How to sell music: 7 ways to make money as a musician

In the age of digital streaming and downloads, becoming a musician is far easier than it once was.

Instead of handing out CDs or dropping album links on unknown websites, you can quickly and easily sell your music online via digital distribution and potentially reach millions.

While sharing your passion with the world is much simpler these days, the low barrier to entry has made competition fierce. Selling music online and making a sustainable income from your work can be challenging.

Luckily, the world is ever evolving, and new and exciting opportunities to monetize your talent are constantly arising.

Let’s take an in-depth look at some strategies of how to sell music online while tapping into the vast potential of digital.

Understanding the music market

Navigating the music industry requires a thorough understanding of the trends and dynamics in the industry itself, as well as knowing how to reach your target audience.

Balancing both of these will allow you to maximize your revenue and stay relevant.

The digital music industry

The music industry has rapidly changed in the past few decades, primarily thanks to the internet.

It’s now extremely easy to become an indie music artist and share your music on various platforms. Getting a record label or signing a contract is no longer a barrier to making money.

This is all thanks to the digital music market, which has become many consumers’ preferred way to listen to music and engage with creators.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Streaming music on services like Spotify is very convenient and has become the top way to consume music.
  • Music can be purchased and downloaded digitally, either as entire albums or individual songs.
  • As livestreaming grew in popularity, live digital concerts surged onto the scene. Fans can attend tours from home without having to travel.
  • Crowdfunding has become a popular way to finance musicians’ passion projects that otherwise couldn’t exist.
  • Fans more and more contribute to membership services like Patreon to fund their favorite artists and keep them producing music.
  • Merchandise from your favorite bands can be bought online and shipped worldwide.

It’s no wonder the digital music industry is growing so fast!

From 2017 to 2022 it doubled in revenue, growing from 5.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 to 10.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. By 2026, it’s projected to be generating 13.3 billion dollars in revenue.

The music industry is steadily and predictably growing. Streaming dominates as the top generator of revenue – while digital downloads continue to decline.


Music streaming makes up 65% of the music industry’s revenue and digital downloads make up only 4.3%.

Additionally, 616.2 million people globally had a paid music streaming subscription in 2022.

Americans make up 82.2 million of this number. Since 2014, streaming has grown by 940% from only 7.9 million subscribers.

Meanwhile physical music sales have tanked in comparison, dropping 34% from 2012 to 2021.

It’s clear that music streaming is a lucrative, quickly growing market. But to succeed as a musician, you need to use multiple strategies.

Understanding your target audience

Knowing the ins and outs of the digital music industry can only help you so much. You also need to understand how to reach your target audience.

Hip-hop, rock, country music, and beyond all have a very different demographic. Learning audience habits, preferences, and where they communicate is key.

That way, you can direct your marketing to where potential fans are most likely to see it and engage with them authentically.

  • Conduct market research: Use polls, surveys, analytics on your website and advertising campaigns, download metrics, and other data to learn what your listeners respond best to.
  • Music analytics: Keep track of which albums and individual songs receive the most engagement.
  • Monitor social media: Stay connected on social media, Discord groups in your genre, and more to keep up with the trends.
  • Gather feedback: Listen to fan feedback and use tools to track mentions of your music on other platforms.
  • Connect with fans: Build a genuine connection with fans via your website and social media.

When you know your target audience, you can develop marketing strategies that resonate with them – and even write music they’re more likely to enjoy.

How to sell music online

  1. Selling music with your own website
  2. Selling music on online distributors.
  3. Selling music on streaming platforms
  4. Selling music on digital download sites
  5. Selling merchandise
  6. Organizing virtual concerts
  7. Crowdfunding and fan donations

Now, let’s discuss the various ways you can sell music online – and making a living doing so.

1. Selling music with your own website

As a musician, having your own website offers numerous advantages. Most notably finer control over your content.

You can set your pricing and release timing as you wish, retain more of your royalties, and express yourself without restriction.

You also have the chance to cement your brand identity by customizing your website. That’s something that is not always possible on most social media and music distribution platforms.

Take a look at the varied styles of Billie Eilish, Nirvana, and Khalid. Their genres show clearly through each of their unique designs.

Nirvana website

Starting a website from scratch is no easy feat and there are a few challenges to overcome:

  • Initial setup and maintenance: This can be time-consuming and costly. Building and maintaining a website requires technical knowledge. And you’ll need to invest time in updating your site to keep it secure and information up to date.
  • Traffic generation: Driving traffic to your website requires extensive marketing efforts. Established music platforms may take your revenue, but they come with a large audience built in. You’ll need to actively promote your website to reach the same level of engagement.
  • Payment processing and security: Setting up secure payment processing systems on your website requires knowledge of online security and compliance with privacy regulations. Implementing an SSL certificate and using trusted payment gateways are just a few measures you’ll need to take.

