Hereit has been designed to be simple and transparent, in all ways–but especially in how and what it charges artists.
There is no advertising, or any other kind of corporate involvement, and the site is free for listeners. So to cover hosting and bandwidth, the site charges artists $1 per published song per month. The minimum charge is $3, for three published songs, but you only need one song to publish your profile page. Artists set the prices for their songs and keep 100 percent, with the money directly deposited into their bank accounts in 48 hours.
Artists pay the fees for Stripe, the e-commerce provider, which are 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. For the minimum three-song account, this comes out to $3.40 per month. That’s just over a dime a day. For each additional song, the e-commerce fees increase by about 3 cents. So if you have four songs on your profile, it costs $4.43; five songs cost $5.46; six songs cost $6.49, and so on.
All the charges are prorated for the amount of time songs are actually published on the site, with credit applied to the next month’s charge. Say you add a song in the middle of the month: You will be charged the dollar for the song, but the next month you will be credited 50 cents, because the song was only published on the site for two weeks.
I asked Stripe how closely they calculate the prorating and they said, “The calculation of plan credit/debiting is done to the second.” So there you go. That’s about as pay as you go as you can get. They only do the crediting on future invoices, though, not directly to an artist’s bank account. So if you delete your Hereit profile (which you can do whenever you want, with no “takedown charge” or any other ridiculous fee), Stripe can’t credit you.
Hereit also lets artists publish and unpublish songs as often as they like. For the $3.40 monthly charge, you can swap out those three songs for three different ones whenever you want, without getting hit with extra charges. This lets artists keep new songs on their profile page. (The digital creeps love to talk about “fresh content” and they may be on to something. Even broken clocks are right twice a day.)
Though this means less money for Hereit, this is what I would recommend. I don’t think, cost-wise, Hereit is necessarily the best place to publish three old albums, with ten songs each on them. That would cost $31.21 every month, ten times more than a standard account. Unless, of course, those songs are all selling. It’s all up to the artist–they have total control over their work, as they always should.
If artists post the minimum three, or four or five or six, songs at a time, and then regularly swap them out for new songs, it will give listeners a reason to come back to their profile page and buy more songs. And it will definitely cost the artists less on their Hereit charges.
Will they make more money that way, rather than posting a whole album and leaving it up for a year? I don’t know. Some people like to buy albums; some people like to buy songs. That’s up to the artists to figure out what works best for them, and Hereit is set up to let them adjust the songs on their page as much as they need.
The scenario I had in mind when I was putting the site together was an artist needing to make rent, so he publishes a new song on Hereit–even writing it and recording it quickly at home–and then takes to Facebook or wherever and tells people that he has a new song up on Hereit, and needs rent money, so please go buy it. Friends and fans–who like the music and like supporting independent artists–go buy the song. The artist receives 100 percent of the sales, and in 48 hours has rent money in his bank account.
Maybe that is idealistic, but when you don’t take cuts from sales and you give artists total control of their work and their pricing, it is totally possible. And in fact, something just like that situation happened almost immediately after Hereit launched. So zip it, cynic.
What’s cool about the Hereit pricing is that if you sell a song once, you cover the cost of having that song on the site. Every subsequent sale that month is profit. That, of course, is if the songs cost a dollar. Artists can charge whatever they want. Should songs cost more? Probably. I think it is absurd that every song now costs a dollar. That’s like one giant art gallery determining that every painting they sell will now cost one dollar (of which they will keep 30 cents, of course), and every single painter and art lover accepting that’s what paintings cost now–if even that.
If you sit down at your kitchen table and sing a new song you are writing into your phone, that song costs a dollar. If you book studio time and hire an engineer and bring in a horn section, that song costs a dollar too? I think it is entirely reasonable for the same artist to charge a dollar for one song and $5 for another. Or more for both. (Why not? I shudder to remember what I paid for this when I was 16–not to mention what it took to track it down and find a way to get to the store that was selling it.)
The whole goal of Hereit’s pricing is to always make it possible for artists to make more money from the site than they ever spend on it. And if they do make less, they are only out the cost of a cup of coffee or about what they would tip on a drink. (Always tip bartenders.)
So there is the long answer.
Here is the short answer. How much does Hereit cost?
About a buck a song a month.