In previous posts we have discussed some benefits, learning value and methods of recording yourself, mostly from the perspective of developing your own playing. But what if you feel the urge to share your work?
The playing field of recorded music has never been flatter. No longer do you need a record deal to be heard by the world. Anybody with an internet connection can upload their music to anyone anywhere. Of course, that’s not the same as being a pop star, but my point is that you don’t need to have dreams of fame to be a legitimate user of the same resources employed by musicians of all levels.
You might simply want a platform to share your projects with fellow students. If you’re a teacher, you might want a place where students can submit recordings for your feedback. You might want to exchange works in progress with collaborators. You might want to show friends and family how your lessons are going. You might be developing your interests in a particular musical speciality and be looking for advice from like-minded. You might have music you’re created yourself that you feel stands up against well-known artists and deserves a paying audience. Regardless of your aspirations, opportunities are a click or gesture away, and affordable, if not free.
What follows is a small selection of the array of music-sharing options.
Sharing with Small Groups
Email – I have a bunch of more advanced students working in the Simply Music Jazz program. We are discovering some of the ways we can explore chords, improvise, and interpret and arrange a song. We have each created a group with each other’s email addresses. We email recordings of our explorations and responses. Simple but helpful!
File Sharing Services – The only trouble with sharing by email is that sometimes our attached recordings might be too big and end up rejected by our email service. To work around this, there are lots of free or affordable services where you can upload the file to a shared cloud-based storage facility and let others know it’s available. I mostly use Dropbox, which can be set up to behave just like any other folder on my computer, but there are lots of other choices like Hightail and SendThisFile.
If you’d like the convenience of sharing files, exchanging comments and easily tracking discussions all in one place, you could start a Google Group. You can use it in your browser or via email. Facebook Groups are another option.
Sharing with Everyone
SoundCloud – SoundCloud could be thought of as YouTube for music. You can create your own page, upload your tracks and create playlists. You can follow others and have their music streamed on your page. Others can follow you and share your tracks. You can make tracks unlisted if you want to share with a private group. A great feature is that listeners can leave comments at any point in a track to highlight favourite or unfavorite moments – useful if you’re looking for feedback on your work.
SoundCloud is a popular platform for artists seeking attention in the industry. Create an unlisted playlist to send to record labels or reviewers.
YouTube – Since we call SoundCloud YouTube for music, what of YouTube itself? It’s amazing to me, but YouTube is by far the most popular music streaming service in the world. It seems nobody (other than me) is bothered by the clunky navigation, inconsistent quality, intrusive ads and the inherent need for video content. It’s still the first place most people seem to think of when they want to find a song. Even this blog uses YouTube as its main source for links, simply because everyone can use it, it’s free and it has most of the music we need in our posts. So it’s worth considering as a platform for sharing your music, and is the obvious one if your music is on video. Like SoundCloud, you can create your own channel and playlists, and make entries unlisted if you choose.
If you’re trying to market your music, YouTube is pretty much essential. It could be a bit of a drag if you want your tracks to look as good as they sound, because that would mean spending time, and probably money, on making professional-looking videos. If video quality is not high in your priorities, it’s common to just use a still image or slide show as your video.
To Market, To Market
What if you want to actually sell your music? Once again, the modern world is a place of myriad possibilities never before available to music creators. Unlike the old days where artists waited hopefully for that elusive record deal, independent musicians have the opportunity to market their work to the entire world and avoid any corporate fat cats licking the cream off their bottom line. Of course, those fat cats also had the marketing clout to sell your music in the right places, and you may have to put a lot of your time into developing your own sales and marketing plan. That may involve arranging branding and legals, sourcing airplay and review opportunities and setting up sales platforms on your own. You may not reach anything like the audience a label has, but on the other hand, you can make a way bigger cut from each copy you sell.
BandCamp & More – One of those sales platforms is BandCamp. This musician-friendly outlet allows you to set up your own page and sell both digital and physical copies. For digital sales, you upload the tracks and artwork, set a price and spread the word about your new release. For physical products (which could be CD, vinyl, or even other things like merchandise), you send the items yourself. BandCamp handles the financial transactions, informs you of sales and sends you the proceeds after taking a small cut. One nice feature of BandCamp is that purchasers can choose to pay more than your set price, and 40% of them do.
Another well-loved service is CD Baby. Like BandCamp, you can use them to sell both downloads or physical copies, but for the physical copies you send them a batch of the products and they ship them to each buyer. They can also distribute them to retailers. As well, CD Baby can arrange digital distribution to other outlets, including download services like iTunes and Amazon Music and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. CD Baby must run off the smell of an oily antistatic cloth, because, once again, their take is small. They may charge you a small setup fee but you keep the rest. You’ll still have to sell a few copies to get into the black, but it’s a good deal.
Even if you only sell to a small circle of fans and friends, selling your music is an acknowledgement that it means something to others. So I say find your niche and give something of yourself to the world.