How To Effectively Promote and Sell Your Music on iTunes

Update, February 2011: With the release of iTunes 10, iMixes are now called Playlists. The terminology and screenshots here may be out of date, but the underlying concept is still very much applicable.

To start, make sure you have the latest version of iTunes, and I recommend creating a Ping profile.

If there’s one small piece of advice I can give other musicians in regards to promoting their music, this is it. This is the one thing I’ve done that has generated more money, reached more fans, and helped me target other types of promotions, all with no cost other than a little thought and time. And that one thing is create iMixes in the iTunes Music Store. I’ll discuss this in three sections: How to make effective playlists, why this works beyond the iTunes store, and how to balance your time between creating and promoting your music.

iMixes are user generated playlists that are published to the store for others to find. It’s a great way to discover new music. To see an example of an iMix, click hereicon to open one I recently published, called Breakbeat Jazz.

iconTo learn how to make an iMix of your own, see the directions on iTunes.

For a little background on some related thoughts, read my earlier posts on playlists and recommendations.

My philosphy is that if you take a very narrow aim at a specific group of people, you’re going to find dedicated fans. This is the complete opposite of trying to get as much radio play as possible, or taking out an ad in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Instead of trying to convert 0.5% of thousands or millions of people by throwing spaghetti on the wall, I’m trying to get a 50% conversion of 50 people, many times over by catering to their tastes. Those people are excited to discover my music and word spreads organically. One of the best ways to do this is with playlists, or in this case, iMixes.

Before I go further, I must say that since I started doing this and paying attention to the iMixes being created every week, I’ve seen this tool get abused by artists essentially spamming for attention. When iMixes are created with the blatant intent of tricking people into buying music they probably don’t like, I question the ethics of the creator. There are a number of other tactics I frown upon, but in an attempt to avoid dwelling on negativity we won’t discuss the bad apples. Instead, let’s talk about how to do this the right way and the positive effects I’ve seen with my own music. I can only vouch for the results I’ve seen from doing things the way detailed below.

Using the Breakbeat Jazz mix as an example, let’s talk about what goes into a good iMix.

Theme or target audience. Just like you’d make a mix tape or other playlist for a reason, a good iMix is more than just a collection of songs. If all else fails, think of an activity that is more enjoyable with music. Driving, cleaning, cooking, blogging, etc. make great themes. My example targets a specific audience–DJs that love searching for the perfect breakbeat. That’s a pretty narrow audience, but you’ll learn this is a good thing.

The tracks. The most important part of your iMix is usually the part people looking for a quick buck blow through. The tracks you choose must be tracks that are relevent to your music. This is because the iMix has the potential to show up on iconthe Top Rated iMixes section of the album pages you pulled each of those tracks from. In this way, people shopping for those albums are more likely to find your music. Currently, Breakbeat Jazz is listed on the album pages for Roy Ayers’ Vibrations, John Scofield’s A Go Go, and Jimmy McGriff’s Electric Funk just to name a few. People that enjoy those albums are more likely to be interested in my music than fans of Maroon 5 or Coldplay, so just because some bands are more popular doesn’t mean their fans are going to care about your music. I recommend starting with 15 – 25 tracks, and only including one of your own. You simply want people to discover your music, and one track will give them a taste. If they buy it and like it, they can use the Complete My Album option to get more of your music less the cost of what they’ve already purchased. No reason to cram it down their throats all at once.

iconA good description. You’ll notice I didn’t use this as a place to talk about myself or direct people to my website. I just want them to come across my music on their own and decide what they think for themselves. Instead, I simply shared my thoughts on this music. The only key here is to be honest and interesting. Once I made a playlist of the music I like to listen to on Saturday mornings when I make pancakes. In the notes section, I simply wrote down my recipe! The mix is aptly titled Saturday Morning Pancakesicon.

Once the iMix is in the store, send it to some friends and ask them to vote on it. Having a higher rating will help get the mix noticed on the connected album pages. Just a few votes will do the trick, and then it’s up to the masses to decide. Again, this is where targeting a specific audience will pay off.

