How To Sell Rap Music Online - A Guide To Digital Distributors

How To Sell Rap Music Online - A Guide To Digital Distributors

The hard part is done - your mixtape, single or album is complete... there are a plethora of platforms available online for you to sell your music, however which one is best for you?  In this guide we will give an overview of the most popular platforms for selling your music and the pros and cons to each one, to help you make the best decision for selling your music online!

 

Bandcamp

Bandcamp Logo

Bandcamp has been running since 2007, and is a great platform for independent artists to sell their music online.  With a user friendly interface, mulitple pricing options, and the ability to maintain relationships with your audience, it's no wonder it has become one of the most successful sites for selling music direct to fans.

Pros:

  • With Bandcamp you are able to gather email addresses in order to create an email marketing list to sell future releases to fans and keep them informed with your shows, merchandise and more.
  • Flexible pricing options allow you to give your music away for free, set any price point you want, and even give the option for fans to pay as much as they'd like.
  • Great embedable players that you can place on your own website.
  • Sell physical copies of your release and merchandise along with your digital releases.
  • Easy to set up discount codes and offers for your fans.
  • Multiple formats available (MP3, WAV, FLAC etc).
  • Pre-orders are easy to set up and fulfill.
  • A good range of statistics on how well your products are performing.
  • Free to join, receive 85% royalties on digital products and 90% on merchandise.
  • Quick turnaround with payments - usually 24-48 hours after the sale.

Cons:

  • Not as widely used by fans as the larger platforms like iTunes and Google Play.
  • Paypal still takes a cut of royalties, generally around 30%.
  • Doesn't have the same image to fans as having your music on the bigger platforms.
  • Requires more promotion to drive fans to your page to purchase your music.

Summary:

If you like a hands on approach and are good at using social media to drive fans to your music, Bandcamp is a great option.  Direct contact with fans allows you to build your mailing list, and selling merchandise is a nice touch also, and it's also useful to keep in mind that there is nothing stopping you from selling on the major stores as well as Bandcamp concurrently.  Be aware that the pricing is impacted by PayPal fees and it it doesn't have the same allure as being featured on the larger music stores, but all in all Bandcamp is a solid platform for selling music.

 

iTunes

iTunes Logo

The biggest online music store in the world, iTunes is one of Apple's biggest achievements.  People still see having your music on iTunes as a sign of professionalism and quality (although pretty much anyone can upload music on there via a distributor), and with the huge number of people using it, it is seen as the number one platform for selling music online.

Pros:

  • Sell your music in the biggest music marketplace in the world.
  • Real-time charts that can add as an additional selling tool - use the hype machine of seeing your album rise up the charts as a way of gaining momentum upon release.
  • Huge user base that already has their software installed on their computer.
  • Some distributors will allow you to add digital booklets and videos to your releases also.
  • Easy pre-ordering function for fans.
  • 'Buy my music on iTunes' comes across far more professionally that 'buy my music on Bandcamp'.

Cons:

  • Apple takes a rather large cut of your revenue - roughly 55%.
  • It is very difficult to self publish music on iTunes - the easiest route is to use a distributor, however these come at a cost.  Some will take a flat up front fee, some will charge nothing at the start but take anywhere from 10%-20% of your royalties, and some will strike a balance between the two.
  • Clunky software means that a lot of people refuse to use the platform.
  • No direct contact with fans means you can't market to them after as you have no way to find out who they are.
  • Limited price structure.
  • Low maintenance.

Summary:

Selling your music on the worlds biggest platform comes at a price, and clunky software lets it down.  However, it would be foolish to overlook selling music on iTunes and missing out on the biggest slice of the digital pie online.  While 55% + distributor fees seems a lot, iTunes is by far the highest performing in terms of sales revenue of all the online platforms, and thus it is what we deem a 'necessary evil'.  There's nothing to stop you covering all bases by using other music stores too!

 

Google Play

Google Play Logo

The rise of Android mobile phones and tablets gives additional incentive to use Google Play as a marketplace to sell your music.  With a rapidly expanding userbase, and no software necessary for fans to purchase your music, it is a solid platform.  It is generally offered as part of a bundle of stores (including iTunes and the other smaller chain music stores).  At the time of writing, Google Play takes less than iTunes per sale (30% of revenue), although when used as part of a distribution deal, these costs increase.

Pros:

  • Reach the largest mobile userbase in the world via the Android Google Play store.
  • Easy pre-ordering for fans.
  • Clean interface and no clunky software means that it is a great alternative to iTunes.
  • Most digital distributors will include Google Play in the services that they upload your music to.
  • Self publishing is a far easier process than on iTunes.
  • Low maintenance.

Cons:

  • Less well known as a marketplace.
  • No direct contact with fans means you can't market to them after.
  • Limited price structure.

Summary:

As part of your overall strategy, Google Play is a welcome addition to a portfolio of stores selling your music.  Make sure your digital distributor includes it in your bundle if you choose to go that route!

 

Spotify/Tidal

Spotify Logo

Streaming services are slowly taking over the world of music - whether this is a good or a bad thing is up for discussion.  The money is potentially a lot lower, but by not having your music on them is a little like shooting yourself in the foot.  Move with the times or get swept aside...

Pros:

  • Fans can directly play your music on most devices.
  • Feature in recommended playlists.
  • Streaming services are a great way for fans to discover new music.
  • Streams are now included in the charts.
  • Low maintenance.

Cons:

  • Compared to someone buying your release, the money is miniscule.
  • No contact with fans to market to them afterwards.

Summary:

While it seems a little like a rough deal for artists, streaming services are becoming a huge player in the digital music landscape and show no signs of slowing down.  Most good digital distributors will automatically upload your music to these sites so it requires little effort on your part, and as long as people listen - you get paid.  How much that is, well, that's a different matter.  Still, those who don't learn to adapt won't survive these harsher landscapes.

 

Self Hosting On Your Own Website

WWW Logo

Self hosting on your own website is another great way to sell music, merchandise and whatever you want!  It requires you (or someone clever on your team) to set up. maintain and keep the site running smoothly.  If you have your own site, implementing a store is a no brainer, and there are plenty of good options around (WooCommerce for Wordpress and EasyDigitalDownloads are two solid platforms).  Well worth investigating.

Pros:

  • As flexible as your skills are.
  • Keep all of your revenue (bar your choice of payment platform).
  • Can gather email address from orders to grow a mailing list and market directly to them.

Cons:

  • High maintentance.
  • Set up costs (both time and $) can be relatively high.
  • Requires a strategy to drive traffic to the site.

Summary:

If you have your own website, it makes complete sense to add your own store to your portfolio of selling options.  Be wary that these stores require a bigger outlay in terms of set up time (and sometimes cost), and also much more maintenance, but it doesn't make sense to ignore having your own platform to sell and communicate directly to fans.

.....

Sooooo, what do we suggest?  A combination of all of the above is your best bet and covers all bases.  Digital distributors like Tunecore, CDBaby, Emubands and Believe Digital are great places to get your music published on the major stores.  If you're serious about your music, setting up a Bandcamp and your own store is a no brainer also.  Get selling, and get promoting - good luck!

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