Before the age of the Internet, musicians had to rely on radio stations to spread their sounds across the globe and build up a fan base. From there, major record labels such as Sony and Virgin would sign new artists based on the amount of radio airplay their songs garnered. Today, thanks to the communication capabilities of the Internet, musicians and other artists no longer need to rely on the giants of industry to be discovered or promoted.
In order to position themselves to sell music online, one of the first steps musicians must take is to establish an Internet presence. An official website provides an artist with a standard means for establishing a home base; however, a website alone is no longer enough to stay competitive. Musicians must also take advantage of the social networking tools also made available by the Internet, such as YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace. MySpace has become a particularly popular hub for musicians and fans due to its networking capabilities and features, which include the ability for musicians to upload up to six of their own MP3 songs, and the opportunity for unsigned musicians to sell music online using SNOCAP, a license and copyright provider for digital music. Both signed and unsigned artists alike, such as Lilly Allen and Snow Patrol have used MySpace to increase their profile and sell music online.
Although MySpace provides an important forum for e-commerce and interacting with fans, musicians must first set themselves apart from the millions of other musicians on MySpace in order to sell music online. Internet celebrity and musician, Tay Zonday first gained fame when the video for his debut song, Chocolate Rain, went viral on YouTube. Unlike many other artist videos that get lost in the shuffle of YouTube, Chocolate Rain caught the attention of the public due to its quirky and humorous nature. Zonday quickly capitalized on the success of the video by becoming a member of YouTube and starting his own channel on the site. From his official YouTube channel, Zonday is able to host more of his music videos, connect with fans, and promote himself in order to sell music online.
In addition to pro-actively promoting their own music on the Internet, musicians also need to take precautionary measures in order to sell music online. This means cracking down on some of the bootleg song downloads which fans and other Internet users may have made available for free. Artists such as Prince are particularly militant about eliminating the amount of their own music which has been illegally distributed. To combat this, these artists sometimes employ lawyers to regularly monitor the Internet and send warning messages to individuals or organizations that have disregarded copyright laws and distributed their music without permission.