This is the first in my series of reviews that I promised to provide based on feedback from other musicians and my own research. Frankly, I'm starting with the ones that “didn't cut it” in my book. So, this may not be a very exciting review for most of you … unless you like one of these platforms or know how to get them to provide direct sales. If that's the case, be sure to leave a comment and I'll eat crow. Keep in mind that the cut is mostly because of my criteria: online direct song sales for independent musicians which you can read about in my prior post.
I could have left RootMusic (BandPage) and TuneCore out of this current line of reviews. Neither of them provide an avenue of online direct sales by independent musicians.
BandPage or BandPage provides a slick FaceBook page overlay for musicians. The ability to “Like” or provide comments on a specific song are great. The interface also provides a way for you — the musician or band — to add a link for purchasing the song. This could point to iTunes, Amazon, etc. or to one of the services I'll review later in this series. However, the BandPage software itself does not provide a means to sell directly to the listener without a paid upgrade. It's a fine tool, so if you just need a spiffy song player for your FaceBook page, look no further. (Having to go to multiple sites to set up a song sale is not optimal for most independent musicians. Time is money when you're the artist and the business manager.) Susan Leak of Renagades Music recommended that I check out RootMusic and I'm glad I did. It gave me a standard for FaceBook integration that is hard to beat.
TuneCore is a service that is making headway in a space that overlaps with ReverbNation and CDBaby: digital distribution. In fact, TuneCore offers a good deal in this space with current pricing starting at $4.99/album/month or $9.99/single/year for multiple platforms that include iTunes, Amazon, emusic, Spotify and more. While this deal is arguably better than most competitors, it may not be enough to draw in independent musicians who can get many other services through CDBaby and ReverbNation. For my purposes, the issue is that TuneCore does not offer direct sales. After all, it's basis is in digital distribution. Susan Leak (see above) and Mike Vavrek (who has a new release!) suggested TuneCore as a digital distribution tool.
Third in this initial review is SmashSongs (their site is no longer online). It claims to be a song service that offers licensing, listener reviews and direct sales. As far as I can tell, these claims may be basically true. I did not pursue the licensing and the listener reviews seem straightfoward enough. (I wonder how many registered/active users there are on SmashSongs.) Uploads are limited to MP3s with no more than 128k resolution and 14Megabyte in size. I found the SmashSongs site a bit difficult to manage. For example, once I uploaded a song, it was not intuitive how to find it again for edits, etc. I also was unable to find any way to embed the songs uploaded to SmashSongs on other sites. I was also unable to find how a listener would purchase the song. Because I had already found several online platforms that met most of my criteria for direct sales, I may not have given SmashSongs enough of a chance. But for the purposes of this review, it did not make the cut. An anonymous user named simply “Craig” came looking for SmashSongs via my original post. Thanks, Craig for the awesome comment and pointers.
Please leave a comment below. It would be great to hear your perspectives on these three online services for musicians.
Next up for review: CreateSpace.