So you have just finished your latest EP. Your fans are calling for your music and you’re ready to put it up online. But where? You don’t want to put it on myspace. You don’t want to just put it on iTunes because you want your own store and online profile, but you don’t have $2,000 to spend on building your own website. What do you do?
I have recently started an internship with Music Works NYC, a recording studio in the Upper West Side. My first task is to help the owner start a World Music record label called Descendant Music, so I have been researching different methods for selling the music online, through both physical distribution (CDs) and digital downloads.
The best method of distribution depends, of course, on your individual needs. Different platforms have different features. Some take a cut (usually 15-30 %) of all sales while some sites have one upfront or a monthly subscription fee. Some take care of the physical CD sales and shipping while others are only digital.
Below is a list of a few possible methods and their advantages and disadvantages.
Reverbnation is the go-to spot for many indie bands to release their music. There are also pages for labels, managers, and venues. There are many benefits for a band or label with a small budget:
- Free to join.
- Very simple setup. For someone who isn’t tech-saavy, this is a great perk since you follow an easy process to help you set up your front page.
- Detailed statistics tracking. The statistics page will tell you who your fans are, which songs are the most popular, and where your traffic is coming from, among many other interesting things.
- Physical unit and digital download sales. There is no initial cost but they take a pretty high cut off of each sale: $.30 from each individual song download, $3.00 from each album download, and for CD’s, a steep $5.49 per disc.
- Facebook integration. Through the app called “Store,” reverbnation can help you set up your facebook page to sell your merchandise. It is a free app but takes around a 30% cut for each sale.
This is a great deal for small budget music entities. A major downside is that you are basically branded by Reverbnation which is the same site that many of your competitor bands are on. So you are not able to differentiate yourself from other bands.
2. Nimbit Music
Nimbit is another free option for starting bands. They allow you to create your own virtual store on nimbitmusic.com complete with concert tickets and digital downloads, but the best part about Nimbit is that they give you a store to place on your own band website (provided you have a domain). Artists like Robert Plant and Rusted Root are currently loyal Nimbit users. For a cheap $12.95 a month, Nimbit will distribute your CD’s as well as get your music on iTunes and Amazon.com. Nimbit is a perfect distribution method for bands that already have a website and are looking to add a store function.
More benefits of Nimbit:
- Will sell your CDs and merchandise for a modest 19% cut.
- The store function is very easy to implement on your own website and can be up and running within 15 minutes.
- Allows you to maintain your own brand, with a very small “powered by nimbit” stamp at the bottom of store page.
- Tracks sales activity and gives you statistics in realtime.
A few downsides to Nimbit include only being able to host .mp3 format, double the price for managing multiple artists ($12.95 to $24.95) and does not allow for much customization of the store.
Bandcamp is a very customizable and affordable method for bands and labels releasing their music independently. An interesting thing about bandcamp is that albums outsell individual tracks by a 5:1 margin. This says something about the customer base: they are here to buy albums and support the artists, not just because they heard a hot track on 99 Jamz.
Some great features of bandcamp:
- Free to join and no setup costs. They take 15% of sales.
- Name your minimum price for album sales: Anywhere from $8 or up.
- Sell your digital albums in any number of file formats.
- You can sell CD’s through bandcamp, but you must do your own shipping.
A few disadvantages to bandcamp is that you can’t sell merchandise and it does not link seamlessly to your pre-existing band website or facebook page.
Take a look at an example bandcamp page right here: Michael Garfield Bandcamp
Impulse is an application built by Moontoast that seamlessly integrates with your facebook page to sell digital downloads. It is a very thorough app that combines the social benefits of facebook with a simple e-commerce interface. This is a facebook-only distribution method so you may want to combine Impulse with another online store platform.
Benefits of Moontoast:
- Very easy setup – 15 minutes or less
- Sell physical CDs, merchandise and digital downloads.
- No setup fee and only 15% cut off sales.
- Conducive to sharing and social interaction on Facebook.
Of course this is not an all inclusive list; there are many more platforms to release your music on. You could go a typical route of releasing on iTunes and Amazon, or go the independent route and build your own website with a designer such as DreamCo Design or Ten Minute Media. You can DIY and collect money through paypal so you won’t have to give a cut to anyone. It all depends on what your needs are and what your budget is. If you have questions about anything or would like advice on which platform to use, leave me a comment or send me a message!
Thanks for reading.