Point of View
Degree Leader for Music
at UCE Birmingham, UK.
Senior lecturer and researcher with a particular interest in
online music, radio and new media technology
answers the following question...
How can I sell my music online?
by Andrew Dubber
When I go and give lectures and
seminars, this is by far the most frequently asked question by
the musicians in the audience. There are variations on this
theme, but essentially it boils down to this very simple
question: now that there's this internet thing, where's the
money and how do I get at it? What's the best way to sell music
I tend to start answering that question by taking a quick poll.
It's a little game I play, and I'll play it with you now:
"Hands up, everyone in this room who considers themselves a
professional musician." Generally speaking the room is full
of people with their hands in the air.
"Now, keep your hand up if you currently make more than 50%
of your income from the sale of recordings." I counted 3
people. At one of the seminars. Once. They were in the same
There's a presupposition in the question "How can I sell my
music online?" and that is the notion that the way that you
make money from music is through the sale of recordings.
It's one way, sure. It's an obvious one, too. But it's not,
typically speaking, the way that most musicians make their money
outside of the internet so it strikes me as odd that it seems
to be the only thing that they'll think of to try online.
Selling music online
There's this weird notion that the internet is a shopping
mall and so if you want to be successful in that
environment, you have to open a shop. Every artist and every
record label who has a website suddenly wants to go into
business as a retailer. The thought would never occur to them in
the "real" world but give them a webpage and they want a cash
It's strange because for most artists and independent music
businesses that I come into contact with (even, it has to be
said, some of the retailers), the majority of the money does not
come from the sale of circular pieces of plastic. And yet, the
presence of the internet seems to make them believe that they
And it has always struck me as odd that a group of people who
spend more time training for their career than most brain
surgeons, and who spend every waking hour of their day creating
value from thin air believe that the little slice of time they
spend in a darkened room fashioning idealised versions of their
songs and turning them into things for sale is the only way
through which they can earn a living.
This idea also gets us into problems when people start sharing
music for free. If making money from music online is about
selling songs, then sharing must therefore be theft. Now, of
course I'm aware that there ARE musicians and people in the
music industries who make money solely from recordings. My point
is that they are in the minority.
So the better question might be: How can the internet help me
make money from my music? And the answer, of course, is "it
depends". The internet can offer opportunities for
promotion, distribution, business and communication efficiencies
even for the composition and production of music.
The internet is not a shopping mall or a marketplace. It's a
technology that allows for human beings to communicate and for
information to be processed and moved around in new and
accelerated ways. You can sell music on it, of course and
there are services that will help you do that.
But for now, I just want to plant the seed that there are ways
to make money from music. You can use the internet to enhance
and expand upon these ways of working. And then you can use the
internet to develop new ways of making money from music along
Here's what I suggest: if you have recorded music you
want to sell online, then have a look at a few services and
start the process. Either go with a digital aggregator like
or CD Baby or
submit to some of the bigger online music retailers through a
TuneCore. Perhaps you could use one of the e-commerce
platforms available to
sell your music
directly from your website.
Once you've done that, you'll be able to get that how do I
sell music?' question off your mind so you can focus on the more
interesting question of how do I make money from music online?'
Because the chances are high that those two questions have quite
© 2011 Andrew Dubber
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