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Selling Your Music Online: Starting from Zero
Article by David Nevue - August 2006

Back to Internet Music Promotion 101

The nice thing about selling your music on the Internet is that you can get started with very little cash up front. If you already have a computer and Internet access, you can get going for as little as $50.

Below you'll find a short list of items you will need to get started, along with estimated costs. Much more detail is provided in
my book, How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.

The ‘Right’ Computer System
Most any computer system you purchase today will come with built-in Internet connectibility. You can easily purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $1000, but expect to pay $1200-$1300 for a system that comes with all the most up-to-date goodies. If you are buying new and for the first time, you may want to consider purchasing your system locally. That way, if you encounter system difficulties, you can take your system right to the dealer for repair.

There are basically two ways to go when looking for a computer system: you can buy one with Microsoft Windows pre-installed, or go the Macintosh route. Either way, once you have a system, getting onto the Net will be a relatively simple process. Today’s high-speed systems come pre-configured with all the hardware and software you should need.

A Fast Internet Service Provider
Once you have the computer system, the next thing you’ll need is an Internet connection. Most systems you buy today will come with two or three ISP (Internet Service Provider) choices preconfigured for you (MSN or AOL are common examples). I would suggest, however, that you do a bit of research before going with one of these companies. Ask someone you know for a referral that is already hooked up and happy with their service. You can also look in your local phone book Yellow Pages under “Internet.” Your local providers will be listed there. If you still have difficulty finding one, try searching “The List.”

The last few years have seen the rise (and fall) of ISPs that offer FREE access to the Internet. While most of these companies have failed, one called NetZero has survived and is still fairly popular, though these days they limit their “free” service to just 10 hours a month. When using a free ISP, you can expect to make certain trade-offs. You’ll have to deal with viewing sponsor pop-up and banner advertisements of one form or another, and some free ISPs require you fill in and return marketing surveys on a regular basis to continue your service.

For the absolute fastest and hassle-free Internet connection possible, I really recommend you look into a cable modem, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) or wireless Internet connection. I currently use Comcast Digital Cable, and if you can afford to plunk down $50/month to get this kind of connection, by all means get hooked up.

To research other companies providing fast connections in your area, check out Broadband Reports .

A Personal Firewall
If you to go with anything other than a dial-up connection, you MUST have a personal firewall to prevent unwanted tampering on your system. Windows comes with a firewall built in which you can use for free, but if you just can’t bring yourself to trust Microsoft, check out ZoneAlarm.

Choose Your Browser
Internet Explorer dominates the market.
Mosaic's Firefox is the up and coming contender everyones talking about right now.
Safari is the Macintosh favorite.

There are dozens of other web browsers available if none of these suit you.

Finding the Perfect Web Host - A Place to Call Home
You’ll need a place to call ‘home’ on the Internet, a place to put your web pages so others can view them. A web hosting service will allow you to put your web site on their servers for a monthly fee.
The fee for web hosting varies, but generally lies between $8 and $30 dollars a month depending on the options you need. The more space, features and bandwidth you want, the more it will cost you. You may also be asked to pay a one-time setup fee which can run anywhere from $20 to $50. The company I currently use for web site hosting is Aplus.net at http://www.aplus.net/ . Hosting plans start at just $5.95 per month, and their web servers are very fast. While their setup and configuration isn’t the most intuitive, you’re just one click away from being able to chat with someone on Aplus’ excellent support team who will gladly help you.

Other hosts recommended by readers have included:
Site5 and Surpass Hosting.

I can’t talk about music-related web hosting without suggesting you take HostBaby into consideration. HostBaby is run by the same great mind that started up CD Baby and if you want a web host for no other purpose than to have your own artist page up on the Internet, HostBaby.com will provide you with everything you are likely to need.

Claim Your Domain
In addition to a place to host your web site, you’ll need to register a domain name (such as mywebsite.com) to serve as your web site address. I use DirectNIC to register and manage all of my domain names. The cost of their service is $15.00 per year, per domain, and while you can find cheaper registration services, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s easier to use. I highly recommend their service.

Once you have registered your domain name, you’ll need to tell the name registration service where to direct traffic for that domain name. In other words, when someone types
  “yourwebsiteaddress.com” into their web browser, to what server should they be directed? To set this up, simply find out from your web host what your primary and secondary domain name server (DNS) information is. Take this information, go to your domain registration service, and add it to your nameserver (or they might call it DNS) configuration. The process sounds more complicated than it is, but if you have difficulty, your web host should be happy to help you.

Designing Your Web Site
One of the first things you'll need to decide is whether or not you want to design your own web site. If your goal is to simply have your music available somewhere online, you might want to just sign up for CD Baby's services. For $35 bucks, they'll take your CD and put it on a beautiful web page for you. And that will give you somewhere to direct your fans to purchase your music online if they wish.

However, if you wish to grow your online pressence into a long-term income generator, at some point you really must have your own web site. The next question then becomes whether or not you have the know-how to design a quality web site that will sell CDs for you.

If you know nothing about web site design, your options are many. First, consider your fan base. Are any of your fans talented designers? You may find a fan will design a very nice web site for you for little or no money. My fans do a LOT of great things for me just because they want to support my music.

If not, there are many places on the Internet where you can search for and make contact with professional designers. At GetaGraphic.com for example, you can post your design requirements and graphic artists will bid for your job. You can evaluate each bid, including each bidder’s portfolio, before committing to anything. If you see something you like, you can hire them on the spot. Similar options are available at Compare Web Designers, the Elance Agency and HostBaby.com. 

If you wish to design your web site yourself, you'll need to decide what kind of web page design software you want to use. Macromedia's Dreamweaver software is a popular choice. However, I like a simple, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) page editor. So, for simplicities sake, I recommend Namo WebEditor. I LOVE this software! You can download a free trial version from Namo’s web site. If you decide to buy it, your cost is only $99, as opposed to nearly $400 for Dreamweaver.

FTP Client Software

FTP is an acronym for “File Transfer Protocol.” The basic function of FTP client software is to upload and download files to and from your web host’s server. Once you have your web page designed, the HTML document and graphic files that make up that page need to be transferred from your computer to your web host’s server via an FTP client. FTP client file utilities are readily available on the Internet. I recommend CuteFTP's software, but CoreFTP's free FTP tool is a good alternative for those of you just starting out. 

E-Mail: Your New Best Friend
Electronic mail makes it easy for potential customers to contact you. Most services, including web hosts, ISPs and online services will provide you with a free e-mail address to go along with your web site. If you’d rather, you can use one of the many free web-based e-mail services on the Net, such as Yahoo! Mail or Google’s Gmail program. The advantage of going this route is that you can check your e-mail with ease from any computer with an Internet connection. For a quick study on all the services available to you, check out the Free E-mail Address Directory

In Summary...
The tools mentioned above are all you should need to get started on the Internet. You will use these tools just about every day as you run your online business. If you are new to this kind of technology, some of what I described above may sound a bit complicated, but it’s really not. If you take the time, you can learn all this stuff pretty quickly, and soon you won’t even think about it - you’ll do it all automatically.

Much more detail on this topic is provided in
my book, How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.

David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy and Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

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How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet

How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet
This easy-to-read guide to music promotion teaches you how to effectively sell your music online! Learn what works and what doesn't from a musician who's now promoting music on the Internet full time!

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