Category: Selling Music Online

Comparing the Top 5 eCommerce Platforms for Musicians

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Last week we posted a blog about what to look for when choosing what platform to use for your online stone. There are lots of options out there, but creating an online shop doesn’t have to be a headache.

We’ve taken the top five eCommerce platforms for musicians—3dcart, Bandcamp, Big Cartel, ReverbNation, and Shopify—and evaluated them based on 5 different characteristics:

  • Store Customization
  • Product and Sales Options
  • Store Analytics and Promotion
  • Special Features
  • Cost

These are the things we believe are the most important things when choosing your eCommerce service. Each platform we reviewed is different, and specializes in different things.

The key component in deciding which platform is right for you is deciding on what you need.

Once you decide what you need, then you can look at what store meet your personal criteria best, based on the 5 characteristics mentioned above.

So let’s take a look to find the platform that’s right for you:

Customizing Your Store

3dcart

3dcart recognizes that not all of its customers are experienced web designers or are familiar with HTML coding. To meet the needs of those customers, it offers hundreds of templates (some free) and an editing tool called WYSIWYG, which allows HTML editing without knowledge of HTML coding. Of course, if you do know HTML coding, you can always customize a template using that; or, you can use on of their in-house designers to create your website.

You are able to use custom domains.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp’s sample sites are all stunning, but there’s not much information about design options. The artists’ info page just says that its set-up process is “so easy even your drummer could…”

If you sign up for Bandcamp Pro, you are able to use custom domain names for your storefront.

Big Cartel

Depending on the package you chose, you’ll be able to use anything from basic templates and color schemes for your storefront to completely customizable themes with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript options. The package also determines whether or not you can use your own domain.

ReverbNation

This platform does offer customizable storefront design. However, it doesn’t look like you can use your own domain name.

Shopify

There are three different routes you can take to design your eCommerce site. You can choose from over 100 professionally designed, customizable themes. Or, using Shopify’s Template Editor, a language called Liquid, and some HTML and CSS, you can create a shopping cart as unique as your sound. If you don’t have coding experience, Shopify offers web design services with their professional designers. Tying in to your website’s domain lets your fans seamlessly navigate to your online storefront.

Product and sales options

3dcart

The number of items is limited based on the plan you choose.

3dcart makes processing and shipping orders simple. With features such as shipment tracking, automated confirmation emails, and drop-shipment support, you and your fans will know exactly when and where their packages are at. 3dcart also offers an optional “Wish List” and “Wait List” for those times when your fans what they simply cannot purchase (yet). Of course, if all they want is to listen to your music (and right away), then they can purchase your digital downloads.

Bandcamp

The number of free downloads per month is limited, but other merchandise does not appear to be.

Bandcamp specializes in digital music distribution (and they do it so well). You can upload high-quality tracks and artwork, name your price for digital downloads, and even set up pre-orders and release dates. However, that doesn’t have to be the only thing sold through with this platform. Just upload your merchandise from the “add merch” tab on the header. Here you’ll name and describe the items, set the prices, choose shipping options, and upload photos.

Digital downloads will be available to your fans as soon as a purchase via PayPal goes through (or as soon as the album/track is available). When is comes to shipping other merchandise, however, you will be responsible unless you use a fulfillment partner. Bandcamp lets you hire out your shipping needs to a third-party distributor (or your Aunt Jane) without having to grant them access to your whole store. Bandcamp also makes it easy to track and sort orders from the sales section of your tools page, where you can mark invoices as processing or shipped, search for orders, or filter by date or  status.

Bandcamp does offer foreign currencies for transactions.

Big Cartel

The number of items you can sell and the number of photos allowed for each item depends on your monthly package (there are four options to choose from), with a grand cap at 300 items; however, you can upgrade or downgrade packages as needed, which means that as your item selection grows, your store can, too.

You can offer anything from t-shirts and CDs to digital downloads (via their sister site, Pulley). Set your price, currency, and tax preferences, then decide how you would like to process payments. You can choose PayPal or Stripe (which processes most other major credit cards). Best of all, your band will get to keep 100 percent of each sale’s proceeds!

Even though Big Cartel helps you manage your sales and payments, stocking inventory and fulfilling orders will be up to you. Don’t leave your fans hanging! Use the “Orders” page to manage your merchandise orders by marking them as either shipped or unshipped, or manage orders through PayPal. Just remember to calculate the approximate cost of shipping from your admin page and add that cost into the price of the purchase.

ReverbNation

The Reverb Store is unique in the way it handles its inventory… or the lack thereof, rather. That’s because there’s no tangible product until someone orders it. You create the products online by selecting the items and design options, add them to your store at your desired price, and wait for someone to buy. When the order has been placed, the product will be made and then shipped. ReverbNation takes a flat fee out of the retail price of each item sold, sends a portion to Audiolife, and pays the difference (profit) to you. The amount of your profit is determined by the price you set. You can cash out via PayPal as soon as you have at least $20 in earnings (and after a 35-day hold period).

