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Selling Independent MP3s Direct to Customer?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the another-nail-in-the-riaa's-coffin dept.

94

jetsetsc asks: "I am not a programmer but I am a musician. My band's recordings belong to the band, and we'd like to skip the middlemen — labels, iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, etc — and setup a way to sell MP3's cheaply, and directly to fans. I have searched quite a bit and found nothing that fits the bill. Snocap is sort of similar, but they are more about a central store with a MySpace tie in. We don't need a fancy search, or a complicated 'if you liked this try...' feature. I figure potential fans can find our webpage on their own, referred by Pandora, a music blog, internet radio, or even (gasp!) a print article. When they get there it'd be great if they could listen to samples, check off the songs they want, pay 39 cents (or however much) through PayPal, and get a secure non-transferable download just like iTunes. DRM not required. I can't believe in this day and age that a service or software package like this doesn't exist. Any ideas?"

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Soundclick? (1)

richieb (3277) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608568)

What's wrong with Sounclick [soundclick.com] ?

You mean Spamclick? (3, Informative)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608716)

"What's wrong with Sounclick [soundclick.com]?"

I signed up for them once and got a lot of spam [justplainfolks.org] . They even make you sign up for the spam lists to download their FREE mp3's.

Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (3, Insightful)

beavis88 (25983) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608580)

and get a secure non-transferable download just like iTunes. DRM not required.

How would you go about making it "secure" and "non-transferable" without the DRM part? (Ignoring, for a moment, that DRM is neither secure nor does it necessarily make music non-transferable)

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608600)

That's exactly the question I had. The only other explanation that I can think of is that he wants to generate a one-time link to the file after the purchase has been successfully processed.

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (4, Informative)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608690)

I think submitter meant to say that they want the download over SSL (secure transaction) and from a non-public repository and non-transferrable as in you can't post a link that just anyone can use to download it... ie: a unique download uri.

To answer the submitter's question... there are software packages like this... and open source / free. Go to Sourceforge or it's work-a-likes out there and look for software download shopping carts.... actually I think that OS Commerce has a plugin for setting up 'intangible' products so that you can keep people from direct linking to the download.

Also you may want to contact Kagi, a very popular shareware commerce provider and ask about rates... they already have a good 'intangible' product commerce offering.

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (1)

beavis88 (25983) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609562)

Upon further review, I think you're exactly right.

Perhaps you would like to be a /. editor? Since, you know, it doesn't appear the actual editors ever edit anything ;)

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609956)

Kagi is the first solution I thought of when I saw this title. Do like the man says.

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610836)

FWIW Drupal has an e-commerce module that supports file download products with security. I haven't had amazing luck with drupal's ecommerce modules though, so I'd suggest just paying someone for a storefront. That way if the system malfunctions you can blame someone else.

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (1)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611374)

Slashdot just covered this:
https://files.dreamhost.com/ [dreamhost.com]
I think it's exactly what you want.

Simple, cheap.

Re:Secure, non-transferable... no DRM? (1)

RalphSleigh (899929) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610024)

Assuming he means a one time download of a regular MP3, I set up a system very like this for a band I know (The Big Hand [thebighand.co.uk] ) the system to take paypal payments and then dish out download links is only a couple of hundred lines of PHP.

I used phpBB for a user auth system, and at the moment allow unlimited downloading (though I monitor it and may change to a more restrictive system if I spot people sharing accounts, but that would be a trivial change). It uses paypal's instant payment notification that posts back details of every transaction to the server, that then checks all the details and allows the download.

So far its working quite well, and the only downside is the large cut paypay take for small transactions.

Contradictory... (1, Redundant)

cHALiTO (101461) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608590)

Er..

get a secure non-transferable download just like iTunes.

DRM not required.


Is it just me or is that completely contradictory?

Re:Contradictory... (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608708)

here's my guess - he means they can download it but can't just email someone else the link. no controls on the file they actually get. so to download it from the band site, they must pay. what they do after that is up to them.
 
and when you frame it that way, this question can be answered by making it broader. what software allows you to charge someone to download a file? that's it. the music part is really irrelevant.

Re:Contradictory... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610282)

Why not just use Paypal's Callback API, with the download being an automatic on the response page in a frame? No easy way to get at the URL (well, except for view source, and I'm sure THAT level of hacker you're not going to stop anyway, he'll just e-mail his friends the MP3) and it happens for the user as soon at they "submit" the paypal payment.

Re:Contradictory... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16612392)

Personally - if it were my band, i'd just stick it out there to download and then allow people to pay if they want. like with that last harvey danger cd. but it's not my band, so i'd do like mentioned above and set up some normal shopping cart site for software. that is what they are selling.
 
i think i'd call my band urban legend if that hasn't been taken before. i wonder if you could use the phrase 'u.l. listed' without getting sued if it was for artistic use. i think that would be pretty fun. unfortunately i have absolutely no musical talent, i'm middle aged and over weight. not really the recipe for a rock star. i think i could find ways around the lack of talent, but not the other two.

Re:Contradictory... (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608712)

Er.. get a secure non-transferable download just like iTunes. DRM not required. Is it just me or is that completely contradictory?

I took that to me he wants his downloads to be one-time only and limited to the person who bought it, but I could be wrong.

Re:Contradictory... (1)

Kamots (321174) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608988)

That's how I read it as well... now, with that assumption the OP might want to take a look at Jonathan Coulton's site http://www.jonathancoulton.com/ [jonathancoulton.com]

He offers some of his songs as free mp3 downloads available to anyone, then lets you pay to download the rest (still as mp3s!). While I can't say how his purchase system works (as I haven't yet bought any... although lately throwing $60 his way has been rather tempting...), I can't imagine that he's going to have it set up so he's providing people with static links that can be spread around.

