How to sell music online and thrive as a musician in 2021

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Fun fact: I was once the lead singer of a popular local rock band, and even though I’m no longer belting out melodies, there are certain things you don’t forget…

Like the jitters leading up to your first show (mine was at a pub).

Or the excitement when you hear your album for the first time.

And especially the utter stress of figuring out how to monetize your music so you can make a living doing what you love.

Which is why today, I’m going to show you how to sell music online, so you can:

  1. Diversify your income
  2. Build a steady passive income stream
  3. Grow your fanbase

And most importantly, have more time to spend creating music, performing, and interacting with your fans.

Why sell your music online?

If you want to grow your fanbase and make more money, selling music online is a no-brainer.

Before we discuss how to sell music online, let’s talk a little bit about why selling music online will help your career as a musician.

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As a creator, you deserve to get paid for your work. ConvertKit Commerce is ready-made to help you sell digital products.


Get paid with ConvertKit Commerce

You can reach more fans

If you rely on live shows to sell CDs, EPs, and merch, you’re missing out on a much larger fanbase.

You might have raving fans all over the world, but without the opportunity to purchase (and listen to) your music online, those fans will never buy from you.

When you start selling music online, you’ll have access to a larger fanbase.

You can quickly scale

Although the cost to record and produce your music is the same regardless of the final product (physical CD vs. digital download), selling music online means you forgo the cost of keeping physical inventory on hand.

Not only that, since online music is a digital product, you won’t need to work for every sale. You’ll no longer need to pack up and ship every product you sell. Instead, your fans can access your digital music as soon as they buy it, and you’ll have a stream of scalable passive income.

And why should you care about that? Well, less time fussing around with physical products means more time to focus on your music.

It’s profitable

Revenue from digital music in 2019 was $16,337 million and is forecasted to grow to $22,768 million by 2025.

With digital music sales growing, it’s clear that fans want to buy music online from their favorite artists. And if you don’t offer your fans a way to access your music digitally, they might turn to other artists and you’ll miss out on sales.

The industry is growing

Online music streaming is growing, and there’s a large market to sell music online. Since 2015, it’s grown from 76.8 million streamers to over 400 million.

Artist and ConvertKit creator Chris Craft shares:

[B]efore we knew it, there were CDs collecting dust, vinyls getting stacked up the wazoo; and it’s like ‘Oh, this business model is not quite working anymore.

If you aren’t planning to go digital, you’re leaving money on the table.

Different types of music to sell online

Selling songs is the most obvious way to monetize your music, but beyond that, how do music artists make money?

As a musical artist, there are many different digital products to sell beyond traditional songs. Here are some more musical product ideas:

  • Beats
  • Samples
  • Jingles
  • Stock music

ConvertKit creator, Stranjah, sells beats, one-on-one lessons, and merch on his website.

Image via Stranjah
Image via Stranjah

And don’t forget digital merch. You can make money selling unreleased music, personalized fan videos, calls with fans, and more.

Where you can sell music online

You’re here because you want to know how to sell music online, so let’s get into the nitty-gritty and learn where you can sell your tunes.

Start selling within minutes

As a creator, you deserve to get paid for your work. ConvertKit Commerce is ready-made to help you sell digital products.


Get paid with ConvertKit Commerce

Distribution platforms

In the past, independent artists struggled to get their music to fans if they weren’t signed by a label.

But now, it’s as easy as uploading your music to a distribution platform to reach current and new fans.

Distribution platforms circulate your music to various streaming services (think Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, and Spotify) and collect royalties for you.

We’re going to talk about five popular distribution platforms so you can choose the right one–or ones–to sell music online.

CD Baby

Boasting notable artists like Bon Iver and Sarah Bareilles, CD Baby distributes your music across over 150 different streaming services.

CD Baby has two different plans: the standard and the pro. Releasing a single song on the standard plan costs $9.95, while releasing a single under the pro plan will cost $29.95.

CD Baby’s plans. Image via CD Baby
CD Baby’s plans. Image via CD Baby

When you earn royalties from your music, CD Baby will receive a 15% cut of your royalties.

Amuse

Amuse works primarily with independent artists and distributes music to a small number of streaming services. If you choose the free plan, Amuse will distribute your music to nine popular platforms. In contrast, the pro plan offers distribution to 14 streaming services (including TikTok, where many artists have started their careers).

Although Amuse doesn’t deliver music to as many streaming services compared to CD Baby, their free plan is attractive to new artists (especially those who want to test the waters before investing).

Amuse’s plans. Image via Amuse
Amuse’s plans. Image via Amuse

Another highlight of Amuse is that artists receive 100% of the royalties and don’t pay any commission fees.

SoundCloud

SoundCloud is both a distribution and music sharing platform. With a free plan, you can upload your music and share it with your fans from your SoundCloud account. Beyond that, the free plan is fairly limited for artists who want to earn an income through their music.

If you want to make money selling music online with SoundCloud, you have two options:

  1. Monetize through distribution
  2. Monetize through SoundCloud’s monetization program (known as SoundCloud Premier)

At the moment, SoundCloud Premier is only available for the Repost or the Pro Unlimited Account, which costs $2.50/month and $12/month, respectively.

