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Full Stream Ahead

Getting your music online has never been easier, though making any money from it might be more of a challenge. However, the days of selling CDs in any quantity other than for major-league artists seem to be behind us, so if you want ‘proper’ pressed CDs rather than ‘burnt’ discs, you need to be confident of shifting at least a couple of hundred of your minimum run to break even. My third and fourth instrumental CDs had been sitting unreleased in a cupboard for several years, but recently I teamed up with my friend Mark Soden to produce some new jointly composed material under the name Cydonia Collective, which prompted us to look at ways to put our music online with revenue streams (actually, revenue trickles would be generous) generated from both download and streaming.

Paul White in his studio, 2017.Because we were promoting music under two different artist names and wanted to have the option to add more later, we set up a small record label, Mirror Noir, as companies such as Bandcamp offer a Record Label Contract giving you unlimited uploads for as many artists as you need for around $20 per month. For this we receive 66 percent of the royalties, paid within seven days of purchase. You can also see how many streaming plays your tracks have had.

We also went with Distrokid who charge $35.99 per year to host two artists with the option of paying around double if you want to handle up to five artists. This places your music across all of the major platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer and so on, for streaming and downloads, which saves a lot of time and effort. This time you have to wait three months for your money and sales breakdown, but at least it gets your music out there. Spotify is notorious for paying a pittance by way of streaming royalties, but at least it provides a platform for people to discover your music.

We also found PPL to be very helpful in allocating ISRC codes, which are needed to identify your recordings. Additionally, becoming a member of the PRS is highly recommended as they offer all kinds of useful advice on ensuring you get all that’s due to you.

What none of the above really helps with is getting people to come and listen to your music. Certainly, some will stumble across it and, if you are really lucky, they will recommend it to their friends, but in reality you need to exploit your own social media to help keep things rolling. That means Facebook, of course, but if you can put together an interesting Youtube video, that will help too, as will putting a few free tracks on Soundcloud. Tweets, blogs and Instagrams are also useful tools, as are local newspapers and local radio stations. Nobody said it would be easy, and very few of us can expect to make significant amounts of money, but just getting your music out there where people can discover it and enjoy it is reward enough for many musicians.