Some of these issues can be solved by using a platform like WordPress.

The setup is much easier and there are plugins that will handle most of the hard work for you.

You can also purchase a WordPress theme for musicians. This will give you a good base to design off of and make customizing your website much simpler.

Musician Starter Template

Having a website is important to your brand, but you’re probably wondering “How can I sell my music online?”

Here are just a few ways:

  • One-time purchase: Sell digital downloads of your albums and songs. Offer bundles with discounts and full control over what tracks your listeners want to buy.
  • Subscriptions: A subscription model allows you to collect recurring payments in exchange for providing a service. For example, fans could get early access to your latest albums, live recordings, free merchandise, or physical copies of albums.
  • Membership: A membership model is similar to a subscription model and may offer many of the same benefits, but is focused on community. You could offer access to a private Discord server, limited-edition content, and the chance to connect with you and fellow fans. A WordPress membership plugin can help set this up, integrating features like discord webhooks for seamless communication and interaction within your community.
  • Newsletter: While this doesn’t directly generate revenue, starting a newsletter lets fans who care about your work stay informed. This means more people buying your album or purchasing concert tickets.
  • Merchandise: Many third-party platforms don’t offer ways to sell your merchandise at all, or take a large cut. Use your site to sell clothes, toys, accessories, and even concert tickets.
  • Exclusive content: To drive people to your website, consider selling exclusive content not available anywhere else. Bonus tracks, acoustic versions, and exclusive EPs are just a few suggestions.

These are just a few ways that you can leverage your website to distribute your music and make plenty of sales.

We’re sure you can think of more!

2. Selling music on online distributors

Some services such as YouTube will allow you to upload your music with very few restrictions. Others, such as Spotify, refuse uploads from independent artists.

To get your music online, you’ll need to work with a music distributor.

To be clear: This is not a record label, and you retain the rights to your music. You simply pay a fee to get your songs distributed across streaming platforms and digital download sites.

Music distributors are much less restrictive than labels. With record labels, you’ll need to wait until they decide to release your music – if they release it at all – and many may choose not to accept your songs if they don’t fit their style.

Music distributors will usually let you release your songs whenever you want and generally allow total creative freedom as long as you’re willing to pay their fees.

The question is, which distributor is best? It all depends on your goals.

1. DistroKid



  • Unlimited uploads, no fees: Offers unlimited distribution for a flat annual fee. Keep 100% of your earnings.
  • Sell your music fast: DistroKid claims to get your music up 10-20 times faster than other distribution platforms.
  • Free extra services: DistroKid offers 21+ free services, from marketing and promotion to helpful creative tools.


  • Annual pricing: Unless you pay an extra fee (for each individual release) to have your songs remain online forever, they will be taken down if you miss a payment – which is $22.99 per year.
  • Additional charges: If you want to get online even faster, make use of YouTube Content ID, and more, you’ll have to pay for the extra services.
  • Limited customer support: Users often report issues getting in contact with DistroKid customer support.

2. TuneCore



  • Worldwide music distribution: Distribute your music to over 150 digital stores, as well as on social platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook.
  • Physical media: If you want to sell a limited run of physical media like CDs, DVDs, records, and USBs, you can use TuneCore offers CD replication services.
  • 100% earnings: You keep 100% of your sales from downloads and streams.
  • Flexible payment: Choose either an unlimited annual plan (release as many songs and albums as you want with plans starting at $14.99 per year and go up to $49.99 per year.
  • Free account: Release your music on YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram at no extra charge.
  • Analytics: Detailed analytics let you see what platforms and songs are most popular with your audience.


  • Annual payment: Release as many songs as you want, but if you fail to renew your annual plan, all your songs will be taken out of distribution.
  • Hidden fees: Some services, like releasing on social platforms, do take some of your revenue. There are also expensive annual renewal fees in the pay-per-release model.
  • No marketing tools: There are no dedicated promotional tools or marketing support.

3. CD Baby

CD Baby


  • Reputable distribution platform: CD Baby has a large network of partners both on streaming platforms and digital download sites.
  • No annual fees: CD Baby charges a only of $9.99 for a standard single or album. That means your music will stay up forever.
  • Low initial cost: You can release a single or even an entire album for as little as $10.
  • Music promotion tools: These include customizable artist profiles and marketing tools.
  • Make money when your songs are used: Offers additional services like sync licensing and YouTube monetization.


  • No physical distribution: The physical distribution program ended, though you can still have them manufacture CDs.
  • One-time fee per single or album: CD Baby charges a one-time fee for each single or album you release. Though there are no annual fees, if you release a lot of music, the costs will rack up.
  • Distribution fee: CD Baby takes a 9% distribution fee from your revenue.

