The latest developments in technology have changed everything in our lives and of course it has changed our relationship with music as consumers and artist’s way to sell their music. Not only we don’t have to rely in the radios or casette / CD players anymore (we can stream every song we like any place and any time) but also we don’t need to go to physicall stores anymore, we can buy music online in seconds from the comfort of our homes.
And if you can buy them it means someone is selling it. Artist have now the opportunity of selling their music without necessarily having the support a record label. They can now do it themselves. As simple as recording and uploading, artist’s music will be out in the market for all potential costumers interested in buying it.
There are many music digital stores worldwide. The most important are Itunes, Google Play, SoundCloud and Amazon. Lets go through the Pros and Cons of each one.
Itunes is the world’s number one online digital retailer. It allows users to listen, download and purchase music and video. You can sell your music worldwide and both via downloads or via streams through iTunes Radio.
Listeners can purchase songs for a default price of $0.99 for tracks under ten minutes in length and $9.99 for an album. The amounts artists earn per song vary depending on the country but in the US and Canada is $0.70 per song and $7.00 per album based on default pricing. So it is pretty fair and worth it for the artist! Plus if your music is played on iTunes Radio you get payd a per play fee and a portion of iTunes’s advertising monthly revenues.
iTunes also allows you to set up an iTunes pre-order so you music will be on iTunes before the release date. This way you will not just please your fans but the more sales you make the higher position you will have on iTunes chart.
iTunes works better for stablished artist rather than for smaller artist as the requirements to be on iTunes are pretty pretty hard to meet for the average indie artist (you have to have at least 20 albums in your catalog for example). If you can not meet those requirements to work directly with iTunes a plan B is to pick an agregator. Agregators are approved by Apple and the most popular are TuneCore and CdBaby. The con is that you will have to spend money to pay the agregator fee.
iTunes is a little bit more expensive it is also the most popular site so you get to be seen with a higher probability. Plus, as music from iTunes is really eassy to synchronize with other apple devices, it makes music even more accessible for fans.
GooglePlay is the platform where Android users can download their apps and digital media store. When you put your music to sale in GooglePlay you make your music accessible to many countries but not all of them though only in Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and United States so it is not worldwide like iTunes.
GooglePlay also sells artist’s music via downloads and streams getting paid the wholesale for songs downloaded individually. For instance, the wholesale payout for a download of a single will be $0.70; a download of an album will be $0.70 x the number of tracks, with a maximum payout amount of $7.00 per album. For paid streams, artists get paid a proportionate share of Google Play’s subscription revenue per month.
It takes about 2 weeks for your songs to go live on Google Play thats too much time considering iTunes music is available in less than 24 hours after submission.
Google Play has the Free Song of the Day, a very popular feature that is a great way to highlight priority artists and new releases as well as to attract new listeners to catalogue titles.
Amazon is an online store with a Music division. Amazon Music sells music via downloads and streams in United States, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland.
There are diferent ways to sell your music on Amazon; “Front Line” is ideal for new releases and you get paid the hishest wholesale price, “Mid Line” payout is slightly lower than Front Line. This tier is suggested for new and recent releases, “Catalog” wich is slightly lower rate than both Front Line and Mid Line. This tier may be a good option for releases older than 18 months and “Special” wich is the lowest wholesale pricing tier offered suggested for promotions and older and/or slow-selling catalogs.
For downloads, Amazon Music pays the artist at a fixed rate for each individual song or album sold. If you choose to have the release delivered to Amazon Music for distribution, artists will be provided charts that reflect the pay rate for each wholesale pricing tier. It will take from 3 to 7 business days for songs to be on Amazon Music.
For paid streams, you get a proportionate share of a royalty pool established by Amazon. Members will be able to stream you music 90 days after its released.
Soundcloud is the world’s most popular audio-sharing platform that is why both indie and stablished artists are using it as a tool to promote their repertoire. This platform not only allows you to put your music out for the public to listen, it is also a great way to create a community of fans (listeners who are into your style of music or belong to a specific “group” ) and other artists (opportunities for new collaborations).
Soundcloud is a community focused on allowing people to discover what is trending in music and what the other people connected to SoundCloud are listening to. As it is so easy to discover new music, it is the perfect place for independent artists.
This great platform also allows you to get feedback on your tracks so you know what songs or melodies people like the most and which are not working and should be modified. For a lot of artist, SoundCloud is the primary marketing tool for many of their releases and serves as a way to test the product.
Another positive point of SoundCloud is that the platform allows you to add social media links to your Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) profiles so people can investigate a new artist and know more about them. This is very important as you might be new and unkown for the listeners. Artists should make sure to provide a biography and contact information.
SoundCloud has many positive points: easy to create a profile and upload music, easy to get feedback from your music, easy to promote your music through the “groups” and easy to create community and to get known by other artist. And it’s free! Well, if you are not a Premium member, and if you want to get the most out of SoundCloud you should upgrade to a Pro (6$/month) or Unlimited (15$/month) account. Plus you can also make your tracks available for download but you won’t get paid from it. SoundCloud doesn’t directly pay royalties for stream. What you earn is popularity, the more downloads you have the more popular your profile becomes. This is a toll for sharing rather than for selling and maintaining a good SoundCloud profile requires artists to be diligent and disciplined.
There are other alternative distribution options both for selling digital and physicall records and for streaming; Spotify is one of the number ones (Rdio, Beats Music, Rhapsody and Napster are pretty similar but don’t have a freemium model, meaning royalty payments are typically higher). Not to forget Youtube, MySpace, Rhapsody, Pandora, Napster or MySpace.
Streaming revenues in Spotify are extremly low, one that offers the best payout is GooglePlay (even 9 times more). Xbox Music, while relatively small compared to the other services on this list, has become known for paying much higher royalties than its peers.
To name some of the online retailing tools there is CdBaby, Orchard, TuneCore, Nimbit, and Bandcamp among others.
Alternative distribution outlets such as retail or after show sales still generate revenue. The ability to generate revenue is lower than touring from example, but selling records, both in the traditional way (retail stores or after show sales) and in the modern way (online retails and streaming revenues), are still a way artist make a living (for those who are lucky enough). No streaming service pays enough to sustain musicians, and it may not even be enough to sustain companies like Spotify that rely on the freemium model, that is true, but I believe it has to be a combination of all of them what makes it worth it at the end of the day.
To sum up digital distribution is fast, easy and convinient for both consumers and artists, but it can also be a little bit tricky. Artist sometimes have the feeling of giving their work away and not getting enough from it both in terms of money and recognition.
In my opinion music is nowardays more accessible than it has always been. Back in the day artist used to dream of having their albums in a store. Now they dream of being number one on iTunes. Things has changed but it doesn’t necesarilly mean they are worse.
It’s true artists used to sell more physicall copies for higher prices but it is also true artist didn’t get as much income as they do now from touring, merch or endorsments.
You might not become the richest musician exclusively by selling your music online but at least that will allow you to make a living from your music and make it known for the public.
The way people interact with music has changed a lot. Of course it is worth it to have your music on Spotify or SoundCloud, eventhough you might think is not enough for all the work is behind. You have to get to be listened because if people can’t hear your music they will never buy it and eventhough they might not buy it right away they might go to your shows or buy your perfume.
If you are not selling your music online you are missing out!