New musical artists are always investigating how to get their music available for sale online through digital retailers like itunes, amazon, beatport, and others. This guide explains the key steps an artist needs to take in order to sell on itunes and other online retail outlets.
Your Music Catalog : Itunes Aggregator vs Directly
There are two ways to work with Itunes, directly, or through Aggregators. Music aggregators are growing in popularity particularly with new artists in large part because in order to work directly with itunes you must meet certain somewhat difficult requirements. Primarily you must have 20 albums (however short) in your catalog, as well as proper Mac hardware and software, and proper internet connections. Also you must have UPCs (Universal Product Codes) for all products you intend to sell, as well as an ISRC (International Standard Recording Codes) for each track you will retail. Aggregators on the other hand allow artists to work with Itunes managing their music though their platform and by helping with technical and cataloging requirements. These companies charge a fee (40-60 dollars per album per year) to develop the necessary sales codes and managing their music in relation to retail outlets. The two main aggregators are Cd Baby and Tune Core.
Record your Tracks Properly and Get Album Cover Art
For music to be formatted properly for Itunes aggregators it needs to be saved in a WAV format. Aggregators will also provide clear instructions on file settings before conversion for the best quality and compliance with the Itunes system. Additionally, you will need album cover art, either design it yourself or have it done by someone. Quality, Clear, Original (ie not copyright infringing) cover designs work best to create a professional image, and get exposure on recommendation and genre groupings. This is sometimes better outsourced to graphics professionals who can deliver a quality work product at a reasonable price.
Getting a Tax ID : LLC or Individually
To sell your music online you will need to have a tax id number. One can either form an LLC or include the income on their personal income tax. For a band, group, or any other potentially expandable music format, it is usually a good idea to form an LLC. This Limited Liability Corporation, or similar business structure offers some advantages for a band or group. Once this LLC is formed you can apply to get a tax id number for it as an business entity. For an individual performer just starting it is fine to use your personal social security number as your tax id number. This means the income you generate from sales will be on your personal income tax. Either option works to get on Itunes, but if you plan on music as a career or if you are part of a group an LLC is advisable. You can file an LLC application on your own, however it may be advisable to use an attorney for the filing so as to plan the best way to incorporate and not have your application declined.
Your Ready to Go!! But Wait, Read on.
Following the above steps is all you need to get yourself on Itunes. However, there are various fees involved in the process, as well as applications, and legal considerations that one should fully contemplate. Along the way, it can be very useful to educate yourself and discuss some aspects of your music career and decisions with a lawyer. This does not necessarily have to be expensive. The more you know, the more concise and specific your particular discussion with an attorney can be. There are some key things to investigate fully and consider speaking with an attorney about such as, forming an LLC as a group of partners (members of a band), the band's or entertainers name and potential trademarks, and copyrighting your music.
Trademark your Name
All artists should seek to trademark their name. This can become a difficult process and may require an attorney but it may also be done individually. The name can be the artists stage name, or their bands name, also under special circumstances a website domain name can be trademarked. One must be careful to investigate similar names and make sure not to infringe on someone else's trademark. A lawyer can help you make your trademark application unique and distinguishable from others.
Copyright your Music
Copyrighting your music is an important aspect of being a musician, performer, band, singer, songwriter, or producer. It affords you protections against misuse of your music and clarifies your rights to future application of your music. Online filing cost around 35 dollar per filing. One technique is to copyright a group of songs together in a soundscape (similar to an album grouping) (1 hr or less) under one copyright application. This can save money and protect a larger body of work under one copyright. While some do not consider problems down the line with others copying or altering your music, a copyright in your works grants you clear rights, helps prevent these problems from happening in the first place, and gives you clear and solid ground from which to defend your rights in your music.
Getting an Entertainment Attorney or Manager
Either before or after you have begun retailing your music it is advisable to consider partnering with the right professionals to grow your career as effectively as possible. A manager is a great way to have a partner help you with your career through marketing, placement, direction, and management. Also, a good entertainment lawyer can lend you valuable advice on what moves to make when it comes to building your music business and protecting your music and brand. Setting yourself up to sell online is only the beginning of a successful music career. It takes continued musical development, marketing, drive, and protection of what you have created. For these reasons, and for help in navigating any of the above steps consider investing in yourself and your career by consulting and partnering with professionals who can help you achieve your goals.