#055: David Nevue – Building a Music Career Online

The internet is an irreplaceable tool for music promotion, but is it possible to build a music career in cyberspace alone?  In this episode, we hear from solo pianist David Nevue, who built his music into a full time career just by creating an effective online presence.  For the modern day DIY artist, David’s business model is the perfect example of what can be accomplished with great music, a little merchandising know-how, and a long term vision.  A lot of ground is covered in this interview, so get ready to take notes!

David Nevue’s artist website can be found here – http://davidnevue.com/

To check out David’s book, “How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet” click here.

  • Kevin,
    Great interview! After many years of reading and listening to other people on how to create a sustainable lifestyle as an independent musician, I think this interview could the best I’ve experienced.

    I think the best piece of advice was to create a large catalog of music and provide ancillary products. Then, fine-tune your sales strategy and keep at it. Gee, kind of like real businesses do…

    Another theme you hear everywhere – Find the people who love your stuff! I think this is the keys to the kingdom. My guess is that most bands have fans who “like” their stuff, but not enough superfans who love it. It doesn’t seem like real momentum is possible until other people are “selling” for you.

    Thanks again Kevin and David.

  • Thank you so much for the podcast! It really gave me some great ideas.

  • good one!

  • Good interview though I felt like I was listening to a sales seminar through much of it and not one selling music but books and assorted miscellaneous items.

    I was very much struck by a few things he had to say.
    #1, he doesn’t read music, yet he sells sheet music that he pays someone to transcribe for him.

    #2, he recommends, rightly so, creating the best
    quality music possible and a lot of it.

    Neither of those are necessarilly bad things but then, I also don’t see how either has much benefit to the majority of DIY musicians out there.

    For one, with very rare exceptions, no-one is going to buy tabulatur or sheet music of an indie artists music. Secondly, the shotgun approach may work for him but, as I recall, the current lament is the glut of choices out there.

    Here’s my take:
    Step #1, produce the best quality music you can for your genre and get it out there. If it isn’t worth buying, it won’t sell.

    Step #2, establish yourself as a trusted advisor where music in that genre is concerned. Web forums, blogs, twitter, facebook, myspace etc all play a role in this.

    Step #3, cultivate that trust and in passing let on that oh by the way, I have this record out. Sales is the last thing you’re after. It’s hearts and minds, not dollars. Gain the hearts and minds and you get the dollars as a side benefit.

    Step #4, repeat 1 through 3.

    Has this worked for me? Not for my music but then, my music isn’t really up to snuff if I’m being honest with myself.

    But, it has for the artists who’s music I do buy, and I suspect this is true of the majority of the buying public.

    U2 will never sell me another CD, “No Line On The Horizon” spoiled that trust. Metallica also, lost any future sales to me, the mastering is so bad on their latest it’s unlistenable. The same is true of a friends band who’s latest CD is also mastered to the point of pain.

    On the other hand, I like the remastered version of Pearl Jam’s “10”, they’ve brought me back into the fold. Hearts and minds. That’s my point.

    I wish David all the best, clearly, he’s a great salesman. Sadly nothing he said prompted me to listen to his music.

  • Good ideas gets me thinking about long tail marketing techniques. Thanks for another great show. Ronnie

  • Thank you all for your comments. Nice to hear the positive responses! I’m glad you liked the interview.

    Robert, I was surprised by your comment that you felt you were “listening to a sales seminar through much of it and not one selling music but books…” I intentionally tried to avoid that. I didn’t even mention my book until Kevin brought it up near the end of the interview. Frankly, I don’t really care about selling books. The book isn’t what I’m about. People can buy it… or not. I’m a musician first and foremost and I hope that when I’m dead and gone, that’s what people remember me for.

    As to your last comment… “I wish David all the best, clearly, he’s a great salesman. Sadly nothing he said prompted me to listen to his music.” The point of the interview wasn’t to sell my music. If it was, I did a very poor job of selling it. 🙂 I wasn’t trying to.

    The point of the interview was just to encourage artists like yourself and to let you know that yes, it IS possible to make a career out of selling your music online. I did it. It can be done. It’s not easy. It takes time, hard work and persistence, but it can be done.

