Category: Streaming Music Online

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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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Apple Music

Apple Music Streaming: What It Means for the Independent Artist

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Yesterday, Apple unveiled its new music streaming service. While Apple’s release of iTunes revolutionized how the world buys music, they have been slow to enter the world of streaming.

The announcement came with all the bells and whistles that normally accompany Apple’s tech releases… but, for independent musicians, the announcement likely raises more questions than it answers.

The Basics

For the new service, Apple will charge $9.99 per month for streaming and radio services. Alternatively, users can choose a family plan (for up to six people) for $14.99 a month. Apple Music streaming will offer curated playlists, radio stations, complete integration with iTunes, and a new artist-to-fan social feature called Connect.

What Will It Pay?

Noticeably absent from all information offered by Apple is the amount that Apple Music will pay artists.

Unlike other streaming platforms, there is no free tier on Apple music. This is good news for the makers of music, as it should increase the amount of money paid to rights owners. However, if the payment structure looks anything like those of Spotify or Pandora, independent musicians will still be getting the smallest piece of a very small pie. The music streaming industry as a whole is not friendly to independent musicians.

It appears that Apple Music will not be much different, despite their claims in the announcement videos to help independent musicians build sustainable careers.

Will “Connect” Actually Connect Artists and Fans?

It seems that Apple Music is trying to compete with Jay Z’s Tidal by offering fans exclusive content at no extra cost. Actually, they are offering “exclusive” content at no cost at all. Anyone— even nonmembers of the streaming service—can access the videos, pictures, and music files that artists upload. This is not good news for independent musicians.

If you are working hard to create exclusive content for your diehard fans, you should be doing it in a way that creates income for you. (Ever heard of patronage?) By making Connect available to everyone, Apple completely negated the “exclusivity” of that content. In essence, it’s the same as putting a video up on YouTube. The key difference is that this content will link directly to your music and artist profile in Apple Music. It’s an important distinction, but it’s not enough. There’s no real way for your content to work for you on Connect.

Apple also did not address royalty payments on Connect. If you upload a demo of your new single, are you being paid whenever fans listen to that demo? Or are you cutting your losses? You spend the time creating a song and recording the demo—not to mention the money you spent on the equipment to do those things—and Apple hasn’t given any indication on whether or not they are going to pay you when fans listen to your “exclusive” content.

Connect also offers nothing new in terms of fan engagement. Fans can comment on the material you upload, and you can comment back. This is exactly what is offered on Facebook and Twitter. Connect is a downgrade when you look at its social media competition (Twitter and Facebook); even Spotify allows private messaging. The only benefit in Connect is that fans don’t have to follow you to see your content and comment on it.

Independent Friendly?

Did I mention that there is a MAJOR problem for independent musicians in the very structure of Apple’s Connect? As an independent artist myself, with music currently on iTunes, I decided to claim my Artist profile on Connect. This is what I found:

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.49.00 AM

I am a fully independent artist with no management company or label. Normally, I would just submit my information the management information and leave the label portion blank, since I am not signed to any kind of label. However, there was no option to communicate that I was not affiliated at all with a record label. I was not able to push the submit button to claim my profile until I had entered information about my (nonexistent) record label.  If Apple is touting that their service is indie-friendly, requiring artists to enter their record label information in order to claim their profile is not the way to go about it.

So far, I have seen nothing about Apple Music that is truly attempting to help independent artists.

What Should Independent Artists Do?

Apple Music’s launch simply adds to the ongoing discussion about streaming and its sustainability. Streaming is great for fans of music, but is this form of music consumption beneficial to the music industry in the long run? How can artists create long-term careers when their sources of income are decreasing in number and scale?

Independent artists have to change the way they think about streaming as a whole. When you look at streaming as a revenue stream, it falls short. No one (not even Pharrell) can make a living purely from the income generated by streaming. It simply isn’t generating enough money.

However, when artists look at streaming as a marketing tool that pays them, the game changes.

If you want people to discover you using streaming services, great! Put your music on Spotify, and Pandora, and Apple Music. Just don’t add your full catalog. Let fans get a taste of your best stuff. Post on Apple’s Connect like you would any other social media tool. Just don’t let these third party websites be the primary way that you interact with and sell music to fans. There are other, better ways to connect with the people who love your music.

In the End

Is Apple streaming a game changer for the music industry? I don’t think so. At the moment, it appears to be nothing more than a company formerly on the leading edge of innovation playing catch-up. Apple Music is not going to revolutionize the music industry.

Instead, changes and revolution will come from independent artists and the choices that we make as content creators.

For more information on Apple Music, check the following websites:

 




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Taylor Swift, Spotify, and the Musical Food Chain Myth

Taylor Swift, Spotify, and the Musical Food Chain Myth

By Doria Roberts - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

by Doria Roberts
© 2014 Doria Roberts/Chatterbox Blues

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” –Alice Walker

I cannot tell you how happy I am that the conversation about Taylor Swift and Spotify is happening. Maybe people will start listening to what independent artists like me and my peers have been saying for years now.