Audiolife promises to fulfill all orders with more than 99 percent accuracy, and the time between order placement and shipment is generally four to six business days. You can rest assured that your fans will receive high-quality products quickly and accurately. Should there be a problem with an order, they will handle reverse logistics, too.

Shopify

Shopify promises safe, confidential transactions through third-party payment processors like PayPal or Google Wallet (which is standard for many eCommerce sites), but they also accept many other forms of payment such as CODs, money orders, or direct bank deposits.

In terms of fulfillment, Shopify makes it easy to use fulfillment companies like Amazon Services to do the packaging, shipping, and tracking of orders for you. Shopify is also working on Partial Carrier Integration which will let you calculate the real-time shipping cost of various items, though this feature is still in beta mode.

Shopify does offer foreign languages and currency options.

Promoting and Analyzing Your Storefront

3dcart

3dcart recognizes how important the right promotional tools are and offers marketing credits with every subscription. Every 3dcart plan comes with built-in SEO tools. 3dcart also allows you to create coupons and promotional discounts (which you can post on social networking sites) that will help increase traffic and boost sales.

3dcart offers the ability to track sales trends. This will give you the opportunity to monitor the interests and buying habits of your fans and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. You can check basic statistics from your home screen, or you can upgrade your package to include Smart Stats.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp’s platform includes a wealth of statistics on your site’s visitors and customers, from who links to your site to which items are most popular to SEO data. The site also works to ensure that, when your fans search for you, your store is at the top of the results. The Pro version provides additional details.

Not only does Bandcamp encourage you to share your storefront on your social media platforms, they allow you to add a music player to your profiles (for free) from which you can sell your music.  You can also sell your music and merchandise directly from Facebook.

Bandcamp also helps you build your email list.

Big Cartel

The amount of statistics available is based on your package. The most basic version simply shows which of your items is most popular, while their top package shows your top item, incoming links, search terms, and incorporates Google Analytics.

You are able to offer discount codes, and you are able to sell your products directly on your Facebook page.

ReverbNation

ReverbNation makes it easy to increase traffic by sending emails on product specials, adding the store’s app to your social media profile, embedding widgets in your website, and including banners on your blog.

Other features on the website are available for fan management and communication, but they are separate from the ReverbStore.

Shopify

The site and its shopping cart offer SEO features, ensuring that your eCommerce site ranks well in search results. It also integrates Google Analytics, so you can learn about where your fans are coming from and what they’re looking for. Coupon codes, which encourage people to “buy now” lest they miss out on an amazing opportunity, can help draw new or lukewarm fans to your site. Advertising on Facebook (which Shopify gives you a credit for) can help reach those who might not know about you yet. Shopify also tracks customers, letting you use their information for email marketing.

Special Features For Your eCommerce Platform

Sometimes, it’s those little extras that push you toward one option over the others. Check out the extra touches that these sites have to offer:

3dcart

If the process of creating an eCommerce platform still overwhelms you, 3dcart offers live phone, email and chat support, training videos, tutorials, and a dedicated Guru Session, even during the free trial period.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp lets you set the pricing for your items. If you want to set that to zero or allow fans to name their own price (which can result in some surprising generosity), you can do so. You also have the option of offering high-quality music formats with no extra effort; Bandcamp will convert your WAV file to the client’s desired format.

Also, Bandcamp sites are optimized for mobile viewing, which reduces frustration for those who shop on the go.

Big Cartel

If you’re at a gig or meet someone who wants to buy your merch right then, Big Cartel lets you place orders via an iPhone app.

ReverbNation

ReverbNation is one of the few on-demand retail platforms. Its partnership with Audiolife means that you don’t have to keep track of inventory or order fulfillment. Plus, if you already use ReverbNation for other purposes, you’re simply adding to an existing account instead of creating yet another account.

Shopify

They recognize that, even with an online storefront, you’re still running a merch table at your shows. To make handling in-person transactions a little easier on you, Shopify offers a free credit card reader and optional POS (point of sale) system. Also, if you want to go the extra mile in connecting with fans, Shopify offers a blogging platform.

Shopify also offers an abandoned cart feature, where it automatically contacts potential shoppers who placed items in their cart and didn’t check out.

Shopify makes it really easy to create a mobile store. You can also manage your store’s website through the Shopify Mobile app, which means that you can be in the loop even when you’re out of the office.

eCommerce Cost

3dcart

3dcart prices start as low as $19.95 per month, which allows you to offer up to 100 items and comes with $175 worth of advertising credits. Upgrading the package increases your store’s volume and marketing capacity and allows free domain registration, among other valuable features. If you’ve got cash up front, signing up for annual rates (as opposed to monthly) will save you some money.

