It has never been easier to create music, even for a neophyte, thanks to the countless digital tools available today. And more importantly, it’s never been easier to sell them too. Whether it’s your own songs, compositions played on the piano, guitar or with the help of DAW, there are many solutions that allow you to sell them with just a few clicks!
- Here's the program
- What’s it all about creating music today?
- How to get started in music creation?
- How to learn how to create music?
- How to sell your music, and where?
- Pros and Cons
- Information recap
What’s it all about creating music today?
We all know what being a singer or musician means. But for those of you who think of the 80’s variety artists, you should know that things have changed a lot since the emergence of the digital age. The way to create, produce and sell your own creations is now very different.
If you are a musician, or if you master DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, sometimes called CAM (computer-assisted music) software), whether you are a singer, a DJ, a composer, a band member or a orchestra conductor, the opportunities allowing you to make a living out of your passion, or at least to earn a complementary income from it, are now much more numerous and accessible than before.
Anyone (or almost anyone) can create and sell their music online, regardless of the genre or style. What matters most is that you master the tools you’ll need to use, and above all that you produce something that your fans will like. From there, the solutions allowing you to propose your music/songs for sale are numerous, as we will see later.
How to get started in music creation?
If you are a beginner, getting started may be a little more difficult. First of all, if you don’t already play a musical instrument, it is better to give up the idea of selling music created with real instruments, because the learning time is usually quite long (unless of course you have the time and you really feel the desire).
In this case, you can choose to go into the creation of computer-assisted music. Computer music creation is indeed much more accessible and allows everyone to create digital music in a much shorter time than it takes to learn to play an instrument. Thanks to the numerous possibilities offered by DAWs software and especially VSTs (sampled or synthesized musical instruments allowing to create compositions), it is now possible to produce almost any sound and to create all the songs or music you want.
The prerequisite is of course to have a “musical ear” (not the syndrome though 😅) and above all a minimum of artistic sense, otherwise you will only produce an inaudible mush capable of making an earthworm’s ears bleed (yes, even if they don’t have any). Keep in mind that the more people like it, the better it will sell.
How to learn how to create music?
To get started, it is important you develop your creativity and learn how to use it! Start by listening more carefully to music, lots of music, identifying the genre(s) that move you the most, trying out all sorts of things, analyzing the different sounds, rhythms, as well as any other element that you like in what you listen to…
Your musical influences will follow you all your life and will help define the artist you will become (or maybe already are). The greatest artists often became so because they themselves were fascinated by other artists.
Secondly, if you’re new to computer music, there are tutorials and online courses that will help you learn the basics quickly. This information is essential because, as you may see, it can sometimes be discouraging when you first discover the rather complex user interface of certain DAWs and tools. Hence the importance of going step by step and starting with the basics.
If your goal is to really break into this field, I even advise you to take one or more training courses on the subjects you don’t master. A complete training will allow you to acquire all the necessary knowledge in a fast and structured way. And you don’t even have to go back to school for that since there are excellent online learning platforms such as Udemy, Skillshare, Domestika or Yousician (to learn playing instruments).
Here is a small list (not exhaustive) of software that can help you compose, arrange and edit your first melodies:
- Ableton Live (Win/Mac): its main advantage is that it is suitable for both beginners and professionals! Previously mostly intended for live use, during concerts for example, it is also perfectly adapted to the composition of music in studio. The interface is both clear and intuitive, and it is very complete (VST, presets, etc.). I use it for my (rare) compositions.
- FL Studio (Win/Mac): this software is particularly appreciated by DJs because it is powerful and relatively simple to use. It also has a huge native library, many plugins, and allows the integration of the main VSTs.
- Pro Tools (Win/Mac): perfect for studio productions, singer-songwriters and bands. The handling is a bit more complicated, in my opinion. But it remains a very efficient and complete tool.
- Apple Logic Pro X (Mac): perhaps the most complete software thanks to its mixing tools and its variety of instruments. However, it is a software that can only be used on a Mac and is rather intended for people who are already familiar with this type of tool. Users especially like the quality of its plug-ins and its ergonomic interface.
- Cubase (Win/Mac): This one has many compositions and arrangement-oriented features, so editing MIDI tracks is particularly easy and efficient. Cubase is perfect for professional producers, composers and sound engineers.
- Reason (Win/Mac): a very complete virtual studio environment, and perhaps a little more complex for a neophyte, equipped with all the tools and instruments needed to create your musical composition ideas.
- GarageBand (Mac): with a very simple and intuitive user interface, this one is ideal to discover sequencers and start tinkering. Moreover, it comes with a quite complete and fully functional sound library including voices, presets and instruments.
