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Why indie artists don't need itunes, amazon, etc..

I remember the days when you had to be hand selected to get your music into itunes and now literally anyone can pay to be distributed to the major digital sales platforms. It’s not special anymore. What I’m getting at is, what are the odds of someone finding your music on any of the major digital sites and making a random purchase to you, whom they never heard of? The odds are unlikely. Why do so many indie artists feel they need to sell on itunes etc.. for their music to be official? Doesn’t it make sense to say if you have a true fan, that they would want to buy directly from the artist? Yes it does. None of those major distributors are doing anything to promote your releases on their site, unless of course its paid, you are signed and the label is paying for promo slots, or you are popular enough to reach high sales rankings. In the event you are selling high units, the worst decision you can make is give the larger cut to a corporation that does nothing.

It makes no sense for an independent artist to sell any other way than direct. Trust me, I’ve been writing and releasing records for almost 20 yrs. and the one thing I’ve learned is that true fans are willing to give you their hard earned cash for your musical products over a share to corporate companies. You have no real way of tracking online sales through itunes, amazon, rhapsody etc. To this day I still sell more records and downloads through touring and mailing list interaction than any other way. directly through my dot com I offer direct digital sales and before I had this logical epiphany, I thought itunes was the way to go. I’m not saying avoid other outlets completely, as any residual sales are helpful, but unless these companies are doing something to promote my releases from the sales commission they take, why should you bother? The answer is, you shouldn’t.

Some suggestions to promote and sell your releases direct to fan are provided here:

millions and millions of people use If you are an independent artist, it’s wise to set up an account. Artists who are unaware about this, aren’t ready to distribute your work yet. allowers users to purchase digital and hard copies of your work in almost any format. slick easy to use and highly trackable data. Everything you need in simple form is here. Has viral and highly useful web marketing tools and widgets to increase revenue and manage your fans. Their interface is very detailed and not for beginners, but offers incredible incentives, like revenue sharing from their advertisers, special opportunities, industry advice, amazing web store with direct purchase interface.


Reader Comments (13)

Slightly contradictory to promote Bandcamp and Reverbnation and not iTunes. However I do agree with you but only to a point.

iTunes is good for randoms to purchase and so you are official. It is expected of you and you can use it to full effect. On the other hand selling direct via your website is what you should be 'promoting'. Once you have your fans and a database you can 'smash and grab' with iTunes just for the chart purposes.

Same thing with Youtube. Unless you're making money from Youtube you should NOT be promoting your Youtube page. Rather embed the video on your own site and promote that.

Good article though :-)

July 17 | Registered CommenterKehinde azeez

I just opened an on-site digital download shop using Linklok who are awesome to work with (I think it was $35 to get it set up & they helped with the install!) & I've run into a problem with people wanting to know how to get files they purchase through my site into their iTunes. So that is who iTunes is for. People that don't know how to work their computer very well (which is possibly why they're buying music instead of pirating it, but that's another story altogether). Personally, I don't like iTunes for a ton of reasons, but I can't fault them for selling some of my music randomly as I have some albums available free on my site that is available for money on iTunes & some people buy them. The downloads on my site are at a higher bit rate & include pdf booklets & are at a lower price point, but I'm still selling more digitals through iTunes right now. I would prefer to sell all my releases direct & build better fan connections, but right now I still think it's asking a lot to think everyone will be willing to do that. So I agree with you, that your own site should always be your goal for sales, but if someone wants to pay more on iTunes, you should let them. Otherwise you turn into Prince (anyone else following his marketing plan for his new record?).

It's probably worth mentioning that Bandcamp has announced they are going to start charging per transaction fees for their site.

Both comments missed the point of why selling direct with some of the websites mentioned makes sense. Again I highlight the ability to track your sales much more efficiently and you very well may get a few random purchase through itunes, but that is about the extent of it. True fans matter and are willing to buy direct. It's not a bad idea however to have multiple options for fans who prefer itunes or some of the others. Paypal is a necessity and millions of people use paypal.

July 20 | Registered CommenterMike Borgia

Wishful thinking.

At the moment the general public would consider you more of a 'proper' musician if your music is listed on iTunes. Doesn't matter what your special fans think.

Get your music listen on iTune for the perceived 'official' stamp of approval and sell your music direct to your special fans.

Win win.

