How to Sell Music on iTunes

Blog, Music, Technology

In the past, I’ve posted topics discussing how record labels are largely irrelevant, whether you have a music product that’s good enough and how to prepare your music for distribution.

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.

3 thoughts on “How to Sell Music on iTunes

  1. Well ADEDistribution is a lot to cheaper to start up with and they pay 100% too. Only $5 a month. They may not have all the frills of CDBaby and TuneCore but what do the frills matter if you’re paying alot more for service that’s basically the same. They do have EZ share buttons and they create your page for you and the page has alot more to it than the ones TuneCore and CDBaby make


    1. I’m not entirely convinced by a company whose main website is not very professional looking. Plus the annual fee could be an issue for smaller artists. Thanks for recommending the company though, another alternative for readers to consider.


  2. After a year and a few months, I have fieurgd out that Reverbnation is a bit of a scam. The fee listed here is wrong because its almost double that amount or 60 bucks annually however, they not only charge a $50 take down (making your so called one time payment, 50 dollars more than that initial amount spent), there are also fees taken for every transfer of money to your paypal account. Therefore, no matter what at Reverbation, you are spending $110 to set and take down each release. Its not reflected in any of the sign up document and they added it on to the FAQ a few months after I initially signed up But I was not happy with that system. Forget about the fees, they hardly got our product anywhere that cant be done at any other aggregator and/or distributor. They have great marketing tools but this where and how they scam money from artists. Which sucks because obviously as a young artist, trying to grow in this industry, every penny counts. And, its hard to read thousands of lines of fine print like they have in their FAQ section. The fees they take are very easy to overlook even now I was honestly shocked a company with so much going them, acts that way towards young bands .as if its not hard enough to break into the marketplace, you have look over your shoulders at your own partner because Reverbnation is not at all forthcoming about these fees .not even remotely they hide it .and that sucks because I could have gone to every other company, that would and does not act this way towards artists. Most companies do not take advantage of young artists, but this company is a nightmare with regard to digital distribution. I am telling you its a nightmare to deal with their digital services. Its very hard. Let alone you will not get paid on time. Its now 8/11 and I have had money due to me since 8/5. And, they refuse to deal and/or answer to it. Its very hard and I know they are scheming some way to keep that money which is incredible to do to young artists in this industry today .


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