There are numerous ways to sell or market your music online and getting that aspect of your operation right can be a bit daunting.
This article is designed to assist you in deciding what you want and finding out where to get it.
The big names offering to sell your home made music include ReverbNation, Songcast, CD Baby, Bandcamp and Tunecore.
It is worth remembering that new media companies are being invented constantly and with looming changes in the way that copyright law is administered the picture could be significantly different in twelve months time, or even less.
Deciding what is important to you is the first step in choosing which company to sell your music through.
You could try addressing these questions:
- Is the marketing of the music important to you, or do you just want a means to make your product commercially available ?
- What is the main way that you want to distribute your music ?
Downloads purchased via your own website?
Downloads purchased through the a media company’s website?
Downloads purchased through iTunes/Amazon/Zune etc?
Physical CD’s to sell yourself?
Give it away free just so as many people as possible will hear it?
- Are optional audio formats important to you?
Obviously, different musicians have different priorities and objectives and music distribution services vary somewhat with regard to what they offer.
For most musicians who want to sell their own music online, the overriding priority is to get their tracks onto iTunes. But, Amazon is also pretty important and personal taste and preference may well influence your opinion as to which of the other main outlets are most important to you.
Zune and Spotify come to mind and deals which allow you to add a Widget to your Facebook page will obviously appeal to many songwriters and bands.
Here is a brief review of what some of the most popular services currently available can do for you and also how much it will cost you.
The Blurb says:-
“We put your music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and many other stores. We collect and give you 100% of the money from your music sales, along with detailed streaming and sales reports.”
Tunecore have a range of popular artists including Nine Inch Nails, Moby and Jay-Z using its service. They have established themselves as a leader within its field and since 2005 have allowed recording artists to release their music via popular digital stores such as iTunes, Amazon and eMusic.
They have also started offering additional services such as licensing for TV shows, films and games. Mainly made possible due to its partnership with Universal.
For Album Distribution, charges are $29.99 for the first year and $49.99 for each following year.
While Tunecore submits your music to the widest range of services, the annual fee for an album submission could prove costly if you are not selling a lot of tracks.
The blurb says:-
“Direct Line To Your Fans. Your fans are online. They’re buying and streaming music online from stores like iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify and Google. When you distribute your music with ReverbNation, you’ll gain exclusive access to over 40 stores around the world. ReverbNation does not take any percentage of the royalties that you earn!”
A “Release” through ReverbNation costs a minimum of $34.95 per year and that goes for a single track, EP or album.
To remove a release from the retailers, you must pay a takedown fee. This fee is $15 for an ‘Essentials’ package release and $30 for a ‘Pro’ package release.
Their pricing is a bit complex – you can check the details here,
Personally, I have received more royalties from ReverbNation for streaming and downloads than any other service that I have used, although that is a triflingly small amount.
The stats and support are excellent, but when you have to keep renewing each album’s subscription annually it becomes expensive. For this reason I spent all my royalties on taking down my album.
They do have a lot of services to reach fans online, but you can often only take part in the attractive auditions and competitions if you are signed up to the ‘Pro’ account and having your albums up with ReverbNation on the basic deal doesn’t cover those.
The Blurb says:-
“The basic service is free. There are no signup costs, and no listing fees. We make money via a revenue share on sales: 15% on digital, 10% on merch.”
Bandcamp were born out of the idea for an ad-free and visually clean space for artists to showcase, share and sell their music and has already attracted some famous users.
It’s easy to use social media sharing tools will no doubt appeal to listeners who are browsing the web looking for new music, especially if the artist has enabled Bandcamp’s unique option for letting fans name their own price.
While their service offers a dedicated artist page and fans can download tracks in lossless formats, Bandcamp are in competition with, rather than selling through, iTunes, Amazon etc and therefore don’t submit your music to other stores.
For some musicians that is a drawback because they still have to take up another service to get their music into the big online retailers.
The blurb says:-
“We offer one of the best music distribution services around because our features are designed to help you sell music online!
SongCast allows you to sell your music on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, Rhapsody, eMusic and MediaNet without any hassle. You’ll have access to iTunes Daily Trending Reports, your own Ping Artist Account, free UPC and ISRC codes, a free Music Page for Facebook and most importantly – you’ll be able to keep 100% of your royalties without worrying about any long-term contracts.
With SongCast, you can pay for music distribution month-to-month and with non-exclusive terms. Plus, you’ll be given the opportunity to increase your music’s visibility through social media linking on Facebook, Twitter and more!”
Songcast’s service is pretty comprehensive and the distribution to online retailers features all the big names. Unfortunately the deal is based on a setup charge and a monthly fee. You pay the setup charge of $19.99 per album or $9.99 per single, plus a $5.99 monthly account fee.
Although $5.99 per month is not a lot of money, if you hit hard times any monthly outgoing is a pain and if you can’t keep it going your music is no longer on sale, which would be disastrous.
For some people, though, this may be the right deal.
The blurb says:-
“CD Baby offers a number of artist services, including:
- Worldwide physical distribution for your CDs, DVDs, and Vinyl
- Digital distribution to our digital distribution partner companies such as iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic and many, many more.
- Download sales on CDBaby.com
- Free resources and informational podcasts
- Affordable web hosting and design through HostBaby.com (http://www.hostbaby.com/)
- Short-run disc duplication
- Download Cards customized with your album artwork
- Access to over 2,500 retailers and etailers through our distribution partnership with Super D One Stop
- You set your selling price at whatever you want for sales on CD Baby.
- We only keep $4 for every CD sale and 25% ($0.29 minimum) for every MP3 download through CD Baby.
- For digital distribution through our digital partners like iTunes, you keep 91% of the net earnings.
- There is a one-time $49 charge to set up a new CD/album in our store and $9.95 for a single.”
Getting your CD/album or single distributed through so many outlets for a one off payment is an attractive option to many. However, with CD Baby taking the first $4 for an album, you are not likely to make a fortune from CD sales. Of course you can set the price of the CD yourself but if you make it too expensive it could put people off buying.
You can also order physical CDs from CD Baby but these come from the USA, so any carriage charges should be included in your calculations.
Being able to purchase and re-use your barcode for $20 is a real bonus and the download cards are a great idea. CD Baby also regularly email you useful marketing advice.
Reminded of the traditional adage, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch !”, I eventually settled with CD Baby and am quite happy with the deal. Now I just have to sell a stack of albums.
There are other services out there and new music distribution models being thought up all the time, so it is a good idea to research the current state of affairs before committing to anything.
Meanwhile we hope that this article has helped to throw some light on the subject for you.