call this gimmicky but if an artist really wants to make the jump from isolation, I think it takes more than just being a virtuoso. There are plenty of those in the world.

  2. Thanks Simon.

    This article is excellent. Plenty of great information on this page.

    I do agree with you Daniel I also am drawn to those who do something tasteful that is somewhat unique on the guitar. But the truely great guitarists play pieces with such feel (that’s individual and can’t be replicated by others) that even a piece you’ve heard a thousand times can sound fresh.

    There are very few that fit this category in my view and it is these ones that will last the long-term if they choose. I’m too scared to name these few i don’t particularly feel like starting an argument haha. My list of those very special players would likely differ to yours because musical interpretation is so personal.

    Thanks Simon
    Looking forward to your next post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading Facebook Comments ...