If you are an independent artist and looking for a way to sell your music, this guide will give you a head up. The music industry has been through a complete make-over and everything has changed drastically over time. From musical instruments, modus operandi of music recording, distribution channels, to the devices used for listening to music, everything has become more accessible as compared to the past.

One of the perks of this evolution is the online distribution of music that boosted the range of global music to every conventional music lover. I am referring to the incentives that tag along with internet and the ability to share your creations with a global audience via online platforms.

In this article, we will learn everything you need to know about music distribution and making money as an independent music artist. We will explore every other possibility you can leverage from online media to earn money, royalties, and fame with your creations. Let’s begin with the basics.

How to distribute your music independently?

The physical distribution of music was a luxurious task which only labels could do for you. Before online media became this popular, the most difficult task was getting in terms with a label for your music release and distribution. Many talented artists did not come in the limelight and we missed out some great music because of the hassles and limitations of physical labels.

Now that everyone is well connected with the internet, and there is no shortage of online channels to share your music. You get unlimited options to sell your music online and make money with independent music distribution.

Who are independent music distributors?

The best way to sell music online as an independent artist is tagging along with an independent distributor. They eliminate your over-dependence on big labels to sell your music. These companies facilitate the ease of release through online distribution by connecting unsigned artists with mainstream music platforms.

They are also the aggregators who are experts in delivering content to different music streaming platforms. For a fee, they can correctly format and deliver your music to the streaming service’s/sellers’ specifications.

These distributors provide a complete online mode for event planning, which includes a digital partnership to get everything managed by them. You can choose a distributor, sign up on their website, upload your track, and plan the release schedule. You can then wait for the event when they will release your music on different streaming platforms based on their terms with them.

How to tag along with a music distributor?

The traditional music distribution involved distributors and sellers. The distributors offered the label that encouraged people to buy your tracks. The sellers sold the physical CDs, cassettes, and records through their channels.

This system still exists in digital media. However, the accessibility and the modus operandi have simplified. Today, the distributors have gone digital and sellers have gone eCommerce. With this ease, many new distributors have come along who don’t mind distributing your independent creations. Before choosing the right distributor for your unsigned music, consider the following aspects:

  1. Commission: Some distributors take a commission cut from your revenue, while many others give you 100% of your earnings and charge just a fixed cost. Depending on the model, they can demand anyone or both of the payment systems.
  2. Extra Services: Some distributors also provide value-added services along with the distribution. These services also include promotion and pre-release sale. Example, iTunes pre-release and SMS keywords.
  3. Exclusive distribution: Some distributors demand exclusive partnership, while many others allow you to partner with multiple distributors at a time.
  4. Distribution channels: Some distributors sell your music to one exclusive platform, while some prefer selling rights to multiple music platforms at a time. Depends on their terms with different music streaming platforms.
  5. No middlemen: Some popular music streaming platforms offer direct distribution services. You can partner with them to sell your music at once on these platforms and eliminate the middlemen from distribution. iTunes is a great example. It allows both independent and aggregated content; only the content needs to be in their format and in the instructed specifications.
  6. Market reach: Some distributors are good for a certain market only, while you might choose many others with a reach in the global market. Some local distributors are much better than global distributors for a specific market and audience.

Choosing the right distributor for the right market can make or break or sales performance. Always consider the above aspects before choosing a music distributor.

Some well-known names for distribution and selling

Just to give you an idea here is a list of some popular music distributors and music streaming platforms. You might want to check out the best platforms and distributors in your local market too-

Well-known online music distributors-

  • TuneCore
  • CD Baby
  • Symphonic

Well-known music streaming platforms-

  • Apple music
  • Amazon Music
  • iHeartRadio
  • Pandora

Well-known music streaming platforms with direct artists uploads-

  • Spotify
  • SoundCloud
  • iTunes
  • Google Play Music,
  • YouTube
  • Tidal

Well-known music labels for branding-

  • Warner Music Group
  • Sony Music
  • BMG
  • Universal Music Group

How to plan your music release?

