FORTUNE Small Business:

How to get your indie music to the masses

Online distributors can boost your career, but marketing remains critical.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I am a raggaeton music artist. Everyone that hears my music absolutely loves it, but I've tried to get signed by several independent record label companies and have been used for my music and received no money in return. I would love to be able to market my own music through digital distribution. How do I get started? How can I market to the thousands, if not millions?

- Gerson Martinez, Columbus

Dear Gerson: Forget the independent labels - especially if they've been stealing your tunes.

Most of what they can do for you, you can do yourself, according to Michael King, who teaches Music Marketing 201 at berkleemusic.com, the online branch of the Boston's Berklee College of Music, the world's largest independent college focused on the study of contemporary music.

In the past, labels monopolized distribution, but today, "forward-thinking online distributors are empowering artists to do it themselves," says King.

Two companies in particular have enabled artists to get their music on Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) iTunes, RealNetworks (RNWK)' Rhapsody, eMusic and other online retailers: CD Baby and TuneCore.

"Essentially, these online distributors do exactly the same thing: they have direct relationships with the digital retailers and provide a bridge to get your music into the stores," says King.

The two companies operate slightly differently. CD Baby charges a small fee, (currently 7 percent) for every sale generated online. TuneCore doesn't charge a fee on sales, but charges a one-time fee, per store, per album, for delivering the music, and a one-time charge per song you upload (both are currently $0.99), plus a $20 annual fee.

"You'll need to run the numbers to see which one works best for your particular situation," says King. Other online distributors are popping up constantly, but CD Baby and Tunecore have the best track records for getting your tracks into the hands of listeners.

Heavy metal makeover

"Be sure to have a MySpace page and a solid website, know how to use it, and update it regularly," says Chris Knab, author of Music is Your Business and president of FourFront Media and Music, a Seattle-based music business consultancy.

Thousands and millions - of dollars or fans - aren't going to appear overnight.

"Slow down!" says Knab. "There is no fast track to making money in any part of the music industry. Commit yourself to being in it for the long haul. Remember, there were over 75,000 new releases put out last year and over 56,000 of them sold less than 100 copies."

Distribution follows marketing. "One doesn't market their music by getting on iTunes," says King. "The key is to generate interest outside of these retailers and drive folks to the outlet so they'll buy your music."

You need a fully integrated marketing campaign that takes advantage of the marketing outlets and technologies that are available today to independent musicians. "And tour, tour, tour," says King.

To learn the internet marketing aspect of that integrated campaign, Knab recommends How to Successfully Market Your Music on the Internet by David Nevue, an industry consultant who runs the music industry resource musicbizacademy.com.

"Nevue takes you through every aspect of internet marketing - everything you need to learn about how to build your career through the Internet," says Knab.

Nevue updates the book every six months, because changes are rippling through the digital music marketing world nearly as fast as a raggaeton beat.  To top of page

Do you have killer music-marketing tips? Share them with us.

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.