Then there are sites such as magnatune, http://www.magnatune.com/ [magnatune.com] that the OP may want to look at as well. I seem to remember there being a listing on wikipedia of music download stores of various types, that may help him find more sites along the lines of magnatune.

It's very contradictory. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608822)

He also specifically asked for an MP3 service. You just can't do "secure non-transferable" with MP3. Technically impossible.

You might not need features... (1)

onion2k (203094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608620)

We don't need a fancy search, or a complicated 'if you liked this try...' feature.

You might not need those things, but any company providing files for download at cost certainly will. It's called cross-selling, it's marketing, and it's the sort of thing that makes the difference between living and dying for an ecommerce company. When you're "microselling" something you need to sell a large number of units just to stay in business. How is the service going to do that if they don't maximise every conversion?

("maximise every conversion"? Oh god, I've turned into a PHB. Shoot me now.)

Re:You might not need features... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608762)

Fortunately, despite the jargon, you actually said something. Hehe.

These not only help the company, but the band, too. If they make the same $/song at X as they do at Y, and Y has these added features... Why not take advantage of them? At worst, they sell the same number of songs, since their traffic comes from external sources to the site. More likely, they'll sell more songs and gain more fans.

Also to the OP, this 'secure and nontransferable' bit... That IS DRM. Period. Nobody likes DRM. If you like your fans, considering dropping this. IT WILL NOT STOP THEM FROM PIRATING YOUR MUSIC. It will only piss them off. In fact, do the opposite. Make a loud public announcement about how much you hate DRM and your music will not be restricted by it, ever. You'll thank me for it later.

Re:You might not need features... (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609386)

The secure and non-transferrable I believe is in reference to the download link itself. I think he's going for the idea similar to what bleep.com does. Zip up the order, offer the whole thing as a link, but after you download it yourself the link is no good.

So, secure in the sense that the person who pays for the link downloads the file. Non-transferrable in the sense that they aren't just static files on a server that someone can download by putting in the right URL. So the *sale* is secure and non-transferrable. Not the files.

Re:You might not need features... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609642)

I'll grant you that for 'secure', but that's not what non-transferrable means. Ever.

It could mean 'not capable of being transferred at all' or 'can't transfer legal ownership'. Since they obviously want the purchaser to get the song after they pay for it, the first isn't correct in regards to the original download URL. And since the second is true with or without DRM, if the agreement says so at purchase, it's not that. (They can transfer it illegally, but not change the legal ownership.) No, they mean you can't transfer from 1 person to another, which would require DRM.

Re:You might not need features... (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611688)

So you say, but that's obviously not what was meant.

Re:You might not need features... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611894)

Obviously not, as many others read it like I did.

Why not just set up an online shopping basket (1)

bugg_tb (581786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608658)

Why not just set up an online shopping basket I'm sure theres plenty of help with that, ok it doesn't do the DRM/no tranferable bit but its quick n easy

You're selling software (3, Interesting)

petard (117521) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608660)

Since you don't need any of the music-specific features, look for a package that helps you sell software. It's the same problem you're trying to solve and there are many options. This one [paypalshoppingcart.org] was near the top of my google search results, and looks to meet your needs. There appeared to be numerous similar apps.

Re:You're selling software (1)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609552)

Exactly. Use paypal, but not some fancy shopping cart. You don't want a fancy "music" site either, you just want to sell. Paypal is easy enough for non programmers, especially if you have a few items that you can configure individually.

Paypal offers micro payments for digital downloads [devitry.com] . Fees are reduced is you're offering products less than $12 and it's a digital download. If you sell a song for $1, you'd get $0.90. Much more than for regular paypal.

Selling Music Online - the Minimal Way (1)

PixelJonah (182936) | more than 7 years ago | (#16614898)

I blogged this recently:

Selling Music Online - the Minimal Way

A friend of mine called me yesterday while I was standing on the end of the Santa Monica Pier [santamonicapier.org] saying that one of his band's [thecoralsea.net] songs would be airing on Grey's Anatomy [go.com] next Monday. He asked how he could quickly setup his website to be able to sell an MP3 of the track in time for the airing. The band already has a paypal merchant account and this would be only need to be a temporary solution.

I thought about the question and asked a few technically inclined [kevinkircher.com] musician friends [moxlust.com] about their experiences. (Neither of which were very helpful! One recommended an "online" music label and the other warned of RIAA restrictions.)

So, here's what I came up with and recommended to my friend:

  1. The simplest (but most insecure) way to sell a track online is to simply edit the PayPal "Thank You" page on the site to include a link to the track. Basically what will happen is when someone buys something from your website, they click the "add to cart" button which takes them to the PayPal shopping cart where they fill in their billing information and buy. Once the transaction is complete, PayPal sends the customer back to a "thank you" page on their server. So, by changing that page to include a link to the track they can download it. (Now, I'm not sure how this would work if they bought a tee shirt or something else. - maybe they'd just get the mp3 for free in that case?) Anyway, the issue with this is that they can copy the link to that thank you page and give it to their friends who can then go to that page and download it all they want. (Probably not a huge deal at this level, but they may lose sales.)

  2. So, there seems to be other people out there who want to do the same thing and there are several services that help out by simplifying and securing this process by providing an easy way to restrict the downloading of the track to only those who purchased it through PayPal. (The two listed below simply work with your existing PayPal account.) It looks like it would be pretty cheap to use either of these setups. (Actually they both offer either 1 week or 1 month free which might be enough time in my friend's case!)