There are plenty of demos on YouTube that will allow you to discover the user interface and the way each of them works, so don’t hesitate to search for further info.
Now let’s talk about VST (Virtual Studio Technology). VST is a plug-in format that allows you to add instruments and effects to DAWs. There are two types: virtual instruments, which can simulate any musical instrument with a master keyboard, and effects, which are there to enhance and modify your sounds, for example by allowing you to apply equalizers or compressors to your instruments.
Most VSTs are not free, but there are also free ones. Among the most interesting ones you can find: Komplete Start from Native Instruments, and if you are looking for more, you can click here or here.
There are also other VST plugins that are a bit more “technical”, such as those for mastering for example, but you’ll find that out later, when you’ve learned a bit more and can decide which ones you need or not. Just be sure to always check the compatibility of a plugin with the software and the operating system (Mac, Windows, Linux…) you are using.
Once you know how to work with these softwares/VSTs and you have well defined your project, you can concentrate on the creation. To get started, don’t forget that the most important thing is to have a quality sound, clean and neat. Don’t hesitate to listen to your tracks on various devices (headphones, earphones and HiFi speakers) to make sure the quality is optimal.
Next, you need to add your metadata: this means that you need to fill in the important information, such as the name of the artist, the album, the year of creation, the place of recording and other elements you deem necessary.
Finally, you need one or more illustrations, as album and single covers. This image must reflect your music and catch the eye of your future fans! To put all the chances on your side, do not hesitate to call upon a graphic designer who will realize for you an illustration both original and of professional quality. You can easily find them on platforms such as Fiverr, UpWork or Dribbble.
How to sell your music, and where?
It depends on the type of music you want to sell. First, there is the classic single or album that you can propose to listen on Spotify, Deezer, SoundCloud, Apple Music, YouTube Music, or any other online music platform, but it can be many other types.
Loops (which can be repeated endlessly), FX (sound effects), or samples (the addition of an element such as a rhythm, melody, beat, vocals, or lyrics from a pre-existing recording into the composition) that other creators might purchase on specialized platforms such as loopmaster ou Splice.
Music for example in commercials, movies, documentaries, etc. These represent a good opportunity for independent artists, because production companies prefer to turn to them rather than to recognized artists who often ask for very high royalties. To start this kind of project, you can turn to the Versus Media website, which connects artists and TV projects, or you can approach the music supervisors who manage the music in the picture. If your music is used, you will receive a license fee.
You can also do “beatmaking”, which means creating musical tracks (in the genre of music you want) intended for other artists, who will be able to add their voice. In this case, there are platforms like Beatstars and Airbit. Note that the first one offers a free version, in exchange for 30% commission, and a paid version that does not take any commission. In principle, when you produce beats, you will have the choice between two licenses: the non-exclusive license, which allows you to make your creation usable by several artists at the same time, and reusable ad infinitum, and the exclusive license, which allows you to sell your music to a single buyer. The amount of the second license is of course higher than the first one.
Note also that if you want to sell an album or a single, a label is no longer essential. You can choose to put your music on streaming platforms such as Spotify, and the others I mentioned above. You can also host your music in libraries, such as iTunes and Google Play. Of course, the problem with the big platforms is that you may not be very visible to artists who already have a big fanbase and who regularly release successful singles.
Moreover, some platforms do not accept musicians without a distributor. If this is your case, it’s better to go to sites specialized in promoting music from lesser-known artists, because the others probably won’t be interested in you (unless you come up with something really great, and then it might be worth a try anyway).
Here are a few sites that could allow you to either sell your music on download platforms, or to make your music available on streaming platforms:
- TuneCore: with this site, you upload your music and it will be sent to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube Music and other major platforms. A single costs 10 USD per year while an album costs 30 USD, and you keep 100% of your revenue.
- ReverbNation: you can create a page and sell your music directly from your profile, and your music will be available on iTunes, Spotify and other major platforms. The site also allows you to find gigs or concert you can play.
- Sellfy: a subscription-based service that allows you to sell any type of digital product. With this site, you can upload tracks from your SoundCloud to sell on Sellfy.
- Songcast: the platform allows you to sell your music on iTunes, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora and others, and can help you promote your music using its online radio.
- Bandcamp: you set your price, the site then takes 15% of the total digital sales fee (10% once you reach 5,000 USD in sales), and 10% of physical sales.
- Wiseband: the site takes a 9% commission on music sales and allows you to distribute your creations on download services (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play) or streaming services (Spotify, Deezer). Moreover, the site can also handle e-commerce management.
