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Musician Advice: How Shaodow Sold 13,000 CD's

You have sold over 13,000 CD’s in the last 4 years and were recently featured in The Guardian confirming this. Can you explain to everyone how you have managed it.

In truth the easy answer is there is no easy answer. Literally, being a rapper is my full time job so every day I'm in a different part of the country speaking to people I don't know and telling them about my music. I speak to hundreds of people a day and thousands a week. If the music is good (which it is) then a percentage of those that I speak to will buy.

The important thing is that every person I speak to will go away at least being aware of my existence and that is the crucial part. I've had people who haven't bought from me on the street go home, check me out online and then grab some merchandise from my website and (thanks to Ditto!) my music from iTunes. Essentially spending more than they would've had they just bought from me in person. It's the interaction with my fans and my fans to be that I look for. I'm not a CD seller, I'm an artist that sells his CDs in order to make new fans. There's an important distinction".

You have booked several tours independently. How can artists go about booking a tour?

I've got to say, booking a tour is one of the more frustrating experiences that I've had the pleasure to enjoy recently. I'm convinced that venues don't like money. I could try to explain this to you, but that's long so instead I'll give you a slightly adapted conversation that I actually had with a venue.

[On The Phone] Me: Hi there, I'm arranging a UK tour this year, we have fans in your city so we're very interested in booking your venue for an event. Could I ask the hire cost and your general capacity please?

Them: Errr I don't know, that's really the booking manager's area, he's not here at the moment, could you send an email and he'll get back to you.

Me: Ok thank you, I'll do that.

[Sends an email with full information directly after phone call]

[Calls back a few days later]

Me: Hi, I'm calling about booking your venue for a live show, is your booking manager available?

Them: Ah that would be Spiny Brian.

Me: Your venue manager is called Spiny Brian ... ?

Them: Yes, that's him.

Me: ... Ok, is he available please.

Them: No sorry, he only comes in for 2 hours a day and it's his day off today. Best thing to do is send him an email.

Me: Yes I already did, but I haven't had a response, I'm very keen to book your venue I just need to know how much it'll cost and how many people your venue can hold so that I can make an informed decision.

Them: Sorry, I don't really know that one and Brian has the calendar. What's your number? I'll ask him to give you a call back.

[Gives number then sends a second email just to be safe] [Calls back a week later after no response]

Me: Hi there, is Spiny Brian available please?

Them: No sorry he's just gone on lunch, can I take a number and ask him to call you back?

Me: Look, I actually just want to book your venue for a live show, I'm happy to pay, I just need someone to respond to me and provide me with some information.

Them: Yeah that's definitely Brian you need to speak to, if you send an email he'll get back to you.

Me: [Sound of pulling out my own hair]

[Half way through the tour]

Email: Hi, Spiny Brian here, I understand you're interested in booking our venue for a party ...

Luckily not all venues are like that. Essentially, if you have the money, the determination and enough fans in a few cities you can book a tour. It takes a lot of organisation and time spent sending emails and talking to people but my fans want to see me live and I'm sure yours do too so give them what they want."

Regarding the tour, how can you make sure people actually turn up?

"Once you've put in so much work arranging the thing, getting the flyers done, paying the money you'll essentially be plagued with nightmares of empty venues. That's currently what I'm enjoying at the moment. But my philosophy is this. I'm in this for the long haul, this is my job, if two people come to a show, then I'll give those two people the best show they've ever seen.

They'll go home and tell all their friends. I'll come back next year and hopefully 15 people will turn up and I'll keep coming back and delivering until I'm selling out the venue. I'm an independent artist, I don't have to answer to anyone except myself and I have very high standards. In addition, success that comes over night can also go in the same way.

Real, long terms success is what I'm interested in and that takes time, pain and struggle. The important thing is to enjoy the journey getting there"

How easy is it to make money from shows. Do you have any tips?

"It is and it isn't easy. If you make good music and know your market and how to get it to them then in theory people will be willing to spend money on it. ESPECIALLY if they feel a connection with you and understand your journey. Hence why I personally prefer speaking to people out on the streets.

In practice it's not always that simple. There's a lot of competition, there's a lot of crap to sift through and there's so many easier ways to get hold of your hard produced music for free. All I can say is there's no reason for one of my fans to download my album on iTunes and then come out, find me on the street and buy my album from me and my hat off my head, but that has happened.

There's a lot of ways to make money from your music though, whether it be through gigging, synch deals or song writing. If you're talented and have are more determined than your peers I believe that you can find a way."

What is the easiest way for artists to make money from their music?

"If I had the answer to that I wouldn't stand out on the streets in the snow selling my music. I don't think anything worth doing is particularly easy, but that's the fun of it. It also depends on the type of music you make and what you represent.

A 5 member band will find it a lot easier to get their friends and family along to a gig than I will. But at the same time a £150 booking fee looks a lot better split between one person than 5. YouTube is also playing a massive part these days and artists can make a decent amount of money if they are getting a lot of views. I'd also say never overlook the value of merchandise. True fans will want to visually rep you. So give them the chance to do so."

You have had some play on Radio 1. Can you explain to me exactly how this happened?

"It's not a very exciting story, I sent the DJ the track in question and he played it. Before that however, I had been sending the DJ my music regularly for around 3 years and bugging him relentlessly for around the same sort of time. So I guess that helped too."

What tips can you give to artists on getting onto the radio?

"Focus on your fans, cut out the middle man and build strong connections with your supporters. That way, if you get played on the radio it is an enhancement to what you already have rather than the foundation."

What have you got coming up for 2013 and what advice can you give to artists looking to break through this year?

I have the Blue and Purple Tour starting end of May in Southampton and culminating at The O2 Academy Oxford on 13th July.

It's a ten date independent UK tour booked and paid for by me and another artist by the name of Zuby so be sure to check him out. Full details are at

Aside from that I have my newest album 'Kung Fu Hustler' releasing this year, digital copies will definitely be going through Ditto Music, physical copies I'll be selling myself as usual.

Lastly, I plan to travel to a few other countries and build the DiY Gang outside the UK. Last year I was booked for a tour in Thailand, I don't plan to make that the last time I perform in a foreign country. For artists looking to break this year all I can say is work hard and be good at what you do. Overnight success is 5 years of solid work, if you honestly have done less than that then you've got more work to do.

Keep it DiY Gang, ShaoDow

Check out my self built website at