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What Does an Indie Get Paid #2 – International / Other Download

I’m doing a multiple-part series on how Independent Artists get paid. Part one (iTunes) is here.

Also, this post has been edited to reflect some clarification that Chris from gave me on how their percentages work. The basics are the same, but the numbers are now slightly different.

Disclaimer: I didn’t finish college.

It’s probably important to admit that, because I’m about to get waist-deep in statistical analysis, and I feel I should let you know that the highlight of my math career was proving to my college algebra teacher (in front of the whole class) that the Gauss-Jordan elimination method for matrices was incredibly inefficient.

That’s cool, I guess. But I don’t have a degree.

And that’s probably important.

Right, then. Let’s get started.

It’s important to know HOW my music got on all these sites. There are a few ways to go about getting your music distributed all over the internet, but I chose A lot of my friends have used Tunecore, which does not take a percentage of your sales, but charges you a flat yearly fee. I guess it depends on how much business you expect to be doing?

I recommend shopping around and figuring out which one works for you, but unless you’re signed to a label, you’re going to have to pick one, because it’s nearly impossible to put your music on iTunes without one of these services.

CDBaby takes 9% of whatever comes to me after the dealer takes their cut. I’m okay with that, because 91% of the income from hundreds of digital outlets is better than 100% of the income from none of them. I went with CDBaby because their customer service is great, and I can usually resolve any problem over the course of one phone call. That’s worth something, and I’ll explain why in a future blog.

Anyway, yesterday, I focused on what percentage iTunes pays me. I specify “me”, because I don’t know what (if any) agreements Apple has in place with major labels. The conclusion was that each dollar that is spent on my music in the US iTunes store gets split up (roughly) like this:

iTunes: ¢29.2929292865656
CDBaby ¢06.3636363642091
Me: ¢64.3434343434344

But that’s the U.S Store… how does this work in other markets?

iTunes has a lot of stores, but I only sold music in 5 of them last year:  U.S, Canada, Europe, United Kingdom, Australia. Unfortunately (for some unexplained reason) they combined my Europe report with my UK report, so I have no way of differentiating between them. Super frustrating, especially when you consider that there are at least two currencies at play (British Pounds and Euros).

Here are the percentages that I keep of each dollar spent on my music in those countries (after CDBaby’s 9%-of-whatever-the-dealer-doesn’t-take cut)

US – 64.34%
Canada – 62.77%
Europe / UK – 58.83%
Australia – 48.56%

Uhhh… whoa, Australia.

I did a little digging, and apparently I’m not the only one who is upset about the way iTunes works in Australia. Not only do artists get a smaller percentage per sale, but Australians pay more per song than the US and UK. (But still less than Switzerland, the highest in the world.)

Because of the higher prices, I still made more per song from Australia ($.85/song) than from the U.S / Canada ($.64) or Europe, barely ($.83).

If you want to know how thorough (nerdy) I am, please note that I grouped each country’s sales by month, then went and checked the exchange rate for that country during the month of those sales. (And honestly, let’s just go ahead and throw out the £ /€ combination “Europe” because I did those exchanges in Euro before I realized that the two were combined.)

So, how do the other sites stack up? Using the same analysis, here’s how the other online services ranked. I covered some of these yesterday, but I’m including them again for the sake of comparison.

Please note, this is for downloads ONLY. I’ll be talking about streaming services soon.

How Much Do They Keep? (Digital): 9% 15%
EMusic: 22.05%
Amazon: 28.54%
iTunes (CAN): 31.02%
Rhapsody: 29.29%
iTunes (US): 29.29%
iTunes (EU/UK): 35.35%
Amazon UK: 42.89%
iTunes (AUS): 46.63%
XBox Music: 81.37%*
Nokia: 81.69%**

There are other places to download music, but I’ll be honest; Either I’m not on them, or I didn’t sell even a single download on them in 2012.

Next up: Streaming Services!

*XBox Music
It took me a long time to figure out how downloads worked on XBox, so it’s possible that these numbers may be skewed. I don’t have an XBox, but my friend Brian Burgess (thanks, Brian) checked with customer service, and here are the basics:

– you can’t download music from XBox Music on an XBox
– you CAN download music from XBox Music on another device through the XBox Music app.
– you don’t pay money for the downloads, you pay points. one song costs 79 MSP (or about 99 cents) and an album costs 800MSP (About $10).
– Adding to the confusion, you can also buy a “Music Pass” for $9.99/mo, which gets you unlimited downloads. I suspect this is why I was only paid $2.07 for an album download, and an average of 13-14 cents per song.

I did some research, and the only place I could find a Nokia music store was in the UK. They currently charge £.79/song, which, at the time of the sales, was $1.20 in U.S. Dollars. I received $0.20.

If that’s the actual pricing, and percentage, that’s awful. I’ll keep an eye on future reports to see, and take steps to have it removed, if so. But I won’t rule out that they may have been having a sale, or there may be some kind of “unlimited download” thing happening there as well. If you’re in the UK, and purchase music from Nokia, get in touch and let me know if you have any information?


  1. James James

    Gauss Jordan is the worst thing mentioned here….

    • Levi Weaver Levi Weaver

      I wish I’d handled that situation differently; I really showed up my math professor in a super ungraceful fashion. But I’m still proud of discovering (on my own) that it was a stupid, inefficient method.

  2. Dan Dan

    As a college grad / masochist who took two semesters of linear algebra, I’m kind of interested in the inefficiency you found and how you proved it!

  3. These posts are awesome, Levi! 🙂

    math geek,

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