Effectively Sell, Market, and Distribute Your Music.

1. Introduction
Smaller labels are slowly, and surely becoming obsolete, if you have a computer, good headphones, decent set of ears, and music that'll sale, there's not very many circumstances where a label will push your music much further than you can by yourself with a bit of time and hard work. It doesn't take a huge investment, or any money at all to get started if you already have the hardware. If you have the talent, and time to invest, you can build a fanbase. Even if it's one fan at a time it'll add up. In this article, I'll show you how to distribute music online on a professional level.

2. Some of the cheapest ways to sale your music digitally and physically, and essentials you'll need.

Bandcamp is a free site where you have complete control over price and content, and they only take 15% (10% after you make a certain amount) which is half of what most major digital distributors take. You can even make albums free, and people can be given the option to pay more than what you ask for the album, including free ones. You can also sale Physical copies of albums through bandcamp, which includes an immediate digital copy for the buyer, of course you have to actually send the CD yourself (we'll get to that) if you're doing this the cheapest way possible. If you're flat broke, this would be the best site to start on, you could literally build something from nothing here.

Catapult is one of the cheapest distribution sites. For small service fees, they'll distribute your music to 10+ digital music stores including iTunes, Spotify, and AmazonMP3. Additional services that are cheap compared to other sites include copyright, which isn't required, but is recommended. They'll put your music in the soundscan database (SoundScan is the sales source for the Billboard music charts,) generate UPC codes (required for major online distribution,) and generate bar codes. They also offer professional mastering. They do take 9% of sales, but hey, it's less than a lot of labels would take. They also let you sale elsewhere, and if you want, they'll remove your music from the online stores with a 30 days notice. It's pretty much a one stop shop for selling an album, single, or ringtone.

Mixonic is a printing company, anything from posters, to shirts, to hats, etc. but most important to musicians, full color CD's and booklets. One of the best things is there's no minimum to order, you can order only 1 CD, or 100. It's very cheap, full colored prints. They also offer quality check, and shrink wrap, and there are quite a few options to choose from. I ordered 10 copies full color, 4 page booklet from the site, and they came out great.

Shipping your CD to buyers
For shipping a CD in an envelope from the united states it costs around 8-10 dollars to ship to Canada, 14 dollars to ship to the UK, and 2.50-4 dollars to ship an order to any state in the US (excluding Hawaii and Alaska.) When shipping to certain countries, you have to fill out a customs form, it's very quick, it just asks a few questions, and wants you to write the customers and your adress and number.
Some artists I've seen opt to register a label, but not signing any artists, just for themselves. I believe the benefits of this is you can get onto digital stores and not have a distributor to take a cut out of it. It's hard to find info on this specifically, but Diskowarp and Lapfox are two labels that are made up of only one artist.

Art is very important, decent artwork is honestly not very expensive if you can find the write artist, or someone trying to build a portfolio. I recommend the deviantart job forum, be warned you wanna be specific, give examples, and put up a decent amount for the quality you want. In fact look around the forum to see what people are getting and paying. Commissioning an artist is pretty easy, and you can look at other sites, but you should be clear about the license for the picture, whether you only have the write to use it on the album, if you can put it on merch, or you get all commercial rights to it. It's also to get it in writing.

3. Marketing
You want to set up on every social network you can, but don't over do it, if you have too many it's likely some will fall behind and not stay up to date. Try to stay in touch with fans, and get in touch with fellow musicians, even musicians who influence you, who you think wouldn't want to talk to yo will sometimes reply, and may even give your music a listen. But honestly you'll mostly be ignored, don't get discouraged though, sometimes persistence shows passion, or they missed the message, but there's a fine line between that, and coming off as annoying.
Releasing under a creative commons license, meaning people can use and share your music in their projects and videos as long as they give you credit, is amazing and completely free advertising. This helps spread the word about your music.
Newgrounds has a creative commons license for all audio portal uploads (be sure to follow the rules there, they don't allow copyrighted samples or clips) and animators and game developers often look through the music there to use in their animations, and video-games. Sometimes game developers will go there to pay to use musicians music in console and for sale games. And animators and developers will commission users for sound design (effects) and music for their projects. Or pay for already existing music. (On Newgrounds I have gotten two console and steam games by answering ads in the audio forum there.)
Another very effective and free marketing tool is sending your music to popular Youtube channels and letting them use it for free, ones that use music similar to yours as intro, background, and outro music, send them free copies of your album, it's usually worth, and they probably wouldn't have bought it to begin with, so it's not like it's costing you anything, this is actually where most of my sales and views come from. Often you might not get a reply, but let them know it'll really help you out, and it's good if it's a channel you sincerely like.

4. Act like a professional..
You're gonna get a lot of annoying questions, and a lot of haters as your popularity grows. Be kind and answer questions if they seem legit. Respond politely to hate mail, or completely ignore it depending. Sometimes people write hate mail to people they're actually a fan of, just to say they got them to respond to them. Also if you're serious about making money, treat music like a job, don't cut corners with music, artwork, and promote yourself where it's appropriate at every oppurtunity, (But don't be a spammer, or annoying about it.) It's also pretty essential you set up a bank account and connect a paypal to it.

v0.1, feedback welcome, any questions I didn't answer, anything I should look into adding? grammar errors? let me know. I'll add special thanks and/or credit to people who correct me where I'm wrong, help e organize this better, or give me something I should add, and I add it. This is all I had time to do tonight.
Last edited by stratkat at Apr 4, 2013,