Sell Your Music Online
And Get Your Music on iTunes
If you want to sell your music online, first off you need to understand how the music can be distributed around the web and how you make money from your material.
Inside this Guide
* Selling Your Music Online: A Brief Overview
* Digital Music Distributors: A List of the Best
* CD Music Distribution: Making, Storing and Shipping CDs
* Selling Music Live at Gigs and Events
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Getting songs on iTunes can’t be done directly with Apple. They don’t like dealing with lots of individuals (generally, that goes for most places too: Napster, Spotify, eMusic etc.). Rather, they’d prefer to use an ‘aggregator’ who will deal with record labels or individual artists, handling their albums and singles, formatting them in the correct way and uploading them to the iTunes database.
A similar operation works when dealing with physical CDs for shipping music. Big stores will order through aggregators. CDs still account for a majority portion of music sales (particularly at events - *hint: that’s where the money is!). More of this later...
Second big thing; iTunes takes a cut off your earnings. In a $0.99 song, Apple will take around 30-40% of that (!!) to make it worthwhile them running and promoting iTunes. The credit card companies will also charge fees (usually a couple of percent). The remaining money will then pass on to your aggregator who, depending on how they run their service, may take a commission (not usually more than 10%).
IMPORTANT! Never, under any circumstance use more than one aggregator to submit one single or album. What happens is iTunes gets two versions of the same song, and won’t list either until only one is submitted. That means you’d be paying for submission twice and be gaining nothing. And that sucks.
I’ve compiled a list of some of the best digital music distributors who are easy to use, don’t take a ridiculous cut of your royalties and don’t cost much to setup, if anything. You can get free distribution, but it’ll cost you more in the long run if you’re hugely successful. Or, if you’re super-confident that you’ll sell loads, then paying a one-off fee and saving on commissions later could earn you a lot of extra money.
First, a short summary on each of them, then some recommendations based on your circumstances.
Some services don’t cover distribution via iTunes, Amazon and Spotify but instead just offer a widget where you can sell your music straight to your fans on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and on your website. They’ll process credit card payments and issue the download so only customers who bought tracks can download the music.
In as little as 10 minutes you can be selling music on Facebook, your blog or website and you get to keep 100% of the profits. Although there is a small monthly fee, there is also a very generous 30 day free trial, so you can actually start selling for free, for free!
Similar to Bandbox, you can sell via your website, Facebook, blog, whatever, but there isn’t a monthly fee. Instead, they charge a flat 15% commission on all your royalties.
You can also sell on Facebook, MySpace, your website or blog with Nimbit. More of that later...
And now for the distributors to iTunes, Amazon, Napster, eMusic, Spotify and all the rest.
Routenote are a relateively new, free signup digital distribution service where you can keep 90% of the royalties. And if all’s going well, you can subscribe (rates depend on how much stuff you’re submitting) and get 100% of the royalties.
Songcast music gives you 100% of the royalties but requires a monthly subscription service, and then a charge for each album or single uploaded.
ReverbNation is a huge player in the music promotion space; digital music distribution is just one of their dozens of services and tools, and you get to keep 100% of your royalties once you signup for one of their annual plans which start at around $35/year.
DittoMusic are a UK music distributor. They have a pay-per-submission model where you can choose to submit a track to each store for 30p, or various other packages where you keep 100% of the royalties. You can also submit for a chart-registered release and submit yourself as a record label. They offer quite a complicated array of different services, so if you’re from the UK, take a look and see what looks good to you.
CD Baby are one of the biggest, most popular players in the indie music distribution marketplace. You send your music, and for a one-off fee ($35 for an album, $9 for a single) they push it out across their network (which includes a huge range of offline stores to sell CDs to the high-street shops). They’ve gone on to partner up with lots of other companies and offer a huge range of useful tools and services.
Tunecore are an established digital music distributor, giving you 100% of the royalties earned. The uploading prices are slightly higher but they integrate their services plenty of other services including physical product distribution.
Catapult Distribution take a 5-9% commission as well as a small sign-up fee for each single or album. They also claim to have faster distribution, with times onto iTunes taking as little as 24-48 hours.
Nimbit includes music distribution in their paid subscription accounts (and you keep ALL the royalties) which includes the widest, best selection of music marketing tools including direct-to-fan store, fan messaging service, an
'instant band site' plugin for Wordpress to create an awesome website
really quickly and easily as well as services so you can have CDs and merchandise sold, made-up and shipped without you having to touch a thing.
Best Online Music Distribution Label
Well, it depends.
If you’re on a bootstrap budget and simply want to get distributed, then
is your best bet. And if it really takes off, you can upgrade to their Pro package and get 100% of your royalties. Alternatively, sign-up to
and start selling to your existing fans now on Facebook, MySpace or your current website.
More ambitious bands with an already growing fanbase might want to look at something more permenant then
are perhaps your best bets, and they needn’t cost loads to startup. Even monthly fees can be covered with irregular gigs and performances.
Checkout this demo...
CD Music Distribution
Distributing CDs, DVDs and merchandise is different to digital goods which can be downloaded easily. Physical goods require three things:
Producing the right quantity of goods
Storing the goods
Shipping the goods
Discs and merchandise can usually be customized and purchased in small bulk from local suppliers, or online shops. Usually, the more units you buy, the cheap the per-unit price will be which increases your profit margins. This makes it tempting to overorder and be left with a stock of unsold CDs and merchandise.
Alternatively, there are some print-on-demand services which will print a copy of your CD or merchandise item as and when you need it. It may cost more per unit, but it saves you having to buy lots and store them. ‘PoD’ services generally will also ship the made-up goods on your behalf, so you don’t ever have to touch them.
That may sound awesome, but CD and merchandise sales are usually strongest at events, so having a stock of goods when your playing live at gigs is important.
For shipping CDs and DVDs, I recommend using a ‘jiffy bag’. It’s basically an envelope with a bubble-wrap lining for padding the goods inside. You can pick them up in small quantities from your local stationary store, or otherwise buy in bulk online.
Make Your Own CD Covers
For print on demand disc duplication, take a look at
For a mere $1 they’ll produce a high-quality CD or DVD in a case. They keep their service very simple to keep the costs down - that makes them perfect for indie bands. For merchandise (t-shirts, mugs, calendars, thongs...) take a look at
and for both discs and merchandise, take a look at
Nimbit's 'Production Services'.
Selling Music Live at Gigs and Events
When selling goods at live events, it’s important to understand how to accept payments. If people like what they hear, they’re at the perfect point to go and buy their stuff - but only if you make it easy.
Cash is cool, but not everyone carry’s plenty of money around. Besides, people may not be willing to use taxi or beer money on your wares. Being able to accept credit cards is more and more important, and there’s three cheap and easy ways you can do this.
CD Baby's Credit Card Swiper
service. For $30 (which is refunded if and when you return it) you get a credit card swiper which takes a mark of the card details and the customers signature that you mail off to CD Baby where they charge the card. They’ll charge 9% (+ 3.8% credit card fees) per transaction which gets added to your CD Baby account.
(costs around $50-70) along with a laptop to charge people’s cards live. USB swiper actually use PayPal for charging cards, so you’re payments will go into your PayPal account. They charge around 2.90% + $0.30 per transaction.
3) Use a
mobile app for credit card processing
which you can enter data into your app (although you’ll usually have to type out the credit card numbers. Slooow!). Watch out for the transaction fees!
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