Now dig a little deeper into why this works in a broader sense.

iconOnce you’ve made a number of good iMixes, over the course of several months you should start to see your album turn up in the Listeners Also Bought section. Ultimately, this is the place to be. These recommendations are based on what other customers bought. I don’t know about you, but when I’m shopping online, I’m always taking these sort of links until I find exactly what I want. This is what sets you apart from the next guy, as discussed by Seth Godin in this little antidote.

You should also be seeing some income from your efforts by now. My first CD was placed on iTunes in early 2005. For the first few months, I made $7 – $15 per month from iTunes. Then I made a couple of iMixes on a whim and forgot about them. When my next payment came, it had doubled, and the tracks that I’d put in the iMixes were clearly selling the best. After about a year that album started making an average of $100 a month from iTunes. That’s not a ton of money, but it was enough save up to record my next album.

Around the time I started seeing the effects of creating iMixes, I read Chris Andersen’s 2004 Wired article on the Long Tail. Many people have written further on the topic and how it can apply, including the previous link to Seth Godin above. While the concept is geared towards companies that own or sell enormous amounts of content (iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) it can still be embraced by those of us that are part of the content. For starters, we’ve overcome the battle for distribution. Our content is now available through retailers capable of wharehousing longtail content, whether physically or digitally. If we can use our heads and come up with some creative strategies to make people aware of our music, availability is really all we need.

On the surface (sans marketing, publicity, and budget), the only difference in retail between content of an unknown independent artist and an unknown major label developing artist is placement. iMixes are a great way to make up for lost placement. In fact, it can be more valuable in some respects. Imagine walking into a store and seeing a display for some artist you’ve never heard about. Sure, you might stop and look at the CD, but you’ve got no idea what they’re about and are not likely to buy it. Now imagine the same scenario except this time some people you met at one of your favorite band’s show the other night are all hovering around that display. In the presence of other customer’s with similar tastes to yourself, this new artist’s CD is more attractive. That’s the “Listeners Also Bought” section. New music is also more attractive when put in some context with artists you already know, and that’s exactly the purpose of playlists and iMixes.

Furthermore, you don’t have to control a huge catalog to benefit from the long tail. While I don’t own an enourmous amount of content, I DO own all of my own content. And I’m not trying to run a huge company, I just need to make enough money to cover my own costs and help carve out a living. When somebody buys my music on iTunes, I’m paid 2/3 of the retail price. That’s better than any artist with a record contract. As I continue to record and expand my little catalog, my income will continue to increase. To make $1,000 a month from downloads, I only need to sell about 1,570 tracks (or the album equivalent, which is roughly 157 albums). That’s actually not very difficult once you have several albums available and things start rolling.

It’s the “things start rolling” part I find most interesting. These are things that tell me people are buying, listening to, and sharing my music. I’ve seen more plays being counted (or “scrobbled”) on Other people include my music in their own iMixes (if people use iMixes to find music, it makes sense they would make their own). What excites me most are the occasional emails from people that realize I’ve made several iMixes they’ve found. These people loved my mixes, felt they had similar tastes, bought my albums, joined my email list, and have come to shows. They’ve become one of what Kevin Kelly calls the 1,000 True Fans.

The point is, once you get some momentum going, the rest will start taking care of itself.

Being an independent artist is a lot like competing in a decathlon. To be successful you need to be more than competent at many different skills, from the creative process to the business side. But most of us spend more time perfecting the artistic side of our craft, so much that we can’t even comprehend the rest. I’ve heard people say most musicians spend more time practicing their craft than brain surgeons do theirs. Think about that next time you have a headache.

The key to making this work is to NOT think like a business person or marketer. Instead, think like a fan. When you’re writing songs or practicing, you’re trying to reach the level of the artists you love. You’re looking at the target from the perspective of a fan. If you want somebody to buy your music, why not use the same approach?

When an easy, effective resource for promoting your music comes along, a lot of artists sort of flip out. When MySpace allowed band profiles, everyone started making profiles and adding as many friends as possible. It went so far as to create a market for automated friend adders. To me, this misses the point completely. I hate getting impersonal requests from bands on MySpace. It’s immediately obvious when somebody hasn’t looked at my profile or listened to my music.

iMixes are similar. It’s so easy to do many people run the risk of getting a little obsessive. It’s easy to start thinking that, if you just connect your album to more popular artists, or perhaps the MOST popular artist, then you’ll reach all their fans! But in reality, you’re missing your true fans by not using the music that is most like yours. Stop worrying about how many people you reach, just try to have an impact on everyone that you do reach.