A little background…

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been a indie musician by choice for 22 years. In 1999, I was chosen to perform at Lilith Fair and quit my day job the following Monday. I attracted several major labels, but ultimately, I walked away because I felt the industry was not going to be supportive of me, the business model was almost laughable for a new artist with little leverage and an insidious law called the Work For Hire Copyright Law had been passed that year, which prevented copyright ownership from reverting back to artists and remained with record labels in perpetuity. Like, that means forever. Luckily, Sheryl Crow and Don Henley went to Capitol Hill and had it repealed, but, by then, I was determined not to be become a cog and had committed to my full time life as an artist.

And, you know, I had good run of it…

Fast forward to 2008 when everything was crashing. I don’t think people think of artists being affected in a failing economy, but we were. Gas prices were sky high as were flights so expenses went up and venues started paying less because fewer were able to come out to the shows because they were broke, too. And, for the first time in all my touring history my American dollars lost value going into Canada. It was sobering to say the least.

In the years preceding this, I saw a slow but very deliberate decline in my music sales, which was more than just supplemental income, it was nearly half of my income. So, I stopped touring full time to assess the situation and come up with solutions.

The only solution I found that allowed me to stay true to who I am an artist was to stay put—which brings me to today.

Life As An Artist Now

Like clockwork, once or twice a week since I stopped touring full time in 2008, I get asked when I’m coming back to XYZ. And, like a broken record once or twice a week, I’ve had to say I can’t afford it. I’ve had to explain that not only have physical CD sales been down, but also the digital money I used to get from legal downloads all but disappeared. Instead of getting weekly payments ranging between $200-$750 from my distributor, I started getting an average $11.36, once a month from all streaming services combined. Yes, $11.36/month is what I get from all of them. That is not a sustainable business model for a truly independent artist.

While carefully building and maintaining a social media connection with my fan base and doing mostly one-offs in some of my bigger markets, I decided to do a full regional tour in 2012. And, while I am grateful to the people who came, I had miserable turnouts at most of the shows. In Buffalo, where the temp dropped to 30 degrees that night, I cleared $14 once the door was split with the venue. In Philadelphia, where I started my career, I lost upwards of $1,500-2,000 on one show because only 12 people showed up. It was the night of the Presidential debates, something I couldn’t have known when I booked the show months before. But, I still had to pay the venue, their door person and sound person, pay my band, pay for their hotel room and mine for three nights so we wouldn’t have to stay in NYC, paid for their flights (along with baggage handling fees for my cellist’s cello), my rental car, gas and food for myself and the band (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Same with DC where the venue wouldn’t even allow me to officially charge a door fee and where some people (my fans included) opted not to pay one even as a requested donation.

This is my reality and the reality of the many artists you care about.

I’m sorry if you think so, but music is not free. It costs money to make and it costs money to support via touring. It’s a “life cycle”. This “life cycle” is how I used to get my CDs out and how I used to see my fans two to three times a year in some places. It worked like this: Fans would come to my shows, they and their friends would buy my CDs, and then I made another CD and went on a another tour, and so forth and so on.

Simple.

All the money I made went to bills, touring, promotion and creating new music and so I had to keep my overhead low. No new cars (I had and still have my ’78 Volvo that I bought for $600 in 1996), no new shoes or clothes and I lived in a small 425 sq ft apartment for 12 years. 12 years. That’s how I did it. It’s not a sob story. It’s not a mystery or a marketing ploy. I am a working class artist. There is no rich-uncle-wizard-behind-the-curtain type situation here. This is how it goes when you make tough decisions to be true to your life and your life’s work. I have no regrets.

But, I’m seeing a lot of chatter about Taylor Swift and her supposed “greed”. If you’re saying it, you’re probably saying it because Taylor is already wealthy. But, what about artists who aren’t? If you or your friends are indeed one of those people, I challenge you and them to go to work for a year, bust your butt, do a good job (maybe even a great job) and then accept half of a year’s pay (or less) from your boss. I further challenge you to pay your bills and keep your other financial commitments from that pay all while keeping your enthusiasm for your job—which is kind of essential for you to even do your job.

Go on. I’ll wait…

As indie artists, for all intents and purposes, our fans control our careers, the ebb and flow, trajectory and course. For example, if I hadn’t raised enough via Kickstarter to do my last project, a tribute CD to folk legend Odetta, there wouldn’t have been a new CD to this day. Period. No new CD in eight years even though I was able to release six projects on my own before that and have enough music for about four or five full length CDs right now.

Another example: I haven’t been back on the road since 2012 because I assume my fans don’t want to see me or can’t afford to see me in NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Buffalo, NY and Charlotte, NC. Because of that, I can’t take a financial chance on Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and the like. And, just forget Canada, France, Sweden, Japan or Australia altogether. I’ve remedied this by doing online shows on a platform called StageIt and this has allowed fans as far away as Vancouver, Taiwan, Germany and Boise, ID to see me play. It works, but it isn’t ideal.