Bandcamp

There is no fee to start on Bandcamp and no charge for listing items in your store. Bandcamp makes their money by pulling a percentage of your sales: ten percent for physical merchandise and fifteen percent for digital downloads.

For only ten dollars per month, you can sign up for Bandcamp’s Pro service, which includes more detailed statics reports, batch upload options and private streaming capabilities. You can also offer up to 200 download credits (or free downloads of your music) or download codes (discount codes that you can email or Tweet to your fans) for free each month or purchase additional codes and credits for as little as 1.5 cents each.

Big Cartel

Big Cartel does not take a percentage of each sale (except to cover fees for PayPal). Its Gold package, which is free, lets you list up to five products with a single photo per product. For $10 per month, the Platinum package lets you list up to 25 items with three photos per item; or, upgrade to the Diamond package for $20 per month, listing up to 100 items with five photos each. Lastly, the Titanium package ($30 per month) will allow as many as 300 items with five photos each.

ReverbNation

It’s completely free to start your store through ReverbNation. If you don’t make a sale, you don’t pay a dime. When you do make a sale, ReverbNation takes a flat fee for each item sold, not a percentage.

Shopify

Pricing starts as low as $29 each month, which will get you a storefront, access to customer profiles, and even your own blogging platform to help you connect to your fans. This basic package comes with up to one GB of storage space, but you can increase that along with other features by upgrading to more-advanced packages like their Pro package (for $79/month, which includes professional user reports and gift cards) or their Unlimited package (for $179/month, which features advanced statistics reports and unlimited file storage).

What eCommerce platform are you using to sell merch online? Did we miss any major players? Let us know in the comments below!

 




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Get Your Music on iTunes and Spotify: Digital Distribution with ONErpm

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

When it comes to digitally distributing your music, there are options galore. From the heavyweights like CD Baby and The Orchard, to smaller companies like Mondotunes, you have options, and can pick the distribution company that is exactly right for you.

In this article we are going to take a look at ONErpm. ONEprm is a digital distribution service based in Brooklyn, NY, with offices in Brazil, and a new office opening in Nashville. They are an iTunes preferred partner, as well as one of the largest multi-channel networks on YouTube. They have quite a few options for independent musicians and labels that distribute through them, and we’re going to give you the run down of their most notable features.  Lets look at what your options are if you choose ONEprm as your digital distributor.

Pricing

ONEprm has 2 main pricing options. But a great feature of ONErpm is their free distribution service.

  • Premium Package-a one time fee of $40 per album, or $15 per single. With the Premium Package, they also take a 15% cut of royalties.
  • Arena Package– an annual fee of $30 per album, or $15 per single. You get to keep 100% of your royalties (besides Youtube, but we’ll get into that later).
  • Free Option– ONErpm also has a free distribution tier. This option will distribute your music to Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and more. If you choose the free option, you can still opt-in to other  stores, you just have to pay a small fee per store. Adding an album to iTunes is only $5, and since ONErpm is a preferred partner, your music could go live in less than 48 hours. This is a really cool option for a single that you only want to release in limited formats, or if you are using streaming services as a marketing tool instead of a distributor.

ONErpm Pricing

All major retailers are included in ONErpm’s digital distribution, although you will have to pay extra for ringtone stores and services like Shazam.

ONErpm Stores
Digital Distribution Options on ONErpm

ONErpm’s services will cover all your basic digital distribution needs, but ONErpm stands out with a few features that aren’t offered on other digital distribution platforms.

YouTube Certified

One of the major advantages of digitally distributing with ONErpm is their relationship with YouTube. Right now, YouTube is the number one music streaming service in the world, and their music infrastructure is only set to grow. ONErpm is a YouTube certified company, and they have one of the largest multi-channel networks in the world. A multi-channel network, or MCN, is simply a company that works with channel owners to effectively monetize their channel, provide digital rights management, funding, and audience management.

When you distribute your music through ONErpm, you have the option to distribute to YouTube. This doesn’t mean that your music automatically get uploaded onto a YouTube channel, it simply means that ONErpm  enters your music into YouTube’s ContentID. When your music is identified in YouTube’s system, you can manage how your music is being used. This means that when people use your songs in their videos, or even re-upload a video that you created, you can locate those videos, and either issue a take-down notice, or file a claim to receive revenue on that video.

ONErpm’s unique connection to YouTube can also help you get extra revenue from your own videos, since ONErpm works directly with advertisers to negotiate a higher ad rate for their channels. They will also help you optimize your YouTube channel for monetization.

ONErpm Youtube

Being a part of ONErpm’s MCN is free and open to any YouTube creator, even if you aren’t a musician, or don’t choose to distribute your music through ONErpm. A nice bonus if you live in the NYC area is that ONErpm has a video production studio that you have free access to as a member of their MCN.

