Can anyone put an album on iTunes?


Yes, any musician can distribute their music on iTunes and Apple Music through an aggregator. While Apple used to only work with major record labels, independent artists can now easily get their music on the iTunes Store by using an aggregator service. Aggregators allow artists to upload their music and will then distribute it to online stores and streaming services like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, and more. Artists keep 100% of royalties and retain full ownership of their music when using an aggregator. The main requirements are that the artist owns all rights to their music and recordings, and that they encode their songs properly according to specifications. Overall, the process is simple and affordable even for DIY musicians.

How to Get Music on iTunes as an Independent Artist

The process for independent artists to get their music on iTunes and Apple Music involves three main steps:

1. Prepare Your Music

First, make sure the songs are properly mastered and encoded as lossless WAV or AIFF files at a bitrate of at least 16-bit/44.1kHz. These are the minimum requirements for iTunes. Also ensure you own all the rights, obtain any necessary licensing, and get ISRC codes for proper tracking.

2. Choose an Aggregator

Next, select a good distributor or aggregator service to deliver your music to iTunes. Top choices include CD Baby, TuneCore, DistroKid, Ditto Music, EmuBands, and Amuse. Compare distributors and select one that best fits your needs and budget.

3. Upload Your Music

Finally, create an account with your distributor, enter all the necessary metadata about your songs, upload your music files, and let the aggregator handle distribution. There may be annual fees or one-time distribution costs. Once approved, your music will appear on iTunes within a few days or weeks.

Do You Need a Record Label to Be on iTunes?

In the past, Apple required musicians to be signed to a major record label in order to be included on their iTunes music store. However, for several years now independent artists have been able to work directly with distribution companies to get their music on iTunes without the need for a recording contract. So no, you absolutely do not need the support of a record label to distribute your music on the iTunes platform as an indie musician.

The process is affordable even for artists releasing music independently without label support. By using an aggregator service and meeting Apple’s minimum requirements, any musician can get their songs onto the iTunes Store themselves. That means you keep 100% of royalties and remain in full control of your music’s rights and distribution.

What Are the Main Aggregator Services for iTunes?

There are over 30 different aggregator companies and distributors that can place your music onto iTunes and Apple Music. Here are some of the top and most widely used services:

CD Baby

CD Baby is one of the original and most well-known aggregators. They distribute music to over 150 digital platforms and also offer physical distribution. Standard pricing is $49 per album for digital distribution.


DistroKid is one of the most affordable options at just $19.99 per year. They offer distribution to all major platforms including iTunes.


Tunecore distributes music to iTunes and other digital stores for a yearly $49.99 fee per album or single. They do not take any additional royalties.

Ditto Music

Ditto Music distribute music to all platforms including iTunes for no upfront fees, just a small sales commission.


Amuse is a free distribution service, taking a 15% revenue share from any sales or streaming.


In addition to mastering services, LANDR can distribute your music to iTunes and other stores for just a 10% commission.

These are just a few of the top aggregator options. Do your research to select the best distributor for your needs as an independent musician.

What Are the Requirements to Get on iTunes?

If you plan to use an aggregator service to distribute your music, there are a few key requirements and guidelines to get your songs successfully onto the iTunes Store:

Music Rights

You must own all rights to the music and recordings. If you used samples or features, these must also be cleared.

Audio Quality

Songs must be encoded as uncompressed WAV or AIFF files, at 16-bit or 24-bit and 44.1 kHz minimum.


Proper metadata like artist name, album title, genre, track titles, release date, and more must be entered.

Cover Art

Album cover artwork in a JPEG format at least 1400×1400 pixels is required.

UPC & ISRC Codes

Unique codes help properly identify recordings. Your aggregator can provide them.

Legal Agreements

You must agree to all terms, like Apple’s encoding guidelines and iTunes legal contracts.

As long as you meet these requirements, getting your songs distributed on iTunes through an aggregator is straightforward.

How Long Does It Take to Get Music on iTunes?

Once you submit your distribution request to an aggregator service, it typically takes between 1-4 weeks for your music to go live in the iTunes Store. However, the full process from getting your songs ready to seeing them online can take 1-2 months.

Here is a more detailed look at the timeline:

Preparing Your Music: 1-4 Weeks

Mixing, mastering, encoding, entering metadata, getting codes, and creating cover art for your release. Allow 1-4 weeks minimum depending on the number of songs.

Distributor Review: 1-4 Weeks

After uploading your music files, the aggregator will review everything to ensure it meets iTunes’ specifications. This process takes anywhere from 1 week to 1 month.

iTunes Processing: 1-2 Weeks

Once approved by your distributor, the files get sent to iTunes for final review and processing before going live in the store. This usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Live on iTunes: 0-2 Weeks

After processing, your release should appear in iTunes within 0-2 weeks. Some services like CD Baby allow you to request an exact live date.

So in total, expect a timeframe of 1-2 months to distribute music on iTunes through an aggregator. The more songs and assets you prepare upfront, the quicker the process will be. Communicate closely with your distributor to troubleshoot any issues and get your music out as fast as possible.

