The Arka Tech

Selling music in the digital age

iTunes, Amazon, Spotify – these have all become household names, though not everyone in the music business brings them up in the most positive ways.

Country star Garth Brooks has been fighting the digital music push since the technology first became available. His main complaint? The artists don’t have control.

I recently released a new album and decided to go digital with it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make this an advertisement for my music. If you’d like to check it out, I’m not hard to find.

In the past, I had always been a fan of physical product – CD’s, vinyl, etc., and that’s still my preferred medium. But I started to feel like I was behind the times when I realized that I had never made any of my music available digitally.

After testing the waters with a couple of songs, I realized that the only way for me to get the music out to as many people as possible, and to make my album legitimate, was to embrace digital sales.

I used CD Baby, one of the more popular music distribution companies, which has partnerships with all of the major digital retailers, such as those previously mentioned. And while I was able to set my own price on CD Baby’s online store, I found that this wasn’t the case with other retailers.

I was informed that each retailer would set the price for my music, but I wasn’t able to find out just how much each of them would be charging. I only found out once the album was made available in each store.

Granted, I’m an independent musician, and I own the rights to all of my music, so I don’t have as many potential problems as a major artist such as Brooks would have. That being said, I still wasn’t terribly pleased with the fact that I didn’t have any control on how my music would be priced.

Although most people are familiar with the 99 cent download, I’ve seen some go for as much as $1.29 per song. Whether this is a reasonable price or not is another argument for another time. My problem is the uncertainty in the process. On CD Baby, I priced each song at $1 and the whole album at $8.50. I felt this was a good price, and I hoped that the other retailers would have similar pricing.

Fortunately, each store I saw had the album priced at $8.91, with each song costing 99 cents. But even with my good luck on the pricing, I was still able to see what Brooks has been talking about all along.

Even though this is just how the process works, at the end of the day, the artist should be allowed to have input in the pricing at each retailer, if for no other reason than to help make sure there’s consistency. If one retailer sells the album for $15 and another sells it for $12, you’d go for the cheaper one. That’s just common sense.

Again, I’m at the bottom of the food chain, and I know I’m not going to sell a fraction of the albums that Garth Brooks will. I’m sure there’s a standard price in place for products that go through distributors like CD Baby, and that price is automatically assigned to each product that gets submitted. But shouldn’t I, as the creator of that product, at least get a heads-up as to how much that will be?

That’s my two cents, and you didn’t even have to pay two cents to get it…at least not here.