4. Ditto Music

Ditto Music


  • Transparent pricing: The pricing is very transparent; you pay a certain amount – starting at $19.99 per year – and they take no royalties.
  • Release on all platforms: Distribution to major streaming platforms, digital download sites, and social media platforms.
  • Promotions and marketing: With Ditto Plus, you receive extra promotional support.
  • Tools for success: Playlist pitching, sync licensing, and even label services are all available if needed.
  • Get published: Register your music to generate lost revenue and pitch to movies and media, for a 10% commission.


  • No physical distribution: If you want to sell CDs or physical media, Ditto Music can’t help you.
  • Annual pricing: You have to keep up with your subscription forever if you want to keep your music online.
  • Slow release timing: Some users of Ditto say their tracks can take weeks to get released.

5. AWAL (Artists Without a Label)



  • No annual fees: AWAL takes 15% your revenue rather than requiring an annual or upfront payment for a wider range of services.
  • Marketing and promotion: Unlike most other platforms, AWAL will help you promote your work and even provide funding.
  • Label services: If you’re not fond of the traditional record label, you can apply to AWAL Recordings to receive benefits like marketing, management, and funding.
  • Great support: Users seem to love AWAL’s fast and helpful support.


  • Extremely selective: AWAL is no typical music distributor; you must apply to use their services and meet their quality standards.
  • 15% revenue cut: AWAL takes a cut out of your revenue. This may not be ideal for some artists, especially if you want to just pay upfront for each release.

When choosing a music distribution platform, consider your goals as well as your budget.

Do you want to pay once and forget, or pay an annual fee to release as much music as you want? What platforms do you need to get on? What other features (marketing, physical media, etc.) do you need?

Remember, you can and should balance selling music on your website and with music distributors.

These platforms can increase your reach and exposure far more than you could accomplish yourself.

Utilizing music distributors will help you fill the gaps in your royalties, most notably by getting your music on streaming platforms that are otherwise inaccessible.

3. Selling music on streaming platforms


Streaming has become the dominant way to listen to music, outpacing physical CDs and digital downloads.

Rather than having to purchase and download albums or songs, people can simply listen to a vast library of music on demand.

Artists get paid per stream of their songs, though the payment is often less than a third of a cent. This can make earning money off streaming platforms difficult, especially if you have a smaller fan base.

Even if you manage to maximize your exposure using techniques like playlist pitching, it’s still difficult to make a living off streams alone.

The real use for these platforms is to gain exposure, reach a wider audience. It’s also useful to direct listeners to your website where you can sell digital downloads, merch, and membership subscriptions.

These are the streaming platforms you should try to get your songs on.

  • Spotify: The largest streaming platform by far, and one that offers personalized playlists and recommendations to users. On the other hand, you’re competing with millions of other songs, so it can be hard to get noticed. Royalties are also infamously low.
  • Apple Music: A very popular streaming service due to its integration with iOS devices. Though the second most popular, royalties are much higher. However, its playlist features are limited, impacting your discoverability.
  • Amazon Music: Well-known due to its integration with Alexa. Robust playlists and recommendations, nearly on par with Spotify, help get people listening. In addition, you can sell merchandise directly through Amazon.
  • YouTube Music: YouTube is an extremely popular website so there’s a massive audience to reach here. However, this website and its users are very different from those on an audio-based streaming platform, and you may find them difficult to reach.

Of all these options, Spotify is the most popular at 31% of subscribers. That’s followed by Apple Music with 15%, Amazon Music and Tencent Music at 13% each, and YouTube Music at 8%.

Remember, streaming platforms should make up just one piece of your growth strategy.

A combination of multiple tactics, from streaming to digital downloads to merch sales, will maximize your reach and revenue.

4. Selling music on digital download sites

Apple Music

Do you know where to sell music online? Though streaming may have taken over the market, digital downloads still have a place in the music industry.

Inevitably, many of your fans will want to properly own your music, not just stream it on demand. Fans also recognize that streaming isn’t a lucrative way of making money, and will want a way to properly support you.

While you can sell music on your own site, it can be beneficial to also have your work available on well-known platforms like Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon.

Many digital download sites allow independent artists to sell on them, so you don’t necessarily need a distributor. Distributors can help you reach dozens more sites without having to do the work manually.

If you wish to do it yourself, it’s usually just a matter of uploading your music files, setting proper metadata (title, genre, etc.), then selecting your pricing and distribution options.

From there, your music should be available for purchase immediately. It’s just a matter of making it known to your fans.

5. Selling merchandise

Billie Eilish merch store

Every music fan loves merchandise. If you’re not selling merch, you’re likely missing out.

WordPress users can set up an online store easily. If you have a large enough fan base to justify it, there’s no excuse not to sell merchandise.

Not only does it please your fans to own a piece of memorabilia from their favorite artist, it can also serve as advertising that could bring in even more listeners.