The point is, we haven’t just “given up”. It’s not that we don’t “want to” do it anymore. It is, painfully and honestly, simple math that mostly prevents me and others like me from doing what we do.

Think About This For A Minute

Before the comments section gets flooded with snarky retorts, like “get a job”, I will say this:

First, I have a job, one that I’m fairly good at and one that I’ve had for 22 years (or over half my life).

And, second, what if Bob Marley or Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain or Joni Mitchell or Mozart, Frank Zappa, Joan Jett, Diana Ross, Prince, or Aretha Franklin had actually listened when someone (undoubtedly and repeatedly) said to them, “get a job”?

What would your life look like?

What happens to the first dance at your wedding to that special song, the one that made you realize you loved her? Or, the song you hum to your baby because it’s the only one that makes him less fussy? What would you be distracted by in an elevator ride with your creepy co-worker who wears the same shirt every day? Or, what would you focus on when a dentist is drilling a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in your head? And, how, pray tell, would you know when Jaws or Jason or Darth Vader is coming so you can yell your futile warnings at the screen?

Okay, granted, those last few examples sound frivolous but they’re serious considerations to make when you consider how music plays an integral and inseparable role in your life, from the mundane to the momentous. How it can be both ubiquitous and precious. That’s something to protect. That’s something to respect.

How To Make The Future Better

I want to tell you something: as a consumer and a fan, you are at the top of this food chain, not the bottom. You are not subject to the whims of popular culture; you are the arbiter of it. If you want to see less “fluff” in the music industry, if you want to see your artists remain authentic, creative and prolific beings and, if you want them to come back to your hometowns:

  1. Start buying our music again. Digital, hard copy, doesn’t matter, just pay for it. If you can pay $4 for the coffee you’re only going to drink once or $15 for a blockbuster movie you’ll see once, you can pay $9.99 for something meaningful that you’ll have forever.
  2. Stop using streaming services that only pay us $.0006 per listen if you don’t already own our music either via a legal download or a hard copy. Educate yourself. If you think the profits that oil companies make are obscene, I urge you to do some digging about what some of these streaming companies are really about.
  3. And, this is important: Set your DVRs on your favorite show nights and go to our concerts. If I had a dime for every time a person told me they weren’t able to make my show because it was the finals of DWTS/American Idol/The Voice, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d be sitting in a bungalow in Costa Rica sipping something fruity and delicious.

Simple solutions sometimes require difficult choices.

Oh, and this goes for independent movies, books, indie/feminist bookstores, small venues, and small businesses, too.

Just know this: You have the power to change the cultural landscape around you. Use that power wisely.




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Taking Note: Taylor Swift and Spotify

Taking Note: Taylor Swift and Spotify

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We like to stay up-to-date on music industry news. It would be foolish not to. We get daily reports from a number of websites and news conglomerates, and there are certain terms that we track. This can mean that when something big happens, we hear a lot about it in a very short window of time.

Yesterday, we heard a lot.

What Happened?

Simply put, an artist chose to remove her back catalog from a streaming service.

It probably happens quite often, although not nearly as often as artists announce that their music is now available on streaming services. But, judging by the flood of news bulletins in our inbox and trending topics on social media and legit news sources, yesterday’s announcement was a little different and a big, BIG deal. So, what is the difference?

Well, the artist in question is Taylor Swift.  And the streaming service? Spotify.

That’s right. Spotify has neither Taylor’s newest album, which debuted last week and was never offered on the streaming service, nor any of her previous albums available for its users.

Whether or not you personally are a fan of her music, it’s hard to deny the enormous success and even larger fan base that Taylor has. If those fans can’t get Taylor’s music on Spotify, they might start looking somewhere else for Taylor’s music… which could be cause for alarm for Spotify and could explain their efforts to bring her back.

There’s abundant speculation about why Taylor Swift has removed her back catalog, including an alleged effort to boost her label’s sales figures before the label makes itself available for purchase. We don’t want to speak for the songstress, though, so we’ll allow her words from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal to speak on her behalf:

“Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically… Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Taylor, we couldn’t agree more.

Why You Should Care

We’ve said before how we feel about streaming music, but we’ll say it again. It’s great for fans, since they get often customizable and sometimes unlimited access to music for free or almost free. Based on the fact that Spotify and Pandora have struggled to turn a profit, and that Pandora attempted to have Congress enforce lower payments to artists, we’d be reasonably safe to argue that streaming services are an unprofitable, unsustainable business model. Yet, these services are still around. How are they surviving? Well, someone is picking up the financial shortfall. And that someone is every musician who gives his or her music away on these services.

Yes, those are the same musicians who spend hours writing the music and lyrics, weeks rehearsing and perfecting the songs, time and money recording, mixing, and mastering the album, and then pay more to market and promote their newest releases. Musicians—whose gifts and talent result in the product (music) that streaming services need—are paying to get their music on the service, only to wait on hundreds of thousands of streams (if not more) to recover their investment. While not free, the payments to musicians are so low that the music might as well be free. Additionally, since streaming also impacts their ability to sell music to fans, musicians struggle to recover financially.

