How can I sell mp3s from my website?

A while back, I gave some thought to the question “How can I sell my music online?” and concluded that a good mix seemed to be getting it as many places as you possibly can using a digital aggregator like CD Baby or maybe a no-frills option like TuneCore – while simultaneously making it available to purchase from your website.

Well, it’s all very well to say “I’m going to sell my music from my website” – but the actual process of setting up an online payment and fulfillment system is something else again. The process of integrating e-commerce into your website can be confusing and frustrating – particularly if what you have to sell are digital files rather than physical products.

Because when people make their purchase, they want their mp3s right then and there. And that means setting up automated, coded systems – which can be a little more challenging than sticking CDs in envelopes…

Someone else’s problem
The easiest way to sell mp3s online is to get someone else to do it for you. Whether that means have your web developer find/make a solution or whether it means integrating an external shopping cart system – it’s easiest to have the job done fully on your behalf.

There are numerous services online more than happy to take a little bit of your money and integrate some sort of online shop for you (and more than a few who want to take a lot of your money…). And most web developers are able to design or integrate for you a built-in e-commerce platform.

Offsite commerce
There’s a range of web-based services that I call ‘divert’ solutions. These are services that stand apart from your website, but which you link to. The integration is usually pretty seamless: the customer comes to your website, clicks a buy link, does the commerce somewhere else and is returned to your site on a ‘Thankyou’ page.

One example of this sort of service is E-junkie. I use this for selling an e-book on another of my sites. It’s pretty good.

There’s also Payloadz, but from my experience it’s called that because that’s what you end up doing. Your experience may differ, but I’m not a fan.

Clickbank is also worth a look (and E-Junkie integrates with it nicely). Although it’s kind of ugly and occasionally baffling, not only can you use it to sell files, you can offer affiliate programmes, so that people can earn money selling your files for you.

Bolt-ons
There are services available that will just provide an e-commerce system that is attached to your website, and will sell your mp3s for you.

For the most part, these will use a payment system like PayPal or Google Checkout.

An example is Easybe, which – for a one-off $68 payment for bands, or $168 for labels, you get your own online record store, and a bunch of simple, step-by step instructions that will help you upload products and install the site on your own web server.

That said, there’s a worrying lack of content or updates on the Easybe site – and while it looked like ‘the answer’ about a year or three ago – now it’s not quite so encouraging. The look’s also pretty dated. For $68, it’s probably worth investigating though.

Plugins
If you’re using WordPress, then look no further. There’s a brilliant (albeit complex) little plugin made by my fellow countrymen Dan Milward, Thomas Howard, Chris Beavan and Allen Han. It’s called WP E-Commerce and it’s the business.

This will not only allow you to accept payment for digital files, it will also provide a range of tools that allow you to import your products into the Facebook Marketplace and Google Base. If you’re not already using WordPress, then this may be the killer app that makes you change your mind.

Oh, and like WordPress – it’s free.

No, I don’t work for them – but I am a bit of a fan.

E-commerce solutions
There are quite a few very good e-commerce solutions that will handle everything for you.

Foxycart looks really good. I haven’t used it myself, but it appears to be really simple, straightforward, aesthetically appealing and idiotproof. It’s $15 a month, and they host everything. Definitely worth checking out.

Likewise, Shopify does more or less the same thing, and looks great too. It is a bit more industrial, though there are light versions of the product, and you pay a monthly fee for them to do all the hard work.

To me, this monthly fee system is a lot more sensible than a one-time upfront development cost, followed by a ‘percentage of sales’ arrangement that some providers offer. That doesn’t make any sense to me. That’s like paying royalties to the guy who sold you the cash register. So I’m not linking to any of those.

Free solutions
There are quite a few open-source e-commerce platforms that will do the job, but the vast majority of them are based on the idea that you’re opening a shop and have a range of products in a range of categories.

For most independent artists, there’s one category: ‘My Music’ – and so these more heavy duty retail solutions seem a bit unwieldly. For the most part, they’re often quite cumbersome and tricky – simply because it’s designed for the retail industry, not for the solo musician who has a CD for sale.

Web Distortion recently reviewed 9 of the most popular open source e-commerce solutions. It’s aimed at website developers, but it’d be worth your while having a look through and seeing if there’s anything there that suits your needs.

[They seem to think that Shopify is based on a 'percentage of sales' system, but as far as I can tell, it's not...]

That said, the best of the bunch, as far as I can tell, is Magento. It’s gorgeous.

Magento is a free, well-supported and documented industrial strength e-commerce system that is so lovely from the end user’s perspective, that people will buy from you just to experience the interface. I’m a big fan – and it’s remarkable how much you get for no money at all.

Summary
This is hardly a comprehensive collection of all e-commerce platforms, and there are no doubt others that will fit the bill just as well. However, all of these will require a little bit of effort on your part.

There’s more to selling mp3s online than simply pressing upload and waiting for the cash to roll in. Metadata’s important. You want to ask yourself if your music needs to be chart registered (though my sense is that this is usually pointless) and most importantly, you need to ask yourself how user-friendly this is.

Adding images, making sure your bank account connects to your Paypal account – all of these things take time.