    These two services allow you to upload the digital files you wish to sell to their server and enter you PayPal account information. They'll then accept the "Buy" button links from your website and pass them off to PayPal's standard interface for payment. PayPal then returns to their site for the "Thank You" page and a secure, limited time download URL is provided to the purchaser.
An Additional Note:

From my reading, PayPal now has new rates for micropayments which cost less for items under $12. (5% + $0.05 vs the standard 2.9% + $0.30) See PayPal's Site for more information on micropayments [paypal.com] .

So, without knowing more about the subject, I think one of these services would be the way to go. They both look like they are pretty easy to setup and the deciding factor would simply be cost projections based on how many sales they expect to make! Good luck guys!

If you build it (1)

Eagleartoo (849045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608668)

If you code it . . . they will come . . . If you code it . . . they will come . . .

Re:If you build it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16611176)

Yeah, but since the first words of his post were "I am not a programmer", your suggestion is not probably what he was looking for.

I don't understand (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608710)

Put up a static page with links to 30 seconds versions of each song. Each of them has a checkbox called "download this". At the end a huge Buy Now button. Next page, compute how much you want and send them over to PayPal. On the final page, give them the links to the real songs, possibly with an expiration code embedded or something.
But really, "non transferable" music is simply non existant, even more so when you ask for no DRM. Oh and get ready to see your music on p2p networks in 3... 2... 1...

Re:I don't understand (1)

internewt (640704) | more than 7 years ago | (#16615558)

Oh and get ready to see your music on p2p networks in 3... 2... 1...

That's free publicity, so don't complain. ;) Make sure your MP3s are tagged well - ie correct and consistent track and band details, spelling, capitalisation etc.. Make your MP3s better than the shit on P2P, so research LAME and it's cunning settings. Embed the album or single artwork at a not-huge res within the MP3s (the res that will look best on an iPod), and put the URL for the band and more downloads in the ID3 comment field. That way, if some random joe finds the track on P2P at least they may be lead to a source where they may pay for more.

I still buy CDs partially for the physical album art, and I really love what some bands do with their sleeve's. When a visitor buys an MP3 or album of, why not offer nice hi-res copies of the album art for download too? It should be possible to have PDFs produced too by the site for download so that the user can even print their own CD album art and burn a physical copy (do offer PDF as an extra - I'd personally want a decent JPG or PNG).

And offer MD5 or SHA1 checksums of the MP3s too at download time, to keep the paranoid geeks happy. And make sure your servers are happy with clients using download managers. I don't know how widely used the likes of Getright are anymore, but back int' day, I hated it when an HTTP server wouldn't offer resuming, which was pretty essential on dial-up.

Ramble over...

Mindawn (4, Informative)

Tepar (87925) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608724)

Sounds like http://www.mindawn.com/ [mindawn.com] is what you're looking for. They sell lossless (flac) and lossy (ogg) sound files. No DRM. Their catalog is growing steadily, and they work with a lot of independents.

but he wants DRM (0)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608774)

If you look at his request for "non-transferrable downloads", the DRM-free flac and ogg files don't fit the bill. He's going to have to modify his request, because he cannot have all he's looking for.

Re:but he wants DRM (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609060)

If you look at his request for "non-transferrable downloads", the DRM-free flac and ogg files don't fit the bill.

He asked for "non-transferrable downloads" but he also specified that DRM was not required. Given that do you think ti is reasonable to assume:

  • He wants DRM files, despite having directly said he does not.
  • He does not want DRM, but does want to restrict access to the download to just one party/instance
  • He does not know what DRM is and is all confused

My bet is on the second one. The first one is right out.

Re:but he wants DRM (1)

Tepar (87925) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609088)

True, but he also mentioned MP3 files which, while I believe there are DRM schemes for it, none of them are widely used.

Mindawn has a nice, cross-platform client that allows you to download tracks and listen to them (in the client) a specified number of times before buying them. Once you buy the tracks, they're yours. So in a sense, they're non-transferable until you buy them, after which, they can be copied, burned, etc. It's a nice compromise, I think, that benefits the consumer.

Now if only more portables supported ogg and flac.... :-)

really? MP3 with DRM in it? (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609218)

"True, but he also mentioned MP3 files which, while I believe there are DRM schemes for it, none of them are widely used"

Really? There is something by which a file can be a valid .MP3 file, but have some sort of DRM to restrict play in my old Winamp 2.0 or my CD player that plays data CD's with MP3 files on them?

Re:really? MP3 with DRM in it? (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611428)

Sure:

gpg --encrypt out.mp3

It isn't a real mp3 any more, but it is after you decrypt it (possibly with your TPM's key).

Re:really? MP3 with DRM in it? (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611468)

gah. I meant:

gpg --encrypt < in.mp3 > out.mp3

but you know what I mean :)

What you ask for is contradictory. (0, Redundant)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608748)

"....setup a way to sell MP3's cheaply, and directly to fans.....and get a secure non-transferable download just like iTunes. DRM not required."

DRM is required to have a "non-transferrable download". Once you do that, it's not an MP3 anymore. MP3 files are not encumbered by DRM and are transferable. You are going to have to ask: do you want MP3, or do you want DRM? You can't do both.

Re:What you ask for is contradictory. (2, Interesting)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609354)

"DRM is required to have a "non-transferrable download". Once you do that, it's not an MP3 anymore. MP3 files are not encumbered by DRM and are transferable. You are going to have to ask: do you want MP3, or do you want DRM? You can't do both."

