How To Sell Sheet Music Online: The Complete Guide
Want to learn how to sell sheet music online? You’re in the right place.
Being able to write sheet music is a valuable skill—and one that you can easily monetize.
Musical score purchasing is a billion-dollar industry, so it’s possible to make a good income selling your original compositions or transcriptions to other musicians online.
And in this post, we’ll show you how to do just that.
We’ll be telling you everything you know about selling sheet music online, from creating your compositions to building your ecommerce listings and putting together a marketing strategy.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Why sell sheet music online?
Selling sheet music is one of the best ways to make money from music. Here are just a few reasons why:
- Less competitive market. It’s hard to break into the music industry as an artist. And unless you’re lucky enough to get signed by a record label, it can be an uphill battle trying to make a living by selling recordings. But songwriting and selling sheet music is a whole different ball game. There’s much less competition in this space, so it could be the easiest way to make an income from your musical talents.
- Develop your skills. No matter how talented an arranger or composer you are, there’s always room for improvement. And the more you create and sell sheet music, the more you’ll develop your notation and transcription skills. Transcribing is a fantastic ear-training exercise and can help you to improve yourself as a soloist.
- Unlimited stock. You only have to create sheet music once and can sell the same file unlimited times, making it super lucrative and scalable. And unlike physical products, you don’t need to hold stock or deal with complicated manufacturing and fulfillment processes, which lowers the barriers to entry and makes it easy to get started.
Creating your sheet music
Let’s start by looking at the process of creating your sheet music and preparing it for sale. If you already have sheet music to sell, feel free to skip this step.
Understand the laws
There are two different types of sheet music that you can sell:
- Original compositions (your own music)
- Transcriptions of copyrighted music
If you’re selling original compositions, things are a lot simpler as you’ll own the rights to the arrangement.
But if you’re selling transcribed sheet music, there are legal aspects to consider.
Seeing as you’re not the original composer, you’ll need to get permission or sign some sort of valid license or royalty agreement with the rights holder.
The easiest way to go about this is to go through a third-party service that handles it for you.
Certain platforms like SheetMusicPlus have legal publishing programs in which you can list your arrangements of copyrighted songs for sale and earn a small commission (usually around 10%), with a percentage of the rest of the sale going to the copyright holder, and the platform.
But obviously, the downside of this is that you only get to keep a fraction of the revenue of each sale, which is why we’d recommend selling your own original compositions instead.
If you’re determined to sell transcriptions, the only way to legally sell sheet music without paying royalties/getting permission is to transcribe songs that are in the public domain (i.e. have no copyright).
Disclaimer: Bear in mind that we’re not lawyers, so you shouldn’t consider any of this legal advice. We still recommend doing your own research and consulting a qualified lawyer.
Learn the ropes
Musical notation is complex.
Before you can write sheet music, you need to be able to read it first. And you’ll need at least a solid foundational knowledge of music theory.
We can’t teach you that here—there’s way too much to fit into one blog post. But there are plenty of resources online where you can learn.
For example, online communities like Noteflight provide resources for learning to read and write music. You can also look at other musical compositions and share your work with other musicians in the community for feedback to help you improve.
Spend some time learning about things like different notes and rests, lines and spaces, rhythm markets, key signatures, dynamic markers, etc., and studying existing compositions until you feel you’re ready to try it out yourself.
Find your inspiration
Next, think about what kind of music you want to compose.
There are two things to consider here: What kind of music you enjoy composing/transcribing, and what kind of sheet music there’s a market demand for.
One way to find your inspiration is to play music from your favorite artists and think about what aspects of the composition you enjoy, and consider whether you’d like to emulate or reimagine these techniques in your own work.
Aside from what you want to create, it is also important to think about what will sell. There’s probably more of a market for something like ‘romantic piano pieces for beginner students’ than ‘My guitar music vol 1’., for example.
But if you have a huge audience, a guitar tab book would likely be a good option.
A bit of research helps here. It’s worth visiting popular sheet music marketplaces like MusicNotes and SheetMusicPlus and looking at the top sellers to see what kind of arrangements are in demand, and figuring out where there may be a gap in the market.
Choose a composition method and instrument
There are two ways to compose music:
You can do it the old-fashioned way by hand, using a pencil and paper.
Or you can use music composition software to compose your sheet music digitally on your computer.
We’d recommend the latter as it’s much more efficient and can save you a ton of time and effort. If you go down this route, the first thing to do is choose your software.
MuseScore lets you record directly onto the staves or build your piece up note-by-note. And the MIDI playback feature lets you listen to what you’ve written as you go.
GarageBand is another good option if you’re using a MacOS. Just open it up and select a ‘Songwriting’ project to start your arrangement. If you want, you can record live sounds or input instruments to automatically transcribe the notes into musical notations.
If you’d prefer to write sheet music by hand, you’ll need some lined notation paper with blank staves to print your notes, rests, dynamic markets, etc.
This is called staff paper and you can find free resources online to print off at home. Or alternatively, visit your nearest music store to pick some up there.
Many composers just use pencil and paper but others will have a guitar, piano, or another musical instrument in hand while they work.
It helps if you can play an instrument yourself to see how the arrangement you’re working on sounds as you write. You can’t go wrong with a piano, since it’s the most visual instrument, and you have all the notes laid out in front of you.
Write your sheet music
The next step is to compose your sheet music, starting with the melody and building it up from there.
Again, it’s outside of the scope of this article to explain everything that goes into musical composition. So for the sake of brevity, we’ll assume you already know how to do this part.
If not, this Wikihow does a pretty good job of explaining the basic steps.
Many composers find it helpful to keep replaying the tune as they’re composing, as this can help you to notice parts that you want to change.
Once you’ve written your sheet music, you’ll need to prepare it for sale.
