how to sell music

by Justin

April 17, 2013

Understanding how to sell music online is imperative for independent artists. Fortunately there are many resources available that help to greatly simplify this task for musicians.

The music industry has changed considerably over the past few decades. One of the biggest changes is in the way music is distributed and sold.

Despite all of the surface level changes to the way music is marketed, the core fundamentals are still the same.  You want to build a fan base, develop a connection with your fans, and offer them something of value.

The biggest shift in the way this simple formula is executed now versus twenty years ago, is that more of the responsibility is falling on the artists themselves.

What I mean is, most major label artists have a team in place that helps them to perform all of the subtle nuances required to grow a following and pursue a profitable business strategy.

Nowadays, there are more and more musicians realizing that they can be successful without major financial backing, so the burden of accomplishing the basic tasks of connecting with their audience rests solely on their shoulders.

Most people are well aware that the Internet is probably the largest contributing factor to this paradigm shift.  The Internet provided the tools that allow fans and artists to interact and connect directly with one another on a massive scale without any kind of middleman.

Now that the tools are available to help you connect with your fans and have a profitable music career without a need for major label support, it’s imperative that you understand those tools and how to use them for your benefit.

The first step in the process is to begin to build a following, and then interact with and engage your following to help it grow.  When say grow your following, I’m talking about two things.  Growing the number of fans you have, and growing the quality of fans.

Growing the number of fans you have is pretty easy to understand, if you have 100 fans you want 101, then 102, and so on.  Growing the quality of fans may require some clarification.

fanFan | Photo: Kurt Christensen/Flickr/Creative Commons License

What I mean by growing the quality of your fans is building a connection with your fans. Thus creating more loyal fans.  Fans that want to listen to everything you put out, go to all of your shows, wear your t-shirts, and share your music with their friends.

Some of the best ways to interact with fans, growing the quality and quantity of your fans, are through social media, text messaging, and email marketing.

Email marketing is a really valuable tool for bands, because it allows you build a list of all of your fans.  You can then reach out to them in emails, and let them know what’s new with your music, when you’ll be touring, etc.

If you’d like to learn more about how email marketing can work for you, read this blog post.

Once you’ve started to build a following and you’ve been growing it, you need to begin thinking about what you can offer your fans of value.  There are all kinds of things that you can do to give your fans value for free.  And I highly recommend giving away free stuff from time to time. But if you want to actually make some money, you need to think about things you can sell.

t-shirt problem

t-shirt problem | Photo: ancient history/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The cool thing about having fans is that they’ll actually buy things with your logos and album covers printed on them. Things like t-shirts, hats, hoodies, stickers, posters, etc.  The reason this is cool is that you can make money selling this stuff, and you’re getting advertising when your fans walk around wearing your t-shirts and hats and such.

People will even still pay for music, believe it or not.  You can easily sell your music on iTunes, which we’ll talk more about in a moment, but you can also sell premium stuff that can’t be downloaded.  Physical items like deluxe Blu-Ray/CD combos with unique autographed album art, vinyl, even cassettes are starting to make a comeback.

Creating and selling this stuff isn’t even difficult or expensive either.  You can create your own online store in a matter of minutes, and have your own custom merch made to order. This is a great option for bands on a budget, because you can manage to start a successful online store with little to no actual startup expense.  Check out this blog post about setting up an online band merch store.

So what about actually selling your music?

Getting a CD made, distributed, and sold in a retail store used to be a huge pain.  There were so many middle men that a recording artist would be lucky to receive a few pennies from the sale of an album that cost the fan as much as $20.  The worst part was that it was virtually impossible to sell a CD at all without major label support.

linux home recording studio

linux home recording studio | Photo: wstryder/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Now independent musicians can literally write, record, and sell their own album right from their own home. This whole process can technically be done without getting out of bed… though I don’t recommend this.

Selling music on iTunes can be done very easily with the help of a digital music distribution service.  Simply submit your music and artwork, pay a few bucks, and let the digital distributor handle the rest.  For more on this, click here.

Even though the shape of the music industry has changed, people still enjoy music just as they always have. They also enjoy feeling a connection to the artists that create the music as well.

As a musician, you can now build a stronger connection with your fans than was ever possible before the Internet, which is arguably the most important factor in having success as an independent artist.  With all of the tools, resources, and services at your disposal, you can make a good living and maybe more.  This can all be done without the need for strong financial backing.

Hopefully, you’ve found this somewhat informative, and have a better idea of how to sell music in the digital age.  If you would like to receive more information like this, please enter your email below to subscribe to the JamMob Music Marketing Newsletter. It’s completely free, and you will also receive a free copy of The Musician’s Guide To Mobile Marketing.

Featured Image: Psy | Photo: Eva Rinaldi /Flickr/Creative Commons License

Music Promotion Insiders
Music Promotion Insiders

About the author 


Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA, Justin Smith is a marketer and entrepreneur that has been helping independent artists promote their music online since 2008. He has a Bachelor of Science in Recording Industry Management from MTSU and an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from The University of Tennessee. As the founder of JamMob, he has continued to dedicate himself to helping independent artists pursue careers in the music industry.

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