Friday, April 27, 2012

What's Best Way for Band to Go Digital?

Dear Rich: We are a band of older guys. We've been around for over 30 years, mostly playing in Philadelphia area. We sell CDs at our shows but some people have asked us why we're not on iTunes and the answer is because we don't know how to do it. How does a band get their songs on iTunes? Speaking about older guys in bands, we can't wait until May 1, when Gregg Allman's memoir hits the streets. We're going to opt for the audiobook read by Will Patton, the go-to narrator for southern classics.
Right, you had a question. You can't submit your songs directly to iTunes. You'll need to go through a distributor, probably either CDBaby or Tunecore, as they have emerged as the main routes to digital distribution. You affiliate with one of them, upload the MP3s and these companies take care of the rest. Both services distribute to a host of download services including streaming services like Spotify, and download services like Rhapsody and Amazon MP3. They both usually manage to post on iTunes within two days of the hand-off.  What's the difference between the two? The main difference is that CDBaby takes a 9% cut of your net revenue from downloads. Tunecore doesn't take a cut, but requires that you pay an annual renewal fee per album. Here's a summary:
  • CDBaby. CDBaby will sell your physical CDs as well as distribute and sell your digital downloads. (If you just want to go digital and forego physical sales, you can do that as well.) There's a one-time fee of approximately $50 per album or $10 per single. You upload the music and artwork and they get your stuff out to everybody. The company keeps 9% of digital net sales. So after iTunes takes its 30% cut of each download, CDBaby takes 9% of the remainder and pays you the rest by PayPal. You get a CDBaby product page at their website and a fairly sophisticated dashboard so you can learn exactly who in Kazakhstan is buying your music. CDBaby can also handle synchronization licensing services. (Disclaimer: We've used them for years and have never had a problem.)
  • TuneCore.  TuneCore only handles digital distribution. (You cannot sell physical CDs.) Your band simply uploads your music and artwork and the company takes care of the rest, distributing the downloads to all of the major (and minor) players. The one-time fees for registering an album or single are similar to CDBaby: approximately $50 per album and $10 per single. However, Tunecore doesn’t take a cut from your digital sales. Instead they require that you renew each album and single annually (currently that's $50 per album, $10 per single). The company, through their relationship with IndieMerchandising ( also offers merchandise production services. 
  • The others. A few other companies also attract customers in this competitive space. Among these are BFM Digital, ONErpm, and We have not researched these services so we can’t provide information except to note their existence. The Orchard, and IODA also offer digital distribution but they're more selective about who they handle and you must apply and get approved before they will deal with your music.

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