Why do musicians give away their product for almost nothing? We hear a lot of reasons: In hopes of exposure. Because everyone else is. Because it’s what is expected by their fans. Because their labels make them. Because they don’t think there’s another way.

But there is.

What You Can Do

We think it’s insane that musicians let others profit off of their hard work while they struggle to make ends meet and debate continuing what they were born to do. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Like Taylor Swift said, we think that, “Music is art, and art is important and rare [and] valuable.” With that in mind, here are some changes you can make.

  1. First and foremost: stop sending sales and profits to everyone but yourself! Sell your product on your own website, or on a platform that doesn’t rip you off and does share your own customers’ information with you.
  2. Stop giving it away! If you want new listeners to explore your music before they buy (how kind of you!), offer previews of songs (meaning, not the whole song) or music videos on your website. Or, exchange one valuable item for another: one of your songs for your fan’s contact information. If you feel that streaming is a necessary part of your music marketing plan, then try posting just a single song or a small sampling of your work. Hopefully, this limited sampling will whet the appetite of listeners, who will then come to you to purchase your music.
  3. Believe that your music, and the time and energy you’ve put into it, is valuable. You can’t ask your fans to pay for something if you don’t see value in it. They aren’t just paying for a file, whether digital or on a piece of plastic. They’re paying for your creativity, your time, and your energy. If that means nothing to you, it will certainly mean nothing to them.

While Taylor’s motives for pulling her music from Spotify have yet to be seen (if they ever come to light), we can only hope that other artists will see some logic in her actions and decide to take their career and their livelihoods back into their own hands.

The question now is what will you do?




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An Open Letter to Fans: Enjoy the Music, but Remember the Artist

An Open Letter to Music Fans – Enjoy the Music, but Remember the Artist

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Music has changed more in the last 10 years than in any other time in history. More specifically, how you listen to music has changed. A wave of great new listening experiences has flooded the market, starting with CDs in the 90s, iPods in 2001, iTunes in 2004, and mobile phones that stored and played music shortly thereafter. These new formats allowed fans to listen to music everywhere they went, and we all spent a lot of time and money building our music libraries.

Now, we have progressed to streaming music. In the past few years, we’ve seen a surge in streaming services: Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Google Play, iTunes Radio, Deezer, SoundCloud, Grooveshark, and so on. The list keeps growing.

Streaming Was Made For Fans

For many fans, music is uplifting, and it evokes emotions in ways nothing else can. Just like the smell of cinnamon rolls baking still reminds me of Grandma’s kitchen, certain songs take me back to relive some great memories. I know others feel the same way. Music can also be exciting and fun; many fans eagerly anticipate the next musical discovery that blows them away, whether it’s from a musician they already know or from someone entirely new.

As a fan, streaming music is incredible. You can choose from an unlimited library of music and gain exposure to new artists that you would not have found otherwise. Streaming allows you to play music on almost all of your devices—from mobile phones to smart TVs—with just one account. Streaming music also lets you to listen to a huge variety of music without ever purchasing anything, as long as you don’t mind hearing a few commercials. If commercials bore you, then pay as little as $3.00 per month to listen commercial free.

Surely somebody brilliant came up with this idea. It’s an experience designed entirely for fans, and it’s almost impossible for you to say no. I get it, really.

Sound like everything is perfect in the world of music? For fans, it nearly is.

What The Changes Mean To Artists

Not everyone is benefitting, though. Streaming music, digital downloads, CDs—the music you listen to might be the same, but the delivery method is considerably different. That difference has affected how you listen and what you buy, which in turn has affected the musicians that create the music you love and their ability to make even a modest living. I can’t say this about all musicians, but the vast majority of independent musicians—I’m not talking about superstar performers or the kids still in high school, but about professional, independent musicians (like me) who rely on their creative work to make a living and support a family—struggle with this new model of compensation in the music industry.

iTunes began changing the monetary model for musicians in 2004. At that point, fans learned that you could purchase any song you wanted for $0.99. No need to pay $12 for an album. Yes, you’ve downloaded a lot of singles since then, and some albums, too. But because you no longer had to purchase the album for $12 to get the hit single, the value for an artists’ most popular work dropped more than 90%. The typical payment to an artist for a single download from iTunes is about $0.65. Since singles are in such apparent demand, if they’re going to be sold, they should sell at a premium. This would help musicians cover the production costs and still make a living. Sadly, that is not the case.

But things don’t stop there.

Streaming music has been around for a long time, but it was not really mainstream until four or five years ago. Now, it is everywhere, and it seems to be impacting download sales. In 2013, iTunes had its first ever decline in digital download sales of music, likely due to competition from streaming music. That trend will continue. What’s worse is that artists generally make much less from streamed music than they do downloaded singles.

Music is just as creative and demanding of talent as other forms of art, but admirers of sculptures or paintings don’t expect to take their favorite piece home with them without paying for it. That would be crazy. Yet musicians, who put just as much effort into their work, are often expected to give their creations away for free (or practically-free).

