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Updating Your Digital Music Distribution

Learn how to promote your music,digital music distribution techniques beyond iTunes and building community of Super Fans
4.1 (28 ratings)
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2,274 students enrolled
Created by Gigi Johnson
Last updated 2/2013
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  • 1.5 hours on-demand video
  • 4 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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I've gotten my music on iTunes -- now what?  Or how do I even get my music there?  Should I worry about Facebook?  Tumblr?  Twitter?  How do I have time for this?  How do I make more than 67 cents a download, or less than 1 cent for streaming? 

Welcome to “Updating Your Digital Music Distribution,” where we will work to help you answer these and many other questions.

The digital world for musicians continues to change dramatically.  We not only have the ability to self-market and create communities directly with listeners, but also can thrive in online communities with influencers and other musicians around the world.  Digital has transformed not just the way we get the word out, but also how we create and how we understand the vast data around the consumption of our music.  Internet marketing has morphed into internet community crowdsourcing of opinions and tastes—a very different world for musicians and musical organizations. 

You will engage in rethinking your own “brand,” finding your “target audience” online, and engaging directly with core influencers and Super Fans.

  • Who are you really trying to reach to thrive as a musician? 
  • How do you really plan to earn money in this digitally connected, streaming music, age?  How can you make different money from different relationships with fans? 
  • What do you need to do beyond getting your tracks out on the right digital distribution services?  Where IS the right place or places for your music to be available? 
  • What have other musicians and musical organizations done that you’d like to learn from in your own marketing and branding?  How do your fandoms overlap?  What can you do with that information?
  • What is worth your time to engage in and what is a total waste of time? 


Who is the target audience?
  • Musicians who would like to begin distributing music online
  • Musicians who have been distributing online and would like to beef up their online communities and marketing
  • Supporters and teams around musicians trying to expand their fan bases and make more money doing what they love.
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What Will I Learn?
Students will finish the course understanding:
"Why?" -- Why should I do anything other than getting my music on iTunes? Why do my fans engage in what they do online – and not my website? Why do other groups spend time where they do?
"Who?" -- Who loves my work? Who do they hang out with digitally and who can they influence for me? Who will help pay for a full and robust living for my music?
"What?" -- What are the individual elements that we can use, including technology, tools, communities, resources, etc.? What do I need to do next?
"How?" -- How do I spend my time, in addition to creating great music? What type of skills do I need to grow or hire to thrive in this digital music age? How can I find places for my music and relationships to grow? How do I make a full and robust living if I only get less than a penny a play from Spotify?
View Curriculum
  • Ability to use a computer and have Internet access
  • No specific Internet or programming skills are required; the course will provide ideas on how to learn some tools further and will be easier if you can tinker with online tools.
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 13 Lectures Collapse All 13 Lectures 01:58:19
1 Lecture 05:59

Dr. Gigi Johnson, your instructor for this course series, has been teaching undergraduate musicians for four years at UCLA and other places.  This session will present the overview of this series on “Upgrading your Digital Music Distribution,” focusing on how to think about digital distribution beyond iTunes and getting your music out there. 

We’ll look at three elements in this first session:

1)  Music as the Canary in The Coal Mine in digital distribution – what happened?

2)  Music as a singles business

3)  Our path together: 5 Sessions plus 1 “What Next?” and a Bonus Marketing Segment

Preview 05:59
Overview of Digital Music Economics
2 Lectures 10:03
We’re going to start out looking at the real flows of digital music today.  How do fans consume music today so I can plan?
Preview 10:03

Now that we have laid out the revenue streams for listeners, what are the biggest uses of music online?

How are people listening to music?
1 question

Bonus: Acronyms and Lingo: Detangling Digital Alphabet Soup
7 pages
Digital Toolbox for Song Distribution and Sales
3 Lectures 22:16

We’re going to talk about the basics of digital distribution – streaming, sales, intermediaries, and related companies.  How do they bring information and money to me as a musician?

STEP 2: Understanding Basics of Digital Distribution

I may get overlooked with streams of revenue coming back to me.  

Who should I sign up with?
1 question

Where do you start?  Here's a list of lots of basic tools for digital distribution, ranging from where to get your web site address, links to distribution services, and other tools that are available.  

Expanded Ideas: Digital Tools and Basics
4 pages

Do you lack great software to make things yourself?  Have no fear.  Here we have a starting list of free and/or open source software tools that you can use on your computer or laptop to record, create graphics, edit video, and even create things in 3D (if you have the time and patience).  

Expanded Ideas: Open Source Creation Resources
1 page
Finding and Gifting to your SuperFans and New Audience
4 Lectures 30:53
How do I connect with my fans?  How do I find where they are in the wild?  How do they intersect with music and who my fans could be?
STEP 3: Connecting with Your Digital Fans

Many of the options we have for distribution trap usage data at the external site, so you, the artist, get an aggregated number and don't get individual behaviors and information.  Do you know which ones?

Which music distribution tools do not share data about my fans as individuals?
1 question

STEP 4: Listening to Your Future Fans

This section is an activity guide.  You can use this pathway to do some research on your own Music Brand.  Grab some paper, an Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet, some desktop space, and start thinking about who you would like to become over the next few years.

Ready?  Let’s go!

Basics: Hunting & Gathering: Learning from Other Musicians' Mistakes
3 pages

STEP 5: Sharing Excitement with Super Fans

What might I use to engage my super fans?
What products could I use to engage my Super Fans?
1 question
BONUS: Bonus Marketing Sessions
2 Lectures 26:58

This marketing bonus session discusses the basics of marketing, including “the P’s” (product, price, place, and promotion), sales funnels, conversion, and lifecycles.  What are my tools in marketing and how do they help me consider new alternatives as a musician and “brand”?

This marketing session has been broken into two parts.  This first session deals with the "P's": Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. 

BONUS: Marketing 101 Video 1

This marketing bonus session discusses the basics of marketing, including “the P’s” (product, price, place, and promotion), sales funnels, conversion, and lifecycles.  What are my tools in marketing and how do they help me consider new alternatives as a musician and “brand”?

This marketing segment has been broken into two parts.  This second section deals with demographics, sales funnels, and lifecycles.  

BONUS: Marketing 101 Video 2
Future Steps: Testing Your Adventures
1 Lecture 07:10

A sixth section – we’re going to talk about what you can now DO based on this knowledge. What can you do next as an artist and a musician? 

PLUS ONE: What's Next?
About the Instructor
4.1 Average rating
28 Reviews
2,274 Students
1 Course
University Instructor, Music Marketing and Branding; Singer

Gigi Johnson created the "Internet Marketing and Branding for Musicians" course at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music in 2010, which is now a core part of the Music Industry Minor there. This section is a core piece of that class. Earlier, she also ran the Entertainment and Media Management Institute at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. She has also taught digital media in both Spain and Abu Dhabi.

She also runs Maremel Media, which has produced and distributed music and online video since 2004. Dr. Johnson’s corporate background includes being SVP/General Manager of two video-on-demand channels at Studio 4 Networks and SVP/Managing Director at Bank of America.

Dr. Johnson has an Ed.D. in Education and Media Studies from Fielding Graduate University; an MBA from UCLA Anderson; and a bachelor’s degree in Cinema-Television Production from the University of Southern California’s renowned School of Cinematic Arts.

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