In today’s world, more and more musicians are making a choice in favor of independence over traditional record label deals. This decision allows musicians to have more freedom in both their music and promotional strategies. Not having to pay a relatively large cut from music sales to the record label is also a major part of the appeal. However, choosing an independent route leaves a gap in services that labels provide to artists.
Luckily, as the musicians’ preferences evolve, so does the industry. To fill that gap, artists are turning to e-commerce platforms where they find all the necessary tools and services to grow their brands. Today, we will focus on giving you a precise understanding of how to sell music on Shopify.
We chose Shopify as our subject matter because it’s a highly flexible e-commerce platform that will suit the needs of anyone who wants to sell their music online. In this article, we will not only discuss how to sell your music on Shopify, but also dive deep into the requirements you must meet in order to sell your music in a digital store. Follow our musician’s guidebook to create a flourishing and profitable Shopify music store today!
How to Sell Your Music: With Royalties vs Royalty-Free
Before we can get into selling music on Shopify, there are a few nuances that need to be clarified. It’s fundamental to understand the legal requirement behind music sales in order to choose the right approach for you. Perhaps, after reading this section, you will gain a new perception on your rights as an artist.
To be able to sell your music it must be properly registered with the copyright office of your country to obtain both composition and master recording copyrights. In legal terms, as soon as you put down the pen after finishing your piece, you are granted copyright for your creation. However, if everything was this simple, such an approach would create more issues with music rights than solve them.
It all boils down to one question: how do artists make money? The answer is notoriously complex — royalties!
Royalties are monetary compensations received by rights holders of the composition — songwriters and publishers — in exchange for the licensed use of their music. These royalties are paid out by the parties that use the music and collected on behalf of rights holders by intermediary parties or paid directly to rights holders.
We won’t go into detail about music rights and royalty allocation since it’s a convoluted topic with many intricate nuances that differ per instance. Not to mention, the rates and payout procedures vary greatly depending on the country. There are countless sources online that paint a clear picture of how certain elements of music rights work. For now, what you need to know is that there’s two ways to go about selling your music: with royalties and royalty-free. And both you can do on Shopify.
Selling music online with royalties
To sell your music and collect royalties, every track must have an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) and a Universal Product Code (UPC). These international codes help track your record sales. Without either one of them, your music cannot be published on streaming services or sold in physical stores.
A one-stop solution to acquiring these codes is signing up with a music distributor. They will provide you with ISRCs for each track and UPCs for each release without any additional cost. But keep in mind that music distribution agencies take commissions on publishing royalties.
The most well-known music distributors are Ditto Music, Tunecore, CD Baby, Amuse, and DistroKid. You can safely choose one of these companies to take care of the registration process. Still, it’s best for you to understand what these codes are and the purpose behind them.
What is ISRC?
An ISRC is a 12-character, alphanumeric code assigned to a unique recording of a specific song. Think about it as a “digital fingerprint” that identifies your track. The code represents basic information that links the rights holder to their song.
Each ISRC is encoded into the sound recordings of the songs. This allows the broadcasters and streaming services to read the metadata attached to the recordings and keep track of the song’s lifespan. Every song you release must have a unique ISRC code attached to it in order to allocate royalties from music sales correctly.
To obtain ISRC codes for your tracks, contact your national ISRC agency.
What is UPC?
A UPC represents your music as a complete physical or digital product, in contrast to an ISRC which represents individual sound recordings. It consists of a barcode with a unique GTIN-12 number beneath. For each release, whether it’s a single, EP, or an album, you need a separate UPC. The purpose of having a UPC is the same as with ISRC — track your music sales and lifespan.
The only way to get UPCs is through GS1. Barcodes provided by GS1 work internationally, so you won’t have to obtain separate UPCs for each country.
It should be quite clear by now that without proper ISRC and UPC registration, you cannot collect royalties from the compositions you sell. Most professional musicians work with record labels, so going through these procedures is uncommon for them. However, for artists and beat-makers that create music as a hobby, registering every track can be costly and tedious.
