Website helps student musicians sell music

By Steven Schnarr

With the evolving distribution in the music industry, one Princeton University student decided to carve out a niche for aspiring college musicians online.

Cameron McClain, a junior religion major at Princeton,created, aimed at encouraging an online community of artists for college students. But after struggling with the website, McClain decided to refocus the site. It officially re-launched on Sept. 12.

Now is a website where artists can upload and sell their music for 50 cents a song while it was previously $1. The new version of the website has become more focused on creating a community by connecting artists.

“It’s discovery from the bottom up,” McClain said. “The people decide what’s popular.”

TheOdes is one of a few sites that sell music without the exclusive rights. McClain said he would be happy to support any band that got signed after they joined, even if they removed their songs from the website.

“We’re just one of many options that you could use,” McClain said. “But I don’t see why you wouldn’t use as many as you could.”

McClain said the idea for the site was mostly born out of frustration.

“There was no way to get music of the people that I personally knew by buying it or purchasing it,” he said.

The site originally launched in March, but after the initial wave of supporters, McClain couldn’t find time to expand the site.

“Three or four months ago, we were too static and focused on distribution,” he said. “We’re just hoping that this time we got it right.” The site has been in the process of re-launching for a few months.

As of press time, 52 bands and artists were featured on the website.

Dan Head, a senior at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., plays in the band Lolita and has a song available for download on the site.

“It’s really exciting,” Head said. “It’s a community of artists that aren’t necessarily the same sound but all have the same goal in mind of doing a grassroots thing.”

Artists may find it hard to build a fan base just by playing shows, so many have aimed to get most of their exposure online.

“In Chicago, there are so many bars and pubs you can play at,” Head said. “It’s hard to build a fan base out of that, but when you have songs on the Internet, you have people interested in trying to find new and exciting music.”

With the evolution of the music industry, many independent artists are delivering their music to the public through unconventional means.

“MySpace has replaced the demo CD, and TheOdes is kind of the same idea,” Head said. “[With TheOdes] you don’t get as many people listening to your music, but you can get people buying your music. It’s even cooler than a demo CD. It’s tapping the waters of the real deal.”

Nathan Graham, a sophomore music major at Columbia, said he sells his music on, which uses various outlets to sell music, like iTunes. He pays $10 a year to post an album on the website, and he gets the full 99 cents when a song is purchased. He had never heard of but said he would be interested in checking out the website and possibly uploading some of his music to it. He said it was worth the investment, as he has sold 40 or 50 songs since he has signed up for TuneCore.

Andrew Gross, a junior music major at Princeton, makes beat-heavy electronic music and has two songs on the website.

“I love using TheOdes to find new music, especially to find new college artists,” he said.

Similar to Head, Gross said he was more interested in joining a community of artists and getting his music out rather than making lots of money.

“I’m not super concerned with sales themselves,” Gross said. “I’m just happy to put my stuff on this website.”

Gross said he has sold about 10 of his songs on the website but has had a positive experience with the website regardless. He said it was very easy to upload his songs and set up a direct deposit into a bank account through PayPal.

McClain said he sold around 600 songs in the first two months. Of that, the website earns 30 percent of the sales.

“There’s no big company behind it, there’s just us,” he said.

When it comes to online sales of music in general, Graham said he thinks the Internet both helps and hinders the distribution of music.

“The Internet helps you because more people can access your record,” he said. “But then again, it’s easier for people to go around buying your music and they’ll just steal it somehow.”

Though big artists may be losing money to illegal downloading, Gross has a more positive outlook on the developing online music industry.

“I think the music industry is at a point where something has to change about the way music is being distributed because the old system is not very applicable anymore,” Gross said. “I think it’s a great time for independent artists to be starting out because websites like TheOdes are providing an opportunity for artists that they haven’t had in the past.”