The new buzz seems to be that independent artists shouldn’t release and/or promote their music on iTunes.
The argument is that iTunes is the Walmart of digital music, and you wouldn’t point your fans in the direction on Walmart to buy your record. You’d send them to an independent record shop.
Furthermore, the argument goes that iTunes keeps 30% of the retail price where other retailers, such as CD baby, keep 9% to 15%. So it makes better sense to keep fans away from iTunes.
Now as I’ve written before, I’m no fan of iTunes. There’s a real risk that they’ll end up being the only online music retailer. But for independent musicians, it’s necessary to have your music on iTunes, and let your fans know about it.
Firstly, a lot of people have iPhones. If you’ve ever been through the process of trying to get non-iTunes purchased music onto an iPhone, then you’ll understand what I mean.
Secondly, the fact that iTunes is so big means that there’s a certain credibility in having your music on there. Whilst anyone can get there music onto CD Baby, it’s much more straight forward than getting your music onto iTunes. Therefore, it adds the impression of credibility and authenticity.
Thirdly, sites like CDBaby are still big businesses. Sure, they make more effort at promoting independent music, but let’s not forget that they’re still in the business of making money. Avoiding one company because it’s a “billionaire corporation”, but promoting a millionaire corporation, doesn’t make much sense.
So what should independent artists do?
Firstly, let fans know all the places they can buy your music from. Have links to iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, etc.
Secondly, iTunes charges more for albums – let your fans know this. If they still want to use iTunes and pay the premium, well good for them.
Thirdly, try push fans to physical copies. The profit margin is about the same and it gives fans more bang for their buck. Tell them which record stores they can buy your record from, and furthermore, set up your own online store.
Avoiding iTunes as an artist is reckless. But having it be the only place you sell your music from is just plain stupid. After all, your an independent artist. You’re not locked into any contracts, so why act like you have only one option. So don’t stop using iTunes, but make sure you explore all possibilities for selling your music online.