Prior to Thomas Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877, the only method for people to absorb music was to attend a live concert. The phonograph was the first machine to record and play music, and it used special cylinders, a playback stylus, a diaphragm, and a horn to do it. Edison introduced pre-recorded cylinders a few years later in 1889, thereby allowing music to be delivered in large quantities.
A brief history of music from vinyl to streaming
The introduction of flat-disc recordings in the late 1890s, which came in several sizes – five-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch – marked the beginning of vinyl. Shellac flat-discs were used at the time, and vinyl wasn't introduced until after World War II. A 12-inch vinyl record could hold around 20 minutes of music on each side, allowing for significantly more music to be recorded into a single disc. Aside from the records themselves, music-playing technology has progressed as well. Music could be distributed more simply thanks to belt and direct-drive turntables, as well as gadgets like more modern style.
The RCA tape cartridge was first introduced in 1958. The RCA was the first medium to employ a magnetic tape to store significant volumes of music for home use, and it was a forerunner to the cassette tape. This meant that a considerably smaller gadget could now store up to 60 minutes of music. Soon after, 8-track tapes and 8-track devices were created, allowing music to be played in automobiles. Music was now available not only at home but also anywhere four wheels could carry you. The Walkman, invented by Sony in 1979, took music mobility to a new level. This little portable stereo tape player permanently transformed the face of music consumption: music fans could now take their sounds wherever they went.
Music was recorded on compact CDs in the 1980s. CDs emerged into the music scene due to their ability to hold even more music and for opening the way for CD-RW (rewritable CDs). Until the introduction of mp3s and electronically-encoded music, they remained largely unquestioned as the standard music storage media. This increase would go on to fundamentally alter the music business as it was at the time. Mp3s allowed music to be illegally shared via peer-to-peer music services like Napster.
With the emergence of Pandora, legal streaming really took off. A service that allowed audiophiles to listen to thousands of songs without purchasing an album was a tough sell. However, this did not prevent other music streaming businesses from following suit. Spotify is the most popular, but there are a slew of other options, including iHeartRadio and iTunes Radio. These services have dominated the music industry, surpassing digital music sales entirely. While musicians may not receive the same royalties as in the past, these services have opened up the market to a new generation of artists who would not otherwise have had the opportunity or platform to be noticed.
The music business has consistently adopted forward-thinking technical innovations over the last few decades. The market has altered dramatically as a result of the growth of digitisation, with groundbreaking notions ushering music into a new era. Few would disagree that listening to albums and singles is easier than it has ever been.
The music industry's quick transition is a typical illustration of how a single breakthrough may disrupt an entire sector and render traditional industry expertise outdated. The capacity to control physical distribution was a big part of the pre-Internet music industry's power and influence. Physical music distribution is becoming increasingly obsolete as a result of the internet, and the large music corporations have been forced to reinvent themselves in order to survive.
Selling your music online
Making amazing music is no longer enough to gain recognition and establish an audience, especially with the hurdles to entry into the music industry being lower than they have ever been. Artists must be able to develop and execute a plan for releasing and promoting their music in order to create and keep an audience and earn revenue from music streams and purchases in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive industry.
- Start your own website | Creating and maintaining your own website may seem like a lot of work, but trust us when we tell you that a well-maintained website is the most important point of contact between you and your followers. As your fan base expands, you may expect more people to want to show their support by purchasing music and items straight from your website. Your website is your own place, and you are free to post any information you like to help tell your band's or artist's story, as well as keep followers informed about any exciting future news or events.
- Engage your audience | You'll want to start engaging with followers right away. Whatever stage you are in the music creation process, letting fans know you have something coming soon is a terrific way to generate excitement and make them feel like part of the creative experience. You may interact with your fans in a variety of ways, including posting promotional video teasers on Facebook and Instagram and keeping them up to date with photographs and posts chronicling the creative process. You may use your own website to promote and publicize your music, but social media is fantastic to use with or without a website.
- Set up a pre-order | Pre-orders on iTunes may be a fantastic way to promote your new album. A pre-order allows you to make your album/EP/single available in all retailers and online download outlets before the actual release date. You may choose whether to provide a 90-second preview, varying rates for each item, or "immediate gratification tunes." Instant gratification tracks can be released on various days prior to the actual release date, and fans who pre-order your album will get them right away.
- Release your music | It's critical to carefully consider your release strategy. Do you want to put out a whole album right away? Or do you want to build anticipation by releasing two or three singles ahead of your album's scheduled release date? Do you want to start with an EP release to get some internet content before approaching labels? Once you've determined what kind of release you want to do, make sure you pick the correct digital release date and give yourself enough time to plan your advertising around it. Fridays and Tuesdays are usually the ideal release days, and we recommend scheduling it at least four weeks in advance so you have enough time to arrange your marketing. To provide enough coverage and spark your followers' anticipation, your release date should match with email newsletters, social media postings, and other promotional efforts.
