Geek marathon and online sales thoughts

So I’ve set myself the task of trying to understand php – for the geekily-challenged amongst you, php is a web programming language, like html or whatever, only apparently designed by an autistic squirrel with ADD, who hides information away, just because he can.

The reason I’m trying to get my head round it is because it’s what the shop part of my website is written in. As you can see (by clicking that link or any of the ones at the top of the page) I’ve managed to at least get it looking like the rest of the site, and still functioning properly. Fortunately all the money stuff is handled off of my site, by paypal or nochex, so my tweaking can’t make it any less secure.

Online sales is such a weird area, when you measure potential audience against actual return. Trying to find what will inspire the people who like what I do but haven’t yet got round to buying anything to put a virtual hand in a paypal-pocket and pick up a CD or a download.

I know so many musicians who now measure their popularity in terms of myspace friends and plays and youtube visits, but neither of those pay the bills – they’re great for exposure, but have to turn into attendance at gigs and cd/download/merch sales or you’re pretty much destined to a life of day jobs. Which isn’t really such a bad thing – lots of people intentionally choose to keep their day job in order to allow them to do the music they really want to do without the stress of making it pay. I, however, am an idealist, and have never had a plan B, workwise – I play, I compose, I teach and I occasionally write for magazines. That’s pretty much it. So finding ways to sell music rather than just having people watch half a video clip on youtube, give it 5/5 call me a ‘loop genius’ and then never listen again, is pretty important.

When I put the Lessons Learned albums up on the shop for £2.50 each, I sold quite a few more of those than I regularly sell of downloads. Not thousands, but enough for it to have been a worthwhile experiment. And lots of new people got to hear the Lessons Learned albums, which are, in any wise person’s estimation, rather wonderful! (if you haven’t got them, do go and get them)

The received wisdom on websales is that the more clicks they require, the more people will give up half way along. That’s certainly born out by my webstats, which show a huge number of people visiting the shop, but relatively few actually clicking the requisite number of buttons to buy anything.

So what to do? Add paypal buttons to the front page? just put a note on the site saying ‘hey, send me £7 for any one CD, or £20 for three, and I’ll ship ’em out to you’…? Which, BTW, you can do – paypal the money to :o) – the beauty of the shop is that it handles downloads – someone needs to write a downloads for musicians software thingie, that just manages collecting the money from paypal and sending a password protected link to the customer. There are a few bits of software that do it, but by and large, they’s ugly!

So, the question is, are you selling on-line? What works? What clearly doesn’t? thoughts and ideas please…

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