    There are many cynics out there who say it isn’t possible. I’m living proof that it is. You just have to be creative and find what works for you and your audience.

    I do believe the sheet music/tablature idea is valid for all DIY artists. If you have fans of your music who are amateur musicians themselves, this is another merch opportunity for you. Don’t knock it until you try it.

    Anyway, Glad the rest of you got some good ideas out of it.

    Thanks again Kevin. Enjoyed chatting with you.

    David Nevue

  • Very useful stuff. Love the ideas about touring when you know where your fans are

  • David Nevue,

    I appologise if I’ve mischaracterized you here. I commented on my impression of the interview and did not mean any offense.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on the sheet music/tabulature issue. For you it works, for most? Not so sure…

  • Best podcast since Jonathan Coulton. Listen and learn. The polar opposite of Jason Van Orden, the snake oil salesman. I’d thought all the good ones were already in the can when that podcast came out.

    Inspirational. I’ve got notation software and I know how to use it. But, yep. I’ve been too lazy to use it for my own songs. Time to get busy.

  • Thanks for the excellent interview, David.

    For those of you who are unfamiliar with David Nevue, let me just say that I’ve been following his music and work online for more than 4 years now. When it comes to indie music success, David is the real deal.

    I’ve learned a massive amount of music marketing information from his online marketing book. All of it is directly applicable to virtually any music career. Therefore, it is a MUST read for all indie bands and musicians.

    I hope to see you sometime in concert, David!

  • Anonymous

    Congrats on another great show(ep 55).
    I was particularly interested in the discussion as it pertained to david’s idea to increase his product base by offering his fans lead sheets.
    I am the founder and prresident of Copy Cat Music – a music transcription and music copying company.
    If any of your listeners are interested in having their original music transcribed, I encourage them to get in touch with me.
    Copy Cat Music is run by peforming musicians who are aware of the financial situations artists may face.
    With that in mind, we keep costs low.
    For reviews and samples of work please visit the “press” and “photo” sections of http://www.sherylcohen.com

    Thanks for the opportunity to give a shout out – and for your AWESOME podcasts!
    All The Best –

  • Pingback: OzBlog::music & more » Blog Archive » #055: David Nevue - Building a Music Career Online()

  • David and Kevin – great podcast! Required listening for anyone looking to get their music in more ears. Keep up the good work!


  • I haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but I’m sure David is probably just trying to sell a book. My history teacher in high school used to say, don’t believe anything you read, anything you hear, and only part of what you see. I’ve been listening to and reading a lot of this online PR stuff, and I haven’t sold a million cd’s yet. I have spent a lot of money on stuff though. My feeling about the music industry is this: The more things change the more they stay the same.” It’s still the rare, lucky artist that hits it big and sells millions of copies of their cd’s. And actually, the internet isn’t the first time artists have been able to make their own recordings. Demo tapes and records were made in the eighties, and cd’s were made and sold privately in the 90’s. Don’t believe the bullshit.

  • Bryan,

    Doesn’t sound like your History teach was worth listening to, as that is quite possibly the worst advice they could give someone about learning(especially from a history teacher). There are people who obviously know what they are talking about, and people who don’t. The people who know something are worth listening to. Since you admittedly haven’t listened to the podcast, then you definitely have no idea what you are commenting on. The podcast is not about David’s book, as it just gets mentioned at the end. You really don’t have things in perspective, as no one is promising that you will sell millions, plus that is an unrealistic goal in the first place. Selling a few thousand is not. For many artists, that would create a very nice income stream. You seem to be focusing more on becoming famous like people did back in the 80’s and 90’s. Those day are gone forever. It does take a certain amount of talent, but there are more artists accomplishing their goal of making a living from music than ever before. By the way, our podcast so free, so no need to worry about buying something.

  • Thanks again, everyone. Great comments!

    Bryan, if you ever doubt a person’s credentials, one of the easiest things to do is just Google them and see if they are the real deal. If they are a scam artist, a snake oil salesman or a flash in the pan, you either won’t find much on them or you’ll find people talking about them in a negative light.