Luckily, most e-commerce platforms still give you an opportunity to sell music as a one time purchase without royalties. Meaning anyone can purchase your song or beat and use it as they see fit. Most musicians would be uncomfortable not receiving any royalties from their songs. But if you’re looking to simply earn some money from selling your beats and samples, Shopify is still the platform you want to use.
Why Choose Shopify to Sell Your Music?
So, whether you’ve chosen to sell royalty-free or with royalties, we consider Shopify the best platform to sell music on a website. Let’s uncover Shopify’s best qualities.
#1 Easy to use
First and foremost, Shopify is the best choice for artists because of its ease of use and extensive customization options. Shopify is a fairly intuitive and user-friendly platform that won’t require any specific knowledge to setup and launch a music store. It’s a perfect fit for musicians who may be unfamiliar with e-commerce.
#2 Abundance of apps
One of Shopify’s strongest points is the sheer multitude of apps made to improve and expand the functionality of your online music store. The installation process is usually quick, which allows you to start using the apps right away.
#3 Customizable design
With Shopify, you won’t have to worry that your store looks basic or doesn’t translate your distinct style. Shopify theme store features hundreds of ready-made themes to make sure no e-commerce niche is left neglected.
You can choose a theme that looks the best to you and customize the visual parts of your store to reflect your image as an artist. And if you find that none of the themes are quite right, you can always create a custom Shopify theme from the ground up.
#4 Justifiable fees
Although Shopify is a monthly subscription-based platform, the fees are justified since Shopify provides and takes full responsibility for the web hosting for your online store. That means when you manage to drive high levels of traffic to your Shopify music store, potential downtimes won’t become a problem. So you can safely go ahead and drop that new album for a crowd of eager fans!
How to Sell Music on Shopify with Royalties
Self-distributing your songs through Shopify has never been easier. All you need to start selling music on Shopify can be found within one specialized application — Single — which is what we’ll focus on in this section.
Single lets you sell singles, albums, beats, and merchandise just like any product on Shopify. Apart from being able to sell digital releases, with Single you can sell CDs, vinyls, and tapes in your online store. By signing up to the app, you also unlock a set of useful analytics tools, so you can track and manage your sales and adjust your marketing accordingly.
Additionally, you can combine a digital release with any physical product in your Shopify store to create a bundle. For example, you can bundle a merch item or a physical copy of your release (that you create through a Shopify admin) with a digital release right from the Single dashboard.
One winning feature of Single is automated sales reporting to SoundScan — the entity behind the official Billboard charts. You can tag your physical release to report your sales to official charts in a matter of a few clicks. On top of that, all digital releases that you upload to Single are automatically reported to SoundScan on a daily basis at 10 AM EST. This feature alone makes Single the most proficient app to sell music on Shopify.
Keep in mind that if you include multiple releases within one bundle, only one UPC can be reported to the charts.
Although the app is free to install, it charges you $0.15 per track, capped at $2 per album, for their services. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged with anything until your release is published and a fan has purchased it.
Create a digital release in Single
So, how to sell your music using Single? Your first step would be to create a digital release. Creating a digital release in Single means uploading your existing release to the platform. This could be your album, EP, or a single. You also have an option to upload the files in bulk or one at a time.
Here’s a few important things you need to have in order to create a digital release in Single:
- High-resolution album artwork (1400 x 1400)
- Lossless audio files (WAV, AIFF, or FLAC)
- Release UPC
- Tracks ISRCs
Step-by-step guide to creating a digital release in Single
Follow the steps outlined below to create a digital release in Single.
- 1. Select “Create Digital Release” from Digital Releases in the sidebar menu.
- 2. Pick the “Album, EP, Single” option.
- 3. Upload your album artwork.
- 4. Enter information about your release: add a title, artist, genre, price, UPC, and set the release time and date.
- 5. Upload your tracks in the “Tracklist” section.
- 6. In case you don’t have all of your masters yet, select “Add Placeholder Track” to reserve the spot for the audio in the tracklist.
