The Digital Record Store: What’s Right, What’s Wrong

selling music onlineThe days of walking into Tower Records or The Warehouse are long, long gone. Gone are the days of painstakingly reading illegible titles from the titanic wall o’ audio cassettes, gone the days of row after row of CDs which must be lifted from the box before their contents can be known, gone the days of endless columns of shrink-wrapped vinyl LPs. Audiophiles know that all these formats are still available and popular to some stereoheads, but industry movers and shakers also know that there’s no money in hard audio merchandise, anymore. The record store has almost totally gone online.

There are good things and bad things about this. For one thing, it’s just no fun to click around a website (Amazon, say) to check out stuff you’ve never seen or heard before. There are practically limitless amounts of music coming out every day, and without any inside information, you might as well just pick the first thing that comes around and isn’t terrible. After all, you could otherwise be online all day. The old-fashioned way let you pick up an LP, turn it over in your hands, and check out all that awesome artwork. You never knew what the fold-out records looked like inside unless you unwrapped them, though, and that was cool, too!

For another thing, record stores used to sell all sorts of cool stuff. Half of them were practically head shops by the end of the ’90s, and the other half were stocked with stickers, patches, posters, and all manner of memorabilia. “Want a Kurt Cobain coffee mug? Carry thirty of ’em.”

But! But it’s not all sad. It’s not all sad and it’s actually for the best in many ways, particularly if you’re a musician looking to distribute his (or her) own album. Used to, there was no way you could get your independent LP into a real shop. It’s the simplest thing in the world, now, though, thanks to digital music distribution. Digital music distribution is the simplest thing in the world.

To sell music online, simply get in touch with a digital music distribution company. They’ll charge you a nominal fee and ask you to upload your music, art, and other important facts. After that, they send your music out to something like 800 digital shelves where sites sell music online, and that’s it.

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