Planning your release involves everything from scheduling a date, choosing a target audience, to selecting a release platform. A simple strategic move can get you exposure of millions and good earning. Whereas a wrong move can end up in breaking the sales, piracy and all sort of things you wouldn’t want your music to deal with.

You may want to consider the following aspects to sell your music with a proper release plan-

  1. Besides mainstream: While a release on mainstreaming streaming channels would simply get you good exposure, you should also consider some niche platforms based on your music genre. For example, if you are an independent DJ and have created some nice beats, platforms like Beatport can give you additional exposure and earn.
  2. Appropriate date: Choosing an appropriate date is also an important determinant. Choose a nearby date that can give an additional push to your music. For example, you might want to release a romantic song in Valentine’s week. A party song in the Christmas to New-year season.
  3. Leverage social media: Make sure to collect as much social media coverage before the release. Social media is full of opportunities to make an unsigned artist a celebrity. Memes, hypes, controversies, social media has every ingredient gain massive coverage.
  4. Pre-release sales: Platforms like iTunes offer various marketing tools that help in promoting a release. You should consider using iTunes’ pre-release booking and SMS keywords to sell your music in unique ways.

How to boost post-release sales?

Now that you know how to sell your songs online, the next big thing would be learning how to boost your sales. It’s an important step for an unsigned artist as it leads away to the mainstream media.

  • Hopping along with an independent music distributor carries its own benefits. They give access to tools like iTunes Pre-release SMS keywords, which boost sales. In fact, these tools are often used by even the biggest labels.
  • With iTunes Pre-lease, you can start selling your music before six months of the scheduled release.
  • With SMS keywords, users can purchase your tracks by typing a keyword with a selected number. It removes all the hassles of searching, purchasing and downloading by directly adding the purchased track to your list.
  • You can promote your newly released song in the live events. It will boost up your songs PR when it is still fresh. Additionally, you can sell the rights to use the songs in TV Shows, Ads, and other events.
  • Customize the geographic accessibility of your song. It will help you avoid the hassles in some regions. For example, if you are releasing a remix version of a popular song, the geographic restriction will let you avoid the copyrights claims in the areas where re-mix is not allowed without rights.

How much money can you make selling unsigned music online?

Honestly! Not much. As an unsigned artist, you cannot expect your music to go viral overnight like those popular artists with big banners. Even the compensations you get from different music streaming platforms is not enough to pay your rents.

Here is how much top music streaming services pay to music artists-

  • Groove Music- $0.02730 per play
  • Napster- $0.01682 per play
  • Spotify- $0.01284 per stream
  • Apple Music- $0.00783 per stream
  • Amazon music- $0.0074 per play
  • Google Music Play- $0.00611
  • YouTube Music- $0.00074 per stream

Here is an image from the thetrichordist’s report to explain in detail-

Even the top music streaming platforms don’t pay much per stream. Moreover, when this revenue comes with deductions from the distributions partners, it becomes even lower. Only when you can secure a million views, the earnings will be considerable.

It’s not about revenue through

Even if these platforms pay you some money, selling as an independent artist is not about passive revenue. It’s about the other doors you open after being featured on popular streaming platforms. It’s also about other benefits that tag along with fame you get.

  • Being featured on a popular platform lets you get into the playlists of new fans and music lovers. Ultimately comes fame and sets a path for further releases. This fame would also help you get a following on social media, and opportunities to create your own music streaming platform once you are famed.
  • Being featured on these platforms improves your credibility with a more professional approach. With this exposure, in no time big labels might want to work with you. Who knows, giant distributors might purchase the rights to use your track in a movie, TV ads, or a live concert. You should aim for this earning rather than limiting yourself to the pennies/stream.

Sell your music now

Once you are ready with your track, you have so many options for spreading it to the music lovers. You just have to understand the process and steps needed to be followed. Hopefully, this article could explain the same. Now you can make an informed choice.