I know that you, as a fan, love streaming music. But for me, and for my fellow musicians, the picture is not as promising.

Here’s How You Can Help

If you think you’re powerless to change things, think again.

An artist who had 100,000 streams of his music in a year might make $300 to $400. I don’t know anyone who can live on just $400 for a year, which means that artist would have to find alternate forms of income, maybe giving up on music altogether. But… what would have happened if 50,000 of those people had downloaded a single, or 15,000 had downloaded an album from that same artist? His income would have been $35,000 to $65,000. Wow, what a difference! The income would have been even more if the artist sold CDs, but the price to fans would remain the same.

None of this would matter except that fans streaming music tend to download or purchase less of the music that they stream. Remember what I told you about iTunes sales in 2013? If you don’t buy my music online or at shows, the income I need to make a living is being cut to almost nothing. Streaming music does not pay the bills.

I can’t expect you to give up streaming music. The experience is too good. But you can help your favorite musicians by seeking them out online and purchasing their music. Buy their album. It may sound a little crazy to pay for something that you can get for free, but it’s not. You could also choose to purchase their merchandise online. Better yet, check out their event schedule, attend a show, and purchase their products in person.

If you truly enjoy music and want to keep those memories coming, you need to go above and beyond the norm of streaming. Support your favorite artist. Support music. Support me.

See also: Rethinking iTunes: It’s An Expensive Cash Register for the Indie Artist, Spotify, Pandora, and Streaming Music: Should You Post Your Music?




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Spotify, Pandora and Streaming Music: Should You Post Your Music?

Spotify, Pandora and Streaming Music: Should You Post Your Music?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

How charitable are you feeling?

You see, neither Spotify nor Pandora is making any money, and they could really use a little bit of yours. So, if you are feeling charitable and believe in their cause, sign right up, and let the giving begin!

If you heard the real numbers, though, you might change your mind about that donation. They’re quite staggering. Pandora’s stock price has tripled in the last 12 months, and they have a stock market valuation of over $7 billion dollars. At the same time, they have yet to create a profit. Spotify has not yet gone public, but it is anticipated to do so in the near future. Initial estimates put Spotify’s valuation at close to $10 billion dollars.

Don’t feel sorry for them, though. This is the new model for becoming a Wall Street darling. In effect, both of these companies have created a business model that offers a great product to music fans but fails to charge those fans a reasonable amount for the experience. Therefore, the companies lose money. Then, they use their losses as an excuse to pay musicians virtually nothing for their music. By the way, the best music streaming interface in the world is useless if it has no music to play.

These companies might feel that they cannot get fans to pay a fair amount for streaming music—probably a correct assumption, by the way—so instead they offer it for free and let the musician pay for it, not the listener. Sound crazy? Some people would argue that the listener pays by listening to commercials, or by paying a fee to hear commercial-free music. But, if you examine the pitiful payout that musicians receive, it will become clear who is footing the bill.

Somewhere along the way, the indie music community bought into the idea that streaming music is a good thing. After all, can’t a person listen to traditional (terrestrial) radio for free? How could streaming be any different? The answers are both subtle and significant.

Traditional Radio vs. Streaming

In the past, when we heard music on traditional radio and really liked it, off to the music store we would go. Why? We wanted control over our listening. A listener has no control whatsoever of what plays on traditional radio. The most they can do is change the station. Purchasing the music allowed us to control how often we were able to listen to it.

Streaming changed this. With streaming, there is no reason to purchase the music. On Pandora, users have substantial control because they can use the tools that Pandora provides to tailor the station to fit their taste. With Spotify, the listener has complete control. Play what you want, how you want it, when you want it, and as often or little as you like. This is nothing like traditional radio.

What’s worse is that traditional radio stations are jumping on the streaming bandwagon, just like everyone else. Platforms like iHeartRadio have the potential to be just as damaging to musicians as any other music streaming services. Don’t get us wrong; we are in favor of listening to traditional radio stations online; however, we are not in favor of traditional radio stations streaming music self-crafted to anyone’s personal listening preferences.

Worse still is this: Pandora is making the case with Congress to lower payments to musicians. Pandora says they cannot compete with terrestrial radio because radio pays a lower royalty. In fact, Pandora is asking for legislation that lowers their payments by 50% or more. This is ridiculous! Traditional radio and music streaming are two entirely different things.

Let’s call streaming music what it really is: a financial failure. Generally, when a business model fails because it is not financially viable, the business closes and declares bankruptcy. The only way that streaming music survives is if someone picks up the financial shortfall; right now, that someone is the musician.

What Does This Mean To You As A Musician?

A streaming music company’s success is realized at the expense of the musicians who unwittingly contribute to the corporate craziness with their music and receive very little in return. As a musician, the best move you can make is to put money in the stock market and invest in Pandora stock (Spotify, too, when it’s available). You should not contribute your unique sound to their portfolio of music.