If you’ve used music composition software, you can export it as a PDF file ready to upload to your website/marketplace.
If you wrote it by hand, you’ll need to use a scanning app to get a digital image and convert it to a PDF.
It’s up to you how you want to bundle your products up. If you want to sell sheet music for individual songs, you’ll obviously need a separate PDF for each song.
But you might also want to create a larger PDF with multiple compositions for different songs that you can sell as a songbook.
How to sell sheet music on your website
The best way to sell your sheet music online is direct to customers from your own website.
This is much more lucrative than selling through third-party websites, as there’s no middleman to take a cut out of your profits. So you keep 100% of your store revenue. And you have complete control over your prices, storefront design, sales funnels, etc.
Plus, having your own website opens up more opportunities for you to make money from music over the long term.
For example, in addition to digital sheet music, you can also use your website to sell beats, print-on-demand merchandise, songs, albums, etc.
And don’t worry, it isn’t hard to build your own sheet music ecommerce website. You can be up and running in under an hour. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Sign up for Sellfy
First, you’re going to use an ecommerce platform to build your site.
We’d recommend Sellfy—a powerful and easy-to-use platform that’s built for creators who sell digital products (like online sheet music)
It charges no additional transaction fees and offers unlimited bandwidth and storage out of the box. It also comes with top-of-the-line anti-piracy tools like PDF stamping and some neat features like built-in print-on-demand fulfillment
To sign up, visit the Sellfy pricing page and select a plan. We’d recommend the Starter plan for beginners as it’s the most economical option and should have everything you need.
You can even try it out with a 14-day trial without having to pay a penny.
Once you’ve signed up, log into your account and click through the initial setup wizard.
Sellfy will give you the option of connecting to your existing website or building a new Sellfy storefront from scratch. If you don’t already have a site, choose the latter and head to your dashboard.
Step 2: Customize your storefront
The next step is to customize the way your store looks.
To get started, go to your Store settings and choose a premade template/theme that matches the kind of design you’d like to go for.
Then, open it up in the Store Customizer to change the colors, text, images, etc. as needed. You can also start from a blank canvas and design your theme from scratch in the customizer.
We’d also suggest connecting a custom domain to your sheet music store. Your domain is the URL your website will be live on, and you can register it from any domain registrar, such as Namecheap.
Step 3: Upload your sheet music files
Next, you’re going to create your product page.
From your dashboard, open up the Products section and navigate to Digital product > Add new product.
Then, upload your music sheet as a PDF file and click Save product to create your product page.
You can also use the built-in privacy pools like PDF stamping, password-protected and write-protected PDFs, etc. to help stop piracy of your work.
Step 4: Set up payments
When you add your music sheet product, you’ll need to choose a price.
If you’re selling individual sheet music compositions, we’d recommend somewhere between $2 – $10, but you may be able to charge more for large compilations/songbooks.
You can also utilize flexible pricing options. For example, you can set up pay-what-you-want pricing where customers have the option of downloading your sheet music for free and can voluntarily pay whatever they think it’s worth.
Or you can bundle up your sheet music with other files, like original recordings and albums, etc.
You might even consider setting up subscription payment options to sell composition services. For example, to musicians who want to turn their songs into sheet music for their fans, music ministries looking for arrangements, or music teachers who want piano or vocal scores
You’ll need to connect a payment gateway before you can actually start taking payments, too.
To do so, go back to your Store settings page and select Payment settings. Then, select your preferred gateway and connect your account.
Sellfy integrates with both Stripe and PayPal (the two most popular payment gateways). and your earnings are transferred to your account immediately after a customer makes a purchase so you can get paid straight away.
How to sell sheet music on marketplaces
The main downside to selling through your own website is it can be harder to make sheet music sales if you don’t have an existing audience to market your products to.
That’s why many composers choose to sell their sheet music on marketplaces instead.
If you go down this route, you can sign up for platforms like SheetMusicPlus, SheetMusicDirect, or MusicNotes and list your products there.
These marketplaces have an existing customer base and get tons of monthly traffic, so it’s easier to reach potential customers and make sales.
But the tradeoff is that you’ll only make a fraction of what you could earn selling through your own site per sale.
That’s because most marketplaces take a big chunk of your sales as their cut and only pay you a small commission, which can be as low as 10% and is rarely over 50%.
Marketing your sheet music
It’s not enough to just upload your sheet music to your site or marketplace and expect the sales to roll in.
If you want people to buy your sheet music, you’ll probably have to spend time and effort promoting it.
Here are some marketing strategies you can try:
- Share music videos on YouTube and TikTok. These are the best social media platforms for artists and composers and can help you to get a ton of exposure fast. Work on growing your following and then monetize your account by sharing links that your audience can click to buy sheet music of your original compositions.
- Utilize discounts and promotions. Sellfy has a bunch of powerful built-in marketing tools, including the ability to set up coupon codes and limited-time discounts. You can use these promotional offer tools to incentivize your site visitors and leads to make a purchase.
- Set up email marketing. Sellfy also comes with built-in email marketing capabilities. So you can run email campaigns that nurture leads with welcome sequences, thank you emails, special deal announcements, upsell emails, etc.
- Focus on SEO. Whether you’re selling on your own site or through marketplaces, it’s worth thinking about SEO (search engine optimization). Optimizing your listings for carefully selected keywords can help you to reach more potential customers and get more organic traffic to your product pages.
For more ideas, check out our roundup of the best marketing strategies for musicians.
That concludes our comprehensive guide on how to sell sheet music online.
Hopefully, you now have all the information you need to craft your compositions and start selling.
And remember: You can maximize your earnings by selling other music products alongside your sheet music. For more guidance, you can check out our beginner’s guide on how to sell music online.