There are payment systems and e-commerce platforms that are a dream to use, and there are online stores that are such a nightmare to deal with that you’ve given up by the third page of form-filling. Make sure you make it as easy as you can for people to give you money.

But obviously, there are people reading this site who already sell their mp3s online. I’m curious: what do YOU use?

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69 thoughts on “How can I sell mp3s from my website?

  1. mp3 video says:

    i love music $ you blog unik

  2. claudio zaniolo says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article and found it most helpful.
    Thank you very much.
    claudio zaniolo
    switzerland

  3. Blag Dmash says:

    Great article googled and up ya popped basically all the info you need to research with more detail well done that dude

  4. Wayne Barron says:

    Your information still does not state how to sell music on a site.
    You just point out the basics of what to do, BUT your neglet is telling your viewers what to do to legally sell mp3′s on their sites.
    If you do not sell them through the right channels, you can get into a fist full of trouble.

    Please update your site with information about who to go through to setup a legal pay-to-download music site.
    This would be beneficial for all your visitors plus give yourself a better informational site than what you have right now.

    Good Luck
    Wayne Barron
    http://www.picdrive.net (Image Hosting Like No Other)

  5. Om Singh says:

    I have been looking at ways to sell music online but not mine thought. What are your views on amazon mp3 collection.

  6. RobertP says:

    Why so complicated? Just use PayPal to process payments. (You’re gonna have to pay somebody to do that, and PP is competitive). Make PayPal buttons for your MP3s to put on your web pages. After people pay on PP you just direct them back to a simple PHP script on your site which can serve up the file from a password-protected folder. The password and the URLs of your downloadable files are hidden in the script and not easily accessible. OK, serious hackers can get it if they want to bother. If you’re a famous artist they might, but chances are you’ll never have this problem. You can find free or cheap PHP scripts that will do masked downloads. If you can’t handle it, any web developer who knows PHP should be able to do it without much effort or cost. If you need something more sophisticated, then by all means, an e-commerce solution like ZenCart.

  7. Floris says:

    Well, I’m most enthousiastic about Topspin and Bandcamp + custom domain (then it’s own your own site too.
    Bandcamp.com is the best music store you’ll probably ever see.

  8. micheal says:

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  9. Venning says:

    I found this really useful. As part of my college course we set up a record label and have an album we want to sell. The artists don’t profit from it and neither do we-thats illegal, but we have a dozen artists that have donated a track to the cause. My first searches were useless but a few of your suggestions have potential for us, cheers!

  10. Tom says:

    Hey guys, I am looking into this as well. You’ve listed several options and methods, I also found one that isn’t listed yet, I’m wondering if you have any experience with it: http://www.mybandtheme.com/features/sell-your-music-online/

    Its a WP theme for bands, and the sales part looks pretty impressive. Does anyone use this?

  11. Claudia says:

    Selling your products online might not be as easy as you think. There has to be an effective way to posting it to your site aside from using commerce applications on wordpress and other plug-ins.

    I listed some few tips to effectively sell your product online:
    1. Post the photo of your products. Enhance photos will only do good at first but when the customer finds out it is not what they actually received, they will not go back to your site and buy. So only posts photos of ORIGINAL physical appearance.
    2. Leave a link to social networking sites. The more people can see your products the more likely it will be sold fast.
    3. participate in forum sites that is relevant to your products.

    Hope it help.

  12. Chris says:

    Thanks! This information was VERY helpful!

  13. How can i sell digital files such as music tracks on my website in the form of mobile downloads through sms links?

  14. Darren vickers says:

    Darren vickers hi web carts mm ere mm song cast take the piss r.i.p off yep rip offs is it tercore, yer gun and booms.

  15. Patrick says:

    As mentioned by Claudia, having images, descriptions and good information about the song/file and maybe even a preview is always a great idea. Posting links in forums and communities would also be a great way to get exposure.

  16. @Wayne Barron: Opps Wayne, think you may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. This is advising people on selling their own “original” music not someone else makings. This means they own the rights (hopefully) to all songs they are selling.

  17. Teece hunter says:

    Hi, this is incredibly insightful, and it is of tremendous importance that this information get around. iTunes and amazon are alright, however iTunes want something near 60% of every item you sell, and Amazon, something near 40%. So in an industry where exposure goes up in increments of 1% or less, you now have effectively been robbed blind. Every person selling anything online needs to read this or pay a professional to make a trustworthy shopping cart, when you don’t have to give up half your cut to first idiot with his hand out. Apparently these people have no key understanding of their suppliers, because you must choose one 50% cut to give either; your shopping cart host, your advertiser, your material suppliers, and do the others yourself. You are a bright star in a vast expanse of darkness in the universe of the aspiring musician.

  18. Mike says:

    has anyone any information/ reviews on sellmp3downloads.com? I want to buy their package but I’d like to buy a couple of songs from artists that utilize it first to see how it works. What website do I goto to buy from the artists? I’ve sent a couple of inquiries to sellmp3downloads.com but they haven’t responded yet.

  19. zippy says:

    ZippyTune is a service that allows users to express themselves in the world of music
    and share their tunes with one another