A downside to ONErpm’s YouTube services is that ONErpm takes a 30% cut of all revenue generated from YouTube. However,  it may be worth it to let ONErpm handle your YouTube revenue if the money you gain from their higher ad prices equals out the 30% you pay them for managing your account.

If YouTube is an important part of your music, and you’re interested in joining an MCN, ONErpm might be the best distributing option for you. Neither Tunecore or CD Baby offer YouTube ContentID tracking, and they don’t have an MCN.

Marketing Resources

ONErpm also has several marketing options for artists. Their basic package includes social media management, verified profiles on streaming services, and email marketing. You can also upgrade to their specialized marketing services.

ONErpm Marketing

Much like CD Baby, fans can also go directly to your profile on ONErpm’s website and download music there. ONErpm has several pricing tiers, and lets you choose which one best fits you. In addition to setting your own prices for your downloads, you have the option to give away a free download in exchange for an email address. You can then download those emails and export them into whatever program you use to send email newsletters.

ONErpm also provides a free Facebook app that lets fans download music directly from your Facebook page. You can use this app to sell singles, full albums, or give away a download in exchange for an email. You can make this app the landing page for your band’s Facebook profile, and use “fan-gating” to ask users to like your page before they have the option to download your music.

ONErpm also gives you analytics, and monthly sales reports. You get paid through Paypal, and can withdraw funds whenever you like.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 2.23.46 PM

Your Choice

ONErpm’s digital distribution has some great benefits, and they offer a great deal of flexibility to artists in terms of services and price points. This personalization helps makes them a good choice for indie artists.

ONErpm might be the right distributor for you if:

  • You are interested in flexible pricing options, or free distribution to streaming services
  • You would like to sell your music directly on Facebook
  • You are interested in joining a YouTube MCN, and want someone to help you monetize your YouTube account.
  • You want your distributor to give you marketing support.

As you are looking for a digital distributor, keep your individual needs in mind. With so many companies offering similar services, make sure you find the company that best fits your needs as an artist.

Have you used ONErpm? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!


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How Much Does Pandora Pay Artists?

How Much Does Pandora Pay Artists?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

It’s probably much less than you think. And if Pandora has its way, that paycheck is about to get even smaller.

Last week, Pandora was given approval to purchase KXMZ-FM, a terrestrial radio station in Rapid City, South Dakota. They are now under a 90-day trial period before the purchase becomes final. Currently, Pandora has millions of online subscribers who create customized stations based on their own music preferences, so their purchase of a small station in a city of 60,000 people may seem like a move backwards, but it’s a strategic move by Pandora to make more money.

Unfortunately, Pandora’s move to line their pockets means a significant pay cut for the artists and songwriters who make Pandora’s business possible.

How Artists Are Paid

The ways that radio and streaming services pay artists are a complicated mess of numbers and percentages, but it all boils down to this: terrestrial radio stations pay a lower rate than internet stations to play the same songs over the internet.

With Pandora’s current rate system, if you are the writer and performer of the song, you will make about $1.30 if your song is played 1000 times. Unless you are Katy Perry or Drake, you probably won’t even make enough money to buy yourself lunch. It would take years for the average independent musician to simply break even on the costs of producing and distributing their music with the payments that are currently made for streaming music.

With their purchase of KXMZ, Pandora will be eligible for the lower rate currently available for terrestrial radio stations. This means they will be paying about a half-million dollars less in royalties to songwriters every year. Pandora’s purchase of KXMZ is great news for Pandora’s stockholders, but no matter which way you look at it, it’s bad news for the artists, performers, and musicians who make business possible for Pandora.

What This Means For Musicians and the Music Industry

In the larger view of Pandora’s profits, the reduced royalty rate is a drop in the bucket. But even a drop makes a ripple in the bigger scheme of what is currently going on in the music industry. Pandora claims that they value the artists who make their company function, but according to the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Producers (ASCAP), their purchase of KXMZ is “a transparent ploy squarely aimed at paying songwriters even less for online music streams.”

It’s worth noting that Pandora is not the first company to take advantage of this lower rate. iHeartRadio works in the same way that Pandora does, but iHeartRadio is owned by Clear Channel, an industry giant in terrestrial radio. Because of this, iHeartRadio can take advantage of the lower streaming rates. Pandora’s purchase of an FM station levels the playing field between these two competitors, and it’s likely that other internet radio and streaming services will follow in Pandora’s footsteps.

Moreover, the government is looking at decisions like this as it revises copyright laws.

We are in a crossroads in the industry. The payment system for creators is broken, and no one is completely sure when it’s going to be fixed. Though you may think Pandora’s decisions won’t affect you, a company as large as Pandora actively working to compensate creators less is something that everyone in the music industry should be concerned about. And while this change may not have a huge effect on your individual paychecks, the implications of this decision are enormous.

