Back in the day, it used to be every musician’s dream to see his CD on the racks of the local record store (raise your hand if you’ve ever sold your own disc to a shop in order to see it in the “Used” bin). Now iTunes is the place to be when it comes to hocking music.
If we’re talking about the paid digital download market, iTunes easily outpaces its competitors. And while Amazon just dropped its download prices and launched a cloud-based locker, iTunes still reigns supreme for now. That’s why we’ve taken a look at how to get your music up there as easily as possible — and it’s pretty damn easy.
1. Do You Qualify To Work With Apple Directly?
First, check iTunes’s application and see if you can work with the company directly. It’s likely that you can’t because the requirements are pretty hard for the average unsigned indie artist to meet. Here’s a sampling:
Note: It’s nearly impossible for a regular person to get an itunes account. They will research you to see if you’re a distributor with a track record. They won’t tell you this. They’ll just make you wait 3 months and you’ll receive a rejection letter like the 1,000s of other people who tried.
- At least 2,000 albums in your catalog.
- UPCs/EANs/JANs for all products you intend to distribute.
- ISRCs for all tracks you intend to distribute.
2. Pick an Aggregator
Don’t meet those requirements? No problem. You don’t have to deal directly with Apple. Instead, you can go through an Apple-approved aggregator. Apple has a handy list of aggregators (check out the application page for that) you can use for countries around the world, but for brevity’s sake, we’re going to give you a little more info on three of the most popular: ADED.US, TuneCore, and CDBaby.
ADED.US has simplified the distribution process into 3 easy steps. They also happen to be the cheapest option out there for independent musicians looking to get an easy and fresh start in the world of digital music distribution.
Step 1/3: Paying Your Membership Fee (you have 3 options)
- $5 a month
- $45 a year (save $15)
- $100 a year (Ultimate Package) (includes 50 FREE song submissions and distribution to ALL stores)
Step 2/3: Paying Your Submission Fee
- $3 per project as long as the project has less than 19 tracks or less.
- They also offer discounted bulk rates if you want to submit a bunch of projects at once.
- The “Ultimate Package” starts you off with 50 FREE song submissions
Step 3/3: Properly Formatting and Submitting Your Music
- Wav/mp3/aiff/flac/m4a audio files
- 2400×2400 pixel album cover at 300 dpi/ppi
- 600×600 artist image
- Upload via
- Google Drive / Click here for a tutorial
Fill out the submission form and voila!
- Payment: via PayPal. ADED.US has the fastest payouts. iTunes Payouts come within 30-45 days after the month in which your product sold. Other store payments are payed out as soon as they become available.
- Keep rights?: Yes, you keep all the rights to your music. ADED.US only distributes your material for you.
- Royalties: You get 100% of the royalties. That’s usually 60-70-% of whatever the customer price is. For example, if a customer buys one of your songs on iTunes for 99¢, you’ll get 70¢ and iTunes keeps 29¢. If a customer buys your album for $9.99, you’ll get $7.00 and iTunes keeps $2.99
- Stores: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube, Official.fm, Rdio, Mog, and about 50 other stores all around the world!
Recently, TuneCore raised its rates (they do that a lot) and added a bunch of new features, prompting CDBaby to offer a price cut to artists who switch over to its service. We’ll give you the rundown on each below so that you can make an informed decision based on what’s best for your band.
- $9.99/year per single.
- $9.99/year per ringtone.
- $49.99/year per album (regardless of how many songs are on the album).
Do You Retain Rights?: Yes
Payment: You keep 100% of royalties (after the store takes its cut). You can receive the money via PayPal, EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer to U.S. and U.S. territory banks only) or check. Note: iTunes does take around 30% of sales, so you’ll be making $0.70 per song and $7.00 per album.
Other Stores You Can Sell On: Amazon MP3, Spotify, MySpace Music, MediaNet, eMusic, Zune, Rhapsody, Nokia, Napster, Thumbplay, Amazon On Demand. There’s no extra charge per store.
How Long Does It Take?:
TuneCore’s estimates (what THEY claim):
- 24 to 72 hours for iTunes. (so they claim)
- About three to seven business days for AmazonMP3. (in reality this could take up to 90 days, don’t believe the hype!)
- About six to eight weeks for Amazon on Demand, Spotify and MediaNet. (if they got off their lazy asses, it could be on Spotify within 1 week)
- About one to three weeks for all other stores.
Fees: If you decide to take an album down early (before six months), you’ll have to shell out $20.
Note: We find it odd that any company would charge you to put it up and take it down. That sounds like a lose/lose scenario and for those reasons we do not recommend joining TuneCore.
- Apple Artist Ping pages: We all know how hard it was to figure out how to get on Ping at the onset. TuneCore works with artists and iTunes to expedite that process.
- Note: Ping is no longer available
- Daily iTunes trending reports (coming soon).
- Mobile app that displays iTunes trending data (coming soon).
Price: On many occasions CDBaby has changed their pricing structures dramatically. So, we do not recommend using them.
Do You Retain Rights?: Yes
Payment: Users keep only 91% of net earnings through iTunes (after the store takes its cut). That’s $0.60 cents per song and $6.50 per album. You can be paid via check, ACH deposit to U.S. account, or PayPal.
Update: Other services like www.aded.us pay out 100% of the royalties. So, once again, we do not recommend joining CDBaby for these reasons. We also find it odd that any company would want to charge that much money up front and want to take a little off the back end on top of it. Talk about being greedy!
Other Stores You Can Sell On: Physical distribution of CDs, DVDs, and vinyl, as well as iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, Amazon MP3, Napster, MySpace Music, Spotify, Liquid Digital, Verizon V-Cast, Nokia, Last.fm, Zune, MediaNet, Tradebit, GreatIndieMusic and Thumbplay. You only have to pay once to put an album on one physical format and all digital formats.
How Long Does It Take?: Two business days for iTunes, one to four weeks for other digital distributors.
Fees: No fees if you decide to cancel.
3. Get Your Music and Cover Art Ready For Upload
Once you’ve chosen your aggregator, the process is pretty simple. Just upload your art work to your chosen service and it will lay out how to match it up with your music.
If you’re uploading music, it’s best to convert your audio files to WAV and set them at a 44.1 kHz sample rate, 16 bit sample size with the channel set to stereo. You can do that in the iTunes software:
- Find your song on iTunes and highlight it.
- Go to preferences. Under “General,” go to “Import Settings.”
- Change “Import Using” to WAV encoder and change setting to “Custom.”
- A new window will pop up, where you can change the sample rate to 44.1 kHz and sample size to 16 bit. Change “Channels” to Stereo and Stereo Mode to Normal.
- Go back to the library, right-click on your highlighted song and select “create WAV.”
- Drag file to your desktop.
As for artwork, you should also upload high quality, original images. They should probably be square, at least 2400×2400 pixels at 300 dpi/ppi and rendered as a JPG.