    So take up the challenge and Google “David Nevue.” You’ll see I am what I say I am… an artist first. And you’ll see I know my marketing stuff… my name is all over the Internet. I’m kind of proud of that. That’s the result of marketing your music online for 14 years.

    David Nevue

  • I really enjoyed this podcast. Mr. Nevue inspired alot of great ideas.

  • Excellent podcast! This is the first CDBaby podcast I listened to and it was a great way to kick it off. I’m looking forward to listening to the other episodes but this one gave me plenty of ideas to try out for promoting our upcoming album. I’d never considered doing lead sheets or tablature for our songs, and I wonder how much interest there would be in that since we’re a guitar-based band, but it’s worth a shot at least. I really liked the idea of doing a fan round-table and asking *them* questions — that’s definitely something we are going to try.

    Thanks David!

  • Cory Lavine

    Great interview! I especially enjoyed the information about building relationships and knowing who your audience is. Having a pizza party and or having a conference on-line are great ways to accomplish just that. Thanks David!

  • David Nevue is the real deal people!
    I’ve known David since 2004 and have performed with him several times, and picked his brain. He knows his stuff and has been doing it a long time. It takes lots of hard work and time, time, and more time, and patience. It’s like investing, saving, and the power of compound interest… it takes time. Performing/gigging, building a fanbase, a distribution list releasing CDs/sheet music, etc. The longer you do it, the more fans you build, the more music you put out there… it becomes a snowball that becomes a friggin’ avalanche.

  • David and CDbaby staff, great interview/info! Thank you!

    Hi Robert Lee King, the sheet music sales success might depend alot on what type of music people are searching for. I compose instrumental (solo piano) and, like David I don’t read music, so I hire transcribers to generate the PDFs. And it’s highly profitable for me. Perhaps one indicator might be the ‘numbers game’ factor; When you go to https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and enter in the search phrase ‘sheet music’ without the quotes, you’ll see that there was a huge search volume online for that phrase just last month alone. So what I found regarding sheet music is that there are a surprising amount of people from all over the world very interested in piano sheet music, and in getting it instantly as a download.
    I almost thought the search phrase ‘free sheet music’ would be higher than just ‘sheet music’ but it wasn’t, possibly an indication that a good percent of people interested in sheet music see the value of, and are okay with, the idea of buying it.

  • Melanie Marie Shifflett Ridner

    I know what David is saying is true in this whole interview.
    I have been ran down for being a writer and author and songwriter many times over. Many do not undersatnd you don’t get rich fast .You do have to work hard at all you yourself believes in.
    I work in books and writing and songwriting and have albums and books and do articles in Newspapers as well and I have been working since 1995 and it has been most rewarding for me and I am not rich but I have so much going out there and one day believe it will support me down the line.
    This man worked hard and got it together and found his own way, it is paying off for him and I am so happy for him even though I do not know him.

    Melanie Marie Shifflett Ridner

    Melanie Marie Shifflett Ridner
    Author/Novelist/Poet Laureate
    Short Story Writer/ASCAP 5 X’s Award Winner
    Ohio Arts Appalachian Author/Writer
    The Patsy Cline Cousin
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    Butterfly Woman
    Native American Poet & Story Teller

    XoXo Publishing Inc. Canadian Author

    Children’s Book Series Writer & Story Teller

    REV. Melanie Marie Bingham Brown Wagers Shifflett Ridner

    Miss Melanie Marie Shifflett Ridner
    ASCAPLUS$AWARDS 5X”s Award Writer-
    2004-2009 Songwriter/Globusz Mini-Series& Novelists Author
    Nite*SkyRecords603ArtistWriter/Lyricist/ShortStoryWriter/ASCAPWriter//AmericanIdolUnderground.com TS/PublishForLess Novel Writer/Illustrator /cdbaby.com /Photographer

  • Susan Cantey

    David! You are my new hero!

