At least six services offer indie musicians the opportunity to sell downloads without long term contracts or going through expensive middle men; and sometimes they even empower them to sell music from their own web sites.
Musicane has a few marquee clients like Ministry and allows and indie band or labels to to upload songs for sale and create a custom e-commerce page that links straight from the band's own site. Musicane allows variable pricing and takes 30-40% of each sale plus some monthly fees for acts selling multiple albums.
Broadjam sells a suite of useful services including D.I.Y. web sites and a similar download service to Musicane. Broadjam takes just 19 cents out on a fixed 99 cents price per track with no fees.
UK's 7 Digital seems to offer the most sophisticated solution with variable pricing and the ability to sell in WMA, MP3, or even iPod compatible AAC formats at a superior 192 kps (vs. 128kps). Their innovations have attracted high profile clients like Queen and Gnarls Barkley. Fees we're not apparent on 7's site and they sell only in UK currency. All and all 7 Digital seems to be a model that other D.I.Y. download services should emulate.
Payloadz enables the sale of any digital file (music, book, software). Set up may be a bit more difficult, also offers the flexibility to create unusual digital bundles (i.e. songs + video + lyrics) and experiment with variable pricing. Virgil @ Indie HQ has a nice overview of the service. Fee options range from free to 15% to fee based.
Tunecore takes a complimentary approach enabling musicians to get their songs on iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, Yahoo! and others for a low flat fee of 99 cents per track for the first download service and 99 cents per album for each additional. There is also an additional storage fee of $7.98 per album per year. Each service like iTunes also takes it's cut of each sale; usually 40% .
Online indie retailer CDBaby offers a similar service in addition to it's core business that make indie CD's available online and by special order to retail. CD Baby members ($35) can get on most major downloads service by paying a 9% commission plus the download service's cut. Most companies who place songs on download sites like iTunes charge 20-30% if they will even talk to an individual artist or micro-label.
Each service has its own strengths and weaknesses. If you want sell both via your own site and the major download storefronts you will have to use more than one. And of course being available for sale is only the start. Helping people discover he music and want to buy it is the toughest part. (In fact we'd like to print a follow up article on promoting your music online; so please email your ideas.)