Compare the specifications of each site carefully before deciding, and pay attention to the terms of payment and copyright. Also check if sales are limited to certain countries.
Of course, you can create your own online store to sell your music if you wish. This requires some skills but there are platforms, such as Shopify or even Wix, that will allow you to create an e-commerce site quickly and cheaply, and that do not require special knowledge in website creation.
Another option that can be quickly lucrative is to sell your services and creations via freelance platforms such as SoundBetter, Fiverr or Guru. They allow you to offer your music creation services on demand at the price you set. You just have to create an account (free) and explain what you propose: for example, to produce jingles, loops, intros, vocals or other types of services related to music. These platforms are attracting more and more people, and even if there are already quite a few creators, the number of customers is also growing.
Finally, don’t hesitate to join the organizations that deal with royalties (ASCAP in the USA, SOCAN in Canada, PRS in UK, etc.). This way, you protect your music so that it cannot be used without your consent and will therefore be able to receive royalties if your creations are used on the radio, television or even on YouTube or anywhere else on the Web. You can also use YouTube Content ID, the automated content identification system created by the platform, to find out if your creations have been used on other videos.
One last tip: to increase your popularity and boost your sales, don’t hesitate to make yourself known on social networks, by performing live (on YouTube, Twitch or Facebook) for example. It is now almost unavoidable. You can also choose to send your demos to professionals, such as producers and journalists! Finally, remember to cultivate your fanbase and stay close to your audience. And don’t get a “big head” when sales start to take off.
As we have seen, selling music online is not the hardest part. There are a plethora of platforms today that allow almost anyone to sell any kind of music (single, album, loop, vocal, etc.) No, the hardest part is first creating it. You have to learn how to master the various software and DAW tools, filters, mastering, etc., but also and especially develop your artistic and musical sense. This is where the real skills of a successful artist lie.
If this idea really interests you, go for it, but invest your time and why not a little money to learn what you don’t know and thus develop your talents as an artist. With rigor, method, and a minimum of talent, you should be able to succeed like many others before you.
Finally, know how to surround yourself well. Rare are the artists who really succeeded while working alone at home. Make friends who share the same passion as you, exchange on forums and social networks, work with a friend or family member with knowledge or skills that could be complementary to yours. Often, there is strength in numbers.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
As for most online services such as streaming, downloading, etc., the main problem comes from the consumption of the servers hosting the various audio files. This one is sometimes huge and therefore highly emitting of greenhouse gases. Some people say that it’s better than producing plastic CDs and covers, which represent a considerable mass of waste, some of which ends up in our oceans, and in our organism finally. In fact, we have only moved the problem. And solutions are rare, not to say non-existent (if you have any, you are welcome to comment).
The few tips I can give here are for artists, but mostly for users. First, avoid posting/listening to music on YouTube or other video streaming platforms as much as possible. Video files are much heavier and therefore use more resources and storage space. So it’s better to turn to Spotify or Deezer, for example. And if you really prefer YouTube, play videos in low resolution (144p) rather than in HD or 4K.
Next, it’s better to download a song or album than to listen to it online. Listening to it online is often more energy consuming than playing the saved file on your smartphone, tablet or computer. This is especially true if you listen to it more than once, of course.
Finally, you should know that after a certain number of listenings, buying a CD seems to be more eco-friendly. Indeed, as this BBC article explains, “Streaming an album on the internet more than 27 times will probably consume more energy than it takes to produce and manufacture a CD”. Well, that doesn’t solve the plastic waste problem though.
- There are now many tools and platforms to create/sell your music.
- Possibility to quickly earn your first dollars.
- Allows you to live from your passion, even if you are not Jimi Hendrix.
- Requires a minimum of talent and artistic sense, but also perseverance.
- Not always easy to break through because there are a lot of young artists who are starting every day.
- Location: At home, at a friend’s house or in a studio.
- Investment: The purchase of musical instruments and/or a computer and a good sound card, HiFi speakers and the necessary software/VST, it depends mostly on the type of music you want to create.
- Earnings perspective: Understanding music, having a minimum of talent and artistry, being persistent… and then knowing how to play one or more instruments, and learning how to use the DAW tools.
- Required: Understanding music, having a minimum of talent and artistry, being persistent… and then knowing how to play one or more instruments, and learning how to use the DAW tools.
- Risk level: Sorry, but again this varies a lot depending on certain factors, but the risk is globally quite low, or moderate if you’ll buy equipment.
- Implementation time: The time to create your music, so it depends on you.
- Material needed: A computer with a good audio card and good speakers, musical instruments (optional).