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Being a musician in 2018 has its advantages! These days, there are more ways than ever to get your music out there, be heard by millions, and best of all, make a bit of cash doing it!
But there are also so many different platforms offering different things, it can be hard to keep track of what’s important for you, personally. Depending on how you’re looking to monetize your music (self-released albums, digital vs. physical copies, or foregoing the album entirely to sell songs for licensing), you might have certain needs. I’ve gathered a bunch of services that I can personally vouch for here to help you get started.
CD Baby (Distribution service)
If you want to get your music on streaming services like Spotify and iTunes you’ll need to use a service like CD Baby to distribute your music. Distribution sites do not take ownership of your music, you retain all of the songwriting and publishing rights. CD Baby charges $9.95 for a single, and about $50 for an album. It’s very tough to earn money by streaming your music unless you have a sizable fanbase. What it does offer you is a sense of legitimacy and gives people a way to easily find your music and see if they like you.
Amuse (Distribution service)
Amuse is another music distribution company, but they’re 100% free. They take no commission because they are hoping to use data analytics to pick out successful artists and sign them to separate record contracts (ones which appear to be pretty artist-friendly, too!). If you’re someone who wants to try to put something out and see if it catches on, their no-frills approach could be a great fit for you. The only downside is that they’re new and relatively unproven, but that can easily turn into an upside if they see your potential and want to invest in your music!
DistroKid (Distribution service)
If you’re someone who wants to put out a ton of digital music every year, this is the perfect platform for you. DistroKid was the first distributor to offer unlimited distribution for one annual fee of $20. They don’t take a commission on any streaming services. That’s a pretty big deal considering CD Baby takes at least 9% across the board. And because it’s kind of hard to plan the moment that your song blows up, like when you’re unexpectedly added to a popular playlist, that could mean a difference of some serious dollars. Unfortunately, your reports and analytics are just a mess on DistroKid. When I’ve looked to see how a certain song is doing on iTunes versus Spotify, for example, I’ve been hard-pressed to glean any useful information.
TuneCore (Distribution service)
If analytics are important to you and you’re willing to shell out a bit more for that super useful asset, go for TuneCore. TuneCore is somewhere in between CD Baby and DistroKid. Like DistroKid, they work on an annual subscription model, but your annual subscription rate is based on how often you release music. Releasing one single a year will run you $9.99; an album a year is $29.99. They also offer add on services, like publishing and sync promotion, and YouTube revenue set up.
Spotify for Artists (Distribution tool for Spotify)
Given we’ve mentioned a number of distribution services, it’s worth noting that Spotify now allows artists to upload their own music directly to the platform. The recently launched Spotify for Artists is a service that allows artists to claim their profiles directly and upload music directly. This is a game-changer in a number of ways, but it’s still helpful to go through a digital aggregator like the ones mentioned above, because of how many other platforms they’ll send your music to.
Bandcamp (Online storefront)
Here at Soundfly, we love Bandcamp. It’s one of our favorite artist-centric business models out there. Almost every one of our team members uses it to put out their own music, and to discover new artists.
If you’re looking for a simple, easy way to sell your music online, it doesn’t get better than Bandcamp. It’s super easy to personalize your site and you can use their design tools to do some pretty cool stuff. You price your albums at whatever you want, you can change and customize the look and feel, and you can let your fans listen to a sample song or snippet before they buy. Bandcamp takes a 15% fee for all digital sales, and 10% for physical merch. Just make sure you tag everything!
When selling physical goods on Bandcamp, just make sure you have all the shipping materials you need and can commit to fulfilling orders yourself! One of Bandcamp’s biggest selling points is its fantastic blog, profiling the up-and-coming artists who use their platform. But then again, if you blow up and all of a sudden have to ship 50 LPs across the country — while that’s a great problem to have — it’s still a problem, and not one Bandcamp can help solve! Be prepared.
Big Cartel (Online storefront for physical goods)
Speaking of shipping orders, when it comes to non-digital record sales, I love using Big Cartel. Their pricing model is free for up to five products, and then jumps to $10/month for up to 25, so it’s worth trying before you buy to see if this is a platform that works for your needs. Again, this site offers customizable colors, looks, and various templates, and a ton of great examples of storefronts from successful artists so you can make your store work with your custom branding.
LuckStock (Music licensing service)
If you want to place your music in nationally-syndicated car commercials ads or blockbuster movies (or, more likely, YouTube videos and student films) there are a lot of services that will help you find people who will pay to use your music, thus earning you a licensing fee. LuckStock’s fee is 50%, which sounds high, but using their site to sell licenses to your music is totally non-exclusive, meaning you can always sell your music elsewhere. What this platform does is get your music in front of music directors and agencies who are actively looking. They figure out how much your track should be sold for using various parameters.
Bonus: Build your own website (Online store)
If you want maximum control regarding your music and the consumer experience, you should be building your own website as a hub for your online sales. Squarespace and Wix are both great services that will allow you build your website either from scratch or from a variety of templates. They can be expensive, charging around $100 a year for hosting the website and getting you a domain name, but in this day and age having a website is a necessity.
Bandzoogle is a great resource designed specifically for musicians. We’ve partnered with them to launch a free course that offers tips and strategies for how to create a website that reflects your true vision as an artist and how to get the most out of the tools available. The benefit of Bandzoogle being designed specifically for musicians is that they’re constantly updating their suite of widgets and analytics so you can gather the best information about your audience and serve them exactly what they’re looking for. All three of these platforms, though, have robust online stores based on templates that have been refined with millions of views worth of traffic.
If you’re selling music online, make sure you know once and for all how streaming and sales royalties work — and how to get the money you deserve — in our free course with Ari Herstand, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed.
Or, explore Soundfly’s wide array of free online courses and expand your musical skills and gain a competitive edge! Here’s just a few: Theory for Bedroom Producers, Touring on a Shoestring, and Crowdfunding for Musicians.