The Online Music Business Sucks

By | June 19, 2015

A year ago I wrote about how I started outsourcing my song performances, because I had written over 100 songs but don’t sing or play any musical instruments. Since then, I have actually made a lot of progress, but as with most things in life, it is a mixed bag.

As I described in that blog posting, I paid $365 for my song “What If” to be recorded in a real recording studio. The song came out very professional and very catchy, but I was annoyed that it did not really sound like the demo I had sent them. So, next I started using musicians on Fiverr.com, and although some will do songs for as low as $5, I found on average it cost me $25 per song. I have had 10 different Fiverr musicians record 50 songs for me so far, and I am very happy with the results. I just sing a demo into my iPhone and then email it to them along with the lyrics. All of these songs got just as a high a song rating as the one that had been professionally produced. You can hear them on my site and see what you think, but as an example, here’s an acoustic song I wrote this week in honor of Father’s Day:

Sometimes, little things make a big difference. I didn’t like around 10% of the songs that were created for me, so I was planning to have another performer do them. Just recently though, I realized that changing the tempo of these songs totally fixes them. All I have to do is put the song into a free program I found named MP3 Speed, pick how much I want to slow down or speed up the song, and within seconds it gives me a revised MP3 file. The “Father To A Son” song above is an example of this (it was too slow and sappy, so I sped it up).

Another example of how a small change can make a big difference is that I paid $5 to have a Fiverr producer do a dance remix of “What If” (the recording studio song), to make it more modern sounding, and it came out great:

So, all that is the good part. The bad part is that based on my experience, and other musicians I have talked to, it is very hard to make any money or even get people to hear your songs. I don’t even try to sell my music, it is all free, and I still hardly have any listeners. I put all my songs on my own site, which has ads on it, but so far that has made $0. I also upload all my songs to SoundCloud.com, ReverbNation.com, and Soundclick.com, but each song only gets 1 or 2 listens a month. I tried using ReverbNation’s Digital Distribution service for one of my songs, and that puts it on over 30 online music sites such as Spotify.com and Rdio.com where I get a small fee every time it is played (no income yet), plus it puts it for sale for 99 cents on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.com but it has not had any sales.

For each of my songs, I also pay $9.95 to use ReverbNation’s Crowd Review, where 20 random people listen to my song and write a short review of it. I love this service, and I also put these reviews on my website, and I thought adding all that unique content (around 1000 reviews so far) would help increase my site’s search engine ranking to get more traffic (and ad income), but it has had zero effect.

I have also tried advertising my songs. Sites like SoundClick.com have an automated system, where for $10-$30 for 24 hours, I can pay to be featured as the song of the day in certain categories, or I can have a banner ad for my song run throughout the site. This helps the song rank higher on their charts, which in turn can lead to even more listens. I tried it for several songs, and they did get to #1 on the charts, but there was not much extra action for the songs once the ads ran out, so it was not worth it for me.

Normally a songwriter like myself would start playing at clubs/bars/coffee houses to build a following to promote CD sales and to help get a record deal. I am not a musician and can’t do that, so I am stuck. But, the good thing is that songwriting is just a hobby for me; I am not trying to make a living from it, so I don’t need it to be a success. It just is frustrating that it is so hard to get my songs heard.

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9 thoughts on “The Online Music Business Sucks

  1. Francois

    Wow, it’s incredible you succeed to have so many songs realized at a so low cost, in this aspect “online” does not sucks. They really look made by pros, congrats Eric!

    Except you immediatley fall in love you need to listen a song many times to appreciate it, for this first step you need to be “forced” to lsiten, it’s what radio does very well.

    This blog post remember me this post you made where you said almost most of the sites you were developing got no traffic. The reasons are the same, have a good site/service or song is not enough, after came the long and expensive path to market it.

    There are thousands new sites, like new songs everyday and all want the same, be known!

    Competition (.com) is everywhere!

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Yes, that is a good point, I had not thought about that. It is the same exact situation as with many of my websites, which is that they are good sites but get no traffic.

  2. Joshua Davis

    Hi Eric,

    You can’t expect your songs to get picked up without a brand or artist behind it. Maybe one of your songs will go viral, but it will be just that song and probably short lived. I think you are underestimating how much time, money, branding, and networking goes into becoming a music artist. It’s a 24 hour job and almost all big musicians still go on tour to get the word out.

    How are people going to connect a brand, face, or name with your music? That’s how they share it and talk about it.

    Paid advertising doesn’t work miracles, it only helps boost your products, promotions, etc. So far it sounds like that’s all you tried, then expected the songs to just take off and be purchased. You forgot you need to answer the most important questions people have, which is: why should I buy your particular songs when there are so many options out there? What makes you different?

    Connecting your music with an event or cause is a great idea. Best of luck, and I wish you the best!

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      I am not trying to sell my songs, they are all free, but your point is still valid. Either way it is very hard to get noticed. Playing live, which creates a brand for you, is the key, but that is not something I can do.

      1. Joshua Davis

        There are other ways to create a following, but it is tough with just songs. I would say the best way to do it would be to find people to distribute them by partnering with events, businesses, etc. Since the songs are free, what would they have to lose? I was just referencing the 99 cents part on iTunes, Google, etc when I said selling them.

        You have to figure what would someone do if they had the choice of downloading a super popular well known song for 99 cents or pay the same price for someone they have never heard of? Then when someone does ask where they got the song from, they’ll have to answer “oh some guy on the internet”

        There are also a lot of independent music sites (a few you mentioned) which is making it easier, but it’s rough going because with a level playing field competition is everywhere and everyone.

  3. adam

    You have domain traffic right ? Auto-play all of the songs on your domains 🙂

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Not a bad idea at all. Even easier I could just redirect some parked domains (the ones that make no money) to my music site.

  4. KC

    Beautiful songs. I like the several songs sung by Douglas Haines. Just love the beautiful guitar music. You are talented Eric. Thanks.

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Douglas is great. Every song he does for me comes out amazing.

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