iTunes and iTunes Radio: Selling and Streaming Your MusicBy
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Making your band’s music available for purchase online—either in digital or physical form, through your website or on one of your various profiles—is an important step to take if you want to continue your music career.
If a fan really digs your sound, they will do whatever it takes to get your music—even if it means going to some odd site they’ve never heard of to access your music. However, casual listeners are another story; if they don’t find your music available on their preferred channels (like iTunes), they might not buy it at all. Being available on those preferred platforms can mean the difference between making a sale and losing a potential fan.
In case you haven’t heard of it (ha!), iTunes is the largest digital music store online. It set the standard for digital music distribution and is so far ahead of its competitors that “competitor” might be an overstatement. As iTunes is the most commonly looked-to place to purchase music, it should not be dismissed or regarded lightly.
In addition to music sales, iTunes also offers streaming music with iTunes Radio. We do not recommend listing all of your music on iTunes Radio, there are several issues with streaming music that make it difficult for indie musicians to succeed with these services. A sampling of your music might be a good idea. Check out our article on streaming music for more information. Users can create stations based on music they like or have downloaded, and iTunes fine tunes the stations based on future listening and download patterns. iTunes Radio also offers featured stations. Users can listen to iTunes Radio on their mobile device, computer, tablet, or Apple TV for free.
Putting Your Music on iTunes
There are two routes you can take to get your music listed on iTunes: you can work with an aggregator, or you can apply to list it yourself. A list of approved aggregators can be found here; there are pros about working with an aggregator, but there are also drawbacks (see below). If you want to avoid aggregators, you can apply to work directly with iTunes. The criteria, such as encoding houses and content requirements, are specific, so be sure you have everything lined up and ready to go before applying.
In terms of earning money from music sales, iTunes operates similar to other sites. For each song sold, you receive a percentage of the sale price. In theory, you should be making some profit from the streamed content; however, those details are not easily found on the iTunes website. You can make more money by selling your music on your own website, but iTunes offers a good place to go for fans who may not know where your site is, so do not ignore it. (For more information, see this article about iTunes on our site.)
There is no cost for listing your music on iTunes, although there may be fees assessed by the aggregator you choose. Instead, you pay iTunes by receiving a reduced portion of the sales price. When a song is sold, iTunes takes its percentage (usually around 25-30 percent). Then, the aggregator takes its percentage, and you get what’s left.
Ease of Use
While the math and forms and requirements for signing up yourself seem daunting, with a bit of research and reading they are very doable. Other than that, it takes patience; the process is not guaranteed to be quick.
Using an aggregator may or may not make the process easier.
You can email Apple for help, and they have an extensive FAQ section. However, their phone tree is very complicated, and connecting with a person is difficult. Aggregators may or may not be easier to work with.
A Final Word
Choosing to put your music on iTunes is a big decision; it should not be made lightly or without thorough consideration. For additional information, please read our related article, Rethinking iTunes.