So you’ve finally finished your album.
It was a ton of work: you had to write, compose and record every song. Now you can sit back and watch the money roll in, right?
Creating the music is only the beginning. Now that you’ve got your album done, the real work starts.
Marketing and selling an album is where you will spend most of your time and efforts. But there is some good news.
In the past, you needed to sign with a record label to get your album out there. These days, you no longer need a label.
Nobody buys CDs anymore. The large majority of listeners store all of their music on electronic devices like your phone and computer. And these devices all sync up with each other and can also connect to your car, house, headphones, etc.
To get your music into the hands of the masses, you need to be where they are when they are searching for something new to listen to. You need to be online. But there are so many options. Where exactly do you need to be?
Where To Sell Your Music
Selling your music on the internet these days is fairly easy. There are so many different options, from your own website, to sites that help people discover new bands, to mainstream music services like Apple Music, Spotify and Google Play.
Your Personal Website
In terms of money and retaining control over your music, this is your best option. If you already have a fan-base and a website (if you don’t have one, you really should), selling your music through your own platform is a great way to start. If you don’t have a site yet, our step-by-step guide makes setting one up easy.
You can set your own price (Tip: give a discount to people who buy it directly from your site; you attract more buyers that way and you still earn more money than you would through other platforms) and accept payment using Paypal or one of the many other online payment processors. They charge a transaction fee, but it is much lower than the commission fees charged by most platforms for selling music.
With your own site, you can also collect the email addresses of your fans, allowing you to foster a closer relationship with them and also to promote future projects and products. Any time you release new music or have an upcoming gig, you can send an email to your entire list a once, making sure your fans are always up to date.
Another big advantage of having your own website is that you can make a lot of extra cash by offering additional merchandise, apart from music. You could sell posters, t-shirts, etc. or you could get really creative and offer different types of fan experiences.
All that said, selling your music only on your own webpage probably won’t be sufficient, since most people will have a preferred online retailer and will usually stay loyal to them.
Noise trade is not exactly a music selling platform. Instead it works like this: users can download an album for free in exchange for an email address and a zip-code. If they want, they can leave a tip in the amount of their choosing, varying from $1 to $100 (Noise Trade keeps 20%). The tip also functions as artist appreciation and feedback.
This feedback is important, because you get data from your listeners, which can be used to help build your fan base, to analyze what that fan base may look like and to keep them informed on what you or your band are up to. With Noise Trade you also get exposure to thousands of people who are looking for new music, thanks to the daily newsletter, which goes out to about 1.5 million people who are all looking to discover a new singer or band. This exposure helps you build your own mailing list and expand you fan-base.
In the words of one of the website creators, Derek Webb: “If I can sell 20,000 records at 10 bucks, that’s short-term money. Somebody comes to iTunes and buys my record for 10 bucks, that may be the only transaction I have with that person. … I don’t know who they are, I don’t know how to find them again, I have no way to interact with that person again beyond that one transaction. I would rather give them the record, something that has perceived value: $10 on iTunes, (although) by the time the money comes to me, I make more like a dollar.”
Sound Cloud is one of the biggest and best music platforms out there. The website has a real “music community” that engages a lot and is always up to discover new artists and bands. It goes without saying that this is great for any vocalist or other musician trying to make it in the competitive music industry.
With a paid account on Sound Cloud you can upload unlimited hours of audio and add a “buy” button to your tracks. The platform also provides extensive analytic data on your listeners.
The platform is free for artists. You upload your music and set a price for it, of which Band Camp takes a 15% cut. The big advantage is that fans who value your work have the option to pay more than the asking price. Band Camp also provides you with data and email addresses of your listeners.
Mainstream streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and Google Play
Getting your work on these services has obvious advantages. For one, a large majority of people already use these services and are highly unlikely to change to something else. The audience you can reach using just one of these platforms is larger than you could get with all of the others on this list combined.
Most people also prefer to just to pay a fixed monthly price to stream or download as many songs as they want and to just let the company deal with artist payment. And who can blame them?
Naturally, the big advantages comes with some disadvantages. These vary from company to company, but as a general rule, they all take a 30% cut of the sales, you don’t get access to the email addresses and other data of the listeners (because officially they are Apple/Spotify/Google listeners, not yours) and the process of getting your music on the site is a bit complicated (plus there is a 2 week waiting period after submitting your content).
