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How to Sell Your Music Online as an Unsigned Artist

Over recent years the music industry has witnessed an independent revolution, as more unsigned artists break into the mainstream without the backing of a major label.

If you’re a musician looking to forge a career as an independent artist and start making money from your passion, learning how to sell music online is an important first step.

Thanks to independent music distributors, it’s now easier than ever for unsigned artists to distribute their tracks to the world’s leading online music stores and platforms and start collecting royalties from the likes of iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music and more.

What are independent music distributors?

The rise of independent music distributors has made it possible for unsigned musicians to release their music online with ease. Also known as music aggregators, these companies operate as a go-between for unsigned artists and the major music platforms.

For a small fee, independent musicians can simply upload their music to their chosen distributor, plan their release schedule, and watch as their tracks appear on the biggest online platforms. It’s that simple.

How to choose a distributor

It’s important to think carefully before choosing a music distributor to make sure you’re getting the best possible service and the most for your money. Some distributors will automatically take a portion of your royalties, while other will allow you to keep 100%, depending on their business model.

It’s also worth considering the extra services available to you through your aggregator. If you’re an established artist looking to get extra exposure by breaking into the charts, it’s crucial to secure chart registration for your release, which is only available through certain distributors.

Some distributors will also offer tools used by major label artists to maximize sales and royalty payouts, including iTunes pre-release and SMS keywords, providing you with new and unique ways to sell your music to your fans.

Targeting the right audience at the right time can make or break your sales performance.

Scheduling and planning your release

Planning your release date and choosing the right platforms to release your music on is a vital step when it comes to selling your music online. Targeting the right audience at the right time can make or break your sales performance.

While many independent artists will be happy to simply get their music into major mainstream platforms like iTunes and Spotify, if you’re an unsigned DJ looking to start selling your mixes online, platforms like Beatport and Juno will be more likely to deliver better results. By releasing music to an electronic-focused store, you’re reaching a much more targeted audience, which in turn will increase your chances of a bigger royalty payout.

Choosing an appropriate release date is also important. If you’re planning on running a PR and social media campaign in advance of your release, make sure to give yourself enough time to get the press coverage you’re looking for. Scheduling your release date months in advance will give you plenty of time to promote your track and create hype before it’s available.

How to maximize your online sales

As mentioned earlier, the best independent music distributors will offer extra services designed to boost your sales total and maximize the royalties you earn. Tools like iTunes pre-release and SMS keywords offer an additional way to promote and sell music online and are often used by major label artists hoping to break into and climb the charts.

iTunes pre-release offers the chance to start selling your tracks well in advance of your release date – up to six months, in fact. All the sales you accrue during your pre-release period count towards your release date total, giving you an even better chance of breaking into the charts and receiving a larger payout from the stores.

SMS keywords are also a useful sales boosting tool. Fans can simply text a certain word to a chosen number to purchase your track, taking the hassle out of finding and downloading or streaming it online. The process is quick, which makes it a great service to advertise at live gigs, while your tracks are fresh in the mind of your audience.

Established distributors will also provide the option to change and customize the geographic availability of your music. While this might not make a significant difference to your sales total, it offers the opportunity to adapt your release to different territories. For example, if you’re releasing a cover version of a popular song, the copyright law covering that track will differ depending on where you release it, so you may wish to restrict your release to a specific region.

While these added services each offer a unique way to get more out of selling your music online, playing live is arguably the most important factor when it comes to reaching new fans, and in turn, selling more music. It’s therefore particularly important to get your name out there with regularly live shows, whether that’s in your hometown, across the country or worldwide.

Selling your music online is an important first step in the career of any unsigned artist, and once your tracks are out there, who knows where it could lead!

How much money can I expect to make selling music online?

Realistically, you’re not going to strike it rich overnight through royalty payments. On average, Spotify pays out as little as $0.011 per stream, while iTunes offers only marginally more for each download. If you manage to secure millions of streams, then your revenue will be substantial, but if you’re a relatively new or unknown artist, your payments are more likely to cover your beer money than your rent.

Having said that, getting your music into the major online music stores isn’t just about making money. There are other benefits that are essential for advancing the career of an unsigned artist.

Firstly, alongside playing live as often as possible, uploading music to the world’s biggest platforms offers the opportunity to be discovered by new listeners. Securing Spotify playlisting is a great way to reach new fans, as millions of Spotify listeners use playlists to discover new music to add to their collection.

Also, when your music is easily accessible on iTunes, Spotify, and other platforms, it gives you a more professional and credible look. Nowadays, major labels are much more inclined to sign a deal with an independent artist who already has a large fan base and can prove their popularity with the streams and sales they have received so far in their career.

Get started now

Once you’ve written and recorded your music, there’s nothing stopping you getting it into the major music stores and platforms through an independent music distributor.

Selling your music online is an important first step in the career of any unsigned artist, and once your tracks are out there, who knows where it could lead!

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