In 2008 I decided to start my own label in order to help unsigned artists that I was working with at the time.
Someone mentioned digital distribution, although I can’t remember who it was. So I went on the internet and I came across the now-defunct Norwegian website, Klicktrack.com.
Klicktrack was an online music store but it wasn’t so “Big”. Well big in the sense that you couldn’t compare it to your iTunes or Beatports of this world.
So initially I was sceptical. But when I saw Soul Candi Records, Electromode (Successful Independent labels in South Africa), I was like hey maybe this is not a bad site after all.
My thinking was “If these labels are here, surely Kicktrack is big enough!”.
I ended up signing up for a “free” music distribution account and my stuff was online within two weeks (I used the Post Office to send back the signed contract).
But my lack of knowledge would soon catch up with me. When my music became available for purchase, I thought it would sell almost immediately.
That was not the case. It was only when I started working with a real music distributor (three years later) and that’s when my music got traction.
I wrote this post for artists and start-up record labels trying to sell their music online. You will learn in four minutes what it took me three years to learn and understand.
So let’s go over steps on how to sell your music online.
1. It starts with the music
The music is your product at the end of the day. If nobody wants your product then you don’t a market and if you don’t have a market then you won’t be able to sell your product.
As an artist, you should be making music that you believe in irrespective of what some of your peers may think or say.
Don’t make music that you think might sell or make you popular. But make music that is a true expression of what’s in your heart.
For the aspiring record label owner, that might sound counterintuitive.
However, you can make a better product just by staying true to yourself.
Let me go back to the first paragraph of this section. Some people would argue and say “You have to make quality music”.
But what is quality music? I’ve heard so many people repeat those words, time and time again.
I think the term “Quality music’ is subjective. You can never win that battle.
Sure there are things like mixing and mastering which can be picked up because of how the audio sounds.
But all I’m is: make the music that you believe in wholeheartedly and ensure that the sonic is out of this world! The rest is just hype.
2. Promote yourself (and your music)
It goes without saying that you should promote yourself in order to be a successful artist.
That’s pretty obvious and any artist with common sense knows that.
But it’s easier said than done right?
If you don’t have much of a following, it’s a tall order. But Rome was not built in a day and we all have to start somewhere.
However, you have to be committed and resourceful in order to get noticed.
Popular opinion says you have to: Start a Facebook Fan Page, create a twitter account, et cetera, et cetera.
Don’t get wrong I’m not against all of that. And you should do that at some stage. But it doesn’t always work for the unknown artist (at least not right away).
What you should do is the following:
Open a free soundcloud account
If you don’t have soundcloud page, get one as soon as possible. Soundcloud should be your first marketing tool for testing and experimenting.
This is a huge community for people in the recording industry. You can start by uploading your track samples, they don’t have to be lengthy (just under two minutes should do).
Depending on how often you update and upload your music, you should start getting some traction in the form of likes, downloads, comments, et cetera.
And that’s what need – Feedback.
From whom you may ask?
Music enthusiasts (potential fans), other artists and producers for potential collaborations.
Start your own website
Before some of you start shooting my head off for even suggesting this, please hear me out.
Most people are under the impression that websites are expensive. And yes I do agree but to a certain extent.
But you don’t need an expensive website. What I’m actually talking about here is a homepage that you can refer to as a website.
This is basically a one-page website with all your basic information on it. And it’s cheap and quick to design.
Basic is just what you need for now – Your logo, a few clean professional pictures, your music (embedded from soundcloud) and your contact information. That’s it!
A website will make your efforts stand out compared to the average artist without one.
When you have a website, it’s easy to track your visitors if it’s linked with Google Analytics.
Now that you have soundcloud and a basic website as your primary marketing tools, your social media accounts should follow suit in order to get the momentum going.
3. License your music
If you believe that your music is good enough to be released commercially, you can approach a label to handle your project.
When you license your music to a third-party (in this case a record label) you are basically giving them permission to sell your music on your behalf.
The label will design the sleeve, market and distribute your music using their resources, channels and infrastructure.
The advantage of taking this approach is that you can gain a following much quicker than you would on your own. But that also depends on the stature of the label and/or artist pushing your product.
If your biggest strength is in the studio and you don’t have the temperament to market and distribute your music, licensing is something you should look into.
Sometimes labels are too busy and consumed with their projects. So chances are you might knock on their doors only to get turned down.
But don’t take it personally.
Why don’t you do it yourself?
If that sounds like music to your ears (pun intended), believe me it can be done!
Before you self-distribute your music, there are a couple of things that you need to know.
Even though you might not have a “record deal” but technically you are the label.
The digital distributor will require your company name.
But don’t rush off to register a formal company just yet. For now, a trading name will do. You can come up with a trading name on the spot and use that for now.
A trading name can be something like this: David Jones Productions or DJ Productions
For now, you are just testing waters and trying to get the hang of this. You can make changes and upscale as you go.
Teaming up with a reliable digital distributor is important though. A good distributor will ensure that your music is available in major retailers, collect your royalties from stores and send you statements in a timely fashion.
There are different avenues to sell your music online. But it all starts with a plan of action.
I included the above points because I experienced better success using some of those strategies when I was promoting artists.
Some channels work better than others but there is no better method or formula per se. You just have to experiment and find out what works for you.
Have you managed to sell your music online successfully? Share your success stories, tips and advice on the comment box below.