    My target audience consists of math teachers and math students. Yes, I wrote some math songs for my Calculus students. Go figure that my “Tree of Calculus” CD is actually selling about 4 CD’s or downloads a month through CDBaby!! (My Christmas songs also sell a tiny bit…but that’s way secondary.) Marketing has always been my biggest question mark. I know if I can get the word out, my math CD’s will sell a lot more. Now I know how to do it! I need to find and join some appropriate chat rooms. I’m getting ready to release my PreCalculus CD and am also pumped up to start working on my next math CD – algebra …something I was thinking about postponing.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    -Susan Cantey
    (To see the videos my students made to go with some of my math music, type MrsCantey in the search box at You Tube.)

  • i found it a great podcast/interview with good, not uncommon points re-iterated. Sometimes i wish i were a christian music artist too. it’s a good infrastructure/demographic/community to be “serving” (in terms of fan base, loyalty, and their spending power), as David makes apparent.

  • Thanks David for taking the TIME to share your experience, expertise, and general good vibe.Listening to this podcast was informative and relaxed.
    I found the comments of other artists to be be informative as well and a bit facinating as to how people responded.
    I am a guitarist/ singer/ songwriter and have long thought about creating tab/ sheet music for some of my guitar pieces. Tab was a HUGE influence on my early learning curve back in the 60’s/ 70’s.
    It is pure laziness that has kept me from pursuing creating hard copy, as I do not write or read music very well, and the compositions are frankly incredibly complex as in Ragtime style blues with bass, rhythm and melody going on simutaneously. I really can’t write that stuff out, especially the altered tuning stuff.
    I’ve heard of software that will print out the whole thing from an actual recording, which is probably the only way I could get it done. Any ideas about that?
    I once met a pianist { classical teacher} that showed me this software while playing the piece live. it was pretty incredible, but i don’t remember much about the name brand.
    I put out a CD through CD baby 2 years ago ” Roadside Revelations”. I put it on several sites for downloads and ended up selling a total of THIRTEEN CD’s through CD baby, an maybe 20 bucks total in downloads over two years time, but have sold 800 copies off the bandstand from live performances in small coffeshops and club. I’ve sold 10,000 CD’s over the last ten years from three other releases on a limited run . All eventually sold out stock, but i’ve never kept them all IN stock.
    As you see, there is a HUGE gap in my online success to my LIVE sales.
    As you say ” people have to know you exist before they will download you.
    This has prompted me to re think my online strategies and educate myself so more.

    In gratitude, Sage Gentle-Wing

  • Lynn Tivens

    This podcast was not only very informative but it was a refreshing change to finally have someone who gave the information freely and with passion.

    I have been promoting my daughter’s music for the past two years and have been using some of the techniques talked about in this show with some success. My daughter is an opera singer and it has been a challange to identify the market for her music and surprisingly enough every now and then a check shows up from CD Baby which is encouraging in of itself because it means that the ground work I have done is working.

    My biggest problem now is finding enough funds to produce another CD to keep this whole project moving forward. But the ideas shared here are really great and I plan to look into employing more of them as a means to help generate that revenue for that next CD project.

    Thanks for providing this information and I am looking forward to hearing more of these outstanding podcasts.

  • David Nevue is the real deal. I think I’ve been communicating with him for something approaching 10 years now. He’s a class act from the word “go”. As to the importance of sheet music…keep in mind that David, Steven and Philip are all pianists. People who listen to pianists tend to play piano themselves in a higher percentage than most other genres. And they want sheet music. But I also think that, if you’re writing quality music and people love what you’re doing, you’re going to get requests for sheet music…or at the very least, lyrics and chords. Dumping all over the importance of sheet music says more to me about the critic than the artists who sell sheet music. Personally, I can read music, but I’m lousy writing it out for myself. I’d have to hire someone for the job, too. Fortunately, my label in Taiwan took the initiative and had a songbook created of more than a dozen of my piano pieces. Only about 30 more to go! 😉

    I’m off to check out the podcast now!