I think by 'non-transferable download' he means he doesn't want somebody to get the URL to the MP3, then paste it to all his friends on ICQ so they can get it too. In other words, he wants a unique download link per customer. I bumped into that problem myself when I worked on a Lightwave plugin a year ago. We were able to incorporate an unlock code into it, but that's not something that can be done with MP3. So the solution he needs has to be on the server end, not in the MP3 file.

Dreamhost (2, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608772)

Dreamhost [dreamhost.com] (note: my hosting provider, and a referral link) recently announced Files Forever [dreamhost.com] (non-referral link) that I think would let you do what you are after. It's beta now (I don't know if they will let non-Dreamhost customers in) but I think it's an easy solution to what you're looking for. When they announced it [dreamhost.com] on their Blog [dreamhost.com] they specifically mentioned being able to use it as an iTunes alternative.

Hope that helps.

Re:Dreamhost (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609864)

I think it's an easy solution to what you're looking for.

At a minimum of 50 cents per (CC) transaction, probably not, since the FP mentioned wanting 39 cents as an example price.

Obviously that overhead drops as the number of tracks goes up (for complete album downloads in the $5 range, they might work as a great option). But that flat fee totally kills the idea of "visit our site and pick up a track or two for four dimes"

DreamHost's Files Forever sounds perfect.. (1, Redundant)

Another AC (151302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608826)

Try out files forever [filesforever.com] from DreamHost.. DRM free, secure downloading of files, they handle the credit card processing and send you your money via paypal.

Currently it's in beta and only available to dreamhost customers, but they're a pretty decent host.. and try using "9999" as your promo code when signing up to get $99.99 off the first year!

dreamhost is offering a service (3, Informative)

fribhey (731586) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608842)

dreamhost is offering a service for their customers: https://files.dreamhost.com/ [dreamhost.com] - No DRM is allowed.. period! - Once you upload your file to sell, you pay a tiny one-time storage fee, and we serve it FOREVER at a nice, permanent, URL. - Anybody who buys a file somebody offers via Files Forever get an online backup of it included.. that is, they may re-download the file as many times as they want, FOREVER! - Any file you buy from Files Forever you can also "loan" to your friends via the service! They are then allowed to download the file as much as they want until you ask for it "back." (This is awesome, trust me.) - We handle all the payment processing / shopping cart stuff, and take just 5% + 50c for credit card fees. (We combine purchases to minimize these costs too.) - You can even offer an "affiliate cut" for people who re-sell your files!

You are going about it all wrong (1)

Goyuix (698012) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608868)

There are a number of sources that sell "shopping cart / download" services - just very few (if any) that actually only do this for MP3 files. And certainly I am hoping that by non-transferable you mean anti-leech related tech (limit download to original purchase, not just some direct link to the file). Again - these things exist all over.

Heck, I used to work for a "Brand Management Firm" (that's what they called themselves) that did some moonlighting hosting web sites for clients. To setup the shopping cart etc, they would have charged about maybe $400 back in the day - but I bet you could get a similar service for under $100 now - though I doubt you will have the volume of sales to make a percentage of sales interesting. But that is just me guessing on the popularity of the band.

Something to think about. (2, Interesting)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 7 years ago | (#16608912)

OK, no DRM means that the file will be transferrable. That is just a fact of life.

If you don't go the DRM route, you might as well just set up a website with a standard store and sell the files and a donation button so people can "tip" you. This is not difficult and could be done in a few days. Of course you are going to have to hope that
  1. People don't get your music off a torrent from the 4 people who paid the $1.00 to get the song
  2. Those people that do get your song off of a torrent actual bother to go to your website and then actually "tip" you.


Your band can literally be the test case for musicians using micropayments as a means of making a living as so many people claim is possible.

One other thing, you can try this with one or two songs to start. That way you don't give away your entire catalog.

Re:Something to think about. (1)

ack154 (591432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610136)

For about the 50th time on the page, the "non-transferable" part refers to a one time use link. So people can't just share a direct link to download the song. It's good for that user, with that purchase and that's it.

Re:Something to think about. (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620622)

[...] you might as well just set up a website with a standard store and sell the files and a donation button so people can "tip" you [...] Your band can literally be the test case for musicians using micropayments as a means of making a living as so many people claim is possible.

Not quite. It can be a test case for one possible method:

  1. Write song.
  2. Put song up for sale on web site.
  3. Wait for sales and donations.
  4. Hope sales and donations cover the cost of writing the song.


But that method essentially relies on altruism, if we assume that people prefer to torrent the songs for free instead of buying them from the web site. (Of course, iTunes Music Store relies on altruism too, if we make that same assumption - the easily defeated DRM does nothing to stop P2P sharing.)

Here's a different method that doesn't rely on altruism:

  1. Write and record a song.
  2. Put 30 second clip on web site as a free download, along with the announcement, "We will release the full song to the public once we've gotten $X worth of donations."
  3. Wait for $X to arrive.
  4. Put full song on web site as a free download.


And another method, this time one that saves the artist the trouble of writing the song if no one wants to buy it:

  1. Put a description on the web site of a song that has yet to be written, along with the announcement, "We need $X to write and record this song. It'll take us Y months once we have the cash."
  2. Wait for $X to arrive.
  3. Write and record the song.
  4. Put full song on web site as a free download.

Another idea - tip jar (3, Interesting)

richieb (3277) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609006)

Put your files on your website for free and set up a Paypal link for donations. If your fans like your music they will tip you. Forcing them to pay will only decrease your audience.