Official big streaming companies require a little more work when it comes to uploading your music and all of them prefer you do it through an “aggregator.” An aggregator is a company that functions as the “bridge” between you and the streaming service by collecting your music and data, doing all the necessary paperwork and then directly uploading to the online services for you. Of course they charge for this, but they tend to be your best option. In Spotify’s case, they are your only option.
My personal recommendation is to use these “aggregator” companies because even though they charge fees (see below), they will help you a lot. Some sites, like Google Play, are a little easier to get into, but others, like Apple, make the process of uploading your own music so difficult and bureaucratic that it is almost impossible to do on your own. And then there are companies, like Spotify, that will not accept your music at all, unless it is uploaded through an aggregator.
These companies also automatically get you into an average of 100 digital music streaming services (see below to see what services each company is associated with). This saves a lot of time, because uploading your music to each of these services one by one (at least the ones that will accept you without a label or an aggregator) can be quite exhausting and time consuming. It also consumes money, if you consider all the paperwork and permits you will need.
Digital Music Aggregators
There are several aggregators and they are all a bit different. Let’s take a look at the main ones (if you end up going with a lesser known one, make sure they are legit and that Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify accept them) and the differences between them.
- $12.95 per single uploaded on the standard plan or $34.95 per single on the PRO plan
- $49 per album on the standard plan or $89 per album on the PRO Plan
- 9% commission on digital sales
- iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Beats Music, Shazam, Facebook, YouTube (95+ digital retailers in total)
- Sync licensing for TV, film and games (included free)
- Able to make money on YouTube
- Sell music on store.cdbaby.com
- Worldwide CD distribution
- Performing Rights Organization affiliation (only for the PRO Plan)
- Song registration with global collection agencies (only for the PRO Plan)
- Worldwide publishing royalty collection (only for the PRO Plan)
- No annual fee
- Charge $5 for a single UPC or $20 for an album UPC. These aren’t optional add-ons. You can’t distribute your album without a UPC, so count on an additional $5/20 for each release.
- iTunes weekly trend reports
- Visit the CD Baby website
- $29.99 first year per album ($49.99 for the following years)
- $9.99 per year per single
- Annual fees of $9.99 per single and $49.99 per album
- No commission on digital sales (keep 100% of the revenue, after the 30% cut for the streaming site)
- $19.99 per ringtone (only available for Apple)
- Daily sales trend reports with iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music (150+ digital retailers in total)
- Monthly music sales reports
- Custom cover art, if needed
- Worldwide Publishing Administration Service (only available on the Music Publishing Administration Plan, which costs $75)
- Sync licensing for $10
- Visit the Tune Core website
- $19.95 fee per month (first 2 months are free if you sign for the annual plan) on Premium Membership
- Album package: $19.95 first year and $49.95 each additional year
- Single package: $9.95 per year
- No commission on digital sales
- Unlimited singles (you don’t pay to upload them) with Premium Membership
- Unlimited albums with Premium Membership
- Website with free domain
- Electronic press kit
- iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, Deezer, Napster (Rhapsody), Tidal, Groove, YouTube, Apple Music, Pandora, Shazam, 7digital, 24-7 Entertainment, Claro Música, Akazoo, Anghami, AWA, Beatport, KKBox, Saavn, Simfy Africa,Slacker, Starzik, Ultimate China, Traxsource, Yonder
- Built-in marketing tools
- Free trending reports
- Visit the ReverbNation website
- $19.99 annual fee
- No commission on digital sales
- Unlimited singles (no extra fee for upload)
- Unlimited albums (no extra fee per upload)
- Mechanical license for covers (for a fee)
- Do the legal process to clear covers for distribution
- Next-day trending reports for iTunes, Amazon and Spotify
If you want to distribute to Shazam, charges $.99 per song atop the $20 a year (optional)
- revenue splitting for your collaborators with automatic payment by the company (you choose the percentage)
- Email every step of the way
- In stores 10 to 20 times faster than any other distributor
- iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, Google Play, Tidal, YouTube, Deezer (150+ digital retailers in total)
- Visit the DistroKid website