Let us tell you why: if companies like Pandora and Spotify continue to make it big, you will not receive any of the benefits, and they will ruin the music business. Sure, they offer to expose you to large numbers of people who will listen to your music. But at what cost?

Some musicians believe using these companies results in additional sales of their music along with increased exposure, which is ultimately good for their careers. We believe this to be far from the truth. Our own experiences seem to demonstrate the complete opposite of these claims.

Confessions Of A Streaming Junkie

When we play music on Pandora, we enjoy the experience. Their technology does a nice job of playing music that we like, and it comes up with new artists that we have never heard of before. We have no control over who plays next, but we can select an artist or song that we want Pandora to consider when choosing what music to play. It also allows us to skip a song, hit thumbs up, hit thumbs down, etc. The software learns more about what we like and makes adjustments to better fit our listening style. All good, so far. (Good for users, that is).

This is what makes Pandora so compelling. Free music that is tailored to our listening tastes is much better than a traditional radio station! In fact, if we are willing to invest just $0.10 per day (that’s 10 cents), we can get the music without any commercials. Wow, what a deal!

Spotify is a little different. It offers more overall functionality through its apps, artist radio, library function, messaging, etc. The biggest difference for users is that they can create playlists and choose exactly what they want to listen to. Spotify will also make artist recommendations, but not in the same way as Pandora. Spotify offers a free service for a limited time but you can pay just $0.334 per day (that’s 33.4 cents) to get full access without commercials. Some people we know, in an effort to avoid paying anything, keep signing up for the 30-day free trial after the initial trial period expires by using a new email address. Spotify also lets paying users download playlists to listen to offline.

Truthfully, both services are great for the listener, and that is what makes them so popular. Several other streaming services are also available that offer similar features. Every one of them is focused on the listener experience, and most do an acceptable job. This is where the problems begin for musicians. Fans love these products for what they offer: your music the way they want it. Most importantly, it’s free (or almost free) and it enhances the listener experience.

Since we began using streaming services, our purchases of music have dropped considerably. In fact, we no longer open iTunes to listen to our library of music. There is no need. Why would we do that when we can access everything we want on a streaming player? Plus, the players offer features that iTunes does not. (While we might be unique, our conversations with others suggest that we aren’t the exception.)

The Tale Of The Tape

An artist friend of ours recently showed us her statement of income from digital streaming services. Over the past 12 months, she had a total of 14,932 streaming downloads and was paid $71.02. This is an average of $0.004756 per stream.

During the same period, she sold 2,200 CDs at her gigs. The income from the CD sales was $20,300.00. It is only fair to note that she had to pay something for the CDs to be manufactured, but that cost was only $2,046.00, making her net income from the CD sales $18,254.00.

In addition to the sales of physical CDs at gigs, our friend did have some sales from digital downloads of music on iTunes. iTunes is her only way to sell digital downloads; because she mentions it frequently at her shows, she believes that most of her sales on iTunes come from people who attend her shows. For the same period that we mentioned above, her album sales on iTunes were 113 albums for a total of $668.57.

Let’s run those numbers. She made 257 times more money selling CDs at her gigs than she did with streaming her music. That’s impressive… or, it might be more appropriate to say that the streaming income was dismal. Either way, she would not have survived without the physical CD sales at gigs. (She also made money on other merchandise sales and a fee from doing the gig, but we are not including that income in our example.) She could have gone to the gigs and not sold any product, but who would choose to do that?

You might make the argument that she had to gig to sell physical CDs, whereas with streaming services you don’t have to do anything other than sign up, and you would be mostly correct, but…

We want you to consider one thing: the expense to create quality music is significant. Even if you do not place a value on the time it takes to write music, write lyrics, practice, etc., the production costs are still high. (Just for the record: we think you should consider all time and effort necessary to produce your music. Even if you don’t write yourself a check for your time, it doesn’t mean it’s free.)

It would be fair to say that a solo indie artist could easily spend $3,000 to $5,000—excluding the cost of CDs or paying other artists—to produce one album, if they stayed on a tight, tight budget. How do the numbers work? Let’s suppose you spend $3,000 to produce your album and then posted it with several music streaming companies. If you used our artist friend as a test case, it would take 40+ years just to recoup your initial investment. Even if you are an incredible success and experience 10 times as much play as she did, it would still take more than 4 years to get your investment back. That’s 630,782 streaming plays just to break even. Of course, you haven’t made any money yet.

So, What Can Artists Do?

Clearly, streaming music complicates things, and it’s not the best business plan for an independent musician to adopt. If you feel that streaming is a necessary part of your music marketing plan, then try posting just a single song or a small sampling of your work. Hopefully, this will help you gain exposure with a larger audience, who will then purchase your music.

Is the future of the indie music business bleak? Absolutely not. There is a great deal more to it than streaming downloads. The future holds great promise, and as an artist you have to be prepared to grab it. For indie artists, the biggest challenge remains the same: how do you, as an independent artist, build a sustainable career?

