How To Sell Music Online In 2023: The Beginner’s Guide
Want to learn how to sell music online? You’re in the right place.
Once upon a time, making a living from music was a pipe dream for most amateur musicians. If you wanted to make it in the music industry, you’d need to be lucky enough to get picked up by a record label, and even then, success wasn’t guaranteed.
But now, things have changed. Thanks to modern technology, anyone with talent and drive can be a successful musician if they put in the work.
You no longer need to be picked up by a record label to make sales—you can distribute your singles, albums, and EPs online yourself, make music videos, and launch your own digital marketing campaign to promote them.
And in this post, I’m going to show you how.
I’ll be revealing everything you need to know about how to record, prepare, and sell music online through your own website and through music distribution services. And I’ll show you how to market your music online and grow your audience.
Ready? Let’s dive into it.
Why sell music online?
Selling your music online is one of the best ways to make money online. Here’s why:
- It’s always in demand. Music is a product that never goes out of style. Humans have been listening to music for thousands of years and will be for thousands of years to come. So you can be certain there’s always going to be a huge market for your tracks.
- You never run out of stock. Once you’ve recorded your music, you can sell it again and again online as many times as you want without ever running out of stock. This isn’t the case for online businesses that sell physical products.
- Endless monetization opportunities. There are lots of ways to earn money from your music online. Aside from selling albums and singles directly to consumers, you can also earn streaming royalties through digital distribution, sell band merch, attract sponsorship deals, sell beats and samples, etc.
- Low start-up costs. Compared to other types of businesses, there aren’t many start-up costs involved in selling music online. It’s relatively cheap to create an ecommerce store where you can sell your music, and you don’t have to pay for things like a physical premise, manufacturing, fulfillment, staff, etc.
- It’s fulfilling. And of course, the best thing about selling music online is that you get to make a living from the thing you’re passionate about! There’s nothing more rewarding for artists than making great music and finding an audience that appreciates it.
Recording your music
Before you can start selling music online, you’ll need to record your tracks.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:
Prepare your recording studio
You have two options when it comes to recording music. You can:
- Rent out a professional recording studio, or
- Create your own home recording setup
Renting out a studio can cost anywhere from $50 to $500 an hour and, if you plan on creating music regularly, the costs will add up quickly.
Building your own at home requires a higher upfront investment but usually works out as more economical over the long term, so it’s the best choice if you’re serious about selling music online.
If you go down the latter route, you can start by soundproofing the room you plan on recording in. You can get a large pack of acoustic foam soundproofing panels for under 50 bucks.
Then, you’ll need to get hold of all the necessary equipment for your studio. Exactly what you’ll need will depend on the kind of music you plan on recording and how much you’re willing to spend, but here’s a list of the basics to point you in the right direction:
- A laptop or desktop computer
- Pop filter
- Audio interface and mixer
- Mic stand
- Pop filter
- Power supply
- Musical instruments
That might seem like a lot, but you can get most of the essentials in product bundles without breaking the bank. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 bundle is a solid entry-level option that comes with everything you need to get started, including an audio interface, microphone, headphones, pop filter, and cables.
There are plenty of other options out there but this is our recommendation for beginners as it will enable you to create high-quality audio tracks without spending a huge amount of money.
Run your DAW
Your DAW (digital audio workstation) is the software program you’ll use to capture, edit, mix, and produce your music.
There are lots of great options when it comes to DAWs. The Scarlett 2i2 bundle I mentioned earlier comes with a lite version of Ableton Live that might be sufficient for your needs.
If needed, you can then upgrade to a paid version of Ableton Live.
Alternatively, I’d recommend checking out FL Studio. It’s great for beginners and they offer free lifetime updates. And they come with a surprising amount of effects and virtual instruments.
Plan the order of your recordings
Now your hardware and software are all set up, the next step is to get organized. Recording music requires more planning than recording other types of audio as you’ll typically have to record multiple tracks separately before merging them into a single audio file later.
