SpotifyA few years ago, when Facebook access was granted only to those with a university email account and MySpace was the king of social networking, listening to music on the internet was a different experience than it was before or than it has been since. For a period of a few years in the middle of the last decade, if there was a new band I wanted to check out, or a new song had been released by an old favorite, I immediately clicked over to the artist’s MySpace page and hit play on the ever-present streaming music player. This is experience would determine whether or not the music was deemed good enough to purchase.

Of course, things have changed now with the decline of MySpace’s popularity and the majority of music streaming being done on sites like Spotify. But whether the music is streamed or bought from outlets like iTunes or Amazon, the problem for artists lies in just how to get their music on those sites. The MySpace method of everyone being able to post anything at anytime was one of those blessing and a curse scenarios for artists and music listeners. For every good example of discovering a new artists through the streaming player, there were thousands of awful songs posted that just served as clutter and made it even harder for the good to stand out, while listeners eventually just got tired of trudging through it all.

There are still numerous ways to post your music online for free, but these won’t make your music available on the big outlets like those listed above. And for some artists that’s okay. As with anything in the music industry, there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to digitally release your music, but there are a few pointers that you will want to keep in mind.

A Literal Free For All

Sure, streaming music services are great in that they let anyone check out all the music they want for free, but for a new artist, it might not be worth the money it costs to get music onto those sites – not yet, anyway. But there are still multiple venues that allow you to post your songs for free.

One of the most popular – and a personal favorite – is Bandcamp. The simple yet functional layout of the site makes for a great experience for those checking out music, and the site offers a multitude of options to the artist. Songs can always be streamed by visitors, and the artist controls how much downloads cost. Many new artists will start off by making the downloads free in hopes of getting some good word of mouth publicity. Once you do start charging, Bandcamp takes a cut of 15 percent of what you make.

Make Your Music Available to Everyone

While Bandcamp and other similar sites are popular in certain circles, they are unknown to many internet users. But it is highly likely that those users do know what Amazon and iTunes are. So when you are at a point in your career as an artist where you need to make your music available to a more widespread audience, it time to get it on the big sites. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy (and inexpensive) thing to do.

CDBaby and Tunecore are two of the most popular digital distribution services, and work in similar ways. Both make your songs available on services like iTunes and Amazon, and charge a fee to you as the artist. Tunecore has yearly fees that vary depending on whether you are posting an album or a single, whereas CDBaby takes a percentage of what you make. CDBaby also is distinguished by the fact that its website is also a store, and will sell physical copies of your CD if you have them.

Of course the best service will depend on your particular needs as an artist. Both these services and others are very straightforward and lay out how much they will charge and what you will get from the beginning. Check out their websites to see which will work best for you.

Pound the Pavement

Finally, the most important aspect of selling your songs digitally has nothing to do websites that post or sell your songs. You’ve got to first make fans that will want to seek out your songs.

Of course there is internet “advertising” that you should be doing by keeping your social media outlets updated, but one of the best ways to make fans is the same as it has been for decades: get out on the road and win them over one by one. Touring is hard and expensive, but very few artists are going to make it big overnight because Justin Bieber liked their song and tweeted about it (here’s looking at you, Carly Rae Jepsen). No, for most, success will be the reward of good old fashioned hard work. Just make sure your songs are on the internet for those fans you make to find and buy.