Now I’ll discuss the actual process of getting your music for sale and/or streaming with retailers and companies like iTunes, Amazon, Napster and Spotify.
Unless you’re a label with a catalogue or material or an incredibly successful independent artist with some sales figures to back that up, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to approach retailers such as iTunes and Amazon directly. What you need therefore is to use a third party digital distributor who will take care of this process for you.
There are three big companies out there who seem to be the most popular: CD Baby, Zimbalam and Tunecore. A while back I compared CD Baby and Zimbalam and decided that CD Baby was probably the better of the two companies. They way they charge you and take royalties is slightly different so I’ll explain.
Both companies charge you an upfront fee to get your album set up. CD Baby charge you $49 for an album and $9.95 for a single. Zimbalam charges you £29.99 for an album and £19.99 for a single (note the currency difference for a fair comparison).
If you require a barcode for your product (this is mandatory), CD Baby charge $20 and $5 for an album and single respectively. Zimbalam do not charge for barcode creation.
If you choose CD Baby, the retailer takes their cut (different for every company), then CD Baby takes 9% of whatever is left meaning you get 91% of the sales of your music after the retailer has their share. There is no annual charge. If you don’t sell music in high quantities, this is probably the best option for you.
With Zimbalam, you get 100% of music sales after retailers have taken their cut. However, there is an annual charge of £19.99 and £9.99 for albums and singles respectively. If you sell a fairly moderate to large quantity of music per year, then this is the better option.
Tunecore charge $49.99 per year for an album and $14.99 a year for a single and you retain 100% of revenue after the retailer’s cut.
I’ve sold music with both CD Baby and Zimbalam and in my personal opinion, I’ve found CD Baby to be easiest to work with. They are always quick to respond, their artist backend system is easier to use and the whole process just seems far more friendly and easier.
I’ve sold an album from Zimbalam and they were very quick to get my work distributed to the stores (especially with Spotify). However, I do wish I went with CD Baby for this project as I’ve not accumulated enough sales to get value for money from their annual charge. Also worth noting, is that some aspects of their website are hideously out of date for example, they are still advertising the old pre-annual charge/90% cut deal on their homepage even though they no longer off this.
Both companies have an easy sign-up system and talk you right through the process. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you honestly thing you will sell enough music per year to make the annual charge worth it? If so, then the annual charge model will be more profitable for you. Otherwise, go with CD Baby, especially if you are new to this process.