Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Top 5 Ways to Sell Music Online

Hi, my name's Sean McCauley. Working as the head of marketing at MondoTunes, one of the world's most popular and effective online music distribution companies, I've watched hundreds of talented, intelligent artists make unfortunate errors. It hurts me to watch these mistakes come through the pipeline of digital music distribution over and over, so I've decided to compile this simple list of things that music artists should do or should not do in an effort to help out the music community. We're all music fans after all, and the more people can sell music online and know how to get on Internet radio, etc., the better off we'll all be.

I feel that every part of this short list is extremely important.

#1. Pick Your Music Titles With Search Engines in Mind
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Until the nineties, it didn't matter what you called your record as long as it sounded cool. The more cool and creative your titles were to your fans, the more suitable the titles were as music promotion. This is, sadly, a thing of the distant past.

On a daily basis I see artists named Bob Smith (for example) who make a self-titled album called "Bob Smith" and publish it online. Even if Mr. Smith has a thrumming fan base of hundreds, typing “bob smith” into a search engine has no chance of producing his record onscreen. “Bob Smith record” won't work, either, nor will “bob smith heavy metal musician” or anything short of including the producer, label, and exact year of the record's online music distribution in the search terms. This is ridiculous.

If poor Bob had named his album something with an unlikely combination of words, fans and curious listeners could find his online music with no problem at all. What if he had named his record “liquified cosmic banana peel,” for instance? It's goofy, sure, but those terms will bring you straight to the digital music of the same name, because nothing else on the Internet is named that. It doesn't have to be a long title, either. You just need the names of your albums and singles to be as unique as possible.

Google “TNT” and see if you get the 1980s metal band on page one. No? Try “Big Audio Dynamite.” See the difference? A unique name goes a long, long way towards optimizing your digital music distribution.

#2. Pick a Distribution Company Who Is Best for You

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This may seem obvious, but artists wanting to sell music on iTunes or to otherwise conduct their music distribution online really do need to research which company will be the best personal fit for them. There are several companies in the modern market competing for the opportunity to help sell your songs onlineand promote your music, and each of them has a different character and treats artists differently.

The mistake most artists make is in thinking only of one or two considerations, such as the quality of the music and audio distribution, and the price. While these are arguably the most important points for artists, many othercrucial attributes are often overlooked. What sort of licensing does the company offer, for instance? What additional services can they provide? What is their customer service like? These questions must be asked and answered by each artist wanting to do any online music selling.

As an artist, you owe it to yourself to do the research on your own. I'm biased, of course, but I've also done the research. The article I wrote comparing Mondo against CDBaby and Tunecore is here: http://sonicsmashmusic.wordpress.com/2012/08/.

There's still every likelihood that a discerning buyer will decide on MondoTunes for the below reasons.
  • MondoTunes is still the least expensive
  • Mondo still offers free UPC and ISRC (unheard of in all kinds of publishing)
  • They offer artists the option to create their own label
  • Live assistance when you need it – prompt email support and actual phone calls
  • Mondo's music distribution network is the exact same one utilized by Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, U2, One Republic, Rihanna, and countless other artists signed to Universal Music, which means they boast the largest distribution in the world today
They're still the smallest global online music distribution company in the world, too, comprised of only five people – all of them musicians – so they're still going to give the most personal service in the music distribution game for a long, long time.

#3 Get a Professional Press Release

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Artists always ask me, “So I've got my music distribution online, but now what?” Naturally, now you want people to hear and hopefully buy your record. To sell songs online, you've got to put information about your songs online. This info is for anyone who might want to buy your album, but wants to read a little about it, first. You can't really write this stuff yourself.

You can, however, pay a surprisingly small amount of money to a professional writer for the authoring and distribution of an honest press release. Press releases are mainly for use by journalists and anyone else who searches the Internet looking for information on your music. It's generally the first step in any press situation, and many artists end up with a kind of snowball effect that begins with their press release. A press release is different from an article in that it is not the work of a newspaper journalist out to collect news. It's news written by a professional writer that is provided to all the newspapers.

Press releases are also different from an advertisement because advertisements are too biased and informally written to constitute news of any kind. Releases that read too much like advertisements are banned from online PR sites, and so are their authors. I don't know what services other companies provide in this way, but Mondo artists can still get a press release written and published worldwide for under a hundred US dollars.

#4. Make Use of Music Industry Social Networking Sites

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Every modern artist knows about marketing on FaceBook and Twitter these days, but these sites are kids' toys. Facebook, Twitter, and the surprisingly resilient MySpace are great if you want your existing fan base to know when you're playing or releasing a record, but many fantastic sites are taken much more seriously, and many artists never know they exist until their career is years in the making, or even already over.

Some of these more sophisticated sites are almost exclusively for the use of artists, managers, and music promoters, such as OurStage, which allows for the creation of fan accounts but really caters to musicians and the people who work with them. ReverbNation, BandCamp, and SoundCloud are just a few other examples of sites that help you easily promote your songs, and each of them is better respected among industry movers and shakers than amateur sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Simon Tam wrote a good, basic article on which sites to use in order to connect with people who would love your music. It is here: http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/the-best-social-media-site-for-bands.html.

#5 Play Live! And Tour Whenever Possible

Vitamin X, Photo by Nakashima
Vitamin X, photo by Nakashima

Finally, one of the most important pieces of music marketing advice I have regards where to promote your music, and my emphatic answer to this is: onstage, where most artists belong. Online marketing is a necessary component of professional music, but it works best when combined with live marketing, word-of-mouth advertising and performances.

Musicians with the ability to perform their music live should do so at every opportunity as frequently as possible – and they should arrive to play at the venue with a stack of bio's, flyers, stickers and business cards, too. Some artists can't often leave the house, so this advice will seem disheartening. The Internet is a magical place, though, and you can play live through your laptop computer to however small an audience you might be able to garner. You can record this performance for all posterity, and when you post your show on YouTube or Vimeo or wherever, the music promotion will be just as successful as a show you might have played in Wichita last year, and perhaps much more so.

A truly live show connects with an audience in a way watching a video online can't, but that doesn't mean home musicians have to miss out on every other benefit a live show has to offer, and there are plenty of such benefits.

That's all I've got to say about digital music distributionand how to get your music online today, but anyone with comments or questions is welcome to email me directly at smccauley@mondotunes.com, or merely to leave them at the site where this is found.

May Your Audiences Always Demand an Encore,

-Sean

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