Promotional Tools and Merchandise
There is, however, a greater likelihood that someone might pop your CD in if they get some cool promo item along with your music-- once they pop your tunes in, it's up to you to really deliver the goods. Not every artist who is in the process of developing without a label can afford to spend a lot of money on promotional items-- get creative. One of the bands we work with, Grapevine, from Pittsburgh, was able to strike a deal with Coors beer to pay for the manufacturing of a three-song EP the band could give away (for more advice on securing this type of promotion, see the section on "Sponsorship" in Making Money as a Developing Artist). I've even seen other bands recycle items to drive costs down. One band bought hundreds of T-shirts (with existing prints on them) from a used clothing store (they told me they paid 50 cents per shirt), silk-screened their logo onto them, and gave them away. So, instead of paying up to $6 per shirt, they probably spent $2.50!

If you are fortunate enough to have the support of radio and/or retail in your area, promotional items can help you get free ad time. Let's say your single is being played on a local radio station (commercial, public or college). If you give them T-shirts, CDs, or tickets to an upcoming show for giveaway on the air, they will often agree to mention both your name and the giveaway a set number of times. When I worked for DelsenerSlater, a large concert promoter based in NYC (now owned by SFX/Clear Channel), I set up ticket giveaways with radio stations all the time. It was the cheapest and easiest form of advertising. I'd strike deals whereby if I gave a station three pairs of tickets to give away on the air, they would give me 30 mentions about both the giveaway and the concert I was promoting. In this example, the tickets are promotional items, but the model could as easily work with T-shirts, etc. Think of a promotional tool as a living advertisement for your project.
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