Posted: Apr 8, 2013
Category: Online Distribution
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Hear a new song you like? It can be yours in moments. It just takes a few clicks of the computer mouse or swipes on a smart device to find the song online, purchase and download it, and hit play. Is your music available for the instant gratification of your fans? If not, you could be missing out on potential sales and NEW fans. While iTunes dominates digital music sales, you can usually land your songs on Amazon, Google Play, and others at the same time. After all, the more places that people can find you, the better the chances are of them downloading your music.
So how do you get your songs for sale on iTunes? It's possible to work directly with iTunes, though it won't make sense for most independent artists to go this route. You must meet their technical requirements (such as a minimum 20 GB of hard drive space, a Mac with the specified operating system, etc.), have at least 20 albums in your catalog, UPC bar codes for each product, and more. If you think you might qualify and are up for handling some of the technical aspects on your own, head to http://www.apple.com/itunes/sellcontent/ and click on "online application." You'll see the full list of requirements and can complete the application right then and there.
Many artists are better off working with one of several Apple-approved iTunes Music Aggregators. They handle interfacing with Apple, reporting, payment, and allow you to get started with as little as a single song. Here are a few of the major players to consider:
The largest of the digital distributors, CD Baby gives the option to send in a cd if you don't have the capability to upload a digital file. They also deliver the music to dozens of other online stores such as Amazon and Google Play in addition to iTunes, and have their own online store offering digital music downloads. Fees include a $49.00* one time sign up fee for each album (or $9.95 for a single) and 9% of the income generated from music sales. For songs purchased directly from CDBaby.com that means you keep 91% of the purchase price, for songs bought on other platforms, you'll receive 91% of the net profit, after the fees charged by iTunes, Spotify, or wherever the song was downloaded are taken out.
This aggregator not only gets your songs on iTunes, but also on more than a dozen other services such as Spotify, Deezer, eMusic, Amazon, and Google Play. Pricing ranges from $9.99* per year for one song to $49.99 a year (discounted price of $29.99 for the first year) for multiple songs. You pay this flat fee and then keep all earnings from your music sales. To get started, you'll need high quality digital versions of your songs and a digital file of your cover art. You'll get detailed reporting that shows what sold, where, and when, and you can withdraw your earnings at any time. Funds can be received via Paypal, check, or direct transfer to your bank account.
Catapult is another large music distributor, offering placement of both songs and ringtones (generally a 30 - 40 second clip of a song to be used as the sound for an incoming call on a mobile phone) on iTunes and other music stores. Fees include a one time $25* setup fee for albums or $9 for a single or ringtone, and 9% of the profits received when the songs are sold. After signing up for an account with Catapult, you can upload digital files of the music and cover art through the Dashboard on their system. They say it generally takes about 1 - 4 business days for the music to be delivered to iTunes, and then it normally shows up in the store within 24 - 48 hours after that.
Fandalism is a site for musicians to show performances and meet other musicians. They recently launched the "cheapest & easiest way to get your music into the biggest stores, period". While other companies charge $29.99 or $34.95 for one album per year, Fandalism charges a flat rate of $19.99 per year for unlimited uploads and unlimited albums and still pay out 100% of the royalties received. Also, your first single is completely FREE. Distribution only includes iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play though, so if you really want your songs available on other services, perhaps this is not the option for you.
A few things to be aware of when digitally distributing your music, whichever aggregator you choose:
- You must own the copyright to both the music and lyrics for your songs, or have permission to use them.
- If you have permission from the copyright owners, you will generally have to pay them royalties based on the number of downloads.
- It's important to choose only one aggregator to distribute your album or single. The online stores will not allow multiple companies to deliver the same album to them, and will generally remove the album entirely until it is sorted out which company has the exclusive rights to sell it.
- Should you choose to use one of these services for your digital distribution, you still retain ownership of your music.
*Prices as of January 20, 2013
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