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How and why you should monetize your music

Want to monetize your music? You should. It’s profitable, and with the right solution, super simple. Here’s how to do it, why, and where to get started.

September 23, 2019 by Cyn Meyer

For months, you’ve been going hard on the music hustle:

  • Writing and creating new music
  • Rehearsing and practicing
  • Recording and editing
  • Touring and gigging

Which has worked wonders for gaining you fans while keeping your musical chops up.

It’s a rockstar kind of life.

. . . Sort of.

While you love creating and performing your music live to build your fanbase, it isn’t enough to provide a comparable level of rockstar income or flexibility.

Which is where selling digital products comes into play.

After all, you’ve already gone through the hard work of recording your tracks - why not get paid for them?

Today, we bring you four key ways to monetize your music online. As usual, let’s talk about the why behind monetizing your music online first.

What are the benefits of monetizing your music online?

There are four big benefits to monetizing your music online today.

The first, and likely most obvious, reason is that it’s profitable. As a whole, the global digital music revenue is expansive, raking in $2.3 billion in annual revenue.

The trend online is swinging toward streaming music, and the trend offline is to go online.

Digital music as a format outpaces physical formats by a significant margin. Last year, digital revenue grew by 21.1%, while physical revenue dropped by 10.1%.

The second benefit of monetizing your music online is that it’s scalable.

Unlike the limited venue seating at your live shows, you can sell limitless digital music tracks to your audience.

That means your audience can grow exponentially and purchase, download, and listen to the same digital track an unlimited number of times, while you only need to upload it once to your online storefront.

Another benefit of monetizing your music online is that it's easy to set up and low maintenance.

Once you put in the work of setting up the logistics to sell your tracks online, you don’t have to worry about inventory or fulfillment maintenance. Maintaining your digital sales is straightforward, too -- you just need to keep your digital marketing on the up-and-up.

A fourth benefit of monetizing your music online is that you have the opportunity to align your digital promotional efforts to grow your fanbase.

Sure, performing live is an excellent way to grow your audience, but you can also expand your fanbase exponentially by leveraging online marketing efforts -- like using email marketing and social media to sell digital products -- and directing them to your digital downloads.

For instance, American indie-folk band, The Head and the Heart, can promote their online music to their nearly 400,000 Facebook fans and direct them to their online storefront.

And if they run an email campaign, their fans can also access and purchase their digital music with a few clicks.

So, there are a lot of benefits to monetizing your music online.

But the best -- and maybe the most unsung of them all -- is just how easy it is.

You have four options, even, and all of them are simple to get started with.

How simple? Let me explain.

4 key ways to monetize your music

#1. Use a distribution platform  

Our first tip for you today is to use a distribution platform to monetize your music.

There are platforms that pay you for both your streaming music and your downloadable tracks. The payout for streaming music ranges between $0.019 and $0.00069 per stream.

As for the payout for digital downloads, it also varies across distributors but is generally in the $0.60 to $0.70 range per song download and between $6.00 and $7.00 for an album download.

For instance, CD Baby’s digital sales payout averages $0.60 per song downloaded and $6.50 per album, which is 91% of the total income from digital distribution.

Artists on iTunes earn, on average, $0.60 to $0.70 per song download and $6.00 to $7.00 per album sold.

While you can make more money per downloadable file, streaming music is becoming a dominant music consumption format, especially in recent years. Streaming music revenues currently account for 47% of global revenue, which is a whopping 32.9% jump last year.

In other words, you’ll need to get your music in front of much larger streaming music audiences to reach downloading revenue levels.  

If you’re interested in exploring distribution platforms, here are a few to consider:

1. Amuse

Amuse is a music distribution platform that takes no commission and it’s free for artists to use. You simply upload your tracks and albums, and they distribute it to all major streaming platforms and music stores.

They’re known to have high standards for cover art, so be sure to have professional-grade images on standby.

The downside to using Amuse is it’s relatively new and still gaining traction. So, your audience reach may not expand as quickly as you’d like, and you may have to be patient while waiting for their support team to assist you.

All in all, Amuse is a free and professional distribution channel worth exploring. Our next suggestion is a bit more established.

2. Spotify for Artists

Spotify for Artists allows you to claim your profile and upload music directly to the platform. To get started, you simply request access and verify your artist profile. From there, you can publish an artist bio and upload your digital music.

Not only is the platform convenient by allowing you to access and manage your artist page directly, but it’s a platform with the potential to reach an extraordinarily large fanbase.