 We’ll continue addressing that question in future articles.




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Selling and Streaming Your Music with iTunes and iTunes Radio

iTunes and iTunes Radio: Selling and Streaming Your Music

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Making your band’s music available for purchase online—either in digital or physical form, through your website or on one of your various profiles—is an important step to take if you want to continue your music career.

If a fan really digs your sound, they will do whatever it takes to get your music—even if it means going to some odd site they’ve never heard of to access your music. However, casual listeners are another story; if they don’t find your music available on their preferred channels (like iTunes), they might not buy it at all. Being available on those preferred platforms can mean the difference between making a sale and losing a potential fan.

About iTunes

In case you haven’t heard of it (ha!), iTunes is the largest digital music store online. It set the standard for digital music distribution and is so far ahead of its competitors that “competitor” might be an overstatement. As iTunes is the most commonly looked-to place to purchase music, it should not be dismissed or regarded lightly.

In addition to music sales, iTunes also offers streaming music with iTunes Radio. We do not recommend listing all of your music on iTunes Radio, there are several issues with streaming music that make it difficult for indie musicians to succeed with these services. A sampling of your music might be a good idea. Check out our article on streaming music for more information. Users can create stations based on music they like or have downloaded, and iTunes fine tunes the stations based on future listening and download patterns. iTunes Radio also offers featured stations. Users can listen to iTunes Radio on their mobile device, computer, tablet, or Apple TV for free.

Putting Your Music on iTunes

There are two routes you can take to get your music listed on iTunes: you can work with an aggregator, or you can apply to list it yourself. A list of approved aggregators can be found here; there are pros about working with an aggregator, but there are also drawbacks (see below). If you want to avoid aggregators, you can apply to work directly with iTunes. The criteria, such as encoding houses and content requirements, are specific, so be sure you have everything lined up and ready to go before applying.

Profits

In terms of earning money from music sales, iTunes operates similar to other sites. For each song sold, you receive a percentage of the sale price. In theory, you should be making some profit from the streamed content; however, those details are not easily found on the iTunes website. You can make more money by selling your music on your own website, but iTunes offers a good place to go for fans who may not know where your site is, so do not ignore it. (For more information, see this article about iTunes on our site.)

Cost

There is no cost for listing your music on iTunes, although there may be fees assessed by the aggregator you choose. Instead, you pay iTunes by receiving a reduced portion of the sales price. When a song is sold, iTunes takes its percentage (usually around 25-30 percent). Then, the aggregator takes its percentage, and you get what’s left.

Ease of Use

While the math and forms and requirements for signing up yourself seem daunting, with a bit of research and reading they are very doable. Other than that, it takes patience; the process is not guaranteed to be quick.

Using an aggregator may or may not make the process easier.

Assistance

You can email Apple for help, and they have an extensive FAQ section. However, their phone tree is very complicated, and connecting with a person is difficult. Aggregators may or may not be easier to work with.

A Final Word

Choosing to put your music on iTunes is a big decision; it should not be made lightly or without thorough consideration. For additional information, please read our related article, Rethinking iTunes.




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Selling Your Music with Bandcamp

Selling Your Music: Bandcamp

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Coming up next on “Painfully Obvious Observations”: the digital age has transformed the music industry… It’s true, though. And, as the industry continues to transform, more and more artists are turning toward selling music online. One major destination for those artists is Bandcamp.

What Bandcamp Offers

Bandcamp makes it possible for artists to sell their music and other merchandise online. You’re able to control the pricing, sell digital and physical music, report sales to SoundScan, offer discount codes, sell on Facebook, gather fan/customer data, and much more.

Making Money From Bandcamp

Bandcamp is based around the philosophy that money should flow toward the artist. You set the prices on all of your merchandise, and the money goes directly to you (not third parties).

“Great,” we hear you say, “but how on earth do they stay in business?” The answer to that question is that Bandcamp takes a small share of your sales: 15% on music, 10% on merchandise. It’s a pretty good deal, compared to the 75 percent (or more, if you’re not Usher) that you’d have to hand over to a major label. To sweeten the deal, Bandcamp will drop their revenue share to 10 percent once you reach $5,000 in sales.

What Does Bandcamp Cost?

If it’s sounding pretty good so far, it stays that way. Basic artist accounts are free. If you want to upgrade to the pro account (which lets you use a custom domain name, upload in batches, and so on), that’s only $10 a month. Not a bad deal.

As far as paying royalties, the Bandcamp method is a little different than other sites. Instead of subtracting their percentage from each sale, Bandcamp sends the profits directly to your PayPal account and keeps a running balance of what you owe them. When the amount owed is equal to or greater than a sale, they will absorb the sale and deduct that amount from your balance. For example, say you’re selling CDs at $10 each and Bandcamp is taking a 10% cut. The first sale goes all to you, and your balance is $1. The second sale goes all to you, and your balance is $2. The cycle continues. With the tenth sale, your balance is $10, which is the same amount as the sale. Instead of this sale going to your account, Bandcamp collects the money and reduces your balance.