Re:Another idea - tip jar (1)

kruhft (323362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609350)

Sounds like a good idea, and I'm using it in various places on my site as well as having the CD's for sale. I don't want to say that it doesn't work, since I'm sure my traffic isn't high, and as you can see from the musicians on the street, the number of people dropping in coins compared to the number of people walking by is generally quite minimal. I'm hoping it works, since I don't want to keep anyone from listening to what I do (which is why I post links to download in specialized places and not out in the open like on slashdot (although I'm sure you could find the pages if you search)), but I have yet to have anyone throw a quarter into my guitar case...

Re:Another idea - tip jar (1)

svnt (697929) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610988)

the number of people dropping in coins compared to the number of people walking by is generally quite minimal

There is no easy way to compare the two options you're talking about while staying within the street performer analogy. The closest I can come up with while staying within the model is a "toll corner" where people would have to pay to continue to walk by you on the street after a period of say, 30 seconds. I think you reach more people by allowing them to listen and to provide what they feel is an appropriate compensation.

Re:Another idea - tip jar (1)

brouski (827510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609660)

In other words, your advice for him is "go broke and kill your dream of being a musician for a living"?

Hell, the tips probably wouldn't cover the hosting bill.

Re:Another idea - tip jar (1)

richieb (3277) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611156)

In other words, your advice for him is "go broke and kill your dream of being a musician for a living"?

Well you have to build an audience. No one buys music from an unknown band. I would buy CDs at a live concert if I like the music, but never when surfing to some random web page. On the other hand, I'm always happy to listen to new music.

So, if you are willing to limit the size of your audience, go ahead and sell your MP3s.

Re:Another idea - tip jar (1)

normal_guy (676813) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611022)

Cost is not the only way potential customers determine value.

The only musicians with a tip jar are sitting on street corners with a coffee can in front of them. Not a _good_ living, but a living I guess.

Re:Another idea - tip jar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16611520)

Here's another idea. Everyone who thinks that people who make music, films, ect should just beg for tips, should also give up thier salaries and just put a tip jar in the office. Forcing your boss to give you a salary only will decrease your potential employers

Totally irrelevant (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16612086)

Everyone who thinks that people who make music, films, ect should just beg for tips ...

A tip jar is not a begging bowl. Tips are a donation reflecting satisfaction with services rendered. A beggar offers no services.

Perhaps you should ask a waiter why he is begging for tips. He might straighten out your misunderstanding.

Re:Totally irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16612572)

Much like Fox News, only taking part of the quote you like, vs the part about salaries. I do not seriously think most slashdotters are on a job that ONLY pays tips, which is what the original "tip jar" person was implying

Assuming you REALLY are set on going it alone... (3, Informative)

camusflage (65105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609074)

First, a preface. There are sites out there that will do what you want, and as part of their fees, will handle the site development, order processing, and fulfillment. If you really want to do it yourself, remember that there are typically per-transaction as well as percentage fees for card processing, which is why micropayments have yet to really take off.

Now, that being said, OSCommerce will do what you want. It will provide a pretty interface, allow you to create time and/or number of download limited links, and has plugins to handle billing with pretty much anyone you'd ever want (and some you wouldn't touch) to handle your billing.

Have it built for you (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609138)

I know it's probably not the answer you're looking for, but I suggest you get someone to build the software for you.

Think about it; the website will probably be a dozen screens. Nothing fancy and almost everything is static (i.e. it doesn't need to change when a user clicks somewhere). Let's see if we can get an initial draft:

  • Static pages: index page, discography, agenda, lyrics
  • Dynamic page 1: you can fill in an e-mail address and then be transferred to Paypal. This is described well [zend.com] .
  • Dynamic page 2: when Paypal returns a successful payment, this page shows a number of links to download the songs or albums. Contained in the link is a Secret Number tied to a cookie, an IP address or some other way to distinguish a user. The Secret Number is then put in a URL and mailed to the user with the e-mail address from the first page. You could also make this page much simpler and just count the number of downloads. A user can download twice and then the Secret Number is revoked.
Because you only asked about software, I assume the website design is done. So that means that you need two PHP pages. With a good description, $20 and an account on one of the freelance programmer boards, you're done.

Dear Slashdot... (1)

Ramses0 (63476) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609140)

"I am a programmer, not a musician. I want to start a band to play music for my daughter's birthday party but I do not have any instruments, knowledge of how to play music, or band-mates. I can't believe that there are people who will accept money to play music for my daughter (which is what I really want), but that they won't do it for free. I mean, I can go to the store and buy a CD, and buy a CD-player and play that for my daughter for FREE- what is their deal? I would also like to require everyone to wear headphones during the performance so that nobody steals the music, but I would also like it to be nice and loud and have a big stack of speakers (because big speakers are cool)."

If you want to sell MP3's directly to your customers, put up a web-page that says: "MP3's for sale" and take pay-pal (who will also take a rather large % cut of small-dollar sales). When people send you $$$, you email them the MP3's. If that sounds like a lot of work or hassle, accept that you will have to give your MP3's to a 3rd party who will do a better job of selling & servicing customers securely. eCommerce is still moderately difficult. It would be nice if it were easier, then the answer would be "find a web-host that supports Sell-A-Zip-File-3.0" and just do that (which means you're still paying money to a 3rd party to sell your MP3's).

Sorry for the snark, but I'm in a snarky mood.

