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Selling Your Music Online -
Starting from Zero
Article by David Nevue - July 2005

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. While you can easily purchase an Internet-ready computer system for less than $1000, expect to pay $1200-$1300 for a system that comes with all the most up-to-date goodies. I highly recommend buying your system from a local, respected dealer. That way, if you encounter system difficulties, you can take your system right to the dealer for repair. Find a local dealer with a good reputation for taking good care of their customers. When you are ready to buy, find out what kind of warranty you are getting. For a new system, your warranty should cover labor for at least one year and parts for at least three.  

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 several ISP (Internet Service Provider) choices preconfigured for you. All you have to do is decide which of the suggested ISPs you want to go with. The cost for this service, on average, is about $20 per month for unlimited Internet access.

If you don’t have preconfigured options on your system, ask someone you know for a referral who 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.

For the absolute fastest Internet connection possible, I really recommend you look into a cable modem or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) 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. If you’re doing business on the Internet, you’ll need the speed. To research other companies providing fast cable connections in your area, check out Broadband Reports.

A Personal Firewall
If you decide to go with a cable connection, you MUST have a personal firewall to prevent unwanted tampering on your system. I recommend Norton Internet Security from Symantec, which comes with their award-winning Antivirus Software built in. I've been running with Norton Antivirus for years, and have never had a single virus infect my system.

Choose Your Browser
Internet Explorer dominates the market.
Netscape Communicator is an old favorite.
Mosaic's Firefox is what everyone is talking about right now.  

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. You are, essentially, renting the space from them. 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 and bandwidth you want, the more it will cost you.

The company I currently use for web site hosting is PowWeb. Their hosting price ($7.77 per month) is nearly unbeatable, particularly when you consider all the features they offer. The down side is that they have no real customer support to speak of, though they do offer detailed support FAQs, tutorials, and a very active community forum where you can ask help from other users.

Another option I recommend is HostBaby, a web hosting service that caters specifically to musicians. HostBaby is run by the same great folks who operate CD Baby.

Want more options? See TopHosts.com.

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 (such as GoDaddy.com), you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s easier to use.

You can search DirectNIC to see if your desired domain name (you web site address) is available right from the home page. If the name you want is already taken, DirectNIC will make some suggestions based on your initial search. As you explore your options, do your best to choose a web site address that’s easy to remember. Keep in mind, as you search, that you’ll be repeating this web site address to not only your fans, but to important contacts you make. Avoid the use of hyphens (such as my-musicplace.com) or oddball naming conventions ans spelling (such as 4starmuzik.com).  Keep your name simple and its spelling obvious. Finally, if at all possible, use a dot.com (*.com) extension. Although .net, .us, .org, .biz, and other extensions are available, the .com extension has become synonymous with the Internet and will be the easiest for your fans, contacts and visitors to remember.

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. Similar options are available at Compare Web Designers, Elance, and HostBaby.com. You'll also find a list of designers in our online directory.

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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