In 2003, Apple launched the iTunes Music Store and singlehandedly revolutionized the music industry.
Today, Apple remains one of the biggest avenues for music promotion with iTunes and its streaming service, Apple Music. While iTunes is well and truly on its way out, Apple Music is rapidly taking its place as a giant in the music streaming industry with over 60 million paid subscribers.
Whether you’re an aspiring musician or an indie artist, Apple Music should be part of your promotion strategy. We take you through everything you need to know to get your tracks heard by more people on the platform.
What’s the difference between Apple Music and iTunes for artists?
Apple currently has two different music apps: Apple Music and iTunes.
iTunes was once the go-to source for musicians to upload their music and earn revenue from tracks. However, after years of struggling to compete with Spotify and other streaming services, Apple has announced it will no longer support iTunes in future updates. However, right now you still need an iTunes account to use Apple Music.
The main difference between iTunes and Apple Music is the way users listen to music. iTunes is a music store where artists upload tracks, and listeners pay to download individual songs or albums. Apple Music is a subscription-based streaming service, where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited streaming of all the music housed on the platform, as well as streaming on Apple Music’s online radio stations.
If you’re considering how to sell music on iTunes and Apple Music, remember the royalties are also different. With Apple Music, artists earn royalties on a pay-per-play basis. On iTunes, artists earn a royalty on each track that’s purchased.
Ultimately, while you can still try to sell music on iTunes, Apple Music should be your priority for music promotion.
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How to get started with Apple Music for Artists
Thinking about putting your tracks up on Apple Music? Here’s everything you need to do to get started.
Claim your account on Apple Music for Artists
Apple Music for Artists is Apple’s dashboard for professional artists, and houses plenty of useful tools to help you better promote your music. Before you can promote your music on Apple, you need to have an account.
Like Spotify for Artists, you need to have music already distributed to the platform before you can claim your account. Generally this means you have to go through a third-party aggregator or a record label to upload your music on iTunes.
Once your tracks are uploaded, hop on to Apple Music for Artists, sign in with your Apple ID and hit “Request artist access”. Follow the steps on the screen, then click “verify”. Once Apple approves your request, you’re good to go. Bear in mind that if you have managers or band mates, they’ll also need to go through this process to access your Apple Music for Artists account.
Apple Music for Artists also has plenty of data to help you promote your music, including your average daily listens, insights into user streams, radio plays and downloads, which playlists your songs have been added to and how well your music videos are performing.
Since Apple bought Shazam, Apple Music for Artists also includes Shazam data, including how many times your tracks have been Shazamed and where your listeners are using the app from.
How to set up your Apple Music artist profile
There are three key parts to your Apple Music profile: Your artist photo, bio and your social media links. Your artist profile is the ‘face’ you’re putting out there to the Apple Music community, so it’s a good idea to spend some time getting this just right.
When you’re choosing an artist photo, keep it professional and opt for a high-quality image of you or your band. Bear in mind that Apple also requires all uploads to be 2400px by 2400px and in JPG or PNG format, but you can crop the image after it’s been uploaded.
Your bio is your place to share more about you as an artist. Use your artist bio to talk about your music and your inspiration, and let people know what you have coming up. At the same time, remember to update your social media links so listeners can find you on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
How to get your music on Apple Music
The process of how to get music on iTunes and Apple Music is the same: You can go through a third-party aggregator or record label working with an aggregator, or you can submit it to Apple yourself.
The most straightforward approach is to work with one of Apple’s approved aggregators. These aggregators help you get music on iTunes and Apple Music — all you need to do is upload your songs to their platform, and they’ll submit it to Apple on your behalf.
However, there is a cost associated with this service: Aggregators will either take a commission from your royalties or require you to pay a fee for their services.
You can also upload music yourself, but this can be an arduous process. To qualify, you need to have at least 20 albums, and a Universal Product Code and International Standard Recording Code for each track you want to upload.
In other words, unless you’re a seasoned artist, the best way to get your music on Apple is to go with a third-party aggregator.
Invest in great cover art
Your cover art appears everywhere, from the app to the preview pane on Apple watches and on websites with embedded Apple Music streaming players. Chances are if a user stumbles across your music online, they’ll see your cover art before they hear your song.
Standout cover art matters because it helps you get noticed. If you’re preparing to release new tracks on Apple Music, this is the perfect time to bring a graphic designer on board to help you create high-quality cover art that’s eye-catching and piques listener interest.
Using playlists to promote your tracks on Apple Music
Like many other streaming platforms, users discover new tracks through Apple Music charts and featured playlists. Getting featured on a playlists can work wonders for music promotion — plus, you’ll also get more streams and downloads, and earn more royalties.
There are three ways you can use playlists for Apple Music and iTunes promotion: create your own, pitch to others, or try to land on one of Apple’s curated playlists.