Many music producers record individual elements of their songs sequentially in the following order:
- Base track
- Melodies / Vocals
- Supporting melodies / Fills
The reason for recording in this order is that each element you record serves as a guide to help you record the next one. For example, once you’ve got your base track, you can listen back to it on headphones to help you keep pace while you’re recording your rhythm tracks, and so on.
Of course, the above order is just a guide. The way you organize recording will vary depending on the type of music you’re creating, and what instruments and vocals are involved.
You should now be ready to start recording. On recording day, make sure all the necessary cables, instruments, and equipment are connected up to your audio interface correctly.
Then, test each instrument out by creating a brief test recording and modulating the volumes to make sure everything sounds the way it should.
Once you’re satisfied, hit record and start recording your tracks.
Preparing your music for sale
Now that you’ve finished recording, there are a few more steps you’ll need to take to tidy everything up and get your music ready for sale.
Clean up your tracks
Next, we’re going to clean up the tracks. To start, create separate folders for each of your tracks (e.g. rhythm, harmony, melody, effects) to keep everything organized, and delete any tracks you don’t plan on using in the final mix.
If you recorded duplicates, compare each track to pick out the best one, then delete the rest. You might also want to spend some time removing things like dead air and amp hisses. Having everything neatly organized and cleaned up will make the mixing process easier.
Edit your music
Next, you’re going to open up your DAW and edit your music. There are two steps involved in post-production: mixing and mastering.
Mixing happens at the start and involves sculpting and balancing the separate tracks to create a cohesive sound. This might involve adjusting the balance and color, tightening rhythmic patterns, adding EQ, compression, panning, reverb, etc.
Mastering is the next step. This is where you listen to the whole piece as a stereo mixdown and implement the finishing touches needed to improve the sound. This might involve correcting and enhancing the levels and tone.
Mixing and mastering are very important parts of the music production process so if you’re new to this, you might want to spend some time learning how to do it effectively. A full post-production guide is outside the scope of this particular post, but there are plenty of guides online that you can find with a quick Google search.
Export your music
Once you’ve finished editing your music, it’s time to export it from a project to an audio file.
There are lots of different audio formats you can export your music to. Mastering formats like WAV, Apple Lossless, FLAC, and AIFF are uncompressed, high-quality formats that you use to store the master copy of your music file. They’re much larger than listening formats so they take a long time to upload and download.
Listening formats like MP3, AAC, and WMA are much smaller files that take up less disc space, which makes them easier to upload and download. If you’re selling music tracks online, these are the files you’ll be providing to your customers.
Your DAW software should let you bounce (export) audio files straight to compressed listening formats like MP3 but you’ll also need to keep a copy of the master file if you want to distribute your music to marketplaces and streaming services.
My personal workflow looks like this. First, I’ll open up an audio project in Logic Pro, then bounce down to a lossless file format. Then, I’ll create a new project and import that file.
Next, I’ll do some general compression/limiting to get the levels to where they need to be and add some EQ if necessary. Just make sure you don’t overdo the compression or you risk removing all the headroom, and this will cause digital clipping/distortion to occur when you upload the file.
Finally, I’ll bounce the audio file to a lossless format again (usually a WAV file with a 24-bit/44.1k Sample Rate) and this will be the final master file.
How to sell music on your website
There are two main ways to sell music online: you can sell directly to customers through your own website, or you can use a music distributor to sell your tracks on third-party online music stores, download sites, and streaming platforms.
The great thing about selling music through your own online store is that you have complete ownership. You can control the narrative around your music, set your own prices, and keep 100% of your profits.
Plus, having your own site also enables you to build a brand and online community around your music. Aside from the music itself, you can also sell other content and merchandise through your site. You can even set up a paid community and sell memberships to your biggest fans.
Whether you’d like to build a website from scratch or sell from your existing website, Podia is a great option.