What You Should—and Can—Do

So if you’ve realized that you’re not going to make a million dollars on Pandora, or even enough money to pay your rent, what do you do? Should you just take your music off all streaming platforms and cut your losses?

I think there is a better way. By simply changing your perspective on streaming services, there are ways that independent musicians can make platforms like Pandora work for them.

Instead of thinking about Pandora and Spotify as distribution services, think of them as marketing tools. Listeners use streaming services to discover new music, and you don’t want to cut yourself off from those potential fans. Put a couple of your best songs up—not your entire catalogue—and use it as a way for people to discover your music. Once your music has piqued their interest, they will likely search the internet to see what else you have available.

What Else You Can Do

You’re game for using streaming and online internet to market to new audiences… but how can you turn a casual streamer into a devoted fan? You have to engage them (on your turf) with good content.

Your website is the only place online where you have complete control over what a potential fan sees. Use that control!

Design a website that reflects your music and your brand and makes it easy for your fans to be connected with you. Keep it updated with relevant news and content. Offer a free single in exchange for their email address. Show them how they can become a patron of your music. (Haven’t heard of patronage? Sign up here for more info!) Above all, do not rely on social media and third-party retailers to keep in touch with your fans.

The music industry is changing. Pandora’s purchase of a terrestrial radio station is just a small battle in the grand scheme of an entire industry that is in the process of completely renewing itself. Independent musicians are the future of that industry. Now, more than ever, you have the opportunity to take control over your career. And that is good news.




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Website for Musicians: A Vital Tool

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

There’s something I’ve noticed lately, and it’s so frustrating that I can’t ignore it anymore. I have to say something, so I’m going to say it here.

Websites should have a purpose.

I know it seems obvious, but—judging from the abundance of ineffective, uninformative websites out there—people haven’t gotten that memo.

What I’m Talking About

Let’s say you go to a retailer’s website, and the website simply has their logo floating above a pretty background (or not) with a tagline below. In addition, they have several links that direct their customers to visit other sites to learn more.

The Case for Effective Websites: Example A

And… that’s it. No “About the Company”, no photographs, and no products to browse. No hours listed, no ability to search for a location near you, and no contact information. It’s just a landing page with almost no information on it, less a logo and tagline—a halfhearted confirmation of the retailer’s mere existence. How strange, and how frustrating, would that be for you, a potential customer? How crazy would a company have to be to present themselves like this? Could they really be that clueless?

If the above example looks extreme or comical, trust me, I know. But, the thing is, I see websites like this every day… from musicians. This annoying and nonsensical phenomenon is rampant in the independent musician market. Musicians are guilty of having ineffective and uninformative websites.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up a band’s website only to see their logo, a piece of album art, and links to social media, third-party retailers, and everywhere else they can think of. No real content. No biography, no tour schedule, no discography, no samples to listen to or videos to watch, no mailing list sign-up, no merch for sale, and no chances for income.

As a potential fan, it’s frustrating and annoying. For the band, it’s a bunch of missed opportunities. It’s time to change things.

The Purpose of Your Website

As I said at the beginning, websites should have a purpose. Some websites have several purposes. Since you’re a musician, your website should tell visitors about you, your career, and your music. The site should be designed to capture the fans’ interest. You want to create a desire in the fan to connect with you and purchase your music.

Signature Elements of an Effective Website

Samples of Your Work

We’d like to hear your music. After all, it’s what you do, or aspire to do, for a living; it’s why we’re here. So, share your music with us!

How you go about doing this is really up to you. I would recommend showcasing your best music videos, offering full-length samples of your music, and always giving the fan an opportunity to purchase what they like. Which leads us to the next point…

Product For Sale

Your website needs a product page that offers your music and your other merchandise for sale. Don’t send fans from your website to iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, or other similar websites to purchase or hear your music! If they choose to purchase your music on iTunes, fine, just don’t send them there when you could have made the sale yourself.

There are a few reasons this makes sense:

1. You keep as much of the profits of your hard-earned work as possible. You might have to give a small cut to the credit card processor or pay a little extra per month on your website, but you’re not giving up 30% or more  of each sale! That difference adds up quickly, and the regained profits can be used as needed on future projects, new gear, touring costs, or as actual income.

2. Your store is just that: your store. It specializes in your product, which means your customers aren’t seeing ads for other musicians and bands or links to other artists’ merchandise. This means there’s almost no chance that they’ll buy less of your product because they’re now also interested in this other person’s product but don’t want to spend more. Why? Because there is no other person competing for their attention!

3. Operating your own store means you get to learn who your customers are. To get the product, customers will have to give you some of their information: name, email address, phone, and maybe mailing address. Compare this to third party retailers, who might tell you that someone with the zip code 02134 bought your song. By running your own store, you can see where interest in your music is growing, and you know who to contact and how when you decide to book a show there!