--Robert

Amie Street (1)

DJKC (584239) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609284)

Have you looked at Amie Street [www.amie.st] at all? They provide a lot of the services you mentioned wanting, plus have a neat pricing model that should appeal to most geeks (songs start at free, go up in price depending upon the number of purchases to a max of 98 cents. Plus a mini rewards/stock market system for if you buy a song at a low price that later goes high). Not exactly no middlemen as you said but as close as you're easily going to get.

Check out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16609296)

I would like to point out http://tychomusic.com/ [tychomusic.com] . Very nice way to preview the music, and after listening to all of what was up there, I bought 2 "albums" of mp3 downloads from their site.

I have never bought music based on a 30-second sample, and I never will.

Also, I've never tried them, but I've heard that eMusic and Last.fm are good ways for indy musicians to get their music out.

Get it on all of them (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16609418)

I have an independent label. We have interns manage getting the releases out to all of the major sites.
We track royalties and sales data from all of them.
in addition to iTunes store, the catalog is available on most pay sites:
http://www.playittonight.com/ [playittonight.com]
http://www.dancerecords.com/artists/Synthique [dancerecords.com]
http://www.last.fm/ [www.last.fm]
http://www.emusic.com/artist/11616/11616213.html [emusic.com]
http://www.napster.com/view/artist/index.html?id=1 1638090 [napster.com]

I just noticed that I have stuff on the WalMart music site. That's disturbing, since I don't remember anyone contacting them..
http://musicdownloads.walmart.com/catalog/servlet/ ArtistServlet?id=36183 [walmart.com] //teh evil

Re:Get it on all of them (1)

normal_guy (676813) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611104)

According to that eMusic link, InGrooves handles your e-distribution for a small chunk of the profit. A very common practice for small indie labels. IODA is another big one. With those services, you sign an agreement and they just start the juggernaut moving - you would have to specifically opt-out of individual sites. As an aside, there is no album art on the eMusic link. Might want to have a chat with your interns.

Lulu.com (1)

PlainBlack (594355) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609500)

Lulu.com sells MP3s, among other things for you. They just take a small bandwidth fee. They'll also let you sell CD's off their site so that your fans can buy CD's instead of downloadable MP3's if that's they way they roll.

How does AllofMP3 do it? (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609510)

They set up a basket with your purchases in it. Only if you have successfully downloaded the item, does it get removed from your basket...if you have errors or an incomplete download, it remains there for another try, until you get a good download. Basket is valid for 48 hours or something, but once you download the items, they disappear from the basket, so only one download per purchase.

Podsafe Music Network? (2, Informative)

arb (452787) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609794)

Have you considered the Podsafe Music Network [podshow.com] ? They now let artists sell their music for a dollar a track, with no DRM. The PMN has an added benefit of promotion via podcasts playing your music.

avoid paypal (1)

Goeland86 (741690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609894)

The BBC tech section had an article about crackers a while back, pointing out to just how screwed up paypal is. People don't trust paypal, and with good reason. Not to mention you might get your account hacked yourself. Other than that, read the rest of the comments.

Play with the big boys (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609896)

If you really want distribution, play with the big boys. Either find an indie label to help, or try to go it alone, but get your tunes on the majors services.

If you really just want your music to be listened to, put up 64kb versions of your tunes on a static web page, and sell CDs (yes, the real ones) with a paypal cart. If you want to be nice, include high quality (256-320kb), pre-tagged MP3s on the CD on a data track. I suppose you could set up a downloadable MP3 for purchase individually, but since you're going to pay $0.50 for the transaction fee, there's not much profit left on a $0.39 track ;-)

Don't bother trying to lock down the content - the folks who really like your music will probably buy the disc anyway. A downloadable zip of the album would be a nice bonus for that "instant gratification", though. (I suppose that could be the primary product, too, given the backend work)

emusic.com (1)

Wolfout (976406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16609976)

What about http://www.emusic.com/ [emusic.com] ? I use them to buy from alot of independent artists. Just a thought...

Woven Wheat Whispers? (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610088)

They might be an option - depends on what sort of music you're doing:
http://www.wovenwheatwhispers.co.uk/folk_community /pc/home.asp [wovenwheatwhispers.co.uk]

It's mainly "folk" (whatever that means this week - and it certainly means something different in the UK and the US) - but if you're doing a Robyn Hitchcock cover you can't be that far off (assuming that you're these "Jennifers" - http://www.thejennifers.com/music.html [thejennifers.com] of course).

Indiekazoo (1)

the_rev_matt (239420) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610232)

A buddy of mine just launched a site to serve precisely this market: Indiekazoo [indiekazoo.com] . Simple site to use, simple ecommerce, very convenient.

IndieKazoo makes it easy to:

        * Take control of your own music sales
        * Sell your music as MP3 downloads
        * Sell your out-of-print CDs and music again

IndieKazoo is perfect for:

        * Bands with tracks or CDs to sell
        * Individual musicians
        * Singer/songwriters

Key features:

        * Songs play on any MP3 player or device (iPod, iTunes, MusicMatch, WinAmp, etc.)
        * Admin area to track sales and music store usage
        * Adjustable song samples for visitors
        * Set your own prices

Unless you can code it yourself... (1)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610486)

I mean someone is going to be the middleman no matter what. The least you are going to pay someone is if you could implement it all yourself, but even that would come at the cost of all your time.

Do this: Incorporate yourself as an indie label and talk to iTunes or eMusic. From what I understand Apple doesn't make much (if anything) on Music sales. They are in it to sell iPods. Users can always burn Apple's tunes to CD and then reimport, so their DRM isn't that bad (IMO). Anyway, I doubt you are going to find a way to get to your listeners in a way that is much easier on them than iTunes. Then again, maybe you don't like iTunes price to users. emusic tends to be more economical per track (unless you are a punk band that writes thirty-five 1 minute songs for an album.) I have no clue about emusic's payoff to record labels. Write Dischord records and find out. Those guys are awesome and I bet they'd help you out. They are not really in it to make duckets, they just want to document the DC scene.

