*Before I continue, note that I’m neither a lawyer or a music business expert. These are the tips, tricks, and little pieces of knowledge I’ve picked up along the way. My intention is to help other people by sharing what I know, and what has worked for me.
Uploading music to Spotify, iTunes, and Google Play is something one can’t do on their own. From what I understand, it has to be done through a third-party organization, for instance, DistroKid or TuneCore.
To upload music to all of the streaming platforms available, and to earn money from it, sign up to DistroKid. It’s the platform that I use, and it’s extremely simple and inexpensive.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a way to upload music to iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon, in a way that doesn’t cost money, then I believe you’re out of luck (although I could be wrong – don’t crucify me if I am).
Through the use of DistroKid, independent artists can sell their music on all of the available platforms. Before continuing, I have to add that DistroKid costs $20 a year, which is essentially nothing.
Before you get pissed and leave the page, think of it this way: $20 per year divided by 365 days in a year = 0.054. It costs 0.05$ a day to have a deal with DistroKid.
While it’s hard out here to be an artist, I’m sure $0.05 a day isn’t completely out of your reach. More importantly, using DistroKid is super efficient, effective, and easy.
Without further ado, we’re going to walk you through the step-by-step process for uploading your music to all of the biggest streaming and music distributors.
How To Sell Your Music Online (Spotify, iTunes, etc).
1) First things first, head on over to DistroKid and sign up for the “Musician” package which costs approximately $19.99 per year.
2) Fill out all of your information, making sure to check the applicable boxes. For instance, if you don’t want your music on YouTube music, then unclick that box.
3) Now that you’ve signed up to DistroKid, choose your song and ensure that you have the rights to the artwork that you’ll use as its cover.
In case you don’t have any of your own original photos, you can use the “Labeled for re-use” option in Google’s image search bar.
You can find it under the option, “Usage Rights,” when searching for photos.
4) Go through all of the stores, choosing which outlet you want your music in.
5) Select an image you own the rights to and upload it into DistroKid.
6) If you’re like me, you’ll have your music in your iTunes playlist, so what I normally do, is I drag and drop a file from my iTunes on to my desktop, that way I can easily find it later for DistroKid.
7) After you’ve checked all of the boxes, hit the button, ‘Done,’ and everything is already completed.
And voila! It’s as simple as that really. Although, it takes a maximum of five business days for the music to upload to every major platform.
It only took iTunes around 4-5 hours though.
There could be a couple of minor complications (usually self-inflicted), but for the most part, DistroKid does a fine job of everything. In fact, I haven’t ran into any problems at all yet.
If you’ve already uploaded your music to YouTube, you may be surprised to see duplicates.
For that reason, there’s a box at the bottom which reminds users they have selected the YouTube checkbox. Uncheck this if you don’t want your music on YouTube.
Moving on from this basic tutorial, we’ll explore one of the more ubiquitous questions out there that often comes up.
As musicians, it’s probably our greatest fear that someone will illegally use our music without permission and profit from it.
The idea of someone making $50,000 from a song we created and getting none of that cash is a painful one.
Perhaps, the most common question people have to ask in relation to selling one’s music is: How do I copyright my music so that people don’t try and get cute and steal it?
In the explanation listed below, I’ll do my very best to compile all of the knowledge I’ve come across along with the relevant links to my sources.
Basic Information On Copyright Laws
As most know, the internet is filled with experts, who, despite their best intentions, may be guilty of spreading misinformation. Truthfully, we’re all guilty of it at times.
While I’m certainly no copyright lawyer, the research I’ve done has led me to believe that you don’t actually have to copyright your music if you’re an American or Canadian citizen.
The law in 1978 granted each musician/artist the rights to their own music upon its creation (link here). In other words, it’s automatic. You don’t have to file for copyright.
As I wrote in this article here (link here), each artist has the rights to the music they’ve created.
The reason for this has to do with the available options for litigation later on.
Without Registering For Copyright
In this case, you can sue for:
- but not for legal fees.
You’re also within your rights to:
- send a cease and desist letter
- file a DMCA Takedown
If a musician hasn’t registered their music with the Copyright Office, and someone uses it without permission and makes a million dollars, there are fewer available options in the litigation process.
With that said – and as I mentioned above – if you haven’t registered a song with the copyright office, you have an original copyright claim with the music.
I’m emphasizing that regardless of whether or not you’ve officially registered, you’re still the rightful owner.
You can file a DMCA Takedown notice against the person who infringed on your copyright. You can have their track removed from whatever platform they’ve uploaded it to.
You could also send a cease and desist letter.
A person may ask, “so what’s the point of even registering my music with the Copyright Office if I still have means of legal recourse without doing so?