It has a generous free plan and everything you need to build your website and sell digital products like music. Plus, unlike other ecommerce platforms, Podia comes with a powerful Communities toolkit that you can use to create and sell memberships in addition to your music files.
These community features make it a great alternative to Patreon for musicians that want to monetize their audience.
Podia also includes a powerful website builder and online course platform.
Here’s a very basic guide on how to get your music ready to sell.
Step 1: Sign up for your free trial
First, head to Podia.com and sign up for a plan. You can start with a free account, but free users are subject to 8% transaction fees so eventually, you’ll want to upgrade to a paid plan. We’d recommend choosing the Shaker plan.
You’ll be prompted to create your login details and select what you’re hoping to achieve with Podia. Select Launch a website and Sell digital downloads.
Eventually, you’ll reach the Podia dashboard.
Step 2: Set up your website
On your dashboard, you’ll see a checklist of goals.
Select Set up website from the checklist and use the site editor to build your site.
Templates can help you to get started and there’s no coding required.
Step 3: Upload your music
Next, go back to your dashboard and navigate to Products > Create first product.
In the next window, select Digital downloads. Type in a name for your music product, and click Create product.
On the next page, you can upload your music files and input your product details, pricing, availability, etc.
Once you’re finished, click Publish to add the music file to your store for sale.
Step 4: Connect your payment gateway and change your settings
Finally, navigate to the Settings tab to finish setting everything up.
From here, you can choose how you’d like to receive payments (PayPal or Stripe) and connect your payment gateway. You can also connect a custom domain (if you’ve upgraded to a paid plan) and change general settings like your site name and logo.
Selling music on online marketplaces
Selling music directly to your fans through your own website lets you avoid the middleman and keep all your profits, but the flip side is that it can be hard to drum up interest in your music. It’s unlikely that hundreds of customers are just going to stumble across your website, after all.
To get your music in front of as many eyes (and ears) as possible, you can use a music distribution service.
Your music distributor will upload your music to popular online marketplaces and streaming sites like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, etc., which dramatically increases your discoverability and helps with exposure. The flip side is that these third-party sites will usually take a cut of your sales.
There are lots of music distribution platforms, but many of them aren’t worth your time.
With my first release, I had a horrible experience with Ditto. They may have improved but the experience was so bad that I’ll never use them again. Most importantly – they never paid me, despite seemingly endless email exchanges.
From the research I’ve done, Distrokid appears to be the best option right now. So, I’ll likely use them when my next release is ready.
How to promote your music
Creating great music and distributing it far and wide isn’t enough. If you want to successfully sell music online, you’ll also need to come up with a marketing plan and promote your tunes.
There are lots of ways to market your music, but here are some ideas for marketing strategies you might want to try.
- Introduce pre-sales. Pre-sales are a great way to build up excitement and momentum ahead of a new release. This also gives you a way to reward your most loyal fans by giving them a chance to hear your music before everyone else.
- Utilize social media. Launch a marketing campaign on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok. Use your own social accounts to promote new releases and consider running ads or influencer marketing campaigns to grow your following.
- Leverage live events. Performing at live gigs and events can help you to showcase your musical talent, reach new audiences, and grow your following.
- Reach out to influential people. If you can get a popular music journalist to give you a good review, it could lead to hundreds of sales. Reach out to journalists and publications you’d like to feature your music online and send them your demos to get people talking.
Need more ideas? Check out our post on music marketing strategies.
That concludes our in-depth guide on how to sell your music online! We hope you found it useful.
But remember: Your music career won’t become a success overnight. If you don’t get a lot of music fans, or make a ton of sales straight away, keep creating great music and working hard to promote yourself as an artist, and hopefully, things will start moving in the right direction.
And as a next step, find emerging artists that are generating sales and do some research to find out what they’re doing that’s working. Then adjust your strategy accordingly.
But remember, there are more ways you can make money as a musician or music producer. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out our posts on how to sell sheet music online and ways to make money as a musician.