Providing Your Music Online - dummies

By Jeff Strong

If you have a website, you probably want your visitors to be able to hear your music. You can make your music available for listening online several ways:

Offering downloads

Online promotion of your music almost requires you to make downloads available to your potential fans. You can talk about your music all you want, but what people want is to hear your music. The purpose of the download is to get your listener to buy your CD or to come see your show.

There are tons of sites that will host your music downloads, for free or at a cost for your fans, such as iTunes, Rhapsody, and Amazon. You can add these yourself or you can find someone else to put these up for you such as Tunecore.com. This service costs a bit but it makes putting your music on the most popular download sites easy.

Put only a few of your best songs on your site (or any site for that matter). If you make your entire CD available, visitors have no incentive to buy the CD.

Streaming audio

Streaming audio is basically an audio file that begins playing before the entire file is downloaded. The advantage is that it greatly reduces the amount of time your listener has to wait to hear your music. The downside is that the quality of the audio can be lower.

You always want to make the process of navigating your site and listening to your music as fast as possible. This provides a much better experience than having to wait. The less time a person has to wait, the more likely he or she is to return. The more repeat visitors that you get, the better the chance you have for selling CDs.

You can create streaming audio in a number of ways, but the two most common are a RealAudio file (a file format developed by Real Networks) and an MP3 file. The process is the same with either method, except that your filenames are going to be different. Note that you need an encoder that can create a RealAudio file if you want to go that route.

The following steps walk you through the process of getting your MP3 file to stream on your site:

  1. Create an MP3 file, using a bit rate from 64 to 92 Kbps — a good range for streaming audio when used over dialup modems.

  2. Save the MP3 file so that you can identify it.

    The easiest way to do this is to save your file as songname64.mp3 (the 64 stands for 64 Kbps).

  3. Create a pointer file and name it songname64.m3u.

    A pointer file is a file that directs your visitor’s audio player to the song so that it plays without waiting for the entire song to download. This file contains directions to your MP3 file. For example, your file would contain the following text: http://www.YourwebSiteAddress/songname64.mp3.

    You can also use the M3U file to create a playlist, that is, have more than one song play without making your visitor go to another page on your website. To do this, simply add another song on another line. Adding two more songs would then look like this:

    www.YourwebSiteAddress/songname64.mp3
    www.YourwebSiteAddress/anothersongname64.mp3
    www.YourwebSiteAddress/yetanothersongname64.mp3

    The M3U file plays the songs in the order they are listed in this file.

    Keep in mind that if your visitor doesn’t have an audio player, he can’t listen to your music. It’s a good idea to put a link on your site to another site where your listener can download an audio player.

  4. Create a hyperlink on your web page to the songname64.m3u file.

    For example, you can put the hyperlink in some text, like this: Check out our new song, songname; then link the text to the file. Or, you can place the hyperlink in a picture or graphic (or both).

  5. Upload your MP3 file, your pointer file, and the new page with your hyperlink to your website.

  6. Go to your website and see whether it works.