5 steps to successfully sell your sheet music online.

Introduction

Starting to sell your own scores can be a daunting task. What platform should you use? Should you self publish? Should you have social media to get in touch with fans? It's important to make calculated decisions about this. In this article I will share 5 techniques that will help you get your first sale and prevent you from making the same mistakes that other people have made trying to sell their sheet music.

Diederik Mathijs
25 Jan 2020. 8 min read
sheet music image

Why should you sell your sheet music?

The reason you're reading this is because probably you want to make some money selling your sheet music. Even though everything seems to be done before, know that this is still possible! There are a lot of musicians out there that are looking for high-quality pieces to play (and they are prepared to spend 14 Billion dollars for it worldwide). The problem is that there's a lot of composers and arrangers that had the same idea as you and first come most of the time means first served. So how do you really get to sell your scores? In this blog post, I will cover 5 steps that most likely will allow you to sell your first piece of sheet music in less than a month.

5 steps to sell your first piece of sheet music

  1. Understanding who you are selling to
  2. The importance of social media
  3. Youtube/Vimeo is a must
  4. Picking the right platform
    1. Self-publishing
    2. Using an existing platform
  5. Setting the right price

1. Understanding who you are selling to

Before doing anything at all, start by thinking, who would buy my sheet music? This is really important because it will allow you to target a specific group of people with the strategies we are going to describe in the next steps. So what exactly does this mean? Think about it in terms of the genre of music you're writing. If you're planning on selling ballroom sheet music, chances are that targetting young people is a mistake and instead you should target elderly people because the relative amount of elderly people that like ballroom music is higher and thus chances of selling increase. This changes everything because now you can think in terms of the needs of this specific group. For elderly people understandability, a feeling of trust and security may be really important and so this is where you should focus on. If you would target young people instead, by writing pop music for example, a message with lots of colour and a feeling of 'coolness' can be key. So ask yourself, what genre am I writing and who am I targetting? This will completely change the way you're approaching your target market, in the next steps it is very important to always keep your target group in mind! I can not stress this enough, targetting the wrong people may leave you end up with no sales at all.

2. The importance of social media

I'm pretty sure you've thought about social media yourself. So do you really have to go social? If you are serious about creating an online personality, yes. Having a well known social media account may boost your sales to unbelievable heights. However, it is not easy to be noticed in todays world and building a social media following can be a very difficult task. First things first, what type of social media should you use? If you have correctly identified your target group (as we've discussed in the previous point) think about what social media channel you're likely to find the target people on. Are you targetting youngsters? Then chances are that you'll find your target group on Instagram. If however you're targetting elderly people, the right channel for you may be Facebook.

So what should you post? It depends. Think about your target group you've identified in the first step. Does your target group like colors, a feeling of exclusivity or something funny? Think about this really hard and start posting content that is of significance to your target group and fills one of their needs. If they need to be entertained, make it your number one mission to give them funny content. DON'T just post links every time you have a new type of sheet music. I can't stress this enough, no one is interested in following an account that just promotes a product while they're getting nothing in return. Make sure you maintain a healthy ratio of entertaining posts to serious posts (I've noticed that a ratio of 10 to 1 works most of the time). For example, take a look at the social media page of your favorite artist, is he just posting links for you to buy merch? I hope not, because otherwise, chances are that people coming to his/her page will just click away because they find nothing that may be of interest to them. Your number one goal is to build a community, and in order to build a community, you need to bring people to your page and keep them on your page. This only happens if you have content that serves them.

How many times should you post? Ideally daily, but this really depends on how much time you want to spend on your social media channel. Building a successfull social media channel requires a huge amount of work (that's exactly why there is a huge amount of companies out there that sell their services to do it for you), the most important thing is to remember to be consistent. So you don't want to post daily? That's fine, then make it 3 times. Still too much? Then make it weekly. Still too much? Do it every 2 weeks. But always remember 2 things when doing social media. 1. Be consistent, if you're thinking about posting weekly, post weekly! 2. Remember to maintain a healthy ratio of entertainment to business when posting. If you post every 2 weeks. 3 business posts a year are more than plenty. So think about it this way. How many sheet music do you want to sell? If you're only creating 3 pieces a year. Posting once bi-weekly may be enough.

As a conclusion for the social media chapter keep these things in mind: Create posts that offer something to your audience, never ask for something if you've not given them anything. Promote yourself, comment on people posts', like images,.. and be consistent and do not slack, otherwise your following will forget about you and all your work will be for nothing.

3. Youtube/Vimeo is must

Next to a social media channel, I would argue that youtube is one of the most important things to have as a composer. How many musicians have you overheard saying something like: "I found this nice piece of sheet music on youtube and I downloaded the piece from a link underneath the video". It is really one of the highest sources of traffic for music selling websites and it is exactly why you should focus on this too. Start by creating a youtube channel, again, while thinking about your target group. If you target a specific group, tailor your videos to their needs.

What should you post? There are 2 ways of thought for this essentially. the first is that you could only post music from your own. If you want to make a professional impression you will want to post a live recording of musicians playing your piece. This is the best way for potential buyers to see your piece being played and hear how it really sounds. If they're convinced and want to play it too, then you're sure to have a new buyer. If you record yourself, make sure the recording is of high quality. This means the sound should be recorded on a (semi-)professional microphone and the video itself should be clear and lighted enough. Give your video a nice descriptive title, take your time filling in a correct description that talks about the piece, insert a direct link to where they can buy the sheet music and assign the correct tags to your video.

