How To Sell Your Music Online

The days where artists needed to sign a deal with a record label in order to make their music available to the world are long gone; now musicians can distribute to the world from the comfort of their bedroom. But in this post-scarcity model, the paradox of choice may be the greatest enemy…

Creative Commons License photo credit: mt68

There are plenty of ways to distribute your music, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Spotify is perhaps the hottest arena at the moment, and it does have great potential as a platform – but it also has its fair share of detractors.

Spot the Difference

Thom Yorke made headlines recently when he pulled his music from Spotify, citing concerns over the level of remuneration artists receive from having their music streamed on the service.

He’s not alone in that stance – Four Tet has also pulled his music from Spotify, and even Pink Floyd – large scale beneficiaries of the old school record label and physical distribution environment – have come out and criticised Pandora’s Internet radio model as being tantamount to asking musicians to take an “85% pay cut”.

The Model

So how do artists get paid on Spotify? In essence, there is a fairly minute fee being paid each time a user streams a song, in the order of fractions of a cent. If you are a well known act, you could well see this as an undervaluation of your “product” – but for the majority of artists, being paid anything at all for a stream of their song would be a signficant boon. So is this a democratisation of music production, or the start of a slippery devaluation slope which will undermine musicians’ ability to earn a livelihood from their music alone?

Getting Your Music Out There

It’s hard to predict the long term impact Spotify might have, but at the moment there are still plenty of other channels available to artists. One route to take is with CD Baby, a company set up by Derek Sivers to distribute his own music, then branching out into distributing for friends, and eventually becoming an international independent distribution hub.

While previous record label deals might have seen an artist make only a dollar or two from each CD sale, CD Baby gives artists the full price of the retail value, minus $4. Artists can set the retail price point however they like, so if they decide to sell a disc for $24, then they make $20 per sale. In practice, $12 would be a more realistic price point, which would see the band pocket $8 per sale – a pretty impressive percentage.

CD Baby also allows for digital distribution across a variety of platforms – including Spotify and iTunes – so there are plenty of distribution channels to leverage. With that element of the process taken care of, and presuming the music is ready to roll/rock, all that remains is to engage the PR engine…


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