Spotify’s audience has been consistently growing since 2017, with a forecasted 76.7 million active users in 2022.

To leverage its growing popularity and gain more exposure, aim to get on a Spotify playlist, which you can do by submitting unreleased songs for their consideration.

However, there’s a caveat worth mentioning with Spotify for Music: it doesn’t pay well.

The platform giant pays between $0.006 to $0.0084 per play to whoever holds the rights to a song. So, if you’re working with a team of folks -- like songwriters, producers, or a record label -- you’re splitting the revenue.

The main point to glean here is it’s a numbers game with Spotify for Artists. While it’s great for more exposure, it’s best not to rely on it as your main income source.

Our next option, fortunately, provides a bit more commission to the artist.

3. The Husk

Launched in 2016, The Husk positions itself as the first and only monetized download gate in the industry. The platform works by paying you for every follower you gain through their download gate.

While others like Apple, Google Play, and YouTube bring you a minimal pay-per-stream rate with an average of less than $0.0006 per stream, The Husk claims to be the highest monetized platform in the industry and pays you per download.

It pays a rate of $0.08 per Spotify and $0.05 per SoundCloud follower. Unlike the other big platforms, it doesn’t split anything with a third party. You can cash out and get paid through PayPal when you reach a minimum of $50 in your account.

The Husk allows you to upload your own cover image and customize what you require your downloaders to do. For instance, you can choose the platforms, social actions, accounts, and content that you want your downloaders to interact with.

If you’re looking for higher payouts and consistent billing, on the other hand, our fourth option may work best for you.

4. TuneCore

Partnering with digital stores since 2006, TuneCore claims the spot for the world’s leading digital music aggregator. It offers an annual subscription model that’s based on how often you release music.

They distribute to all the major platforms, such as iTunes and Amazon Music, and you keep 100% of your sales revenue. Their distribution channels reach over 150 digital stores across 200 countries.

The only cost is your annual subscription for using the platform, which is $9.99 for a single and $29.99 for an album per year for the first year. After your first year, the price for uploading an album goes up to $49.99 per year.

All in all:

It’s worth submitting your songs and albums to a distribution platform as a way to expand your audience reach. While the revenue stream isn’t something to solely rely on, it can help you gain exposure to more fans.

Of course, distribution platforms are far from the only monetizing game in town for musicians. There are community platforms, too.

#2. Sell digital downloads on a community platform  

An alternative to the main distribution platforms is to sell your digital downloads on a platform that connects fans directly to you, the artist and creator.

Here are two such community-based platforms to consider:

1. Bandcamp

Bandcamp’s mission is to “create the best possible service for artists and labels to share and earn money from their music, and for fans to discover and enjoy it”.

In support of artists’ careers, they take a cut only when you sell something and provide daily payouts. For every sale you make, you keep 80-85%, and the remainder goes toward Bandcamp’s payment processing fees and revenue share.

You can price your music any way you’d like, and your fans can listen to a sample snippet before purchasing.

Founded in 2007, the platform is now rapidly growing. At the time of this writing, fans have paid artists $412 million using the platform, and $7.2 million of that was just in the last 30 days.

There’s some competition for it, though.

2. SoundCloud

Founded in 2008, SoundCloud is renowned for allowing fans to share music and connect directly with artists. The open platform grew to a global scale, making it the world’s largest communal-based music and audio platform.

While their platform has touted free service for its users -- artists and fans alike -- since its inception, SoundCloud Premier now allows artists to make money through a paid service. (It’s listener subscriptions are now also a paid service).

It’s still in its beta stages, but the way SoundCloud Premier works is systemized and straightforward.

You simply upload a track, connect with your fans, and distribute your music on every major music service including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Instagram, Spotify, and YouTube Music. When you make a sale, you get to keep 100% of your payouts directly from SoundCloud.

Although SoundCloud lets you keep all of your revenue, they charge $12 a month for their SoundCloud Pro Unlimited plan and $6 per month for their SoundCloud Pro plan. If you want to test the waters first, you can try their SoundCloud Basic plan for free.  

But, if you’re looking for a way to truly keep all of your profits without splitting it with a third-party service, our third music monetization option may be right up your alley.

#3. Sell digital downloads on your own site

Another way to monetize your music online is to sell your music on your own site.

For example, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats sell a digital download format of their Live at Red Rocks album directly to their fans from their website.

When you sell digital downloads from your own website, there are a few perks to enjoy.

First, you get to keep all your profits. There’s no sharing a cut of the revenue with a distributor or platform.