Of course, if you post a video in which you play a piece composed by you, chances are very slim that you'll actually get any viewers (unless you can get them to come from your social media account). A way of solving this problem would be to not just play your own music, but also cover existing well-known music as a way to be found by potential clients. E.g. if Einaudi brings out a new piece and you play the piano, make sure you're one of the first to produce a high-quality cover, this will get you some views and people may hang around and take a look at your other videos, ideally subscribing in the process.

This brings me to our last point, subscribing. When you want to build a following you'll want to make sure people understand that they should press that subscribe button under the video. Don't think about this lightly, even the biggest Youtubers will still encourage their viewers to subscribe. This is because they know that if they persuade people to subscribe, their next video is likely to have more views. And that's exactly what we want, right? You want more views on your videos so that chances of actually selling sheet music increase. So let it be known, a small popup mid-video or a reminder at the end are a must for any youtube channel, including yours.

4. Picking the right platform

If you want to sell your sheet music you need to have a place online where people can actually purchase your scores or tablature. Either you self-publish meaning that you'll create your own website in order to sell your sheet music or you'll make use of an already existing website on which you can publish your creations.

4.1 Self-publishing

Self-publishing is considered the more work-intensive way of selling. It essentially means that you'll have to control all aspects of your store, this includes paying for a domain name, paying for a service that allows you to sell your sheet music, being responsible for your website to remain online 24/24, this can get technical quite quickly. Lucky for you, if you are interested there are out of the box solutions like Shopify. They will offer you an out-of-the box solution to sell your sheet music for around $29 dollars/month. Note that this doesn't include any type of analytics so you may want to have an additional cost if you're interested in what kind of people visit your website. It is also important to note that chances of your site appearing on google are very slim to none. So, if you want total control over your shop and you don't mind getting your hands dirty, then self-publishing may be something for you.

4.2 Using an existing platform

Sheet music marketplaces are the overall best solutions for composers and arrangers. Marketplaces are essentially large inventories of sheet music where buyers can look to find something that suits them best. They are extremely easy to use, and typically have no upfront costs. They charge a certain percent on a sale. For example, if you sell sheet music on the site for $4, you'll have something like $3 left. The 1 dollar is what the site takes in return for you using their services. Examples of marketplaces are tablatur, sheet music plus or musicnotes. To make it easier for you to pick the most appropriate platform we'll do a quick comparison

Feature tablatur Sheetmusic plus Musicnotes
Traffic Increasing High High
Chances of being found High Slim Slim
Open for everyone Yes Yes No, invite only
Part taken from sale 10% + 0,4$ 45% (Estimate) 60%
Languages 2 (+2 soon) 1 1

It is clear that each site has its own merits. Tablatur, because it is rather small at the moment, makes for an ideal platform to be found by people looking to purchase music. It is also focusing on language, meaning more traffic from countries that are non-English speaking. Platforms like sheetmusicplus have as an advantage that they're big and so a lot of people sell their sheet music there. The only inconvenience is that being found on their site is very difficult as a new composer and they also have higher rates compared to tablatur which essentially means that you'll have to do more work for less money when you're starting out on sheetmusicplus. Musicnotes is invite-only and this is not going to change in the near future, so selling on musicnotes is in essence not really possible.

Both self-publishing and selling on a marketplace have their downsides and upsides. If you decide to self-publish you'll have more upfront costs and will have to work harder to get any type of visibility online (without social media and youtube you make absolutely 0 chance). If you decide to sell your sheet music on a marketplace website, you have no upfront costs and no technical headaches. If you're still looking for a marketplace solution, be sure to give tablatur a try, you can read about how to get started on our platform here: How to sell sheet music.

5. Setting the right price

The last point of importance for selling your sheet music is the price-setting point. Although this is probably a more personal choice, I feel that it may also be important to discuss this topic. When starting out, composers quickly compare themselves to other composers that have already made their name. They look at famous composers asking $10 for a piece of sheet music and decide that they too should ask $10 for their sheet music. When buyers compare digital sheet music of equal quality, the price point may actually be the decisive factor. Chances are that they decide that the sheet music with the most competitive price is the one they want to purchase simply because they get more value for their money. The reason that some persons can ask $10 for 2 pieces of sheet music is because they made a name for themselves and their arrangements are probably of very high quality. For beginner composers or composers that look to start selling, it may be the better move to actually ask a lower price (around 4$). This will ensure that your competitiveness with other arrangers or composers is not automatically discarded. Again, this is a personal choice and if you believe your sheet music is worth 10 hard-earned dollars, then you should definitely price them so.

Sheet music selling checklist

  • I understand who I am selling to.
  • I've created a social media account on the correct social media site.
  • I've created a youtube channel to upload my music to.
  • I know how/on which platform I want to sell my scores.
  • I know at what price I need to sell my sheet music.

Conclusion

This concludes our article on how to prepare yourself to sell your sheet music. Hopefully you've realised that it is important to know who you're writing music for and that this directly impacts the way should market yourself towards your community on social media. We went over why it is important to have a youtube channel and how to effectively post to that youtube channel in order to improve conversions. We've made a very short comparison in selling music in a self-published way versus using an existing marketplace. There we saw that both methods have their upsides and downsides and that depending on your situation, no method is better than the other. In the end, we quickly discussed the importance of price-setting and the impact it could have when potential buyers compare your sheet music to someone elses'. The key take away from this article is that you need to really invest yourself to sell your sheet music, opening yourself to learning new things and you'll find buyers in no time.

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