  • HI Kevin and David, I would like to congratulate both of you on a fantastic and very informative and inspiring interview. I took down notes and listened really closely because David says what he has experienced and learnt first hand. David has built his career from the very start and explored so many different venues of the music industry. It is from his many explorations that has let him to a highly successful career and inspiration for so many. I respect immensely what David does because it takes tremedous devotion, perserverance, and great organizational skills to put together all that he does. David shows us that to get yourself really out there to the fans and vice versa one has to be very inventive and wear many hats: run a radio show, write books, publish music. newsletters, blogs, twitter, live shows, producing, composing. distribution and marketing and the list goes on. David in my eyes is a huge inspiration and also very helpful to others in assiting them along the way to provide info and encouragement to move ahead in this very competitive yet wonderful industry we all partake in. It’s like being on a mission..to feel the fire in you to share your music with others and share your gifts of music with the world. David is on a lifetime and beyong journey. And I wish him all the success in the universe and I thank him for all that he shares with us because it’s coming from a place that he loves. So right on with the interview and thank you..I learnt once again there is always more to do and discover with one’s art.. and I believe that is one of David’s many secrets..Mark PInkus cdbaby artist

  • Regarding CD bundle prices, I wonder if CDbaby.com could give the CDbaby artists the option to offer incremental discounts for different cd titles by the same artist bought by one customer in one transaction? Given CDbaby’s technology, I can’t see this being difficult to implement.

    Currently CDbaby allows us to offer a discount on multiple units of the same title if more than one CD is bought. It seems this could be good for sales, for the artists and for CDbaby.

  • Hi David, I am on the trail of finding fans and indeed, I agree that I have to hang out with similar genre musicians. Once I find like artists, such as Crystal Lewis, or Ashley Cleveland, then how do I solicit interest in their fans to my music? Do I go to their online friends and individually email them all?

  • awesome interview!!! realy helpfull!

  • I’ve heard a lot of inspirational, yet “fluffy”, advice over the years, but Mr. Nevue gets to the nuts and bolts, and even gives dollar amounts. That’s what I call helpful! My weak link has always been marketing, and I will be checking out Mr. Nevue’s book. Thank you, cd baby!

  • this guy isn’t really saying anything that I haven’t already heard before. you guy are full of it..

  • Daniel

    Tremendous interview, and kudos to David for making it happen for himseld. I remember reading in Ray Charles’ bio he says “It’s all about accumulation”, David is a great example of someone who is applying that same example in a modern way. I loved the part abouty doing house concerts, using the mailing list to set it up, then selling CD’s and sheet music at the concert … great work. Organic music making at it’s most successful best.

  • I appreciate the vision of Derek Sivers founder of CdBaby. He opened up a whole new avenue for struggling musicians such as myself. I’m very grateful.
    Jerry Herrera

  • this was great to hear. i have been self promoting quite some time but the sheet music idea was very cool. Thanks!

  • Thank you, David and Kevin for a very informative and inspirational discussion of today’s music business for the indie artist.

    After reading the comments for this podcast, I am one of the fortunate pianists/composers who arrange, transcribe and notate my own music to sell on my web site and at concerts. Your suggestions for finding target audiences and booking “House Concerts” is a big help for me.
    Thanks again.

    Happy to be selling my music on CD Baby!

    Robert Van Horne

  • Great ideas and info. Thanks David & Kevin. I’ve been touring full time for 5 years (house concerts, churches, etc..) and so I’ve approached this exactly backward compared to David. I’ve been wondering if I can take a step back and do more creation than driving, and this interview was quite helpful to me in taking a few new steps toward that goal.


  • I learned A LOT! Great marketing ideas especially for distibution. I only have 2 cd’s on cd baby even though I’ve produced 7, so while listening to this interview I was inspired to create ringtones out of my music, list 3 more cds with cd baby and download sibelius 30day trail to get professional looking charts for sale. Very Inspiring! Thank you. I’m an inspirational singer myself and tour spiritual centers across the country. Do you have any advice for the singer/songwriter who doesn’t accompany herself interms of doing house concerts?? Is Kareoke allowed??? My gut tells me NO
    Thanks again I truly enjoyed it. Pay no attention to the grumpy reponses. I think you both have handeld them with utmost professionalism.

  • Yep. Great interview. I purchased David’s book a long time ago and the advice he gives has helped me to create a blog that drives a TON of traffic to my site. And all because of that one e-book.

    The guy’s the real deal people!