Furthermore, iTunes did not create the iMix feature to help me promote independent artists. I’ve had a few people tell me not to tell anyone else about this strategy. They are paranoid that iTunes will pull the plug. Why? What are you going to do that’s harmful? If you find yourself questioning your own ethics, then stop what you’re doing. This isn’t a competition, it’s not about having the top rated mixes on the top selling albums. This is about connecting with people like you. People who like the same music as you, who have yet to discover your music.

Finally, the business end of things can be a big distraction from the creative process. When an artist with a record deal isn’t selling records, they usually point their finger at the label. They think the label is doing something wrong. But most of the time the label drops the artist, not the other way around. The problem is usually the product, not the marketing plan. In contrast, if you have a really great product you don’t need much of a marketing plan. So focus on what goes into your product before you worry about selling it.

Make the best music you can, nudge it towards a very specific audience that’s probably not too unlike the fan within you, and let the momentum start building. This is a great way to kick off a career as an independent musician.

Published by

Cameron Mizell

New York guitarist Cameron Mizell is involved in a wide variety of musical projects. He has released many of his own albums independently, including his latest, Tributary. Cameron's experiences as a musician and former record label employee give him a unique perspective on the musician industry, which he enjoys sharing on MusicianWages. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

120 thoughts on “How To Effectively Promote and Sell Your Music on iTunes”

  1. Cam, this whole thing is so fascinating. The music industry has been freaking out ever since mp3s became widespread in the late 90s, and I think this new way of promotion has got to be the best news to finally come out of it. Thanks man.

  2. Thanks for your article and suggestions. I plan to check out the iMix. I struggle with how to sell my music online amidst all the tens of thousands of other artists. I am optomistic and have tried and will continue to try new things.

  3. You’ll be able to see the average rating based on user votes. If your iTunes is up to date, you can also see a little popularity bar next to each song. That seems to have something to do with the songs selling well in the present. If you use one or two of your songs in several iMixes, you will probably see the popularity of those songs stand out from the rest. That would indicate your iMix is effectively finding the right people.

  4. I am new to itunes and it’s wiley ways,
    but is there a way to listen to the whole
    song on the playlist, or is it just a
    sampler to get the feel.
    It’s funny cause I even have music on it, but
    haven’t checked it at all.

    Thanks dude….great idea.

  5. Hi Trevor –
    No, it’s not possible to listen to the whole song. iTunes gives 30 second clips of every song on the iMix. There are other services, like Rhapsody, that do allow users to listen to the whole song (but they have to pay each time they listen).

  6. Dear Cameron, I wish to thank you for kindly sharing your experience and accumulated knowledge on this most essential area for us indie artists. I will immediately put your well thought out & clearly defined ideas to practice. I wish you continued success!

  7. Hello it’s Tauros
    The indie artist that everyone thinks is signed to a major. Great article and great concept. I love to try new models and formats. It’s about as exciting for me as the creative process. We’ll give that a try. When people find our music they always say “Why aren’t you signed”? So promotion is everything and finding new ways to do that won’t hurt.
    Tauros Music Group

  8. Great post, Cameron. I think this is one of the few pieces I’ve read that clearly demonstrates by example the ‘1000 True Fans’ theory at work. Exciting stuff!

    The ‘think like a fan’ bit is so dead on. Working in film, I try to think like a director/producer – it’s their baby and I need to gain their trust. The whole idea of building imixes sounds like a trust/brand building exercise in a way, and it’s super smart. I can’t imagine what basis anyone could argue that it’s somehow unethical to include your music – if that’s unethical than so is every ‘sounds like’ section posted by a group or artist – every political candidate in the running gets to vote – of course they vote for themselves!!

  9. It’s a pity that iMixes can only be shared nationally. Since I am living in Norway, the iMixes I share via iTunes will only reach listeners in Norway, a small country. I guess I will need to make some agreement with artists abroad, in order that they can create and publish a copy of my own iMixes?