Create your own playlists
The easiest way to get your music on a playlist is to create your own. Anyone can create a public playlist on Apple Music. These show up in Apple Music and iTunes searches, and can also be shared on social media.
While you can create a playlist dedicated to your favorite tracks, remember to share the love. Try to build a diverse playlist that includes similar musicians you think listeners might like. If you’ve featured other artists, it’s also a great opportunity to reach out to them and let them know. They might give it a plug on their social media, which in turn helps you promote your tracks to a whole new audience.
Pitch to other playlists
Another way to promote your tracks on Apple Music is to try and get featured on other playlists.
Start out by compiling a list of playlists to pitch to. Have a look and see if any of your favourite bloggers or publications have playlists, and do a quick search for keywords (for example: “best new indie artists”). You can also do some sleuthing to see which playlists similar artists have been featured on.
Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to get the pitching underway.
When you’re pitching, the last thing you want to do is go in with a hard sell. It’s important to approach it with the intention of forming a relationship with the owner, rather than asking to get featured straight off the bat.
Start by complimenting their playlist, and asking if they accept submissions. Keep your pitch friendly and concise — after all, you’re asking them for a favor. Once you’ve established rapport, you can send through a few tracks that might be suitable for the playlist.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a response on the first try. Playlist owners are busy people, especially if they’re running a blog at the same time. If you don’t get a response, sometimes all it takes is a friendly follow-up email.
Get featured on Apple’s dedicated playlists
It goes without saying that the best way to promote your music on Apple Music is to get featured on Apple’s official playlists. These playlists receive millions of listeners, and cover a massive range of genres and themes, spanning from ‘New Fire’ for new releases to ‘Breaking R&B’ and ‘The Plug’ for hip-hop.
But there’s a catch. Unlike Spotify, which features third-party playlists from record labels and publications, Apple’s featured playlists are all either curated by Apple’s editorial team or a select group of partners.
If you’re one of the lucky few who have a personal connection to the curators, then you can pitch any new releases and exclusives directly to them.
If you don’t, don’t worry. It’s still possible to get featured on Apple’s playlists. You can collaborate with an aggregator, distributor or record label that has relationships with Apple’s editorial team and will reach out on your behalf. Alternatively, focus on building up your social media presence and drop exclusives on Apple Music to get on their radar.
Other tips for Apple Music promotion
Share the love on other platforms
A great way to promote music on Apple is to spread the word about your tracks on other online platforms, then direct listeners back to your Apple Music profile.
Luckily, Apple has created an Apple Music Toolbox for artists, which includes badges, widgets and embeddable players. These can help you promote your music on blogs, social media and other avenues.
Start off by being active on social media platforms. Upload your music videos to YouTube, post gig updates on Instagram and stay in touch with fans by responding to their comments or sharing @mentions on Twitter and Facebook. If you have your own artist website or blog, be sure to include a badge directing listeners to your Apple Music profile or tracks.
Music publications and blogs, like Whabby Music or local music news sites, are also a great means for growing your listener base on Apple Music.
Follow your favorite publications on social media and tag them in any relevant posts — you never know when they might choose to feature you.
Drop exclusives on Apple Music
It’s no secret that Apple loves exclusive content. Frank Ocean, for example, received a marketing boost from Apple after releasing exclusive tracks from his highly anticipated potential album.
While not all musicians have the massive following Frank Ocean does, releasing exclusive tracks on Apple Music can increase the likelihood of landing a spot on Apple’s coveted playlists. However, this method is risky if you the bulk of your listeners aren’t on Apple Music or iTunes.
Before dropping an exclusive with Apple, consider the following:
- How do you plan to promote your track before it releases?
- How will this impact your promotion strategy on other channels?
- Will your listeners on Spotify or Soundcloud be disappointed because they can’t access your new tracks right away?
- How will this affect your relationship with playlist curators on other streaming sites?
If you’ve considered these points and still want to do an Apple-exclusive campaign, go for it — just make sure you’ve got a strong pre-release plan to back it up.
Build hype with pre-release campaigns
Pre-release campaigns help build buzz around your upcoming releases. They get fans excited and more eager to share your music, and are a golden opportunity to get featured on music sites.
PR and social media are essential to a successful pre-release campaign. Reach out your favorite bloggers or music publications with a preview of your upcoming release so they know what you have coming up and can review your songs. Local radio stations and playlist curators on Apple Music, Spotify and Soundcloud should also be on your target media list.
A new album launch is also the prime time to get active on social media. Share teaser clips, photos of you in the studio, or run a social media competition and encourage fans to spread the word about your music. If you’re looking to get creative, you could even run a competition to design your next album cover (and get some great cover art in the process).
Wrapping it up
Whether you’re an indie artist or have been in the music scene for a while, Apple Music helps you promote your tracks to new listeners and monetize your music.
By having a standout profile, a strong social media and PR plan and consistently pitching to playlist curators, you’ll be well on your way to getting noticed on one of the world’s biggest streaming platforms.