SoundCloud’s plans. Image via SoundCloud
SoundCloud’s plans. Image via SoundCloud

For the songs you distribute, SoundCloud will take a 20% commission. As for SoundCloud Premier’s monetization rate, because it varies per artist, there is no published rate.

TuneCore

What do Jay-Z and Keith Richards have in common? Both of them use TuneCore to distribute their music!

Although TuneCore doesn’t have a free plan, they don’t take a commission from their artists.

TuneCore’s plans. Image via TuneCore
TuneCore’s plans. Image via TuneCore

TuneCore might seem like a pricier option, but they offer useful services to artists, like exclusive rates for sound engineering with GRAMMY award-winning sound engineers.

Spinnup

Spinnup, owned by Universal Music Group, is another popular music distribution platform for those who want to sell music online.

There’s no free plan with Spinnup, and you’ll have to pay annually to release your music.

Spinnup’s plans. Image via Spinnup
Spinnup’s plans. Image via Spinnup

With Spinnup, you’ll earn 100% of your royalties. Spinnup also notes that with them, “you’ve got a better chance of getting noticed by the right people. We send top Spinnup tracks directly to A&R’s and label representatives, so your sound travels further.”

However, Spinnup only distributes music to 35 streaming services, which isn’t as many as some other distributors I’ve mentioned.

Self-managed platforms

Another option to sell your music online is to use a self-managed platform.

Self-managed platforms forgo the middle-person and let you upload music to sell directly to your fans. While they still take a commission, ultimately, you’ll have more control by being able to set your prices.

Splice is a popular artist-to-artist platform. You can sell sounds, beats, or vocals and collaborate with other artists. To sell music on Splice, you need to submit a form request and get approval before selling your music.

Image via Splice
Image via Splice

Or you can use Bandcamp, another platform for artists to upload their music. Bandcamp receives a 15% cut from digital music sales.

Image via Bandcamp
Image via Bandcamp

A major plus with Bandcamp that other platforms don’t offer is the ability to sell merch on top of your music.

Sell music on your own website

If you want to monetize your music, you also need to consider selling it through your own platform. While distribution and self-managed platforms are convenient, they may not be as profitable, and artists lack control.

Let’s do some simple math to see how many streams are needed to earn $4,000 per month. Since the payout per stream varies for every distributor and artist, we’ll need to use an educated guess to figure out the average for various platforms.

Luckily, we can use a music streaming royalty calculator.

Use a music streaming royalty calculator to estimate your earnings. Image via Ditto Music
Use a music streaming royalty calculator to estimate your earnings. Image via Ditto Music

If you want to make $4,000 per month at Spotify’s estimated rate, people need to stream your songs at least 930,000 times every month. Factor in royalty commissions from your distributor and that number may need to be much higher.

Even on self-managed platforms, you still need to keep in mind that a percentage of your sales will go towards the platform’s commission.

But let’s say you sell music on your website, and you sell a digital album for $15. To make the same amount of money, you’d only need to sell 267 albums.

The latter certainly seems more achievable!

And if you’re thinking, “ok, so now to sell my music online, I need to set up a website with an ecommerce store? That sounds complicated,” I hear you! That does sound complicated.

Luckily, there’s an easier option.

With ConvertKit Commerce, you can start selling music right now, and you don’t need to build a website. Plus, you:

  • Set your price; your rates aren’t determined by streaming services
  • Keep ALL your earnings
  • Will reach your fans directly
  • Don’t need to be considered ‘mainstream’ to find success (i.e., if you sell jingles, you may struggle to compete with top 40 music on Spotify)

And because ConvertKit is also an email newsletter tool, you’ll be able to grow a list of raving fans while simultaneously selling your music online.

ConvertKit artist Ryan Baustert of Throw the Fight explains how his band uses their email list to get more fans to shows:

“We use geo targeting and email people who are in a certain radius of the zip codes that we’re going to be visiting.”

And one of the first things Dave Barnes did (another ConverKit artist who has written songs for Tim McGraw and opened for Taylor Swift) was start his email list. With your email list, you can directly reach fans to let them know of shows, new music releases, sales, and more.

ConvertKit Commerce is the perfect option for musicians who want to take control of their earnings by growing an email list and selling music.

How to sell your music with ConvertKit Commerce

Let me show you how straightforward it is to start selling music with ConvertKit Commerce!

First, you will need to sign up for a free ConvertKit account.

Once your account is up and running, log in and head into the Products tab and click Create a product:

Click “Create a product”
Click “Create a product”

Here’s where you’ll name your product (in this case, your music), set a price, and upload it.

Fill out your product information
Fill out your product information

Secondly, upload your musical product.

Upload your product files
Upload your product files

Lastly, customize the URL where you want to send your fans to purchase your music.

Customize your domain and create your product
Customize your domain and create your product

And that’s all! You are now ready to sell your musical creations to the world.

A combination of the above make money as a musician

To make a living as a musician you don’t need to pick just one way to monetize your music.

In fact, I recommend testing and trying several different methods to see which works best for you.

Pairing ConvertKit Commerce with different platforms will help you reach more ears and diversify and maximize your earnings.

Grow your fanbase–and your revenue–by selling music online with ConvertKit Commerce!

The post How to sell music online and thrive as a musician in 2021 appeared first on ConvertKit.

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