Running your own store means figuring a few things out: you need to decide if you want to offer only digital downloads, physical merch, or both. You’ll also need to find merchandise manufacturers (if you don’t already have them), keep track of inventory, fulfill orders in a timely manner, and find an affordable option for selling your merch.

The Chance to Support You Financially

Funding your music career is a complicated task. However, there are options available to you today, like crowdfunding, that weren’t available ten or twenty years ago.

In terms of raising funds, the question you should ask yourself is the same as it is for selling your product: do you want to have control over this crucial element of your career, or do you want to hand it off to a third party site that will market other musicians to your fans, take a cut of your profits, and potentially withhold your fans’ contact information from you?

Personally, I believe the best funding methods are tied to your productivity on an ongoing basis instead of a one-time fundraising goal. In this scenario, fans become patrons of your art by contributing a small amount every time you create a significant piece of content. Not only does this mean your fans get access to your new content and feel invested in your career, but this arrangement motivates you to continue creating your art and, with enough support, can provide a nice steady stream of income. If 500 of your fans contribute just $1 for every piece you create, and you create 2 pieces a month, that’s an extra $1000 a month just for doing your job as a musician and creating new material. Scale that up in the number of contributors, the size of their contributions, or both, and you can see how this can make a big impact.

If you’re interested in setting up this system on your own website, contact our staff for more information.

A Thorough Band Biography

The bio should give press, new industry contacts, and potential fans a good idea of who you are, where you’re from, what you and your music are like, and where you’re headed.

Now, keep balance in mind. You aren’t writing your autobiography or band memoirs, so keep it concise and on topic. Press and industry contacts can always ask for more details if they want more details. However, that doesn’t give you an excuse to skip a bio altogether or cut it down to the bare bones. While you don’t need to start with each band member at birth, you might want to name all the band members, talk about how your band formed, mention where you’re based, discuss how you developed your unique style, highlight notable concerts and tours, and include past releases.

I’d recommend sharing a collection of professional, high-quality band photos and snippets of past press praises here, too. Both compliment your biography nicely.

Your Schedule and Contact Information

First, list your schedule of shows. Tell visitors where you’ll be (venue, city, and state) and when (date and time) so they can come see you play live! Make it even easier for them to find you by linking* to the venue’s website or location on a map.

In addition to listing your schedule, you should have a contact form where fans and visitors can send you questions (such as “Do you think you’ll have a show in Austin anytime soon?” or “Do you know when this product will be back in stock?”).

Recognize that your visitors and fans aren’t going to stop by your website every day. To save them some trouble of having to dig up the dirt on you, it’s a fabulous idea to let visitors and fans sign up for a mailing list; this lets you send them updates directly. (Note that a mailing list is only good if it’s put to use; otherwise, it’s just one step above a phone book.)

Along the lines of a mailing list is social media. It’s a way to get your info and updates in front of your fans without them needing to constantly visit your website. So, by all means, list your social media accounts and encourage fans to follow you there to stay up to date, but don’t treat those accounts as more important than your official website or mailing list. Think of them as mini-websites intended to build interest and funnel visitors back to your site. You own your website, and you own your mailing list. You have no control over social media; it could change or disappear at any point, and there’s nothing you can do about that.

Easiness

Your website should be easy to find. This means no crazy spellings of your URL; it should match your or your band’s name, if possible. It might also mean brushing up on SEO and keywords. This means links to your website should be easily available in all emails and social media profiles. You might even consider advertising, but we can get into all of that in a future post.

Your website should be easy to browse, with clear navigation that is both easy to locate and effectively descriptive.

Your website should be easy to read; this means keeping graphics, colors, fonts, and sizes in mind. It means leaving some empty space so that your content can breathe and doesn’t overwhelm visitors. It also means keeping mobile and tablet views in mind, since web browsing on desktop and laptop computers continues to lose ground to more-mobile options.

Need Some Help?

Most everyone needs help from time to time. Designing or redesigning a website can be a difficult task if you don’t know how to proceed. Understanding and making the right choices is hard. Some of the choices you will be faced with might seem easy, but be careful; it is easy to step in the wrong direction. Our staff can help; just leave us a comment or email us. We’d be glad to offer additional insight or answer specific questions.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I think I’ve got a little website updating to do.


* Note: All outbound links should be set to open in new windows. You want to make things easy, but you don’t want people to accidentally leave your site and never find their way back. It’s often an easy change to make, but doing so varies from one website-building platform to the next.




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Rethinking iTunes: It’s An Expensive Cash Register For The Indie Artist

Rethinking iTunes: It’s An Expensive Cash Register For The Indie Artist

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

It’s a story we hear often. An artist thinks that if she can just get her music onto iTunes, it will launch her music career to the next level. After all, she reasons, iTunes is the largest digital music retailer out there, with more downloads than anyone else, isn’t it? Listing my music on iTunes is bound to bring me my big break, or at least a surge of sales, right?  Wrong.