The answer is simple: legal fees.
If you haven’t filed the song with the copyright office and someone made a million dollars with your music, you can’t sue them for legal fees, which is, in many cases, the most expensive part of a trial.
As I noted in my article about loops (link here), Peter Thiel once stated that the average single-digit millionaire couldn’t afford to take people to court.
The litigation process is simply too expensive for the average American citizen.
However, let’s say that you’ve noticed that someone used your music illegally and turned a profit, but you haven’t registered with the copyright office, so you quickly go and file the copyright after the fact.
In this case, you can sue them for damages as well as the profits, but still not for the legal fees.
And according to DJ Pain 1, who talks about it at length in this video here (link here), it’s not actually worth your time if you can’t sue for the legal fees because lawyers are so expensive.
Check out this website here (link)
For Canadian users, check out this site here (link)
Moving on from those brief scenarios, let’s actually dive into how to go about registering with the copyright office.
Without further ado:
How To Register With The Copyright Office
*Before continuing, it’s important to note that there is a flat fee of $55 to copyright all of your music. It’s best to wait until you have 135 songs to copyright, that way you get the best bang for your buck.
1) First things first, head on over to the United States Copyright website.
2) Sign up as a new user by filling out all of the necessary details, including name, address, telephone number, etc.
3) After you’ve registered, it’ll take you to a homepage where you can take a look at all of the different cases. You just registered, so you have none.
4) On the left-hand side of the page, you’ll see a category which says, “Copyright Registration.” Underneath “Register A Work,” choose, “Standard Application.”
5) Once you’re on the Application page, take the time to read everything written, just to familiarize yourself with the information at hand.
6) Ready to go? Click on the “Start Registration” button.
7) In the drop-down menu where it says, “Type Of Work,” choose “Sound Recording.”
8) Click the box that ensures you’ve read and understood the terms and agreements.
9) On the next page, choose “Title Of Work Being Registered” in the drop-down menu, “Title Type.”
10) Choose a name for your songs. It doesn’t really matter what you call them because it’s the content that matters and not the title.
11) Once you get back to the page, click “Continue” to move on to the next step.
12) Assuming you haven’t published the work, Choose “No” in the drop-down menu.
13) List the date the work was created. Ignore the Registration number.
14) Click on the button that says, “Add Me,” and fill in all of the information, including where you were born, where you live, and what citizenship you have.
15) Choose the option, “No,” in the drop-down menu, “Made for hire.” This box is basically asking you if you paid someone to create the song, and you’re the employer.
16) On the Sound Recording page, check the box, “Sound Recording,” and then click “Save.”
17) Click “Continue,” and that’ll bring you to the next part, “Claimants.” Make sure to hit the “Add Me,” button, to make yourself the official “claimant.”
18) Click “Continue” to move on to Limitation of Claim.”
19) The “Limitation of Claim” page, is essentially for songs that use pre-existing material, whether it be a sample or a riff written by another artist a long time ago.
Assuming you’ve created the whole song from scratch, just move on to the next page by hitting “Continue.”
If you have used a sample of a pre-existing song, fill out the boxes accordingly.
Moving on to the “Rights and Permissions.”
20) Fill out your information on this page and then click “Continue” to move on to Correspondent.
21) Fill out the “Correspondent” page with all of your contact information as well.
22) On “Mail Certificate,” fill out all of your information once again, and then hit “Continue.”
23) Skip the “Special Handling” page because it’s optional.
24) Click the “Certify” box, confirming that it’s you who owns all of the aforementioned material.
25) After you’ve done all of that, you can move on to the semi-final stage of the process, “Review Submission.” Just go through and look at each piece of information, making sure everything is correct before continuing to submit all of your music.
26) At this stage, you have to pay for registering with the office. Once you’ve paid, you can upload the music that you want to be registered.
And voila. It’s done.
For Non-United States Citizens
According to the United States Copyright Office (link here), the US has copyright relations with a number of different countries throughout the world.
Because of these partnerships, nations respect each other’s copyrights. However, not every country has an agreement with the United States.
*It’s important to note that I’m not actually a lawyer, nor an expert on this topic. I’ve just done some research, and have done the best job I can at answering this question.
If you’re really in need of help in this situation, I suggest consulting a lawyer or an expert in the field.
That’s all for now. I hope that answers all of your questions for this process. In my opinion, this is pretty much all that’s needed when taking your first steps as an artist.
Uploading your music on the internet for sale, plus registering for the official copyright ownership is a great way to familiarize yourself with some of the more commercial/legal aspects of the art.
That’s all for now. Thanks for tuning in. If this helped you out, make sure to share this on social media!