Do You Need to Pay or Renew to Stay on iTunes?

Most aggregator services charge either a flat one-time fee per release, or an annual distribution fee to keep your music on iTunes and other platforms. So yes, you typically need to pay an ongoing distribution fee or renew your plan each year so that your music remains available in stores.

Here are some common pricing models from top aggregators:

  • CD Baby: $49 one-time fee per single or album
  • DistroKid: $19.99 per year for unlimited releases
  • Tunecore: $49.99 per year per single or album
  • Ditto Music: Free for singles, 10% commission on sales
  • Amuse: Free distribution, 15% commission

These fees pay for your distributor to cover server costs, storage, regular reporting, updating your music if needed, and continually syncing with platforms like iTunes. Letting your plan lapse will likely result in your music being removed from the iTunes Store after a grace period. Renew on time and keep your annual membership active so fans can continue purchasing your music on iTunes.

Do Artists Get Paid from iTunes Streams & Downloads?

Yes, as an independent musician you earn royalties from all purchases and streams of your music on iTunes and Apple Music. These digital royalties are payable through your aggregator.

iTunes Sales

For music downloads, the typical commission Apple takes is 30% of the list price. The remaining 70% goes to the artist and aggregator, with the aggregator taking an additional cut. For a track priced at $0.99, around $0.64 is payable to the artist.

Apple Music Streams

According to reports, Apple Music pays around $0.01 per stream to rights holders. This amount is split between the artist, songwriter, and aggregator based on terms. Independent artists typically earn $3,500-$5,000 per million Apple Music streams.

In both download and streaming royalties, your aggregator will take a small percentage commission before paying the remainder to you directly. Be sure to study each aggregator’s specific royalty policies so you know exactly what you’ll earn from iTunes revenue. Getting your music on iTunes gives you the ability to tap into this lucrative income stream.

Can You Sell Music on iTunes Without a Distributor?

Submitting directly to iTunes without an aggregator was possible in the past through the iTunes Producer tool. However, Apple has not accepted direct submissions without a distributor for several years now. Aggregators are now required for independent artists to get their music onto the iTunes Store and Apple Music platforms.

The benefits of using a distributor include:

  • Access to iTunes – Only possibility for indie artists now
  • Wider distribution beyond just iTunes
  • Professional software and tools
  • Automated reporting and payments
  • Hassle free process
  • Keep 100% ownership of rights

You may be able to negotiate direct distribution terms with Apple if you are an established artist or label with proven high sales. But for most independent musicians, using a third-party aggregator service is the only way to get your music live in the iTunes Store in today’s environment.

Should I Use CD Baby, Tunecore, or DistroKid for iTunes?

All three of these top aggregators will successfully get your music onto iTunes and Apple Music. Which one you choose comes down to how much music you plan to release, your budget, and any additional features you may need.

CD Baby

Best for releasing multiple albums. One-time $49 fee per album. Also offers physical distribution.


Best for frequent singles and EPs. $19.99 yearly for unlimited uploads. Has add-ons like Shazam promotions.


Best for larger catalogues. $49.99 per single or album per year. Wide range of promotional tools available.

For most independent artists and bands, DistroKid tends to provide the best value due to their cheap unlimited pricing. However, analyze each company overall to determine the best fit for your specific needs as a musician.

Does iTunes Promote Your Music?

Unfortunately, simply getting music onto the iTunes Store does not guarantee any special featuring or promotion from Apple. However, there are some ways artists can increase visibility:

Optimize Metadata

Fill out all song and artist details accurately so you show up in searches.

Launch on Fridays

New music is added on Fridays, so launch then to get included in new release features.

Promote Your Placement

Let fans know your music is available on iTunes through your website, social media, and email lists.

Pitch Curators Directly

Some iTunes and Apple Music playlists accept music submissions. Reach out to curators.

Pay for Marketing

Many distributors offer iTunes marketing tools for an additional fee at launch.

While not a magic bullet, using these strategies can improve your chances of getting discovered by new fans on the iTunes platform.

Can You Upload Cover Songs to iTunes?

If you want to distribute a cover song on iTunes, you first need to fully clear the rights and obtain a mechanical license. Services like Songfile or Limelight can help you easily secure cover song licenses. There is generally an upfront fee around $10-30 paid to the original artist and publisher. Once licensed, you can upload your cover to iTunes through your aggregator. Keep in mind you will split your royalties with the original rights holders. All details must also be properly entered into the metadata. Overall, licensing and distributing cover songs on iTunes is very achievable.


At one time, the iTunes Store was the only digital retailer where fans could purchase downloads and albums. While iTunes’ market share has dropped in the streaming era, it remains a top source of music discovery and sales. As an independent musician, getting your songs on iTunes alongside major label artists is very attainable through an aggregator. Take advantage of the exposure and revenue of Apple’s massive platform. Choose a quality distributor that fits your budget and needs. Prepare your music assets correctly. Stay on top of renewals and membership fees. With some effort upfront, you can get your music on iTunes and start earning royalties from Apple Music streams and downloads.