  10. Hi Helge,

    What better excuse to reach out to independent artists similar to you in other countries? I know many musicians that make mixes for each other in their native territories. It’s easy to do if you both have similar styles of music, and everybody needs all the help they can get.

    Good luck!

  11. Hi DD –

    You can make a great deal of money by selling your music on iTunes if you can successfully promote it with the method Cam describes here. You get paid (money, not iTunes credit) through your distributor (i.e. CD Baby).

  12. Hi Cameron,
    As I sit at my computer, with my new album, fresh off the press, waiting to upload my tracks to iTunes, you’ve really opened my eyes to the possibilities of actually finding a bigger digital audience..Ya know how it is, it can get a bit lonely in this ‘independent-musican-songwriter- manager-roadie-accountant’ world we’re living in..
    Many thanks for the advice and the good positive vibes,

  13. I feel blessed for having such great people around the web sharing their brilliant knowledge and ideas for others in need to benefit from. Thank you so much for sharing. Appreciate your effort.

  14. excellent article. like jim offerman, i linked from Ariel’s at Music Think Tank; however, it’s worth mentioning that she didn’t claim that ‘gaming the system’ (for want of a better description) was her approach – in fact, she acknowledged it raised ethical concerns, and she solicited responses. she also pointed out that the big boys are right in there with no more scruples than they ever had, with gangs of interns pimping corporate imixes. i’m still mulling the ethics myself… i think that the key to integrity here is that one create imixes, as has already been suggested, that one enjoys oneself and/or that are meant for the enjoyment of specific others – friends or fans, met or yet to be.

  15. Jeremy – Maybe you should leave a similar comment on Ariel’s article? Ariel only has genuine intentions for helping independent musicians, and does far more than the vast majority of PR firms to help spread ideas. I don’t think she should be crucified for sharing one “controversial” idea. I never claimed she was endorsing any type of unethical behavior, nor was this article written as a reaction to hers (in fact, this article was written about a year ago and has been on this site since October).

    (To see the post people are referring to, click here.)

    In any case, I’m a little surprised the whole iMix thing has become controversial to begin with. I know other musicians with great music that have had some great success that all boiled down to creating iMixes. One guy had a song in the folk charts for over 40 weeks, and nobody really knew about the song until he made a few iMixes.

    The playlists just put your music in a place people are more likely to find them. They still have to listen to them and make the choice to buy it. No matter how many votes your mix has, or how many positive reviews your album gets, if the music doesn’t strike a chord with the customer it’s not going to sell.

    It’s easier to make excuses about why you won’t try something than to face the possibility of failure.

  16. Great article. I read it a while back, but only just got a new computer where I could access all itunes features such as creating an imix.

    So I finally just made my first one. Nothing special, just working through the process

    The Music of Zorro

    but I’m still trying to figure out how this all works.

    How does one find imixes from within the Itunes browser. I mean, I know how to do it from a regular browser using a link such as the one listed above. But if one were on the itunes store in its browser and then wanted to look for imixes, I don’t see how to get there.

    And my second question relates to frequency of publishing imixes. Is there a strategy where consistency is best, or just as you find time to do them? Right now while it’s fresh I have ideas for about a dozen, but then I may have months where I’m involved in some other promotional projects.

    Thanks again for the great article
    Rich Newman

  17. Rich,

    Go to a few album pages in the iTunes store and look for the section in the right column that says “Top Rated iMixes.” Eventually that section will show up on your page.

    Frequency: If you have ideas now, create those playlists and publish them. I’m in the habit of creating playlists for myself all the time, whenever I have ideas, and I usually publish one of them as an iMix every week or so. Remember, you can create playlists in your browser to publish at a later time. The playlists will stay there until you delete them.


  18. Hi Cameron,

    Firstly, many thanks for taking the time to share your experience on this subject, very helpful when setting out.

    I play in an independent band in Sydney and we have just finished our first E.P, I am at a loss as to the best way or only way to actually get the E.P onto itunes ? ? unfortunately we have a very small population to work with here so we understand the importance of getting online but it seems to be very difficult to get the right information on doing this effectively.