We know that this might fly in the face of everything you’ve heard or believed to be true. Hear us out, and listen to this story.

An Indie Artist Full Of Hope

We know an accomplished artist who released a new album a few years ago. He’d spent a year perfecting the lyrics and rehearsing the music; then, he went to a recording studio and worked until the sound was perfect. Next, he had it mastered by professionals, who did a wonderful job putting it all together. He hired professional, experienced designers to create the right “look” for the album. He was willing to put in the hours and effort, take all necessary steps, and spend the money to put out a top-notch product. He was thrilled with the results, and his hopes were high.

He hired a company to put his music on iTunes. When the album was available, he told all of his existing fans to go buy it on iTunes. Then he sat back and waited for success. Initially, downloads were strong, and he even moved up the iTunes charts. His fans commented that they loved the release, and everyone he knew seemed to own the album.

Soon, though, his sales dropped off. He began to be pretty concerned. After having his new album on iTunes for a year, he compared his sales to the expense of putting together the album. The results were bleak. The increase in exposure that he had expected was not reflected in the sales numbers. Despite the initial surge of sales (which was likely due to his promotion of the album with existing fans), the album had not sold well on iTunes. His profit from the sales on iTunes would not have been enough to recover the cost* of listing the album on iTunes, yet alone the cost of putting the album together. Fortunately, he had not relied solely on iTunes, and he had sold some CDs at gigs. Overall, though, the experience was extremely disappointing.

What Went Wrong?

In our friend’s mind, something had gone wrong. iTunes hadn’t exposed him to a large number of new fans who would purchase his album. Instead, it had functioned as an expensive cash register for his existing fan base. Additionally, he had no way of knowing who had bought his music, which meant he had no way to contact them about future releases. The same is true for most indie artists using iTunes.

So what actually went wrong? Nothing. His initial expectations of iTunes were wrong. It is a familiar place to purchase digital music; it’s not a marketing engine. If you’re expecting iTunes to market your music, you’ll probably wind up as disappointed as our friend. If you expect it to be the cash register that it is, you’ll fare a little better.

However, there are still issues you should be aware of.

Two Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selling Your Music On iTunes

Question #1 – “Am I willing to pay 25% to 40% in fees to sell my music through iTunes when most of the sales are from fans that I send to iTunes?”

We hope your answer is no. Not because you are unwilling to share your success with those that brought you, but rather because you cannot afford to waste money on an over priced cash register that did nothing to bring you along. If you’re taking on all the work and expenses of writing, rehearsing, recording, performing, and promoting the music, why is a third party who sits back and doesn’t do much to promote you worth at least a quarter of your sales? (Remember, you sent most of those fans to iTunes!)

Question #2 – “Will iTunes tell me who purchased my music so I can create a relationship with these fans and hopefully engage them in the future?”

After all, you did just pay iTunes a large percentage of your income, and most of your sales probably came from people you sent to iTunes in the first place. On top of that, it is critically important for artists to know who their fans are. This is a much bigger issue than price. These customers are the people who are most likely to purchase your music in the future or attend your gigs. Knowing who your fans are and creating lasting relationships with them is much more important in the long run than a fee you have to pay to sell your products.

iTunes agrees that the customer data is important. However, they think they are the primary factor driving your sale, not your music. iTunes claims ownership of the fan relationship, and they will not share all the details with you about who purchases your music. Since iTunes is by far the dominant digital music retailer**, they can get away with this.

Should I Even Use iTunes?

In light of what we’ve said above, this next part is going to sound crazy.

The truth is you need iTunes, but not the way you thought you did. It is true that iTunes will not do much to market your music, but it does recommend similar artists or tracks (thus increasing exposure, albeit minimally) to what buyers have purchased or listened to. Also, millions of people use iTunes to download their digital music selections. If someone gets on iTunes and wants to purchase your music, you want it available for purchase. After all, sales are a good thing. Boycotting iTunes altogether means losing out on sales and exposure.

What you shouldn’t do is send people to iTunes to purchase your music. Look into alternative services to sell your music. There are a huge number of them and many do a good job while maintaining a fair and reasonable price. (We’ll provide more on this in future articles.) This can seem to be an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Do some research and learn what you can. Only agree to a retail platform if it puts you in control of the sale by telling you who bought from you, what they bought, and how you can communicate with them.

As an indie artist, you can’t count on someone else to do the legwork for you or make you famous, especially if that someone eats into your profits and gets between you and your fans. If you want to be successful as a musician, you must work at your music and work at the business side of the music industry as well. Be prepared to sell physical products as well as downloads. Figure out which marketing tools work best for you and use them. Do not overlook social media. Your website should be part of the equation, too, so be sure it’s working for you, not against you. Be sure that your website and social media profiles are more than just a picture and short bio. You want fans to interact and keep coming back. Remember: whatever you do, engage your fans and own that fan relationship.