Zen Cart (1)

jwpalm (945689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610510)

Its not my favorite software ever and is suffering from a sever case of featuritis, but you can do this with Zen Cart (http://zen-cart.com/ [zen-cart.com] ). Its an open source shopping cart writen in PHP that allows you to sell downloads. When a user buys a download, they are given a custom URL to download the files and this URL can expire after a certain time period. I set this up for a friends record label, and besides the need to strip out all the extra features its been working fairly well. And you can sell t-shirts from the same store.

Dry Gulch Records (1)

tommy (12973) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610520)

I run a site that sells mp3s [drygulchrecords.com] . It is currently evolving from it's original purpose as a tiny site dedicated to a few bands into a site where any band can sell their own mp3s and merch. The problem is that transaction fees for a credit card are 2-3% plus $0.25 - $0.35. You can't offer mp3s for 39 cents and make any money. In my situation, my worst case scenario is that a customer will buy only a single mp3 for $1.00. That makes the transaction fees take away about 33% of your profit. Then you have to take what's left and split it between the band and the service provider.

We sell plain old (high quality) mp3s. We offer the same protection on our mp3s that you probably already have on your CDs. None. We figure if your willing to sell a standard, unprotected CD, there is no reason not to sell a standard, unprotected mp3.

Download Lock (1)

Proto23 (931154) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610700)

I am using http://dllock.com/ [dllock.com] for selling MP3's online. They are working on a gateway to Paypal. (currently using IPN2 to cover for that time). I checked out many different solutions, but Download Lock is the only one that really works on my rather complicated servers. And it is pretty robust without bugs so far.

eMusic.com (1)

angst_ridden_hipster (23104) | more than 7 years ago | (#16610874)

No, it doesn't solve the exact problem you're trying to solve.

But getting your label to distribute through them *will* increase sales, result in increased attention to your band, and support one of the major DRM-free independent-music supporting communities.

Magnatune (1)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611136)

How far off the mark is Magnatune [magnatune.com] for you?

Re:Magnatune (1)

Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639909)

Another vote for Magnatune. From a user/buyer perspective it's a very nice service -- especially now that my new Squeezebox can play the Magnatune catalogue from the net. It doesn't seem too shabby for the artist either.

Cubecart (1)

soliptic (665417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16611766)

CubeCart [cubecart.com] .

I'm setting up an mp3 store for my band at the moment. Free (as in beer) shopping cart software, knows how to handle digital products, checkout works via paypal (or a whole ton of other options). You don't exactly need to be a "programmer" to get it to work, but it is possibly helpful. If you've installed software like phpBB or a photo gallery on your site before, you'll be fine. Or you should be able to easily find a local friendly php/mysql hacker to sort it out for 50 bucks or a case of beer or something, if you don't feel brave.

Here are some step-by-step instructions someone pasted to me, not sure where they're originally from, but they make it pretty damn easy to follow.

Before these instructions begin, it assumes you've downloaded and installed the latest version of Cubecart (3.0.13) - which is one of the most painless installs of web software I've come across, so I shan't add any instructions, I didn't even really need to RTFM.

1) If you already have a PayPal account you must make sure that it is a Business Account. If it is not then it is best to upgrade as it is free.

2) Business Address: In your PayPal profile make sure you have entered a Business Address, without it you will only be able to accept your country's default currency.

3) In your PayPal profile enter the new email address we created earlier and set this as your Primary Email address.

4) In your PayPal profile, under Selling Preferences > Website Payment Preferences, set the following;

AUTO RETURN: OFF (if you're using cubecart 3.13)
RETURN URL: http://www.yourweburl.com/storedirectory/confirmed .php [yourweburl.com]
PAYMENT TRANSFER: ON
PAYPAL ACCOUNT OPTIONAL: ON (this is so that your customers do not need to sign up for a PayPal account to make their payment)
CONTACT TELEPHONE NUMBER: (choose your preferrence)

5) In your PayPal profile, under Selling Preferences > Instant Payment Notification Preferences, set the following;

Instant Payment Notification (IPN): On
Instant Payment Notification (IPN) URL: http://www.yourweburl.com/storedirectory/ [yourweburl.com]

Now go to your cubecart admin.

1) Under Modules > Gateways, choose PayPal Standard & IPN, then click on "Configure".

2) Set "Status" to "Enabled".

3) In "Description" enter a description for the gateway such as "Credit/Debit Cards (PayPal)"

4) In "Email Address" enter the email address we set earlier as the Primary Email address.

5) In "Method" change to "IPN (recommended)".

6) You will now see the "IPN Url" which should be the same as you entered in your PayPal profile earlier. If it is different then copy it and go back to your PayPal profile and update so they are the same.

7) In "Default" set to "YES"

8) In "Test Mode" set to "NO" (It is always best to test your store in live mode so that you can experience what your customers will experience, also you will be able to see if there are any errors).

9) Click the button which says "Edit Config".

done. Paypal will let the store know when the payment has been received and automatically send the digital download link to the customer.

I'm not quite sure if it works yet so I won't paste the link. The link in my sig is not what I'm talking about here, that was for selling CDs and doesn't use cubecart. And don't click on buy, because we've sold out of CDs... hence the mp3 shop in progress ;-)

You had better suck... (1)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 7 years ago | (#16612966)

If your group sucks, the RIAA will leave you alone. If you are good, and (evern worse) if you get a following, then you will be sued by the RIAA.

