The Weekend Question - Selling music online and off, the best options.

Over the next while we are going to raise a number of industry relevant questions that may form the basis of a future article. These are topics that we think are relevant and informative with the answers assisting members and artists.

This week we are looking at the best options for selling music online and off.  What percentage of sales the artist gets?. The benefits or costs of selling on itunes, bandcamp, cdbaby etc.  What percentage of costs the record store gets if you choose to leave your record in there.  The benefits of having your small independent store in your town support you. Sales at gigs. It would be great if members would share their thoughts on this.

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This topic has been a thorn in the sides of just about any indie artist!


If you sign can sign on with a label that doesn't expect you to conform to their expectations (or sell your musical "soul") you are very lucky! 


As far as royalties, US artists are at an enormous disadvantage even if they are registered with BMI, ASCAP, etc, If their music is played anywhere outside the US the royalty amount drops, or is just about nonexistent.  It's already low enough if their music is played in the US.  At this point in time, Pandora is pushing legislation that would lower the royalty rate for music played on internet radio, etc. and that issue has not yet been resolved.


CDs simply do not sell online.  One might sell some on tour, or at concert, or at festivals, but even then, I've been asked the question, "Is your music on itunes?"  Well, yes, of course it is, or the band might as well shoot ourselves in our collective foot....But digital sales bring in pennies (US) or even less.  I heard Eileen Ivers call cds "musical artifacts" and joked that they could be "used for coasters."


I have had a local music store buy several CDs, but that was at manufactuing cost.  It's nice to have your CDs, i.e. your music "out there", but really it is not a source of revenue.  If your label will handle distribution for you, that's OK only as long as they can move your CDs, which is only likely to last for a spell.



Of course, a band/artist must have a supply of CDS available to send to radio stations, internet or otherwise, agents and prospective performance venues, of course.  Still, not a source of revenue.


The best avenue for income of the indie artists' music is licensing for youtube, film, commercial use, etc.  Finding a good agent to do this for you is another difficulty.  If you have the time and money to invest you can do it yourself, but if all you have to pitch is your own music, well...... Pitch sheets cost hundreds of dollars (US).


Live streaming your performance seems to work for some artists, once you've got your music well-known enough and a fan base built up.  Can you give musical instruction on your instrument?  Better source of income!  If you have a good agent/promoter, and you're still young and energetic enough to tour, you're in luck.  Otherwise, you depend on local venues. 


I've been managing our band, Smitty's Kitchen for a few years now.  It's been quite the learning experience re: the music industry.  I'm still learning the ropes.  I will imagine that, since everything in this modern world changes so quickly, there will be more changes to the music industry....Hopefully to the advantage on the independent artists who value/love their music. 


Cynthia Smith

Smitty's Kitchen









Excellent article thanks, Cynthia

You're welcome Maurice!


As I said, I expect more dramatic changes to the music industry.  I had one agent from A&R, a music industry gatekeeper, say to me in a thick British accent, that "the internet has made their (the agents') job a nightmare.  We are expected to watch every gar-AGE band's youtube video."


To make matters worse, too many fresh artists are uploading their music to sites like Reverbnation, trying to get their music "out there", without reading the terms of use first.  Many times, in those terms is a clause which would allow the licensing of the artist's uploaded music without any recompense to the artist. 


And if Pandora pushes their legislation, it will lower the royalty rates in the world of digital music access for the artist even further, as if it wasn't low enough.


If I wasn't more concerned with the production of music which expresses feelings, stories and pictures, it would not even be worth the bother...But after all, music is for sharing.  You just have to protect yourself and continue to search for the safe and productive avenues for sharing....And wait to see how the music industry continues to develop.




Cynthia Smith

Smittys Kitchen

hi Cynthia, yes i agree you have to forge on with with music. The web is an ever-evolving monster. But thankfully it hasnt replaced the magic of seeing real people perform in a real room. Also i think people with non mainstream musical taste who are not well known can have some kind of presence and or contact through the web.

lovely music by the way.

Thank you Maurice for the lovely compliment!  Glad you enjoyed the music!  Thanks for giving it a listen!

I agree on both points!  It's so nice to hear musicians perform live and then have a chance to meet them afterward and chat.  And I have met so many fine musicians because of the internet.....Just have to be careful  how you use it!

So maybe we'll meet up one day!  Never know...The pond isn't so big as it used to be.


Cynthia Smith

Smitty's Kitchen,


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