Start “selling” your new music before its official release date.

A pre-sale on iTunes or Amazon allows your fans to order your music anywhere from one week to six months in advance of its release. When the drop date arrives, your pre-sale customers will automatically be able to download and listen to your new album.

All pre-sales get credited as sales on the official release date, so the more pre-sales you get, the higher your ranking for that day, increasing your chances of charting. This is exactly how CD Baby artists Tyke T and Shannon Curtis ended up on the charts, both with independent releases.

You can read more about their charting strategies here:

So yeah, a digital music pre-sale is a great way to build hype for your latest album, giving you extra time to create buzz before the music actually drops. And given the fact that both iTunes and Amazon are prime real-estate for music retail, those additional weeks or months can have a big impact.

But a pre-sale does require a little extra time and planning. Read on if you want to know how to make the most of your album release.

Give your fans a chance to buy NOW.

Don’t waste a social post saying “new music coming soon” if there’s no way for your fans to actually DO anything about it (namely, give you money).

With a pre-sale, you don’t have to keep telling your fans about new music on the horizon with no retail solution to capture interested customers. Now — in the month leading up to the release — whenever you talk about your new music on social media, on your website, in your newsletter, or at a concert, you can tell your fans where to go RIGHT NOW to make a purchase.

Details about iTunes pre-sales

Artists who have albums with 11 or more tracks are eligible to choose an “instant gratification” track for iTunes.  iTunes will make that track available for preview and purchase on the date your pre-sale begins. The instant gratification track will be available for purchase as part of the pre-sale album, which means any iTunes customer can purchase this track by itself, or have it instantly downloaded when they purchase your complete album during the pre-sale period.

An iTunes pre-sale (for albums only) can run anywhere from one week to six months before the Current Release Date: the actual release date you set in your CD Baby member account. In order to be eligible for pre-sale, your Current Release Date must also be at least 7 days from the day you sign up the music for distribution.

However, we actually recommend giving yourself at least a 30 day lead time to account for processing time, inspection, delivery, etc. It takes a minimum of 5 business days from the date of delivery for pre-sale albums to appear on iTunes. You will need to finalize and approve your album prior to delivery being started.

 Details about Amazon pre-sales

Any release that is delivered to Amazon before its release date will show up at the outlet for digital sales about 1-2 weeks after you submit your final approval for delivery. If that is before your actual release date the page on Amazon will be available as a pre-sale but as “unavailable” for individual purchase of songs. A customer will be able to purchase the music but it won’t be available for download until the specified release date. Once your actual release date arrives, all pre-sales will be fulfilled and Amazon customers can then download your music.

Unlike with iTunes, there is no “instant gratification track” offered with each Amazon pre-sale. However, Amazon is a huge music retailer, and digital pre-sales give artists a great opportunity to capture as many sales as possible during the promotional period before your album launch.

Planning for your pre-sale

As you’ve read, both iTunes and Amazon (and CD Baby) need advance notice if you plan to run a pre-sale. What does that mean for you?

1. Don’t RUSH!

Unless it’s a cover of “Tom Sawyer.” But seriously, don’t speed through the CD Baby signup process wanting to get your music live on all the digital platforms the minute the tracks are back from mastering.

Yes, we CAN make your music available worldwide super quickly. But after spending so much time and energy making your music, you should give equal consideration to the launch. And that means setting a release date far enough in the future to take advantage of pre-sales and promo opportunities.

2. Set a realistic release date.

In order to set up the pre-sale properly, iTunes needs the drop date to be at minimum of five business days in the future from when the music is delivered to them by CD Baby. That means you’ve got to be at least 7 days in front of the release date when you sign the music up with us.

But again, don’t rush. I’d recommend leaving an even great window to allow for our inspection process (checking your publishing/songwriter info and metadata), the delivery process, to give you a chance to double-check the spelling, audio, and artwork, and to give you time to plan whatever marketing you’re going to do around this pre-sale.

If possible, sign up the music for distribution at least 30 days before the release date to take full advantage of a pre-sale.

3. Choose your instant grat track.

Which is the best song to let pre-sale customers download right now? It might not be the hit single, but then again, it probably should be.

Choose that song well in advance too so you’re not rushing to make a last minute decision.

4. Account for holidays.

The digital download platforms go on vacation too. If you’re wanting to get music up in time for, say, the Christmas season, you need to factor in those possible delays.

If you want to officially release a song in mid-December and begin the pre-sale right after Thanksgiving, that means you need to start getting all your distribution ducks in a row at least by early November, because iTunes workers might be out for a while around Thanksgiving.

5. Promote the release as soon as the pre-sale begins.

On the first day of the pre-sale period, do the full blitz: social posts, email announcement, paid ads (if it’s in the budget), etc.

Again, this is how you’re going to spike those first-day sales, and you might even consider telling your fans that a pre-sale will help your charting position, so the time to buy is now.

The whole point of a pre-sale is to widen that window, so you might as well be using every hour you’re given within that time frame.

To start selling your new album as a pre-sale on iTunes and Amazon, sign it up today with CD Baby! 

If you have additional questions about running a pre-sale, check out CD Baby’s Help Center.

Have you had success running a pre-sale? Holler in the comments below.

[hana-code-insert name=’marketing-spread-the-word’ /]