    I’m not sure if this differs from the states but any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance, all the best!


  19. Keith – Have a look at a series of articles I wrote about the self-released album. Among other things, it talks about digital distribution services that can help you get your music on iTunes and other stores. The options for Australia are really the same as the US.

  20. Love the article and where it’s coming from.

    I think alot of the myspace friend adding is born out of desparation to reach an audience,especially if you’re new to the business. The concepts you’ve outlined are really interesting and have given me some food for thought…thanks


  21. good work! just a question

    i’m an italian artist distributed on itunes europe, but also itunes usa, canada, australia ecc…
    if i make my imixes with my itunes account (italian account, i think) the imix will be published only in itunes europe? how can i publish imixes also in other country?

  22. Great read. Thanks

    An earlier e mail refers to imixes only being available in the “home” country. How do we make them available worldwide?

  23. If you want your album included in iMixes in different countries, your best bet is to make friends with people that have iTunes accounts in those countries. There are many musicians out there that make iMixes by now, just find somebody to do some iMix swapping.

  24. Thanks for this.

    Would you mind if I asked via this comment if there is anyone interested in imix swapping. (The Prisoners reformed,i tunes & Myspace).

  25. Cameron…I was searching Google for ways to promote our single on iTunes. This certainly represents an angle that we were previously unaware existed….great advice. Thanks so much for this article and your interaction in the indie community. Cheers!

  26. I use Itunes to collect my music collection, and I love creating mix cd’s or mp3 on my m audio exponent using my itunes music collection. I am trying to sell my mixes legally on line and wanted to know if that’s allowed on itunes, and if so what would be the procedures.

    Thank You

    Andre Butts

  27. Thanks for this (and other) great articles on this site. I’m just finishing a project of original music and looking at distribution and your stuff is very well thought out and insightful. Do you know if there is a way to submit your tracks to iTunes directly? I haven’t been able to find any info on the topic and so far it seems like the only way to do it is through a CD Baby membership. Is that the case or are there other alternatives?

  28. Cam, I just wanted to report back in. I took your advice on the imixes with my first release. It’s just a single, but it’s a start. I made a couple imixes and I’ve sold about 50 downloads so far! Thanks again for the insight into marketing yourself on itunes.

  29. I haven’t opened an iTune account as of yet but would be very interested in
    maybe creating an imix albulm that is a mix of “various artists songs” from USA, Canada, Europe, etc., and market the mix internationally. Feel free to comment on this posting and I will be notified via email.

    E. Stewart

  30. Great article Cam! It’s good to see people who care about the music, and not just making a buck! Thanks for the nice tips on itunes! I wish you a lot of success, and I have an acoustic Jazz song called “Lovesick”thats on itunes. I will throw some of yours in with that song, and your more than welcome to add mine, thanks again, Jon

  31. I am an independent musician who has made no profit for my art. Rarely, I play for free, for people around me. I have chosen not to release my music for 10 years, waiting for the day that the market was fair. Most people do not even know I am a musician. I have continued to update and improve, quietly, but my recent research has me wondering when the right time will be. OR if I am too late to jump on the wagon. For me, it is not about fame, or popularity. I would like to share an awesome gift with alot of people, while I am protected and I am making the major profits, from the work. It seems like this fight, as an observer, has not resolved, starting years ago. Is that time coming, or is it here? Is the new market all independent artists fighting each other for time?
    I am interested in hearing what you think about where we are in the big scheme of things.
    It sounds like being creative in 5 areas is not good enough. Is this an ever-changing market where there is no clearly defined way to reach your listeners?
    Thanks for the info, and respond to any of the questions you have time for. I will take time, later, to read some links. Mike

    1. Hey Mike,

      I know how you feel, but man, I would just go for it. Let it out. There is no right time or wrong time. I don’t know if I’ll be alive in ten years. I don’t know if I’ll be alive tomorrow, but I do know, that I won’t wait. I’m just a nobody too, but my debut album is coming out this fall. I hope to hear yours sometime soon.

      Paix et amour ou Mort,
      King Kohn

      PS: In my humble experience, when everyone close to you begins to resist the passions of your art, it’s time to fly.