Another benefit is that you can customize your storefront to match your branding, something that’s crucial to your profit levels.

Consistent branding across all of your channels and platforms increases your revenue by a significant 23%.

Another perk is, unlike housing your products on giant marketplaces like Amazon, you control nearly every aspect of running your online store and can make your customer experience as smooth as possible.

That’s a huge benefit for business success.

That’s what the majority of companies think, anyway, with 22% of companies naming it as the single most exciting business opportunity coming up in 2020.

Of course, as with most things, there’s a caveat to make: you may need to have some coding skills handy if you’re using a site builder like WordPress. Most site builders require you to incorporate widgets to accept payments, handle backend tracking, and et cetera.

So, if you’re looking for bells and whistles but aren't down to (proverbially) build them yourself, selling on your own website may not be your best bet.

There’s a middle-road option, though. If you’re using an all-inclusive platform, the logistics and setup are seamless to manage from a central dashboard. It’s as simple as filling in a few fields and uploading your digital files.

The platform -- a good one, anyway -- handles the rest.

For example, to upload your digital music using an all-inclusive platform like Podia, you simply navigate to the “products” tab and click “new product”.

A modal window pops up, where you click “digital download,” input the name of your music file, and hit “create & continue”.

From there, just click “add files” and -- voila-- your file is uploaded to your storefront.

After that, set a price, publish your product, and you’re done.

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Our final music monetization method for you today should be equally as effortless.

#4. Tap into a music licensing service

Another way to monetize your digital music is to use a music licensing service.

When you work with a music licensing company, you grant permission for other people and organizations to use your music for certain purposes. The granted permissions are sold as licenses, and that’s how you generate profit.

If you’re curious about taking this route, here are three platforms to check out:

1. Epidemic Sound

Popular among YouTube content creators, Epidemic Sound is ideal for musicians, producers, and songwriters who are not registered with a performing rights organization.

They pay you upfront for your work, an amount ranging from $100 to $1,000 per track, in exchange for the exclusive financial rights to your music. For streaming revenue, the split is 50/50.

Our next option also takes 50%, but rather than owning rights to your music, the profit-sharing occurs when your music gets placed.

2. LuckStock

On LuckStock, you can place your music in nationally syndicated places like commercial ads, blockbuster movies, and popular YouTube films. When your music gets placed, you earn a 50% licensing fee.

The way the platform works is LuckStock exposes you to music directors and agencies actively looking for music to include in their works.

Although they focus on promoting high-quality royalty-free music, they’re committed to supporting a fair marketplace that connects composers and buyers.

Plus, they determine your track’s sale price based on various parameters (complexity, duration, et cetera), so even pricing is off your plate.

But maybe you’d rather work with the new kid on the block. In that case, you’re going to love Music Vine.

3. Music Vine

Founded in 2015, Music Vine is relatively new and gaining traction. It’s a music licensing service based on “sync” licenses, which means your music will be used specifically within a media production.

As an example, it might be used in software, videos, or audio content.

However, at least half of your music portfolio on the platform needs to be exclusive material. For every track that gets placed, Music Vine pays you 60% for exclusive tracks and 35% for non-exclusive music.

The payouts are made monthly through PayPal once you have a $50 minimum in your account.

See? Told you monetizing your music was straightforward.

Tune into the digital realm and monetize your music online

Being a full-time musician doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to the “starving artist” stereotype.

With various ways to diversify your revenue streams, there’s no time like the present to leverage these online tactics.

Let’s recap:

  • The benefits of monetizing your music online are it’s profitable, scalable, requires low maintenance, and allows you to leverage your digital marketing efforts.
  • To monetize your music, try using four methods, the first of which is to use a distribution platform like Amuse, Spotify for Artists, The Husk, and TuneCore to reach mass audiences.
  • Another option is to sell your digital music on community platforms like Bandcamp and SoundCloud.
  • If you don’t want to split your revenue with a third-party service, sell your digital music on your own website, which allows you to control your branding and customer experience and connect directly with your fans.
  • A fourth option is to use a music licensing service and sell your music to other creators to use in a media production, such as Epidemic Sound, LuckStock, and Music Vine.

From one musician to another, continue to play your heart out on the stage. There’s nothing quite like a live performance.

But for maximum profits, we recommend a solution like Podia -- try it free today -- while for maximum audience exposure, a distribution platform may be a better bet.

Whatever you choose, there’s one thing I’m certain of:

You’re going to shine like a crazy diamond.