Inscrutable, impenetrable iTunes

Of all the people and organizations I deal with, iTunes is the most mysterious. And I work with some freaking oddballs. Somehow my music ends up for sale there, but I have no clue how or why.

Like many independents, I use an outfit called CD Baby to handle digital distribution; their system is easy to use, the prices seem fair, and customer service is excellent. When a tune is ready, I upload it to their site, along with recording and track details, artwork, my family history and physical measurements. They approve all this, list the tune on their site, and send me an email saying they’ve sent it to iTunes. Then we wait. CD Baby suggests that it will take 2 days to appear on iTunes. I’ve seen it happen in hours, weeks, and in the case of my old podcast, never.

In my mind, iTunes HQ is a bit like the Wonka Chocolate factory. It’s giant and old, with imposing fences and signs all around. Nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out. Decisions are made in a theatrically arbitrary fashion by a weirdo in a top hat, and the grunt work is done by underpaid iLoompas. They have golden tickets too, but they don’t really want anyone to find them, so they’re packaged with Nick Hempton Band albums.


In the case of my podcast, I tried for a year to get that bloody thing up. Every idiot and his dog has a podcast on iTunes, and the process seems fairly simple. But if one link in the chain is missed, if one iLoompa is asleep on the job, it seems you’re screwed. Countless emails and phone calls to heads of various departments led nowhere- they all scratched their heads and said everything was in order, and they’d leave a post-it note for Jason in podcasts, but no dice. Eventually I gave up. And really, the world is no worse off for lacking that particular series.

These experiences have given me a sort of awed respect for iTunes; the kind of respect one might have for something that is entirely unfathomable- like, I don’t know, the ocean… Or women. In any case, somehow, magically, all the Hempton Band gear is currently available on iTunes. For now. But tomorrow? It’ll probably still be there tomorrow. But after that? “You should never never doubt what nobody is sure about…”

We’re just browsing: My attempt to sell music on Facebook

This thing is called an experiment for a reason. I’m trying things out, and sometimes they’re not going to work. One thing I’ve learned so far: sometimes other people know what they’re talking about.

Recently I’ve noticed a number of articles and blog posts suggesting that attempting to sell a product through Facebook is generally a waste of time. That people are in a browsing mindset when they’re scrolling- they’re window shopping as opposed to actual shopping. It’s a good place for businesses to increase awareness of their “brand”, and develop a rapport with their customers, but when folks go to Facebook, they leave their wallets at home. Bah! I said. Fiddlesticks! What do you so-called “experts” know about anything? I’m going to post an attractive, easy-to-use music store, and my loyal, trusting friends are going to have a quick listen, then click “buy”. I’ll be rich! Then I can buy my own experts!

But it didn’t happen that way, did it? Now, plenty of people bought the first track, and I thank them warmly, but they didn’t buy it from the guy standing on their doorstep; they jumped in the car and drove to the store downtown where they’ve been shopping for years. (I’m talking about iTunes. The car thing was a metaphor.)

Not only is Facebook more a place for watching people pour buckets of iced water on their heads than purchasing quality jazz recordings, when people do buy something, that want it from a source that’s convenient and trustworthy. Say you’re stepping into your favourite sushi restaurant, and I roll up in my two-tone 1987 Yugo (which for the sake of this story, we assume I own), and offer you the same delicious raw fish from the trunk. And first you need to spend five minutes filling out paperwork, and giving me (a frankly suspicious looking character) all your personal and banking details. Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that iTunes is a reputable Japanese restaurant, or that Bandcamp is a tall, ruggedly handsome Australian fellow driving a brown Yugo, (that was another metaphor), but you catch my drift.

Every time Yugo away, you take a piece of fish with you.
Every time Yugo away, you take a piece of fish with you.

 So the result of this revelation is that, while I’ll continue to post the Bandcamp music store (‘cos it’s actually very good), I’ll focus more on sending folks to iTunes, Amazon, and something called GooglePlay. I make slightly less money from them, but you can’t fight the big guys.

 Do you download music exclusively from one source? A combination? Have you had success selling on Facebook? Want to buy some sushi?