A Crescendo to Success

Solo Piano Artists Sell Over 1 Million CDs - Without a Major Label


A Crescendo to Success...
Solo Piano Artists Sell Over 1 Million CDs - Without a Major Label


NEW PRAGUE, MN (July 31, 2004) - Britney did it. So did Elvis. And the Beatles, of course. And now, the dream of selling one million CDs is a reality for two Minnesota-based musicians. Piano-playing siblings Tim and Ryan O'Neill recently surpassed the historic milestone, selling their millionth CD in the summer of 2004. However, unlike many top pop artists, they did it without being associated with a major record label.

The brothers - who may be the most successful duo you've never heard of - have turned their passion for music into a thriving business, selling over one million CDs on their own by bypassing traditional music outlets and focusing on independent gift shops, craft shows and even grocery stores.

"It's been such a great journey to get here," says older brother Tim O'Neill, 32. "We've been fortunate not only to truly be able to enjoy what we do for a living, but to have people all over the country tell us, "We really appreciate what you do, too.' It's really gratifying. And being able to say we did it all ourselves is icing on the cake."

In addition to reaching hundreds of thousands of fans, they've accomplished things they barely even dreamed were possible. Along the way, the brothers have written and performed music for HBO (including "Sex and the City"), NBC and ESPN. They've performed for President George H.W. Bush. And most recently they've appeared on QVC - where they quickly reached their goal of selling out their entire inventory of CDs.

Sidestepping traditional music retailers, the young entrepreneurs decided early on to concentrate on distributing their CDs through retailers that cater to their key audience: women age 35 and older. The savvy musicians created their own record label, Shamrock-n-Roll, Inc., and got to work. Today, the O'Neill Brothers' relaxing brand of piano music is flying off shelves in more than 1,200 independent gift shops in all 50 states, plus in grocery stores, at craft shows from coast to coast, and on the Internet at www.pianobrothers.com.


Like many musicians, the brothers began their careers performing at family gatherings. But when Tim spent a year of college in Europe, his mother encouraged him to record and make copies of his music so his friends and family could listen to it while he was away. When he returned, O'Neill was amazed at the number of recordings his mother had distributed, and he decided to plunge full-time into the business of writing, playing, recording and selling his music to a growing audience. "It all started with the idea of just making enough copies for my family," he says. "But the more I looked at it, the more it made sense to expand beyond just people I knew."

In 1995, Tim played a regular schedule of holiday-themed performances at Minnesota grocery and department stores and quickly found an audience of people who bought hundreds of his CDs after hearing him play. He teamed with his younger brother Ryan in 1997, and the two have since recorded music that critics - from the Los Angeles Times to Parenting magazine - have called "reflective, soothing and stimulating." To be in several places at once, the brothers first used computer modules to convert in-store pianos into player pianos, then created high-tech audio kiosks to play entire selections from their albums.

"People walked into stores and heard our music, either coming from a kiosk or a real piano," Ryan O'Neill says. "It turned out to be a close second to being there in person, and the customers loved it."


Today, the brothers have built upon the momentum kicked off by the in-store kiosks. Some weekends during the fall craft show season, the O'Neill Brothers sell a CD every 10 seconds. While appearing on QVC, they sell over 1,000 CDs per minute.

Their enthusiastic fans have made successes of the O'Neill Brothers' 18 albums, including the holiday-themed Coming Home, Spirit of the Season and Spirit of the Season Volume II; The Meeting of the Waters, a collection of traditional Irish songs; the classic and original love songs of Look Within, Love Always, Hands of Time and P.S., I Love You; Sweet Dreams, a collection of lullabies; One; A Notre Dame Experience; Here Come the Irish; Inspiration; a collection of eight decades of movie themes, Through the Years; On Broadway; a collection of wedding songs, A Day to Remember (which has become the top-selling wedding CD on theknot.com and weddingchannel.com); and their most recent release, The Journey, a collection of familiar inspirational songs.

"In many ways, selling a million CDs isn't even the most amazing part of what we've experienced," says Ryan O'Neill, 30. "We constantly have to stop along the way and remind ourselves that, as great as it's been, it's only really beginning. We're grateful our fans have responded to our music so strongly, and we hope to continue recording and performing for many years to come."

Two million, here they come.




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