There are literally thousands of music sites where DIY bands and musicians can sell CD’s online or otherwise promote their music. The list changes constantly as cool new services are added, but below are the core sites you definitely need to be on. If you’ve got a favorite site I’ve overlooked, let me know!
One note: take the time to set these sites up right. Fans will make instant decisions about you based on what they see on your site. If your bio is half-filled out, or not filled out at all, what does that say to a new listener? Also, if you’ve got your own website, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be setting up other sites as well. On the web today, redundancy rules. You want as many threads as possible leading to your music. If you don’t have your own website, don’t sweat it. With all the free sites and services available to musicians today, a band-specific website may not even be necessary. It’s up to you whether you want to set one up.
Bandcamp They have one of the best interfaces and platforms around. You create a beautiful band page and upload your tunes as .wav files. Bandcamp then offers your tracks in multiple formats (FLAC anyone?) and takes care of all the sales transactions taking a modest 15% for their trouble.
YouTube YouTube is the radio station of the Web and a must-have for any serious band promotion. If you’ve got a video, get it up there. Better yet, create a Channel for your band and upload several videos. If you don’t have a video yet, check out Animoto. They let you upload your images and a song, then their cool online app turns out a pro-looking video for you. It’s a great option for bands who need a video right now.
Last.fm They’re big (over 40 million users) and they’re worldwide. The biggest plus of Last.fm is their Pandora-like music suggestion feature. That’s a great way for you to get discovered by new listeners. Take some time and fill out your profile, bio and upload quality pictures and tracks. Spend time in the forums and groups, and (politely) introduce people to your music. You can actually put links to tracks right in a message, so it’s a really effective way to get heard.
If you’ve got a small budget ($20), you can purchase “Powerplays” on Last.fm where you select the groups of people who will hear your music — think of it as targeted airplay! The Music Manager section of your Last.FM account will give you all the details.
Grooveshark A site for artists and music fans alike. Similar to Last.fm, Grooveshark has a pay-for-play feature where you can buy targeted airplay to fans who like your style of music. They also have an impressive selection of widgets you can use in your band toolbar or on your website. They’re currently running a promotion where you receive free on-site promotion if you refer other artists.
ReverbNation These guys are getting better all the time. They offer just about every service you can imagine for the DIY band and musician. Hosting, online press kits, apps and widgets, one-stop digital distribution to iTunes, Amazon and all the major digital outlets, email service and much more.
Where they really stand out are the tools they offer to get more fans. They have a slew of free apps that work with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and all the other Web 2.0 sites around. You should have a large presence here.
Nimbit They’ve been around since 2002 and are starting to build a big buzz. Offer a full range of social networking tools and services so you can sell “direct to fan”. The “MyStore” feature is very cool — it lets you plug a fully functioning store into Facebook so you can sell tracks right on your fan page. They also feature a comprehensive email tool. All the marketing services are backed with sophisticated campaign management and tracking software.
Purevolume Another good site for fans and emerging bands. They offer comprehensive artist profiles with the usual free song download option. Listeners and fans can also interact directly with each other and easily share music. Purevolume has an annual “top 20 unsigned band” list to give the not-yet-famous acts us their due.
Jango Similar to Last.fm and Grooveshark — listeners are auto-suggested music including Indy bands, and you the band can purchase targeted airplay to fans of your genre of music. One difference I’ve seen with Jango is they offer tons of on-site promotion so as a band you end up getting lots of free airplay.
CD Baby CD Baby remains a great resource for DIY bands and musicians. They’re one of a handful of companies who really do believe in serving the artist and the music. They help in 3 important areas: digital distribution for your release, online retailer for your physical CD (you get space in their virtual store plus they take care of all the CD shipments and transactions) and resources galore. Their tools range from hosting services to credit card swipers plus super-helpful forums and informative blogs written by uber-experienced musicians.
Tunecore Another great online distribution site with a very user-friendly artist interface. Upload your music and choose the sites where you want to distribute. Their digital distribution service lets you pay only for the places you distribute to — that’s pretty cool because most places make you pay a higher fee to distribute to everyone.
Nine Inch Nails, Soulja Boy, 3OH!3, Joan Jett and other well-known artists endorse Tunecore so they must be on to something good.
iLike.com Now part of MySpace! Go figure.
A very popular site that features music discovery for their massive fan base. Very easy to use interface, and they offer a slew of popular and well-made apps for Facebook and other Social Media sites. DIY friendly and they also have a paid broadcast feature to help you reach even more fans.
MySpace I know, I know. It’s a mess, but the fact remains every single band has a page there. Suck it up and make yours. If anyone in the band or in your fanbase is handy with HTML, ask them to help you out and make a custom skin for your site. That little bit of design help can turn the awful MySpace templates into something that’s actually cool.
OurStage I just discovered OurStage after a musician friend recommended them to me. You create a band page then upload songs to a genre-specific battle of the bands contest. If you’ve used Garageband (who aren’t around anymore) then you know how the voting works. Over the course of the month, your song rises or falls in the charts based on listeners’ votes. Chart winners get cash and prizes. OurStage partnered with MTV on the site and it’s well done and very active with listeners.
TheSixtyOne A really interesting and unique site. Upload your tunes (click the login button in lower left corner, then ‘join’ to register — it’s hard to find) and your music gets voted on by the 1000’s of fans who tune in every day. Listeners can also buy your music through the Amazon music store.
Blip.fm Another very cool site. Upload your tunes then stream them Twitter-style. Your music is embedded right in your post. Listeners can “favorite” your track and let others know they’re listening to you through Twitter and Facebook.
Mevio/Music Alley A well-done music and video site founded by Adam Curry of 80’s MTV fame, where bands and artists can upload their own music and videos, and submit it to podcasts and webcasts right on the site. The best part of Mevio IMO is Music Alley. It’s fairly buried in the site, but make sure to submit your music there. Music Alley is a major resource for Podcasters everywhere to find new music. Our band has received airplay on podcasts around the world just from Music Alley. Pro tip for you: put your “soundbite” in the title of the song, it helps you get discovered if people are searching for bands that sound like a well-known artist. Ex. if your song name is Basket Case, title your song: “Basket Case — sounds like Green Day”.
SonicBids This is a paid industry site, but a great one. For a modest annual fee (around $50) you can upload your music, electronic press kit (EPK), photos and videos to the site. The real magic of the site though, are the gig listings where movies, TV shows, labels and venues post gigs that SonicBids members can apply to. The gigs are selective, but potentially career-changing.
Taxi Similar to SonicBids, but more expensive and they offer extensive resources for developing your music including critiques, advice and reviews. Like Sonicbids they have a variety of gigs you can apply to from movies and TV to live performances and songwriting contests.
Pandora Everyone knows Pandora. You need to submit your music for consideration, but if you’re lucky enough to get accepted, you’ll be exposed to millions of potential new fans.
Live365 A giant directory of online radio stations both large and small that will play your music. Search for stations that fit with your genre, then contact them through the Live365 interface. This is a great way to get online airplay.