Create a Bandcamp Account

Opening an account as easy as it gets. On the homepage, select “Artist Signup” at the top; on the next page, click the big green button that says “Sign Up Now.” Enter your email address and a password, choose your genre from a dropdown box, and create a few genre tags help people discover you. You’ll be assigned your very own URL and you’re off and running, with complete freedom to sell your music and whatever merchandise you can slap your logo on.

Getting Help With Bandcamp

The help section on the site is chock-full of in-depth tutorials that should keep you informed and answer your questions. On the off chance that it doesn’t, there is an email form on the site for contacting support. Customer support is not reachable by phone.

Bottom line is, if you’re looking for a good place to call your home for online music sales, Bandcamp pretty much does everything but write the songs. Hey, we never said it was perfect.

Have you tried Bandcamp? What did you like about the site? If you used another site, what made you choose that over Bandcamp?




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Streaming Your Music With Spotify

Streaming Your Music with Spotify

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Spotify is arguably the most popular streaming service. What does this mean for you as an artist? Well, it means that if your fans are streaming music, odds are good that they’re using Spotify, which means you’ve probably considered offering your music there.

For fans, Spotify offers two different plans. Both allow users to create playlists and run Spotify on their computer and mobile devices. The free version only allows shuffle mode of playlists and requires internet access. However, with the paid service, users can download playlists and play the music offline.

What Spotify Offers Artists

Spotify provides a platform for your existing fans to find and listen to your music. It also allows others to discover your music by clicking “related artists” when listening to someone on their playlists, by listening to other users’ playlists, or by another user sending them a message with your music. In that sense, Spotify has incorporated elements of social networking sites.

Signing Up For Spotify

You cannot submit your music directly to Spotify, since all their music is submitted by labels or distributors. If you don’t have a label or distributor, Spotify has a list of recommended aggregators that can help get your music on the site. These filters help ensure that the music is properly licensed before appearing on Spotify, and the filters administer your royalty payments, taking their cut along the way.

Cost

The cost for listing your music on Spotify will vary depending on the route you take. If ReverbNation is your filter, the distribution services is either included in your ReverbNation plan or available for $34.95 a year. If you use CD Baby (one of the recommended aggregators), the cost to distribute your music digitally is $49 per album or $12.95 per single, plus 9% of the streaming royalties.

Making Money with Spotify

For streamed music, Spotify claims that it sends nearly 70% of the revenue back to the rights holders (the label, publisher, distributor, or you, the artist). However, the payment actually received by artists is often negligible. For a detailed description of how Spotify calculates an artist’s pay, visit their artist page and scroll down to the Royalties sections.

Spotify also allows you to post and sell some of your merchandise without commission, letting your fans have easy access to your products and letting you keep more of your profits.

Getting Assistance

There are three main ways to get help with Spotify: a frequently asked questions section, a community forum, and a contact form.

Now that you have the basics of how Spotify works, check out our article on whether or not you should use it.




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ReverbNation and Your Music: Streaming and More

ReverbNation and Your Music: Streaming and More

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you’re a musician and haven’t heard of ReverbNation, then you have some research to do. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they offer:

What ReverbNation Offers

Of course, ReverbNation allows you to upload your music to be discovered, streamed, and shared by fans. It also offers:

  • newsletter templates to email fans
  • the option to create mobile app for your band
  • the option to turn your profile into a website
  • the option to sell music, either on the site or externally through digital distribution
  • the option to create press kits
  • networking with other musicians, promoters, venues, labels, and industry professionals

Profit From Your ReverbNation Account

To make money from your ReverbNation account, take advantage of their Digital Distribution opportunity. This helps you sell your music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, ect. You also can sell your music right off of their streaming player by providing a link.

Cost

ReverbNation offers three account levels with distinct pricing options.

  • Basic (free): provides a page for fans to stream & download music; provides you with access to their gig finder*.
  • Pro ($19.95/mo): offers the same but adds music distribution options.
  • Max ($41.67/mo): offers the same but with more music distribution options.

Other services are offered a la carte. The Site Builder ($89.95/yr), which turns your profile into a website, and Digital Distribution ($34.95/yr) options are both available outside of the account packages. Adding these features to the basic account could be a great decision.

Setting Up Your Account

Begin by going to www.reverbnation.com, and click the button titled “sign up for free”. Create your profile using the guided set up process; be sure to include your name, genre, city/state, and so on. After you’ve entered your details, you can upload your songs and music. When you have finished your profile, you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade your account if you wish.

Assistance

ReverbNation is easy for you and your fans to navigate, and the instructions for building a profile page are very clear. Should any questions arise, turn to their help page for a solution. They also have a support team available to answer any specific questions via email.

ReverbNation is a great website with a lot to offer artists, and at a reasonable cost. Check it out!

* As we stated in another article, ReverbNation requires that you use their Press Kit Builder ($5.95 per month) to submit booking requests.

Have you or your band used ReverbNation? How did you use it? Was it a good resource?




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