Lesson 9

CDs vs digital downloads vs streaming – which formats are right for you?

How are people going to hear your recordings? Will you sell your recordings as CDs or digital downloads on your own website, or will you make them available via streaming apps such as Spotify?

This is a question we could have left until much later, but I think it makes sense to have some idea of where you are heading before you start the recording process. More than anything, now is a good time to stop and ask an important question:

“Which are the most effective distribution methods for meditation and hypnosis recordings today?”

10 years ago, the answer would have been CDs followed by digital downloads. Those two distribution methods accounted for nearly all audio consumption at the time.

Today, the landscape has changed dramatically, with both CDs and digital downloads falling in popularity.

Source: https://www.riaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2020-Year-End-Music-Industry-Revenue-Report.pdf


Sure enough, a lot of people still have a CD player somewhere in their house, but the reality is that most people use them to play CDs they bought in the past. As the chart above reveals, very few people are purchasing new CDs anymore.

There is only one situation in which I can imagine CDs being useful. If you operate a business in which you interact face to face with other people on a regular basis (clients / patients / seminar attendees for example), then having a stock of CDs available can be a convenient way to put your recording into the hands of your customers. For example, hypnotherapists will sometimes keep a stock of their hypnosis CDs in their consulting rooms so that patients have easy access to them. Some relaxation centres and day spas will make guided relaxation CDs available at the reception desk, so that when clients leave for the day, they can take a little bit of the magic home with them. 

The problem is that only a diminishing percentage of people are willing to pay for CDs these days, even if you go to the trouble of producing them. And producing them is, to some degree, troublesome. You may need to hire a graphic designer to prepare your album artwork for print, you will need to purchase stock of your CDs before you can sell them, and the trouble doesn’t stop there. If you were planning to sell CDs on your website, then it will be up to you to take care of postage and tracking of your CD sales.

My advice…

Unless you have people asking you on a regular basis to provide your recordings on CD, do not bother with this format.

If you have a good following on social media or a significant amount of website traffic, then you may indeed receive occasional inquiries for CDs. I recommend that you resist being swayed into CD production unless you are absolutely sure that there is a significant demand for them.

MP3 Downloads

At first glance, distributing your recordings as MP3 downloads probably sounds like a good idea. In contrast to CDs, digital downloads incur no manufacturing costs, no stocking costs and no shipping costs. They are also more environmentally friendly too. MP3 downloads are a less time-consuming product for you to manage. Customers can order and download from your own website, which means effortless distribution to a worldwide audience.

This all sounds good in principle, but the reality is that more and more people now enjoy their music and other audio content from streaming apps such as Spotify and Apple Music. There is still a market for digital downloads, but just like CDs it has been shrinking as time goes by.  

Having said that, there are some interesting reasons to consider selling downloads on your own website. 

The benefits of selling downloads on your own website

Your website is your own personal landscape – your own little corner of the market. This is a place where visitors are not going to be distracted by thousands of products by other artists. They will be presented with your recordings and your recordings alone. 

Another significant benefit to selling from your own website is that you can do a lot more to promote and describe your products to potential customers. For example, Apple Music will not allow you to add a description or any commentary to your recording, but on your own website you are free to write a full, detailed and compelling description. You can include additional artwork, customer testimonials and extended audio previews. 

There is no doubt that music streaming services have taken over as the primary way in which people listen to music today. As a result, some of your potential customers will not want to buy from your website simply because they have a personal preference for a music streaming service. 

On the other hand, some people feel that music streaming services do not provide enough information about the albums they offer. When it comes to hypnosis and meditation recordings, there are loads and loads of albums available to stream, but who to trust? How can a Spotify user find out if the recording they just discovered has been created by a professional with credentials or a person they can relate to? 

Easy. They search for information about the artist on the internet. 

Yes – we’re talking about YOU. Some users of streaming services will search for more information about who you are, what you do and what your area of expertise is. If you have a professional looking website and your products are on display, then they’ll quickly be able to determine that you are “the real deal”.

It’s also true to say that, when it comes to self-help / meditation / hypnosis recordings, some users will prefer to purchase from your website simply because they prefer that kind of direct purchasing relationship and are comforted by the knowledge that if they have any questions about their purchase they can reach out and contact you. 

Everyone is different. Some people will prefer to “go to the source” and purchase directly from your website, however the majority will prefer the convenience of their favourite music streaming service and will listen to your recording there. It’s advisable that you keep your options open and make your recordings available on both of these avenues. 

If a website of your own is not an option for you at this point, for whatever reason, that’s perfectly OK. You have a lot to gain by making yourself available via music streaming services. I simply want you to understand a little bit about the psychology of your potential customers and how they may come to a buying decision. You most certainly can achieve great success without a website of your own, but having one will be advantageous and it can even increase the revenue you achieve “off-site”.

My advice…

If you are just starting out and don’t yet have any web traffic of your own, don’t bother setting up an online store to sell downloads. If you do have a website of your own with significant quantities of visitors, then reach out to your followers and ask them directly if they would like to purchase downloads directly from your site. If you receive strong positive feedback, then it may be worthwhile selling downloads. 

I should mention that I have seen some artists do a great job of using our royalty free meditation music to put together bundles of hypnosis and/or meditation recordings that are unavailable on other platforms. If you have enough web traffic, then you may still be able to achieve good sales of downloads if you can provide exclusivity and good value.