- 7. Enter information about every track on the release: track title, main and featured artists, ISRC, price, and track release time and date.
- 8. In the “Optional Info” panel you can add track producers, writers, and lyrics. Additionally, you can enable 30 second previews, decide if the track is album-exclusive or can be sold separately, and note explicit content.
- 9. Once you’ve entered the required information, click “Review for Sale” and verify that all of your information is correct.
- 10. After you click “Ready to Publish“, you will be prompted to Publish with or without a Tracklist.
Publishing your digital release with a tracklist will create a product for each song in your Shopify inventory. Meaning your fans will be able to purchase each track separately. Publishing without a tracklist will create a product in Shopify only for the full album without the ability to buy tracks individually.
The “Attach to existing products” option will bundle the digital release you just created with a physical product in your Shopify store.
Decide which option is the one for you and click “Add to Shop”.
Congratulations, your first digital release is live and you’re fully prepared to sell your music!
Selling Music on Shopify Without Royalties
Selling royalty-free music and beats on Shopify isn’t difficult as well. In most cases, you will simply need one application that allows you to sell digital items. The most popular apps to sell digital products are:
- Sky Pilot
Although all of these apps can help you sell digital items in your Shopify store, we will focus on the first one — Tuneboom.
Tuneboom is a specialized audio distribution app that lets you sell beats, singles, albums, EP’s, and soundtracks. It’s perfect for up-and-coming artists who are looking to make some money from selling music downloads without the complexity of royalty allocation.
When you sell your music using Tuneboom, the digital files are automatically delivered to customers upon purchase. All digital music in your Shopify store is reproduced and distributed in a lossless audio format (WAV, FLAC or MP3) with embedded cover art and song’s metadata.
Despite the fact that Tuneboom is a more simplistic app compared to Single, it’s also more user-friendly. You will be able to track and manage your sales right from your Shopify admin panel. Whereas Single forwards the user to its dashboard on a separate platform.
Some of the key features of Tuneboom include:
- Built-in 30 second audio previews
- Album template with a tracklist
- Sound kits
- Automated and customizable order confirmation emails
- Download links with expiry mechanism
Once you log into Tuneboom, you will notice the “Licenses & Contracts” section that lets you create and edit the terms and conditions for the music you sell. However, the legal power behind these licenses is questionable to say the least. You’re free to attach such a license to your digital release, but don’t rely on it to allocate you any royalties.
Tuneboom is free to install and doesn’t charge you anything per track. There are three different plans available with monthly fees ranging from $0 to $29.99, so you can choose the one that fits your goals best.
Upload your tracks via Tuneboom dashboard
With Tuneboom’s fool-proof navigation, setting up your inventory to begin selling music downloads will only take a few minutes. Below, we will walk you through the process of creating and publishing a song in your Shopify store using Tuneboom.
- 1. In the “Tracks” section, click on “Create a new track”.
- 2. Upload the artwork for your song.
- 3. Enter track information: title, track type, price, release date, and a description.
- 4. On the right-hand side panel you can add further information about the song, such as genre, mood, beats per minute, musical key, and tags.
- 5. In the “Audio files for download”, click “Browse” to find the audio file on your computer and upload it to Tuneboom.
- 6. In the “Audio files for preview”, click “Browse” and select the same audio file to enable a 30 second preview.
- 7. In the “Selling preferences” you’re given the option to mark the track as “Not for sale”, “Private”, and allow for previews.
- 8. Additionally, you can select the license you want to attach to your song.
- 9. Add collaborators that worked on the track if needed.
- 10. Once you’re done, click “Save”.
Congratulations, your first track has been published to your Shopify music store! Every track you put up for sale can be viewed in the “Tracks” section of the Tuneboom app. As well as in the “Products” section in your Shopify admin panel. Now you’re equipped with all the necessary knowledge in order to successfully sell your music on Shopify!