July 22 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

I agree with Chris, people do take you more seriously if your music is on one of the bigger sites like iTunes and Amazon. There's no reason you can't put them on there as well as sell them directly...

July 22 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

As mentioned in my response prior, I didn't rule out itunes. I was simply making a point that you do not need it to succeed and being that anyone can sell through itunes doesn't validate the seal of approval as much, since most music fans know that bands can easily pay to be on itunes. We are all in agreement at least that limiting your sources to sell your music isn't the best option, but then again if you give users too many options, that's not helpful either.

July 22 | Registered CommenterMike Borgia

Actually Mike, most music fans really DO NOT know that a musician can pay to be distributed through iTunes. And when they do find this out, it kind of makes you look even more like a tool. Why? because it seems beyond lazy, and even shady, if an artist can't get it together enough to throw up on iTunes.

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterRight...

I've found this to be a useful mix:

For downloads:
- iTunes
- Amazon
- Bandcamp (for people who want exotic formats like Ogg, FLAC, etc.)

For streaming:
- Rhapsody
- Spotify (for non-US countries)
- Napster (maybe)

That should get you close to full coverage without overwhelming your customers with a zillion purchase choices.

July 28 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Indie artists need iTunes,, etc. because what they need before they need to be thinking about making money, and collecting cash on their records is earning credibility, establishing their brand and having SoundScan accumulate data on the amount of downloads/purchases made. So what if Amazon takes 55% of the sale and iTunes takes 90 days to actually give you your share of the money? I can't think of a sane musician who thinks they're going to get rich overnight. The point of being on iTunes and on Amazon is to put your music where people who buy music go to buy their music. If you make them go to your website and deal with PayPal, the deal is off. Selling your music at your shows is fine (it's actually the best way to get any sales at all in the beginning) but do yourself a favor, and align yourself with CD Baby so you can get the Credit Card swiper and take sales like you're a legitimate basis. The only cash only businesses anymore are narcotics and prostitution. ;-p

Seriously, you can't even get into Pandora without a CD (not just MP3s), and it has to be on Amazon. Not ReverbNation, not PayPal... Amazon. Credibility counts, especially when you're indie and nobody knows who you are yet.

All great points made here, but I still believe based on my success with selling away from the major distributors, that if your fans truly like your stuff, they will make the effort and legitimacy comes from writing quality songs and being a quality band regardless, not by trying to poilsh a turd and make it appear that you are legit by being displayed like a needle in a haystack on itunes, amazon etc..

August 28 | Unregistered CommenterMike Borgia

some people that are already set up to use itunes like the fact they can just click once to buy without pulling their CC out. paypal is used by many (more so ebayers than the avg music buyer though) but also loathed by many for their shady business practices (see for some nice horror stories). plus the lazy majority will have to log in which takes effort more than clicking once. also, the younger the music fan, the less likely they're set up on paypal, whereas itunes is needed to help young people get the most use out of their iphones so their incentive to have an itunes account is far greater than a paypal account. in short, great ideas/thoughts here but overall the best way imo is to be available in multiple spots while offering incentive to buy direct (cd will be autographed, you will make the special direct mailing list, etc).

December 18 | Unregistered CommenterSatsuka

enjoyed the opinions and info - thanks all

November 28 | Unregistered Commenterad8

All great points, but recently I've been toying with the idea of having my own music as a digital membership site.

The advantages for indie muso's would be:

1. Monthly income from a small membership payment of $X's
2. Free's you up to record more "quality" music each month and give to members
3. Builds a community for fans to show their support to you directly
4. Downloadable digital music, is simpler for members to download and put on CD, iPod etc

I know there would be the few who would signup for one month and download everything then cancel, but the angle your going for here is for fans "WHO CARE" about you and LOVE your music and WANT to give you a small fee each month to support you and also hear new songs each month.

I can't find anything anywhere on this model for indie musicians, but the membership model is the Indie's way of taking back that monthly passive income, away from the larger companies who are keeping a large chunk of your distributed songs in streaming services.

By all means cover all bases with the streaming services, but keep something EXCLUSIVE for your members who want to support you, videos, non-released songs, additional bonuses that the ones who stream don't.

From a very small amount of loyal followers you could indeed build an army if you marketed it right I think?

Thoughts anyone?

July 14 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Price

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