How things have changes. Along with how we shop, read the news, stay connected with friends and family – or nearly everything else – the internet has changed countless things in our lives. It has been nothing short of revolutionary for musicians in particular. It wasn’t too long ago that the only realistic option for an unsigned artist to distribute their music was by hawking self-made burned CDs out of the trunk of their car. Jump forward to today and the same goal is now ridiculously easy. In this article, we’ll give you all the info you need in order to get your music on the king of online music distribution – iTunes – as well as other popular storefronts such as Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, Spotify and more.
The first step in trying to get your music onto Apple’s popular music store is to check if you can work with them directly. Unless you’re an established artist, chances are you’re going to need to work through a third-party aggregator instead, as the requirements are pretty hefty. In fact, it’s easy to see that Apple themselves would rather you take this route as they make multiple suggestions of working through a third party instead when trying to apply to work with them directly. For the curious, here are some of the requirements:
- At least 20 albums in your catalog
- UPCs/EANs/JANs for all products you intend to distribute
- ISRCs for all tracks you intend to distribute
- A valid iTunes Store account, with a credit card on file
And even if you do meet all of the requirements, there’s still a chance Apple will not approve your application. Luckily, those third party aggregators are very easy to sign up for and they do nearly all of the work for you. Apple has a list of them on their site which you can browse through by country (which you can view here) but for this article, we’re going to focus on the two most popular aggregators: CDBaby and TuneCore. The process for most aggregators is more or less the same with the only major differences being costs.
As the largest aggregators out there, CD Baby has a lot to offer aside from just getting your songs on iTunes. You can create physical CDs, DVDs and vinyl, order download cards for your music as well as access to over 95 digital retailers and more than 15,000 brick-and-mortar stores. As far as costs go, CD Baby charges a one-time fee of $49 per album and $9.95 for singles (or $69 and $14.95, respectively, with the required UPC codes needed to sell music on iTunes and other stores). After that, you keep 91% of all your earnings – once the store takes their cut, of course. For iTunes’ 30% fee, you keep $.60 per single and $6.50 per album. CB Baby states that it takes about two days to get your music onto iTunes and one to four weeks for most other major stores. Payments to you are made through check, ACH deposit or PayPal. You also retain all rights to your music.
While TuneCore doesn't give you as many options for selling your music as CD Baby does (such as physical discs, download cards, etc) they do offer a bigger selection of digital store partners. And unlike CD Baby’s one-time fee, TuneCore’s pricing model is based on a yearly subscription for their services. It will cost you $29.99 per album (for the first year, $49.99 after that) and $9.99 per single, per year. The upside to this deal is that you get to keep all of the sales revenue, aside from the percentage the store keeps. This means that you’ll get $.70 per single and $7.00 per album on iTunes. TuneCore can get your song on iTunes in as little as 24 hours while other major stores take about one to three weeks. Money is sent to you via check, PayPal or EFT (for U.S. and U.S. territory banks only). And like CD Baby, you retain all rights to your music.
Preparing Your Music
After you’ve signed up for an aggregator, you can begin the process of getting your music ready. We suggest that you convert your audio to WAV files with a sample rate of 44.1 kHz and the sample size at 16 bit. You should also set the channel to stereo. You can actually do all this in iTunes through the following steps:
- Highlight the song you wish to prepare
- Go to the “Preferences” settings
- Under “General,” navigate to “Import Settings”
- In this new window, you can change the sample rate and sample size to 44.1 kHz and 16bit
- Under “Channels,” change the setting to Stereo and “Stereo Mode” to Normal
- Right-click on the highlighted song and choose “Create WAV”
For the cover art, a good high-quality image is a must (we suggest at least 1,000 by 1,000 pixels in jpeg format).
Once you have your music and cover art ready, uploading them to the aggregator should be a fairly simple and straight forward process. After that, you can begin the much bigger task of promoting your music!
Your Turn to Sound Off!
Aside from selling music online and gigs, what are some other ways to get your music heard?