Many people think that the most difficult part about being a musician is making the music. For hundreds of thousands of talented, creative minds, however, making great music is fairly straightforward. It’s selling the music which can be more challenging.
Think back to some of your favorite bands or artists who aren’t in the limelight, anymore, not producing much music, or not playing live. Some of the most accomplished artists in music history have faded away and had to get a day job doing something other than music, not because their music isn’t any good, but simply because they’ve had a hard time selling their product.
Like it or not, a career in music is at best only half art. The other half (and one could argue much more than half) is all business.
The bright side for imaginative persons, though, is that the business of selling your music is an art, too.
Let’s dig in.
- Showcase your music as something more than music
People buy music, yes, but they already have lots of it. And there are lots of people trying to sell them more. How do you get people to buy more music from specifically you?
You have to stand out.
The first rule of standing out among musicians is: be more than just a musician.
Look at the most successful musicians of all time. Michael Jackson didn’t become the King of Pop by singing and writing songs, alone. He got there by inventing dances, wearing innovative clothing, and making music videos which weren’t just music videos. Ditto Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones aren’t famous just because they made some great rock. They’re partially legends because Mick Jagger walks around the stage with a trademark strut everyone can imitate, not to mention their famous lips logo, which is known around the world. How about the Beatles? They had more to sell than music, too. They became fashion icons, political touchstones, even spiritual gurus.
If you can be more than just a musician, therefore, you should be more. Your music shouldn’t take a back seat, or anything, but the idea is definitely to make your music share the attention of your audience with some other element of your art. This other thing could theoretically be anything, so get creative.
If you just can’t come up with anything like that, or if you’re a musician for music’s sake and the idea of selling something besides straight-up music doesn’t appeal to you, then you have another option:
People don’t necessarily need to buy a real product or service along with your music. They just have to be convinced you’re selling more than music. That’s not hard to accomplish.
- Make your music more available than everyone else’s
The naked truth is, if your music is the only music for sale, then people have to buy your music.
That’s not a realistic goal, of course, but the principle stays true even if you can’t force a monopoly on selling music. If you can’t be the only one, you can at least be way more available than the majority of other music artists.
In artistic terms, this means making music which the largest group of people can emotionally access. Every time you make music for a specific group of people, you’re denying your music to a larger group of people. You’re making your music less available.
The creation of music for the broadest group of people is an art, too. You don’t have to do it, but if your goal is selling songs online, you should.
But making your music available isn’t just an artistic goal. It’s also a nitty-gritty physical goal.
In physical terms, you want your music in the window of every store. Since we’re talking about selling your music online, this means getting your music in the “window” of major music sites where people looking for music can see yours.
This doesn’t just mean getting a free account at SoundCloud and uploading your songs, thinking, “Well, my stuff’s online now, so it’s available for people to buy.”
The more places your music is sold, the more likely you are to sell music.
Which brings us to the third and final rule –
- Get professional music distribution
If you really want to sell your music online, then you’re going to want some expert help distributing your sounds.
You want to sell your music on Amazon. You want to sell your music on Spotify. You need to sell music on iTunes. And yes, SoundCloud, ReverbNation, and any website you can think of where you might be able to make your music available for purchase.
Your singles and albums are not going to be more prominent and available than other musicians’ material unless you go to more online stores and sites than they have. The short list of Amazon, iTunes, etc. is just that: a short list. It’s far too short a list to actually make your music widely available.
And anyhow, sending your music to just those places would easily take a person all day, if not all weekend. It can be a much bigger job than it seems.
The smart way to do it is to get an inexpensive, weapons-grade distributor to send your music to all the online stores, instead. Distributors like MondoTunes have networks and professional friendships in the music industry which allow them to basically click a button and shoot your music to scores of places in a very short amount of time. In the case of MondoTunes, in fact, musicians can get their music “in the window” of over 600 quality online music stores worldwide for much less than a hundred American dollars today.
It’s a no-brainer. Don’t try to distribute yourself. You’ll just distribute yourself a headache.
So let’s recap.
If you A) sell more than just music, B) make yourself more available than your competition, and C) get professional music distribution to do so, then you’re going to do much more business than the artist who writes good music and presumes quality sells itself.
Nothing sells itself.
Go ahead and sell your music. Your music deserves it.