    2. U gotta sell yourself and make a good impression. From lyrics, to quality sound, creativity, flow of melodies and rhythm, change ups, band profiling, label background, artist history and bio, promotions, sales, marketing. there’s allot more than I’m mentioning. Today’s music world has evolved to having the very classic industry being more effective that the independent industry. This is because of money that the industry has at there fingertips for ads, printing CD’s, shows, radio play, and everything the artist wants. They make most money out of any artist. The Universal Music Group is still the leader in the music industry. As for Independence for an artist, it will be hard as you would have to do everything that the classic music industry does, because you would be competing against it. I started SAXA Music Inc. as part of Universal Music Group with Island Def Jam on Tunecore, because i felt that independent artists could use the services i have gathered to get their music career into success. By providing resources they can use to release music online and creating a just alike music industry of that UMG has, but for the independent music scene.

  32. Hey Cameron,

    Really nice post, it’s certainly an area that is often overlooked, but being right at the end of the music consumers sale funnel it’s arguably one of the most important or quickest areas where a few changes can make a big impact.

    Thanks for sharing :)


  33. I have a question. How do you promote your IMIX on Facebook and myspace. I tried to copy the embedded code and it didn’t work. On Myspace the IMIX playist came up, but it didn’t play. Is the IMIX album there for show or are supposed to be able to listen to it?

  34. Thank you so much for sharing this – with my band working on our first full length album I have been trying to find ways to promote without having to mess with a record label-this article was exactly what I needed right now!

  35. Very cool article Cameron. For the DIY musician,This is core info to creating and selling your music.

    Most Artist report that the iMixes we’ve serviced for them ,brings in an average of $80 in sales a month. So iMixes do work ,if you take the approach outlined here in this article.

    I’d like to add that while iTunes allows you 250 iMixes. Go through your mixes and delete the ones that have less than 4 votes and create new ones that are not as effective.

    Also if you have a huge itunes library. Use the genius feature to automate iMix creations. This can save you time while placing similar tracks together. Then drop your songs in the mix and publish them to itunes.

  36. Excellent article. Everyday I’m happier and happier I just taking my time and digging and research. I want to do it one time and do it right.
    Thanks to you it’ right track.
    Thank you.

  37. Cam,

    Again, this is really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share.

    God bless,
    Christon Gray

    “Stop worrying about how many people you reach, just try to have an impact on everyone that you do reach.” -Good stuff.

  38. Cam,
    thanks for your input on iMixes!!
    >>It seems that an iMix created by myself in Germany can’t be opened in the US which is a drag…I have many connections there. Any solution on that…?

    I’d be glad to hear

  39. Hi everyone, with the rollout of iTunes 10, iMixes are now simply called Playlists, and you need the latest version of iTunes and a Ping account to create and share Playlists. I’ll update this article sometime, but meanwhile, the basic idea remains the same.

  40. just made a playlist! Great article by the way. Since there is no longer the “top rated imixes” column under the “listeners also bought” column with the new ping playlists, how can i be sure that my play lists are at the top of the hundreds of playlists that show up. For example, if i wanted to catch the attention of john mayer fans, im going to make a play list titled “john mayer and artists similar”. There are also hundreds of other play lists john mayer fans have created. How can i be sure that my play list is above everyone elses? does it depend on the amount of votes and ratings?


  41. Hey dude :) im looking to sell my album on iTunes, im currently working on it so wont be till the summer but i havent a clue where to start lol if you can email me with any starter tips i would be so greatfull :) Foxy x

  42. I think trying to sell music JUST on itunes is like trying to take home 1 chick at the bar. Ya you might get lucky and take her home, (sell a few songs) but why not talk to every girl at the bar and improve the chances of multiple people anting you. (ie more marketing startegies) I love this site, I’ve been coming here for a while, you should definatly email these guys, they collect the Holy Grail of marketing articles, they weed through the bs so you dont have to. (there slogan lol) and try to get your some of your articles on there, I’ve already sent them a few of yours. There like a big archive and everything on their is top quality info.