While you are researching, remember this. iTunes is a cash register that charges a very high rate for their services while not sharing critical information with you about the purchase, but they are still necessary as a part of your selling process. A small part for sure if you are an indie artist. Just do not count on them to make you famous, you have to do that yourself.

* To be fair, at the time he went through this process, the cost to list music on iTunes was higher than it is today.

** This may be changing. 2013 represents the first year that music download sales on iTunes have decreased from the prior year. We could guess that music streaming has been part of this change, but that’s an entirely different story.

 




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Five Websites for Selling Music

Five Websites for Selling Your Music Online

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

For better or worse, the music industry is not what it once was. For example, with the internet securely in their toolbox, independent artists no longer need to rely on major labels to get their music out to fans. If you’re in that position and are hoping to get your music up on retail sites, here are a few online music distribution channels:

Bandcamp

Unlike the below distributors, who connect artists to retailers, Bandcamp allows artists to become their own retailer. With a free account, Bandcamp users set up pre-orders, sell merch, and sell music in physical and digital format. Artists do pay 15 percent of music sales as royalties, although this drops to 10 percent once revenue exceeds $5000. On merchandise sales, artists only pay 10 percent as royalties. The site boasts expert mobile and search engine optimization. Bandcamp sends sales reports to Nielsen SoundScan, the company behind Billboard’s charts.

MondoTunes

MondoTunes claims over 750 retailers as partners. By choosing a basic sign-up package, artists pay one-time fees of $7.99 per single, $24.99 per EP, or $37.99 per album. Other services vary in price and include marketing, registering a label, mastering, etc. After partners deduct their respective shares, MondoTunes forwards the remaining royalties, approximately 63 percent of sales, to the artist.

CD Baby

With CD Baby’s Basic Album Signup, users pay $49.00 per album or $12.95 per single. The package includes physical distribution (vinyl or CD). There are a la carte options users can choose, with a separate charge for each. With CD Baby Pro, users can take advantage of ASCAP and BMI affiliation. There’s also a service that enables users to license their music through various channels.

TuneCore

Artists can gain exposure through Spotify, Google Play, and others. The service charges a one-time annual fee for a single, album, or ringtone, and the musician keeps 100 percent of all revenue. TuneCore also provides cover art, if needed.

SongCast

Users sell on a variety of digital platforms including iTunes, Google Play, and Rhapsody. SongCast offers Facebook and Twitter linking, access to iTunes trending reports, and an opportunity to promote through SongCast Radio, a Facebook app. The cost for listing music through SongCast is $5.99 per month, with $9.99 per single and $19.99 per album. Artists retain 100 percent of all royalties on digital sales, and 35 percent on CD sales through Amazon Disc-On-Demand.

Music distribution, especially with the ease of online distribution, affords the independent artist a way to provide their music to listeners. That is, after all, what a musician dreams about—being heard.

Have you used any of the above sites for music distribution? How did the experience work out for you? If there’s another site that you’ve used and would recommend, tell us about it.




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Finding Music Distributors

Finding Music Distributors

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As a creative type, you might not have an innate aptitude for business. If you want to make it as a successful musician, though, you’ll need to be on top of the entire process, including business details.

One important business element that you should consider is music distribution. Do you know what do music distributors do? Or how you find one? Or what type of distribution best suits your sound? If not, read on:

Are You Ready?

If you are just starting to build a fan base and get your name out there, you might not be ready for a distributor. However, if you have an existing fan base and rising demand for your music and are wanting to branch out to an even wider audience, it’s time to consider music distribution.

Finding The Right Music Distributor

The job of a music distributor is to distribute your music (obviously). This can be as relatively basic as listing you online or getting you in a store, or it can be full service and include helping you with marketing, rights, and much more. If you’re wanting to get signed by a record label, a good distributor may be able to get your music in front of the right executives.

Think about where you want to be and what you need help with, and find a distributor with a proven track record in those areas. Ask bands a step ahead of you which distributors they’ve heard of, both good and bad things. Be sure that the distributor you select has your back and is worth any and every fee they will charge.

Music Distribution Options

The music business is at an interesting juncture, offering physical and digital distribution options. Many consumers still only purchase physical music (primarily CDs, though many bands still put out LPs), but digital music is very popular and still rising. Your best bet may be to pursue distribution for both options.

When you’re trying to find a music distribution channel, you may want to find one distributor who can do both ends for you. Distributors like The Orchard and Redeye are experienced in both physical and digital options. If you are looking for just digital music distribution, you might want to go with distributors like Ditto Music or Create Space.

Have you used a music distributor? Which one did you choose, and why did you choose that particular one? Did you focus on physical distribution, digital distribution, or both?

See also: Increase Your Exposure: Streaming Music, Make Money Selling Your Music




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