- Promoting your music | As a budding artist, making the most of any promotional possibilities available to you is critical, and thanks to tools like social media, most of it can be done for free or at a little cost. Of course, if you have a large enough budget, employing a PR agency to contact journalists and influencers would be quite beneficial for spreading awareness, but if your budget is restricted, you can also check out our helpful DIY guide to PR relations for some pointers on how to handle your own PR.
- Social networking | For up-and-coming artists, social networking is a must-have tool. It's a great method to stay in touch with current fans and keep them informed about your music and upcoming projects. Artists may utilize methods like Facebook ad campaigns to get in front of any possible new fans who have yet to find them, in addition to communicating with existing fans.
- Mailing lists | Email lists are an often-overlooked resource that are critical to the success of your online music sales. This is because an email list gives you access to a database of admirers that you can view and download at any time. Unlike social media, most individuals check their email at least once a day. If fans have signed up for your newsletter or purchased anything from your website, they are certainly eager to hear from you and learn about new releases. You should always utilize the chance to send an email to your fan list with a link to buy your new single or album, in addition to your other promotional activity.
Many music enthusiasts will only listen to music through streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. While the amount of money an artist can make from streaming is often tiny, these outlets should not be overlooked. When it comes to music discovery, they may be really useful. Getting your song on a Spotify playlist might help you launch a DIY career and increase your sales in the long run. Because music streaming subscriptions are rapidly increasing, having your music available on all of the main platforms is necessary for each release. This is especially true for up-and-coming musicians since it's a terrific method to garner attention and establish a fan following that will eventually buy downloads, CD and vinyl copies, and concert tickets.
- SoundCloud | Because SoundCloud has such a wide community of users and curators, putting your music on the site can help your song get greater exposure. Despite the fact that it is not a sales platform, Pro users can alter or add a ‘Buy' link to track metadata to allow fans to purchase the music from another website.
- Spotify | Spotify, which has over 356 million active users and 158 million subscriptions, is ideal for bringing your music in front of millions of potential new listeners. The $8 billion paid to rights holders is expected to rise in the coming years, and Spotify, with an average artist compensation per play of $0.0044, might help you boost your sales.
- Apple Music | Apple Music, which debuted in 2015 as a spin-off from the iTunes download store, was a little later than Spotify in joining the streaming revolution. Since then, it has grown to over 60 million subscribers and pays musicians an average of $0.0074 per song, making getting on Apple Music just as vital for garnering visibility as getting on Spotify.
- YouTube Music | Google Play Music was replaced by YouTube Music as the company's music streaming subscription service. Through Art Tracks, it's also strongly interwoven with the larger YouTube platform, giving artists a global reach of over 1 billion people. Putting your music on YouTube Music is a terrific method to be noticed as well as earn money from streaming and advertising.
- Amazon Music | Amazon has its own subscription-based music streaming service, Amazon Music, in addition to being a prominent stockist of physical music formats. With such a large global audience, getting your songs on Amazon Music will put you in front of millions of potential fans, as well as provide you with access to Amazon Music For Artists, which allows you to claim your artist profile and access a wealth of global information about your streams and performance data.
- Tidal | Tidal is a Norwegian music streaming service that focuses on offering high-quality lossless audio as well as unique behind-the-scenes footage and extra features to subscribers. In the streaming platform industry, Tidal promises to pay the greatest percentage of royalties to musicians.
Use cases and best practices
This isn't a major concern because most distribution networks can transmit your music to all major streaming services. When looking for distribution services, keep in mind that there are major disparities in what services distribution networks offer, their price, and their royalty payments.
Let's take a look at some of the most prevalent distribution systems.
- Price: Monthly plans start at $4.
- Pros: It gives you access to all major streaming services and pays you 100% of your streaming royalties, making it one of the more affordable solutions.
- Cons: Ads for Landr's flagship product, mastering software, might be annoying, especially if you're a seasoned producer who doesn't need the software.
- Price: Every single plan starts at $9.99 per year.
- Pros: It comes with a set of tools to assist musicians in preparing, promoting, and selling their songs. Additionally, the artist receives 100 percent of streaming earnings.
- Cons: The price structure is a bit confusing. Because you're charged per song, per year, you're more likely to pay out more than you receive in.
3. CD Baby
- Plans start at $9.95 per month for a single user.
- Pros: Access to Show.co, a music marketing tool, as well as CD and vinyl distribution, allowing you to effortlessly sell physical versions of your music alongside digital downloads.
- Cons: Pays the artist a lesser percentage of streaming royalties (91%) than competing providers.
- Free of charge
- Pros: It's the most cost-effective option. It's quite simple to use, and it's ideal for little artists. Amuse also functions as a record company, giving artists the opportunity to be found. The artist receives 100% of the streaming revenues.
- Cons: Only available as a mobile app; there is no PC version. In comparison to other services, the features are severely limited.