An Indie Musician Tackles The Google Artist Hub

Posted November 17

Google has unveiled its new Music Store and with it the Artist Hub, which allows indie musicians to easily sell their tunes via the market. While I could take you all through the process of getting your jams in the hub, I thought it prudent to enlist the services of its intended demographic: an indie musician.

For those of you who weren’t glued to the web last night at around 5 p.m. EST, Google announced the next version of its Google Music service on Wednesday. Before, it had merely functioned as a music locker — cloud storage for your tunes that allowed you to access them across devices. Now, with the help of a cadre of labels, it has been expanded into a full-blown music hub complete with a store. Therefore, you can listen to and augment your collection on any Android device.

In addition to the music store, Google also announced its Artist Hub, which allows indie bands to easily get their music in said store (without necessitating the aid of a distributor, as iTunes requires).

Luckily, my friend Shaun Hettinger — being an indie musician — had some time to set up his artist page today (before running off to procure cat masks for some music video he’s shooting this weekend). Shaun has a solo project called Kitten Berry Crunch (hence the cat masks) and now, after about 40 minutes of setup, his music is available in the Google Music Store.

Here’s how he did it, and his thoughts (in italics) on the whole deal:

1). PURCHASE YOUR ARTIST PAGE

Visit http://music.google.com/artists/ and get started. Search to see if your page is already on Google Music (it might be if you’re on a label or if you sell your music via a distributor like TuneCore or CD Baby). This is a guide mostly for indie musicians, so we’re going to go ahead and assume that you, like Shaun, do not yet have a page.

Shaun, having discovered that his band Kitten Berry Crunch was absent from Google Music, continued on to make his page. Oh, and he accepted the terms and services ensuring Google that jams like “Tonight’s Mission, Tomorrow’s Mistake” were, indeed, penned by him.

Let’s see what he had to say about the process:

OK, so far, it’s going well. First you have to log in with a Gmail account. I had to switch from my personal account to my band account — logging out and logging back in.

Then I have to create a Google Checkout account and pay $25 off my credit card. (Hmm is this some ploy to get me to sign up for a million Google accounts?)

That $25 is a one-time fee that Shaun paid through his newly minted Google Checkout Buyer account and will allow him to upload as many tracks as he likes to the store. Shaun will be paid through the Google Seller Checkout account (more on that later) and he’ll keep 70% of the sales.

2). TELL US ABOUT YOUR BAND

You’ll now have the chance to flesh out some info about your band. Unfortunately, we talked to Google and right now there’s no way to integrate your Google+ band page with your Music Store Artist page. This seems like an an oversight. Imagine being able to sell music from your profile with a single click.

You can add a link to your Google+ page to your Store page, though.

The initial setup, payment process and filling out your band information is easy shmeasy. Copy-paste a band bio here, upload the new band logo there, insert my YouTube link over yonder…

I’m glad this has now become second nature to me considering it’s only the millionth time I’ve had to do it. Whatever happened to the days of only needing a MySpace or PureVolume account? Now I need to be on every damn new music site that pops up every other day!

3). DEFINE YOUR SOUND

The only thing that’s always tricky for an artist is defining your Genre: I know I’m a little indie and a little synth-pop, so do I click Alternative/Indie, Pop, or Electronic? First I clicked Electronic then saw it was all House, Drum & Bass, straight DANCE options for the “Sub-genre” dropdown menu. This is not me.

Then I clicked “Alternative/Indie” and saw options that were more closer to my sound (“’80s Alternative”, “Electropop”, & “New Wave/Post Punk”).

I gotta say, having this Sub-Genre menu was not bad for the genre of music I’m going for. It certainly beats only defining your band as “Electronic” or “Indie,” which makes me scratch my head and click one, then think about it for another minute and click the other. (Decisiveness is not a musician’s strong suit.)

4). UPLOAD YOUR MUSIC

After completing your profile, it’s time to add music, a process that Shaun found a little tricky.

After a confusing five minutes, I determine I can’t upload my music here on this “Edit Artist Info” window and my status is pending. I’m about to give up when I stumble back to the main “Artists & Music” section (which I forgot I could go to…) And lo and behold, there’s an “Upload & Edit Music” button. (Why is this seperate from the “Edit Artist Info”? Very confusing… just let me upload pics, band bio and music all on one setup page, please.)

Once locating the correct screen from which to upload music, Shaun now has to set up a Google Seller Account so that he can get paid. This confuses him a bit, because Google doesn’t really clearly state that you need two accounts in order to buy a page and get paid. We’re guessing Shaun didn’t read all the info on the Google Checkout page.

Another snag and I have to re-sign in to my Gmail. Then have to resubmit my billing address. I’m getting annoyed. It’s not working, so I’m reading the small type again. Did I just legally setup my band as a small business? What?

Shaun was just setting up his Seller profile. It confused him, but he figured it out.

I have a new screen to create an album and determine the costs of my songs (I choose FREE). Then I discover they only accept WAV & FLAC files — and I only have AIFs of my mastered songs to upload. Another five minutes to convert those in iTunes and I’m finally uploading them. Knowing my Internet connection, this is gonna be a while…

A few minutes go by…

Already I’m published (what was that, 40 minutes?). But it takes 24 hrs to appear in the search on the Google Music Store. Then my page will go live, and the money will start rolling in! All the zeroes of dollars I’ll be making in no time.

Shaun’s Closing Thoughts: Well, Google really wants to help me sell my songs with Google Music — but only after I sign in with my Google Mail and create a Seller account with Google Checkout. It’d be nice if they paid me in Google stock. (Can’t they just stop creating microcosms of their company and just keep it all under Google Music? I don’t need to see all their different little logos with every click of the mouse.)

Anyway, it really wasn’t that difficult and took all of 30 minutes. It’s comparable to setting up a Bandcamp account or getting on iTunes through the various music vendor websites. Not sure what that $25 fee was for, though? I can’t remember paying that for Bandcamp, but I could’ve to get on iTunes. Sorry, my memory’s shot now from too many Google screens.

Editor’s Note: Bandcamp’s basic service is free. They take about 15% of the revenue (it drops to 10% when you reach $5,000 in sales). The pricing and revenue system is a bit more complicated, but we’ll get into that later. Read up here.

As for iTunes, musicians usually have to use a distributor like CD Baby or TuneCore to sell music through iTunes. I wrote an article on this in the past when I worked at Mashable, and the basic crux of the matter is that you have to pay a fee per song/ringtone/album per year in order to distribute via some services and a one-time fee for others. Often, that fee is more than $25 and does not extend to any and all music you plan to sell over the course of your career.

Going forward, Shaun would also do well to become a YouTube partner so that he can sell music via the brand new YouTube Merch Store. Perhaps after he finishes his new cat-themed music video.

By Brenna Ehrlich