A custom web application to self-publish and sell music
November 5, 2014 4:02 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend who is trying to decide how to distribute his latest music. As I'm a software engineer, he thought that we could build a custom app to process payments and deliver the music to the customer. I couldn't find too much info online about people who tried to do this so I'm looking for some guidance here.

Also, what are some pros/cons in regard to doing things this way compared to using services like CDBaby?

He'd like to avoid paying high commission to services like CDBaby and he expects to be able to make a lot sales through his own channels.

I'd appreciate any help.
posted by instinkt to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This seems like something that would be simple to do with WordPress and a plugin like Easy Digital Downloads.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:12 PM on November 5, 2014

Obviously you are not going to write your own payment processing app from scratch, but you could integrate with a variety of products that already exist and can be used to accept payment for a downloadable file. I know you can use PayPal in this way (if you google "Paypal for file download" or similar there are some links including WordPress plugins, which is a good option for how to go), and it's not the only one. Others to look into off the top of my head are Square and Stripe. You will still be paying a percentage of the fees to the payment processor, and I don't know how that compares to what CDBaby wants. You would be missing out on a lot of standard distribution channels (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc.) if you only sell on his site, but yeah, those services definitely do take a cut.
posted by brainmouse at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

YOU (and it will be you if you build this for them) don't want to be in the business of worrying about people's credit cards. This is the perfect thing to outsource to something like CDBaby.

One hack and you have lost any difference between rolling your own and a commercial option.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:15 PM on November 5, 2014

Response by poster: I wouldn't handle processing myself or storing any sensitive info. I'd be working with a payment processing company like Stripe or Braintree or what have you. Sorry if I wasn't clear about this.

I'm mostly interested in the comparative advantage of such an approach compared to CDBaby.

App to do something like can be rolled our really fast but it's more of a strategic decision on what to choose.
posted by instinkt at 4:22 PM on November 5, 2014

Response by poster: Also, if necessary, since he has time and resources, we can easily submit his music to those other distribution channels. Not sure, though, whether he is interested in that at this point as, like I mentioned, he already has his own channels for the beginning.
posted by instinkt at 4:24 PM on November 5, 2014

If you have not seen it, there is a discussion here of a roll your own option.
posted by Michele in California at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks. Any thoughts on the format of digital delivery? Non-obvious issues to consider?
posted by instinkt at 4:38 PM on November 5, 2014

Best answer: IMO you should use CD Baby or Bandcamp.

Advantages are: They do hosting, they handle payment, they are ready to use right now, they provide a good user experience, with previews etc, they handle multiple formats, they handle re-downloads, customers know and are comfortable with them.

Disadvantages: CD Baby charges 9% for downloads. Bandcamp charges 15% (though that drops to 10% after you've sold $5k).

You can get most of those advantages for your own site, by throwing time at the problem. Do you have a bunch of time you don't know what to do with? Will you continue to have time to administer the site? In a year when a new version of Chrome breaks something or a big bad security hole is found in your application container or framework?

As to formats, you probably won't lose any significant number of sales for just doing good quality MP3 and nothing else, but it's nice to also offer FLAC or ALAC.
posted by aubilenon at 5:03 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

As an end user, I have had nothing but good experiences with Bandcamp.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:26 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've looked into this for a future project and have read a lot of good things about gumroad, praising their ease of use. At 5%, it's sort of a middle ground between Paypal/Stripe and CDBaby/Bandcamp both in terms of cost, and what they provide.

But I'd weigh plenty of options before starting.
posted by p3t3 at 10:26 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The 15% that Bandcamp charges should be easily covered by the increased audience it would provide compared to an unknown site.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

As I'm a software engineer, he thought that we could build a custom app to process payments and deliver the music to the customer ... I'm looking for some guidance here.

posted by flabdablet at 6:44 AM on November 6, 2014

You can sell music through Shopify which includes customizable storefronts.
posted by rada at 7:56 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is where to weigh the cost of development and future maintenance vs the costs of commissions from Bandcamp. How much is "a lot" of sales realistically? 10,000? 100,000? At $10 per sale, that's $1000-$10,000 worth of Bandcamp commissions. Low-balling the price of development at $100 per hour, that's between 10-100 hours worth of labor to get the site designed, the payment processor configured and tested, and the content delivery mechanism built or setup.

Plus, you'll need hosting, ssl certs, possibly a merchant account for the payment processing, a way to deploy the app to the server...etc. Doesn't seem realistic to me for that kind of budget.

I don't know anything about CD Baby, but I've found Bandcamp to be wonderful. Shopify would be my next suggestion; I know that No Idea Records out of Gainesville, FL recently moved from a custom built app to a Shopify store, selling physical inventory and digital downloads. I have spent entirely too much money with them, and the Shopify system has seemed solid.
posted by ndfine at 12:11 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

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