There are myriad ways to sell your music online these days but often the sheer quantity of services leads to a dilution of returns on your music.
In my experience (with the label Sonic Vista), absolutely the wrong way to do it is to spread yourself far and wide, registering for every service, putting 17 widgets on your network of sites and hoping you’ll see the money roll in.
This approach not only dilutes your music but also takes time and makes real interaction with your fans very difficult. Many artists have taken this approach and we’ve seen bands maybe getting a couple of small payouts every few months, even if they reach the often substantial threshold.
So who should you trust with your music?. The following infographic shows some of the features offered by a variety of platforms.
Spotify, Deezer and We7 are the ones to really think long and hard about. They have ‘ad revenue stream’ models and subscription options but artists only see a tiny, tiny fraction of any monies generated. You’ve all seen the Lady Gaga story right? If not here’s a link.
Of course you’ll probably want to get your music onto iTunes. Apple still takes a substantial commission but their payouts are more generous than the streaming services already mentioned. It is also unlikely you’ll be able to directly sell your music on the iTunes platform. For this you’ll need to go through a 3rd party aggregator such as Believe, CD Baby or ReverbNation. Believe will put your music onto itunes and other services for free but again take a hefty commission of around 30% on top of Commission charged at the point of delivery. You’ll be lucky to see more than 15-40% of the selling price. Believe also operate an exclusive system meaning you can’t use anyone but them to distribute your music. They have also been quite aggressive recently, enforcing take down orders on youtube videos, even if they have been uploaded by the artists. CD Baby and ReverbNation both charge you upfront to get your music onto itunes but could work out cheaper in the long run if you sell enough downloads. The disadvantage of selling in this way is that you can’t fix the prices or have any meaningful interaction with your fans.
Finally there are services like Aurovine, who let you set the price of your music. Fans can even pay more if they want to. They allow you to sell physical releases, gather fan info for your mailing list and also pay you around 86% commission on your sales. Aurovine is a new independent service but deserves to be supported for the extra features and fair share policy. It launches on May 11th, 2012. Register for more information here.
Well I didn’t really expect confirmation from SXSW but it now looks as though Spotify have been found out. A ‘Pennies from the Celestial Jukebox’ panel at SXSW found that they don’t really consider artists in their business model.
Attorney Edward Pierson outlined the desperate reality of the new streaming economic model. “We’re not talking about pennies, but pieces of those pennies,” he said .
Artist manager Nick Stern somewhat sidestepped the problem saying “Its not a problem with the economics of Spotify, it’s a problem with the economics of the music business.”
So the fact that the major labels are in bed with Spotify does tend to produce strong rodent odours.
Stern’s defeatist view that it would be stupid to fight the Spotify model is naive in the extreme.
This excellent article on the tragic situation by Greg Kot can be found here.
This was the unofficial tombstone of the major labels as it hung omnipresently at MIDEM 2009.
Paul McGuinness (U2’s manager) was making a desperate plea not to drive any more nails into the already closing coffin of the ‘established’ music industry. he wanted the UK Government to close down all ISP’s guilty of providing conduits for illegal music files.
As an independent observer they came came across as desperate pleadings from a naive dinosaur.
3 years on and we have an uneasy tension. The majors have cut down on their rosters. They have embraced Spotify (The majors own a controlling share in the annoying ad revenue stream based system). So artists are still getting a raw deal and the major labels (Much like Hollywood will do with film) are still clinging on to power.
I watched the sad story of Creation Records (Upside Down) last night. A clumsy helter skelter of excess which Sony Music swept up (much to its own delight), when the wheels inevitably came off. Not sure i would have bought all those MBV, Ride and Swervedriver records if i’d known McGee and Co were snorting all the proceeds and stiffing the company in the process.
But what’s that got to do with piracy, I hear you ask. Well the music ‘industry’ just got smart. Independent developers now dictate the future. McGee’s modern day equivalent is a nerd poring over source code with strong coffee keeping him going through the night. Independent labels and start ups got smart. Developers have their own conferences and hubs at music fairs such as MIDEM and SXSW. The major labels are attempting to poach all the best ones. They’ll inevitably succeed to a certain extent but there will always be the politically driven spirit of independence amongst developers. Call it the apple ethos, the anti-establishment doctrine. Whatever, they are here and now hold the balance of power.
Spotify is having its day in the sun but looks unsustainable from an artists point of view. My view is that the fans are becoming more empowered and Spotify is not a ‘working’ model. It’s an attempt by the major labels to seize back control. Fans need to dictate prices or download for free. Statistically, users who download free tracks also spend the most money on music.
Neil Young’s comment that illegal downloading was the new radio was well timed and astute. How will this empowerment be harnessed. Enter a third way! www.aurovine.com