  43. With all due respect Mark, you’re missing the point and only trying to plug another website.

    Speaking from experience, my music is available anywhere you can buy or stream music online, yet 90% of my revenue has come from iTunes. It’s the biggest music retailer in the US and the easiest place to use playlists to put your music in context for potential fans.

    So to use your metaphor, if you had a 90% chance at taking home one girl from the bar and combined 10% chance with all the rest, who would you spend most of your time talking to?

  44. Man I really enjoyed this article. I’m going to be taking your advice.

    I’m writing a quick review of your new album as well Cameron on my website, will have it up most likely today and will post.

    Super enjoyed your writing style and such, thanks a ton.

  45. Cameron, WOW, many thanks for putting together such an informative piece of work for indie artists; you have done a great job!!! I really appreciate the information you have provided me. You are great!!! I will listen to your music and mixes today; its great work and thanks again for sharing!!!

    Thank you very much,

  46. nice article, however I did try this to no avail. – I was sensible of my choices like you suggested, but dont you need “followers” like twitter, else no-one can see your imix?

    1. Since writing this article, iTunes Ping came out, and it does help your playlists if you are active on Ping. However, it’s not necessary for other people to find your mixes. To see results you have to do it consistently. It’s not as effective as it was when I wrote this article a few years ago, but it can still make a difference.

  47. Do I have to have bought the song to feature it on a playlist? I’m working on a piano/easy listening album, which should come out in a few months (read- I haven’t really started yet).
    Basically, I’m a rock/alternative kind of person, but I do have the pianist side of me that writes this kind of music. However, I don’t really enjoy listening to piano music (although I know a lot of people do), so of course I haven’t bought any other piano songs. I’m running on a low budget, and I don’t know if I can afford to buy a bunch of similar songs..

    1. Just to make sure I understand this, you have plans to make an album of music you wouldn’t listen to yourself, or anything remotely similar?

      Don’t get my wrong, I see how this looks like an easy way to make a little money if you keep your expenses low, but you’d be missing the point.

      Creating playlists like this should be a way to connect to a very specific audience, ultimately people that are like you. It’s like making mix CDs for a new friend…

      “Hey man, here’s some music I really love, including a couple of my own songs, and I think if you listen to this you’ll know me better.”

      That’s it. That’s the approach. Making playlists with songs you don’t like will defeat the purpose.

      To answer your question, here are the iTunes’ instructions on how to make a playlist.

      1. Let me back up a bit to help explain. I’ve been a pianist for around 8 years. A few years ago I discovered classical music, soundtracks, and easy listening piano music. About that time I started taking what I was listening to and started to write my own music, and to this day, I have many compositions, ranging in all different styles. People have told me that they would love to have a recording of some of the pieces I’ve written and performed at recitals, competitions, or posted on youtube, and I love writing music, and playing piano, so why wouldn’t I make a CD of what I’ve already written when I already have people interested?

        Lately I’ve transitioned to listening to more rock and alternative music (and in turn less wordless music), and hell, if I could produce an album of rock songs as well, I would love to, but I can’t. I just don’t have the resources or skill. But what I do have, is dozens of songs that I’ve composed, in a style that I know there is a market for. Is it a crime for me to make a few extra dollars through this method even though I’m not the biggest fan of listening to this type of music anymore (and I once was)? I don’t believe it is.

        I understand where you are coming from, but if I love the process of *making* my music, and other people out there enjoy *listening* to similar styles of music, why should I not try to reach out to them in a way similar to how you did?

        Thanks for the article, it was an interesting read, and hopefully will help if I continue on this path. I’m sorry if I came off kind of harsh, I just think I needed to explain myself better, and perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree on this matter.

        1. Ok, ok, I see where you’re coming from. You’ll have to excuse me though, because ever since posting this article many, many people have made half-assed albums because they think they’d be easy to make and then trick people into buying them using iMixes. It never works, and it just ruins the experience for people who try to discover new music through these playlists.

          If your heart is in it and people enjoy the music, however, then these playlists will help. Not as much as they used to, but they’re still a good thing.

