If you are an independent musician, recording artist, or band, and you have digital music you’d like to sell online you really need to get your music on Apple iTunes. While there are scores of online music sites these days where you can sell mp3s, Apple iTunes is the number one seller of digital music these days, and if your music is not for sale on their site you are cheating yourself out of sales. Also, having your music available on Apple iTunes gives you instant “street cred,” as most people will be impressed that your music is even available there.
If you are an independent artist or band with no record label backing you, you will not be able to go directly through Apple iTunes to get your music on the site. You will have to go through a third party who will — for a fee — get your digital music on Apple iTunes as well as all the other major digital music sites (Rhapsody, Napster, Spotify, etc.)
There are many companies that can get your music on Apple iTunes for you, but the two most popular companies these days are CD Baby (cdbaby.com) and Tunecore (tunecore.com). Here I will discuss the differences between the two…
CD Baby: CD Baby has been a great service for Independent artists for years now. For a flat fee of $35 they will give your music digital distribution to all the major digital music sites including Apple iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, Spotify, and many others. A big plus for CD Baby is that they will also sell your physical CD on their site, if you have your music on CD. They are actually one of the very few music sites left that sell physical CDs for independent artists. As for getting your music on Apple iTunes and the other digital music sites, you do not need to have your music on CD, but you will need a barcode to sell digitally. If you have no barcode, CD Baby will generate one for you for a $20.00 fee. After your music has been made available on Apple iTunes and the other digital music sites, CD Baby takes a 9% cut from all digital sales. There are no annual “maintenance” fees with CD Baby — the initial $35.00 fee covers everything. If you do not have a full album but want to put individual singles on Apple iTunes, CD Baby will also distribute digital singles for a one time fee of $9.99 each. I personally have four CDs for sale on CD Baby and have been quite happy with their service.
Tunecore: Tunecore also will get your digital music on Apple iTunes and all the other major digital music sites. The main difference between Tunecore and CD Baby is that Tunecore’s pricing for digital distribution is more complicated than CD Baby’s and Tunecore deals only with digital distribution — they do not sell physical CDs on their site. Tunecore offers digital distribution to 19 stores including Apple iTunes, and for $46.99 they will upload your entire album to all 19 stores. Or, you can go “ala carte” and pay $1.98 for each song to be uploaded to each store that you choose (for instance, if you have ten songs on your album and want to only upload them to iTunes the fee would be $19.98). If you do not have a full album, Tunecore will distribute individual singles to all 19 stores for $9.99. Tunecore does not take any cut out of digital sales, but they do charge an annual “maintenance fee” of $19.98 per album or $9.99 for a single, which basically will keep your music on iTunes for another year. As far as barcodes go, if you do not already have a barcode for your album or single Tunecore will generate one for you free of charge.
If your digital music is popular enough to get hundreds or thousands of downloads from iTunes each year Tunecore may be the way to go. If your music will probably not get that many downloads CD Baby would be the better choice. After you sign up with a service to get your music on Apple iTunes, it will take 1-2 months for your music to show up on Apple iTunes. For every digital sale on iTunes, Apple takes a 35% commission, leaving you with 65 cents per 99 cent sale. Once your music is on iTunes, it is up to you to promote it…
Promoting your music on iTunes: Just having your music on Apple iTunes is not enough to create sales, of course, so promotion is the key to generating sales. A good idea is to create links to your Apple iTunes page and put those links on your website or myspace page and promote the fact that your music is for sale on iTunes. You can also send the iTunes links via email to your friends, family and fans. Get the word out!
Another good way to make your music more visible on iTunes is to create your own “iMixes” on iTunes. iMixes are playlists on iTunes which consist of songs (that are available on iTunes) by your favorite artists, and these iMixes can be downloaded by other iTunes users as if they were actual albums. Other iTunes users rate these iMixes, and the highest rated iMixes will show up on the pages of the artists that are on the iMix. The best way to promote your own music with iMixes is to create iMixes with 10-15 songs by more famous artists similar to your own band, and put one of your own songs in the iMix. The more such iMixes you create, the more likely it is for people unaware of your music to stumble across it on iTunes. You should also encourage your family, friends and fans to give your iMixes good ratings to increase their visibility on iTunes.
There you have it… how to get your digital music up for sale on Apple iTunes and some tips for promoting actual sales. So, let’s get digital and sell!