How to sell your music online

How To Sell Music Online

Have you ever wondered how to sell music online?

With CD album sales constantly declining it’s not a question anymore whether or not artists shall sell their music online. It has become a matter of survival in what is often referred as the “new music industry”.

The promise of digital distribution is to cut the middleman (namely the record label…). And the easiest way to achieve this is to use a digital music distribution company such as JTV Digital, TuneCore, CDBaby, Zimbalam…etc. (yes we mention competitors because we like competition!). These companies will make your songs available on all major online retailers and streaming services like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer and more. Some may also offer additional services like marketing, promotion, online mastering, video distribution, YouTube monetization and all sort of things allowing you to establish a solid and consistent online presence.

The promise of digital distribution is to cut the middleman.Click To Tweet

But wait, can’t I just deal with iTunes myself?

Well, not really, not at all. There are millions of independent artists and labels out there, do you imagine iTunes (or other platforms) individually contracting with each of them? Sounds crazy, right? Yes it is.

How to sell my music online then?

There are 2 (actually 3) ways to achieve this.

  • Option 1: Get signed by a record label who will take care of everything, from recording your songs to marketing and distribution. Unless you are extremely talented and lucky to come to the right place at the right time, with the music genre that trends, you may have a small chance to get signed. Otherwise this option is not very realistic.
  • Option 2: Sign up to a digital music distribution service that will make your music available to major digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, etc. These companies have contracts with the various digital stores / services, all the legal and contractual hassle has already been taken care of.
  • Option 3: Direct-To-Fan distribution using platforms like Bandcamp for example, or by setting up an ecommerce website for selling your audio or video files directly to fans. This third option does not conflict with the “Option 2” above, it can be sometimes a nice complementary revenue, however it DOES conflict with “Option 1” since the label will require exclusive distribution rights and basically prevent you to manage anything yourself…

How to get started with digital distribution?

Export your tracks in the correct format. Any serious digital distributor will require WAV or FLAC high quality source format, with a minimum of 44.1 kHz 16 bits quality, if not 24 bits. All songs shall be professionally recorded and mastered. All your music releases shall include a “nice” (= professionally designed) artwork. Never forget you are trying to sell a product online, it must meet the highest quality standards in order to be appealing for potential customers (= “fans”).

Copyright your songs. Make sure to register with a PRO (if you are living in the US) like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, with Soundexchange, have a publisher or your own vanity publishing company, etc. OR if you are in Europe just register your songs at your local collecting society (SACEM, GEMA, MCPS/PRS…).

Sign up with a digital music distribution company. Check the distribution companies mentioned above and pick one based on your requirements / expectations and feeling. All companies will be able to distribute your songs, but not all will offer the same level of support, the same pricing structure or promo opportunities. Take some time to compare the various offers. Tip: it would be completely unproductive to sign up with several distribution companies and distribute the same release multiple times. Not only it will create duplicates on the stores (and consumers will get confused) but there is a high risk for your release to be taken down, since iTunes and other stores don’t like duplicates (since it harms the user experience)

Then what, shall I wait for sales to magically happen?

Not really, no. Without promotion, you’ll most likely make no (or very little sales). Marketing and promo are vital for getting noticed, whatever your genre / audience is. Having your songs available for sale or stream online won’t make you rich or famous, especially if you don’t do anything else. This is just the beginning of a (sometimes long) path to success.

Marketing and promotional aspects will be covered in future blog posts, stay tuned for updates and/or subscribe to the blog to receive these automatically.

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