          1. Yeah, no problem. I’m just worried about this whole process because I there are other musicians in my family with albums that are decent, but they are making minimal money off of them because of poor advertising, so I am trying to find a “better way” than simply Youtube, family members, etc, *before* I put a hell of a lot of effort into recording and producing the album. Thanks for the help!

  48. Thanks Cam! Awesome article and I appreciate you sharing this information. I plan on using this strategy myself. Good luck with your music

  49. Wow this article is fantastic. When I researched merely selling your music on itunes, the process wasn’t that complicated, but it costed a lot of money. This looks like it’s free, and much more personal like you keep saying. Thank you

  50. I have the opposite question. A label that released 3 of our songs in the 1990’s on CD compilations I have just found is selling those compilations on itunes without our permission. we signed no digital rights contract with them (as they didn’t exist then), and the songs belong to us not them copyright wise. How do i get them to stop without spending lots of dough??

    1. I believe you would first have to start with a cease and desist letter.

      Many records, I believe, worked a clause into contracts that covers “future formats.” You might have a better argument if you point out that they were never granted rights to sell your songs as singles. In other words, your songs should be listed as “Album Only” on iTunes.

      I don’t know what your contract looked like, but those are just a couple things I’ve seen in the past.

    2. I’d get a lawyer to draft up a letter to itunes asking for all details about the crimes the label has committed. Then I’d forward it to the police. Then I’d sue the label and itunes for as much as you can.

  51. Great information Cameron. Thanks so much. I’ve been on itunes for a long time but have sold very little due to lack of understanding how to make the most of it. Thanks a bunch.

  52. Thanks for the info, I’m releasing my debut album and it’s really hard to get any traction. I recently lost my job and with lots of bills and on disability, it’s scary, I live for my music, but it’s hard to even get friends to take the time to visit the site, listen to songs, or anything.

  53. Hey, Cameron! What if I’m just trying to promote one song? It’s going to be available on iTunes & many other online music stores on July 9th, 2012. Is there a way for me to reach a wide audience with just one song? All of the proceeds are going to a great childrens charity. I don’t even care about the money. This is about my music & making money for a good cause.

    1. Promoting one song with playlists is exactly the same as doing it for an album, except you only have that one song to add to your playlists. Also, instead of creating a trail of breadcrumbs to bring people back to the album, you’ll want to try and encourage people to discover the rest of your music through your artist page on Ping (if you have other music available).

  54. I cried when I read this article – I was so impressed with the simple genius of it, and your generosity in sharing it. Thank you and good luck in your career.

  55. Great Article. I would advise artists to also check out They provide the largest global distribution channel in the world without monthly or annual fees. They’re also the only music distributor that helps artists market and promote music with an unmatched online marketing campaign! voted best music services by musicians! Keep writing great tunes!

  56. Hi, I just came across this article. It was a great read and it looked like a great strategy, but with the release of iTunes 11, the iMix/Playlist feature is gone and all iMixes have been removed. I was wondering if you had an alternative strategy. Thanks!

    1. It depends on what you mean by strategy. I don’t know any other way to have as direct an impact on my iTunes sales as the iMixes, but my general strategy of creating context for my music has stayed the same. I spent a lot more time working my last album offline by putting CDs in the hands of people that knew me but didn’t really know my music–neighbors and people I saw regularly around the neighborhood, people that came to see the other bands I play with, etc. Many of these people helped spread the word out of reciprocation, and I sold a lot more music as a result.

  57. This article has been around for so long, and so many people have commented and wanted to try out this method for themselves…

    If any of you out there are still listening…just curious….what were your results? Did it help your visibility or your sales?

    1. Hey Jeff. Unfortunately, the last few versions of iTunes phased out iMixes/Playlists. I’ve heard that they’re coming back in some capacity, though I don’t see them on any album pages just yet.

      I’ve kept this article published because the underlying concept of creating context for your music is still very relevant.

  58. Wow, I can say with all confidence that after maybe 20+ hours of google searching, this is the ONLY article I found with some legit creative advice. I can’t wait to make my iMix now, and thank you for reminding us about targeting our fans. Also, and more importantly, thanks so much for your honesty about your profits in the first few months. Makes me feel so relieved–maybe things can pick up for all of us. (:

    Once again, THANKS!

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