At that point, your options are:
1. Suicide
2. Defeat
3. Shooting up a RIAA member company's stock holder meeting.

Andy Out!

Just give it up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16613256)

All of us slashbots believe that Music should be free, and don't mind telling you how to run an unprofitable business that benifits us at your expense.

MPeria (1)

msuzio (3104) | more than 7 years ago | (#16613378)

You want this site. Completely addresses your problems, so far as I can tell:

http://www.mperia.com/ [mperia.com]

Not affiliated, just a very happy customer of theirs. Works like a charm for me, and bands seem to have complete control over how to setup their business there.

Thanks for all the replies (1)

jetsetsc (1002640) | more than 7 years ago | (#16618956)

Wow, you all have given us a lot to chew on. A few points:

By "Non-transferrable" I meant the download link, not the digital music itself.

Yes we are the www.thejennifers.com, and because we are including the Robyn Hitchcock cover on our new CD we are learning what's involved with getting the proper license to distribute (on CD and digitally) it from the publishing company. We do already get our stuff distributed to the big boys (iTunes etc.) through the wonderful CDBaby.

For selling directly, it looks like something like osCommerce may work - basically a shopping cart for downloads, if we can make the overhead-per-transaction work. This won't be the end-all of our sales, but we'd like to be able to give people who want to buy DRM-free music - with the $$ going to the band - an avenue to do so. We're actually OK with people sharing mp3's - it helps spread the word. So maybe even a paypal tip jar would suffice.

I was suprised to find so few bands selling mp3's directly this way. I really think it's the future of music sales. Thanks again for all the tips.

And no, we hopefully won't be visited by the RIAA - we own all the rights to our music - songwriting, publishing and recording.

-J

Re:Thanks for all the replies (1)

fredc15 (1019376) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619644)

yo... i have what you are looking for. get at me. -fred-

I can provide you with a solution (1)

expert01 (1019370) | more than 7 years ago | (#16619670)

email me expert01_@_users.sourceforge.net

I can help you distribute your music in the manner you wish, without worrying about bandwidth overheads, needing individual links, or bothering with small payments.

Re:Thanks for all the replies (1)

filekong (1019388) | more than 7 years ago | (#16620132)

Hi J,

We have a digital delivery service which does exactly what you need - E-junkie (http://www.e-junkie.com/ [e-junkie.com] ). A lot of bands are using it to sell MP3 tracks and albums directly on their website and myspace page. We do not charge any "commission" and we handle promotion and discount codes etc too. The download links are secure and expire after the download.

It's easy to use .. you don't have to install anything on your end. You just need to paste the BUY NOW button we provide in your site. From the admin, you can also send out free secure links to reviewers etc.

You can view the MP3 related examples and instructions at (http://www.e-junkie.com/mp3 [e-junkie.com] ).

Couple of sites using us are -

http://www.scamblermusic.com/ [scamblermusic.com]
http://www.bangcamaro.com/merch.html [bangcamaro.com]
http://www.musicvideomusic.com/ [musicvideomusic.com]
http://www.convertiblemusic.net/ [convertiblemusic.net]
http://www.primitiveradiogods.info/ [primitiveradiogods.info]


You should look in getting a PayPal micropayments account as well .. as the fee for that is much lower than regular paypal account which makes it perfect for selling 99cent downloads.

Let me know if you have any questions ..

- Robin

Why charge? (1)

Monoman (8745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621774)

Why charge? Look at it this way, music sales are a small part of a band's income. Give away your MP3s and consider it a promotional cost. Bands make most of their money on concerts and merchandise.

It looks like Big Head Todd and the Monsters are doing ok giving away plenty of MP3s. The Grateful Dead did just fine letting fans record their concerts and not worrying about record sales.

OSCommerce CRE (1)

bahamuut (9035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16621934)

I think oscommerce chain reaction edition [chainreactionweb.com] should work well for you. They set up the packages for you, and they offer hosting options. you can also get some assistance and an idea of what it could look like at musica360.com [musica360.com] The owner is a really nice guy and helped me a lot when I was working on a simular project. good luck!

I wrote something from scratch.... (1)

initself (582182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16623080)

I wrote something from scratch using Paypal Micropayments. I can set it up for you. Email me: mike@mikebaas.com I am working on a Google Checkout version of the same system.

Bishop Allen (1)

KingAdrock (115014) | more than 7 years ago | (#16629138)

I think Bishop Allen [bishopallen.com] has a system that does what you are looking for. I seem to remember is was developed by one of the members, but I'm not sure if its OSS or if they'd be willing to share.

e-junkie (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 7 years ago | (#16653341)

www.e-junkie.com will let you do this. You upload MyCoolSong.mp3, and pay them $5 a month (more if you have more than X particular files you want to distribute). Then you configure your Paypal account to send them the IPN information (takes about 3 seconds). Every time someone presses your Pay You Money button they get redirected to a download link afterwards. If they were to hypothetically mail that download link to a friend the friend would find it doesn't work for them. The MP3 itself is not drmed, of course. I use e-junkie for selling software and it works like a charm (I don't need the download link feature, but they also can be configured to send a "Thanks for your purchase!" email with the Registration Key in it, which was the core feature I needed. $5 a month saves me from having to hack together a perl script to accomplish the same thing.)

TuneFlow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675341)

http://www.tuneflow.com/ [tuneflow.com] is what you want
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