While t-shirts are a popular choice for band merchandise, there are hundreds of unique options.

Need some ideas?

  • Clothes: Shirts, hoodies, beanies, shoes, and more. It’s super easy to put your logo or album artwork on any of these. You could also commission artists to create unique designs.
  • Posters and prints: Any of your listeners would love a poster of their favorite album art on their wall.
  • Accessories: Tote bags, stickers, patches, and keychains are all small but immensely popular items.
  • Physical copies: CDs, DVDs, USB drives, and even vinyls of albums are appreciated by many music fans.

The most difficult part of selling merchandise will be finding suppliers. Some WooCommerce extensions can assist with this.

Otherwise, it may be worth looking into dropshipping and print-on-demand suppliers for a small-scale project.

6. Organizing virtual concerts


Not everyone can tour around the world, but you can provide fans with a live concert from your own private studio.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many in-person events, virtual concerts boomed in popularity and that trend lasts to this day.

Online concerts are fun, convenient, and safe. They reach a global audience and are relatively inexpensive to fans, since they can cut out the travel costs and attend from anywhere.

And this isn’t just because of the pandemic: the most watched live streamed concert ever happened in prior – 2019 Coachella with 82.9 million views.

Many musicians make use of Twitch, specifically, holding scheduled as well as impromptu events frequently. Independent musicians can generate income via donations and subscriptions.

Take DJ and producer, blklght as an example. His streams last several hours with over a hundred people watching all throughout the night:

DJ blklght

Virtual concerts are also a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with other artists, make partnerships, and receive donations.

Not to mention the additional income from an exclusive limited run of merchandise, or digital equivalents of a backstage pass.


Here’s a simple guide on how to do it:

  1. Choose a platform: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or dedicated virtual concert platforms like StageIt or Veeps are all popular choices.
  2. Pick a date: This can depend on your primary demographic’s location. You can even run multiple concerts in different time slots.
  3. Plan your performance: Create a setlist. Set up a schedule for intermissions, audience engagement sessions, or any special events.
  4. Technical testing: Set up your video and audio equipment as well as your internet connection. Test your chosen platform and perform sound checks to make sure everything is working properly.
  5. Ticketing: Set up a way for fans to buy digital tickets or send in donations as you stream.
  6. Promotion and marketing: Begin promoting your concert through social media, your website, mailing lists, and other marketing channels.

Once the big day comes, all you have to do is start streaming!

7. Crowdfunding and fan donations


People are always looking for ways to support their favorite creators, especially when they can get something out of the deal.

Once they’ve already bought all your albums, what then?

What if you’re trying to start a big project, like recording a new album, going on tour, or creating music videos – something your fans all want to see – but can’t manage to make the money for it?

That’s where crowdfunding comes in.

  • Crowdfunding involves raising funds from a large number of people to support a specific project.
  • You set the funding goal and come up with rewards to give those who donate. These are often given in tiers depending on how much people choose to donate, with more money meaning more rewards.
  • The campaign has a set time limit, usually around 1-2 months.
  • If the funding goal is reached, you receive the funds and can move forward with your project.

There’s also another form of crowdfunding similar to a membership site, popularized by Patreon.

There is no funding goal and no end date, but the tiered reward system remains.

Fans can choose how much to pay monthly depending on what rewards interest them and drop out at any point.

Thanks to crowdfunding, financial barriers don’t have to stop you from pursuing your passions. Many artists make the bulk of their money off sites like Patreon.


You may have heard of Amanda Palmer, who asked for only $100k to complete her album but ended up raising $1.2m.

This is just one of many of crowdfunding’s massive success stories.

Asking for donations will rarely get you far, but most people are willing to exchange their money for even a small service.

Crowdfunding creates a direct connection between musicians and their fans, fostering a sense of community and engagement.

Some of the most popular crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon. But it’s not about what platform you choose, it’s how you use it.

If you can come up with creative ideas for crowdfunding rewards – be it early access to songs, exclusive merchandise, or free concert tickets – you’ll be well on your way to funding your next project.

Succeeding as a musician in the digital age

The music industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace. If you want your music career to thrive, it’s crucial that you leverage multiple strategies to sell your music online.

Streaming is currently the most popular way of consuming music. It often pays more in exposure than anything else, as digital downloads continue to drop in popularity.

Combining digital downloads with selling merchandise, crowdfunding with a membership site, and hosting events like virtual concerts is the best way to ensure you have multiple avenues to bring in steady revenue.

There’s no telling what trends will hit next. By staying connected with your audience and to the music industry as a whole, you’ll be able to keep up with the latest trends and find more ways to earn money.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may receive a small commission. Read disclosure. Rest assured that we only recommend products that we have personally used and believe will add value to our readers. Thanks for your support!

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