I would talk beautiful women into standing by my merchandise table, and
have an extremely attractive female sell my CDs. This was unbelievable. Yes,
it is possible to sell 40 instrumental guitar CDs a show because of an
oustanding woman selling them, and of course hopefully because of the music, ha,
ha. All these guys thought they would end up getting dates after the show!
In 1997, I was doing the coffeehouse, bookstore, small venue circuit in the DC / MD / VA area. I was playing 25 shows a month. It was a lot of fun. In September of that year I was doing the booking for November and I noticed that I had 27 shows booked. A musician friend of mine, Bill Inglis, told me that I just had to do "30 in 30" cuz I was too close to say no. He meant 30 shows in 30 days, because November has 30 days. So I booked the shows and played every one of them Then I had the idea of setting a world record. I got in touch with the Guinness Book of World Records and tried to figure out what kind of record might be doable.
After a series of proposals back and forth, the Guinness people sent me the guidelines for the "most international concerts in 24 hours." On April 10th and April 11th 1999, I set the record with three concerts in 24 hours. One concert in Germany, on in Austria, and one in Switzerland. I sent the authentication package to Guinness three months later. In July 1999, I received a letter from them confirming that they recieved the package and that they would be able to tell me more in 30 days. I have not heard from them since. I would most definitely do this feat again and include more countries. Getting my name in the Guinness Book of World Records looks good on a bio sheet and could probably bring in some more gigs. Also, it is very
cool getting paid for three gigs in one night!
I do lots of things! One of them was way back when Shrapnel records was first starting, and Mike Varney was the man, I read in an article when his birthday was. So right before his birthday I sent him a package wrapped in birthday paper. Of course when he opened it up, there was my demo tape! And of course warm birthday wishes! Several months later I was at the NAMM show, and Tony MaAlpine introduced me to Mike. As soon as he heard my name, he said "You're the guy that sent his tape as a birthday present! I get thousands of tapes and I never remember them - but yours I remember!". Even though I didn't end up doing anything with Mike, he did know who I was!
I spent $20,000 advertising an instrumental album ("Dreamscapes"), at the height of the grunge era ('93-'96). I didn't think it was going to be that hard to sell my CD. When I was giving out my music for free I was getting tons of letters. To get those people to shell out some of thier bucks was another story. After my first 250 CD sales I was in the profit margin but I couldn't stop there. I had to keep going and going, more reviews, send out more press kits and CDs, more 1/4 page ads in Guitar World, in GFPM, in local papers, in 'zines- all at several hundred dollars per ad. I think it was a reaction to the non-player attitude that was taking over in the US. I felt like it was me against the world.
Three years later I was still taking out ads. It didn't matter if I was getting anymore sales from these ads, I was going to just keep pounding my name and face into everyone's mind. Every time I took out an ad it was like a middle finger in their face. One day it was like I woke up and said, "wooa, what the hell are you doing. It's over." Uh...then I started a magazine (Guitar-2001). Would I do it again, I think knowing what I know now, and all things being the same, yes, I would do it again. I just can't help myself. To tell you the truth, it seems that everywhere I go there's someone who knows who I am.
The only creative thing that I've ever done to attract attention to my CDs was to offer a $2 discount on my last CD at the CD's release party to everyone who spent a minimum of $3 on the coffee/pastries sold at the venue where I held the party. I held the release at a favorite local coffee shop, and everybody that spent the $3 minimum was given a "discount coupon" that I had made up and placed at the register. They brought the coupon back to my CD table, and I redeemed it for the discount (I know the owner of the establishment very well, and he's a gracious man that just loves the San Diego acoustic music community. I just wanted to bless him back and support his business, and the coupons turned out to be a nice incentive all the way around. And, of course, I would do it again.
There is a Thanksgiving - Christmas art fair in El Paso where we set up a booth and do very well with our CDs. That's really not that unusual or bizarre or wild, but it shows that you have to be a bit creative about searching for venues and about marketing in general. It helps that the music is acoustic instrumental stuff, and a pleasant soundtrack to the weekend's browsing and shopping. It's really a carnival atmosphere, wall to wall people, and a lot of fun - and very draining.