Shopify For Musicians: Examples from World-Famous Artists
It may come as a surprise, but many world-famous musicians use Shopify to sell their music and merchandise directly to fans. This serves as an example that Shopify can suit any artist regardless of the genre, style, and position in the charts. Further, we will take a peek at various official music-selling sites that were built on Shopify and what makes them stand out!
In This Moment
In This Moment is an American hard rock band from Los Angeles that was formed by singer-songwriter Maria Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth in 2005. The band’s music and visual style has evolved multiple times throughout their career. Nowadays, In This Moment is widely known for their theatrical performances and otherworldly image.
Their Shopify music selling website perfectly depicts their gothic and fierce style. The webstore is easy to navigate through the hamburger menu on the top left or by simply scrolling down to find the desired category. In This Moment’s website is a best in class example of a visually-striking, yet uncomplicated design done right.
Billie Eilish is an American pop singer-songwriter that first gained public attention in 2015 and has now become one of the world’s best-selling artists. Her music and style direction recently shifted from edgy and rebellious to more sophisticated and mature. And so did her Shopify music store.
The website is now full of earthy and natural tones which impeccably illustrates the transition of a teenager into adulthood. Billie’s webstore sells various merch, digital albums, CDs, vinyls, and even cassette tapes. Certainly, any fan who enters her website won’t leave empty-handed.
Adele is an English pop singer and songwriter that doesn’t need an introduction. With her elegant style and soul-touching vocals, she gained a cult following over the last decade. Today, Adele is considered to be one of the most famous artists on the planet, with sales of over 120 million records.
Her custom-made Shopify music store design corresponds with her trademark minimalistic style. Although Adele’s official webstore only sells music and merch from her latest release, it’s still a great example of how personalized design can elevate your store.
Pitch Your Idea Today!
Shinedown is an American rock band from Jacksonville, formed by singer-songwriter Brent Smith in 2001. They are considered to be one of the best mainstream rock bands of our generation. In fact, Shinedown was ranked #1 by Billboard on the “Greatest of All Time Mainstreams Rock Artists” chart.
Their website design is clean, modern and visually pleasing, which superbly conveys Shinedown’s no-nonsense band image. Navigating their Shopify music store is also very easy. Organized drop-down menus and a functional search bar create flawless user-experience that Shinedown fans undoubtedly appreciate.
Doja Cat is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. She first gained substantial public attention in 2018 for her comedic persona and has since been topping official music charts.
You can tell that Doja Cat’s stage presence is more outlandish and quirky just by looking at her Shopify music store. Her website also does a good job of illustrating the power of a custom created Shopify theme. The visual aspect alone is enough to guarantee that the fans will flock to the website and place orders.
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails is an American industrial rock band from Cleveland, formed in 1988 by the iconic singer and composer Trent Reznor. Over the three decades, the band has collected numerous accolades, including 13 Grammy Awards nominations. Nine Inch Nails are known for their wild visuals and thought-provoking songs, which resonate with their audience to this day.
From first glance, their Shopify music store may seem unusually subtle. But the minimalistic and subdued design beautifully contrasts with the bright-colored artwork from their singles and albums. The navigation on the left hand side is easy to comprehend and makes browsing their website effortless.
Overall, Nine Inch Nails’s website is an eclectic mix of visuals that come together in a stylish and contemporary design.
Selling music on Shopify is a more intricate topic than it may seem at first glance. For independent musicians, the complexity of the music distribution industry could become a serious obstacle. Fortunately, most e-commerce platforms recognize the gap in artist services and provide multiple solutions to sell music on a website. And judging from almost a decade of Whidegroup’s experience as an e-commerce development company, we can confidently say that Shopify is the best fit for musicians.
Take a Look at Our Shopify Development Services!
In this article, we unraveled how to sell music on Shopify and the hidden pitfalls that come with it. Whether you sell official releases or royalty-free music, you can now make an informed decision which music selling app suits your needs best. And if you need any help setting up and customizing your Shopify store, feel free to drop us a line anytime. With Whidegroup, you can rest assured that your online music store represents you as an artist in the best possible way!