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Selling CDs and Downloads

Selling CDs and Downloads by Norman Lamont

Ever thought you might get rich from your music? No, I didn’t think so, but you might still want to offer CDs and downloads for sale.

There are arguments for and against offering paid downloads – there are lots of people who refuse to pay for downloads, and can get anything they want on Limewire or whatever. Others sign up to subscription services like iTunes and Napster and pay 50p or so for a ‘legal’ download. As struggling indie songsters we can choose to give away our music so that it simply reaches more ears, or we can say that listeners will value it more if they pay a small fee for it. These arguments can and do continue on our discussion forum. For now we’ll assume you want to offer paid downloads and sell CDs.

We’ll also assume for this post that you have your own website, that is your own hosting space, not just a MySpace site. I’m sure there are ways to sell downloads and set up shops via MySpace but others who know more can write about them.

Free music
The easiest way, of course, to give away an mp3 of your song, is simply to put it on your webspace and offer a link to it eg: http://www.mywebaddress.com/downloads/myfabbysong.mp3

Anyone clicking that link will be offered the option to save the file to their PC and that’s that.
Another simple way to let people hear the songs freely but not download them is to use Wimpy Player. It puts a little Flash button on your page which plays your mp3. There are examples on my site normanlamont.com. The Wimpy Button script costs $19.95 and for that you use it as often as you want. Once you get it, if you want to reduce the amount of code on your page for each instance of it, contact me and I’ll show you how I make each link in a few words. Before I used Wimpy I used to make an mp3 for downloads then convert it to WMA (Windows Media) for streaming, and had to upload both files plus an extra text file that allowed the streaming. Wimpy is a simpler and more satisfying solution, as the same mp3 serves for streaming or, if you want to offer it, free download.

Setting up shop

The simplest and cheapest shop software I’ve come across is Digital Goods Store, which lets you set up an online shop for any downloads. It costs £9.99 and the producers will install it for you – they’re very helpful. Be aware, though, that if you want to group your downloads into categories e.g. albums, you need buy the categories add-on for another £14.99! The store is very basic – it allows you to customise the appearance of your store page (somewhat), and list items you want to sell, which must be in a designated folder on your server. The finance is handled by PayPal so you need a PayPal account in order to receive any money. It’s only intended to sell downloads, not actual CDs. You can see it in action at normanlamont.com shop.

A bit more upmarket but offering much more is DLGuard, which allows you to set up a ‘protected’ area of your site which includes a shop for both digital and ‘real’ products, but can also include members-only pages, free downloads, mailing lists and newsletters. There’s a good video walkthrough of it at www.musicianscooler.com/dlg

Finally, if you just want to sell CDs but not downloads, simply get a PayPal button – free – from PayPal. Look under Merchant Tools and you’ll find Buy Now buttons – you fill in on a form the name of the CD and how much you want to charge, and it generates a paragraph of encrypted rubbish, which you paste into your web page. When you view the page, there’s a PayPal button which your fans can click and buy the CD. You receive an email saying the money’s in your PayPal account and the address to send the CD. This one I know you can put in a MySpace page too.

Norman Lamont

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