Royalty Free Music on iTunes


We’ve had some considerable success selling “personal listening” versions of our music on iTunes, Spotify etc, until May this year when our digital distributor (Zimbalam) went ahead and removed the words “Royalty Free” from all titles. Boom! Sales dropped dead. When I asked them what was going on they said that iTunes is not allowing those words and that they need to comply - basically meaning no one is supposedly allowed to sell “royalty free music” as digital downloads. Bummer! On top of our frustration, there’s still a lot of music out there for sale that has “royalty free” in their titles. I’m guessing those lucky to pass under the radar are now picking up a LOT more sales due to the competition having been cut down.

Do you have any related experience? Could it be that some distributors are not adhering to iTunes’ guidelines? Why does iTunes need to tamper down this market segment? Maybe this means there’s an implicit opportunity for a download store that actually allows “royalty free music” being sold.


A item sold for personal listening can’t also be royalty free, can it?
And if its the same music thats uploaded on AJ on an exclusive account you wouldn’t be allowed to sell that music as royalty free music elsewhere.


It can :sunglasses:


Yes, but not with a royalty free license. You would need to direct customers to AJ to get an actually RF license. So selling them as royalty free on iTunes would be misleading.


Yeah, surely every track on iTunes is ‘royalty free’ in a way… in that you don’t have to pay any royalties to listen to the track. Although, to tag something as being royalty free would give the impression that it was ok to use in video productions and the like, which wouldn’t be possible for personal listening tracks bought on iTunes.

I’m not sure what the benefit would be of marking something as royalty free when it’s for personal listening?


That’s correct of course, but you don’t get a RF license. I can certainly understand why iTunes doesn’t want “their” music to have royalty free in the title.


Maybe buyers from itunes used your tracks for videos or other projects…


I agree with @Hyperprod. Royalty-free only applies to production music and makes no sense for personal listening.

If people are indeed looking for RF music on iTunes and they do find music that’s labeled “Royalty-Free”, then they’ll think they can license music for $0.99. No wonder then, we get messages like “who’s gonna pay $20 to use just one song”, when they can get the same “royalty-free” track for $0.99.

Buyers already have a hard time grasping the concept of RF and licensing, it’s a good thing iTunes is trying to reduce the confusion.


The idea was to showcase our music outside of AJ and make it easy for potential licensees to browse and download music for preview and personal listening purposes. From AJ’s pov I guess it also makes sense to allow previously released music to also be eligible for licensing.

I agree there’s already a lot of confusion surrounding “royalty free music”, but as it stands, if someone doesn’t understand the iTunes terms they probably won’t figure out how to get over here and get an appropriate licence, also if someone were to use an iTunes track on YouTube then AdRev would issue a copyright claim on the video to give them a clue about how it works.

In the end, it’s not so much about iTunes vs AJ but rather music vs no music. I personally believe all venues that can help with exposure are beneficial for all of our businesses in the long run, and yes, even if there’s a bit of confusion every now and then. After all, confusion is a sign of someone trying to learn something. Better “confuse and conquer” than “snooze and lose” :sunglasses:


The thing is that :

  • Envato supports selling your Royalty Free that you already sell with them as “personal listening” which is great. You add good income from iTunes selling your exclusive portfolio, that once was really exclusive. That’s what exclusive means, you’re not allow to sell it anywhere else. But Envato went on and created “personal listening” thing.

If you upload your watermaked previews on YouTube, it’s necessary to say they’re “Royalty Free” and you can direct them to your item on AudioJungle, so people can buy your license.

But going on iTunes, selling your exclusive portfolio as “personal listening” and also naming the “personal listening” Royalty Free (just because more people look for Royalty Free and more buy it) it’s already too much if you ask me.

I know you may get more iTunes downloads as you state if the titles have “Royalty Free” on them.

But you have to understand what Envato clearly explains :

  • if you want to sell Royalty Free you promote on YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud your watermarked tracks and point them to your AudioJungle portfolio.
  • if you want to sell personal listening items on iTunes, you enter a different market, of just songs, that users buy for say 1.99 USD and then listen to them.

There’s a huge difference between selling a licence for a song to be used commercially and selling a song so people can listen to their iPods.

Of course, lawyers can go on and on about this, and pledge in the favour of their clients, of course, to win the argument. But I want to keep it simple and know where I stand.

From my perspective, even if I haven’t made the steps yet to sell “personal listening” versions from my exclusive AudioJungle portfolio on iTunes, having the opportunity of selling on both it’s enough.

this is my oppinion, I’m sorry if it contradicts with yours, I understand your frustration with your removal of “Royalty Free” off your titles, and that now you sell nothing and before you sold heaps on iTunes,
but I think they did the right thing. You cannot sell “Royalty Free” tracks on iTunes. It may even confuse the buyer into thinking they can grab with 1.99 USD a song and use it as it is such as they already have a licence (which is 19 USD, the smallest.)

So all things actually made you earn more and earn the way you should. Songs for listening on iTunes and Royalty Free licenses on AudioJungle.



Valid points, at least in theory. To be perfectly honest, in our experience there has been a number of cases where iTunes buyers emailed us and were confused about iTunes license terms. But no more than a few. On the other hand, on several occasions customers let us know they have used the music in previews and for evaluation purposes, and email us asking for licensing, and so we direct them to AJ. I see it a bit like having a newspaper stand in a crowded area, sure some people read a bit for free, but if they’re serious about their business they may decide to buy their own copy. People who are freeloaders will not likely buy anything anyway, and iTunes is IMO visited more frequently with buyers of good intention than, for instance, people who just go directly to a pirate website and get it for free. It’s delusional to think we’re selling the actual music here, we’re actually selling licences and the implicit comfort of having done the right thing, having your back free so to speak.

If you are an unexperienced buyer of music, chances are you will start off using Google Search, iTunes, Spotify or whatever platform you are familiar with. Once you’ve come to the conclusion you are on the hunt for “royalty free”, that are the exact words you will search for. A ton of titles will show up, maybe you will refine your search with “corporate” or “cinematic”, and then chances are that you find a track that you like. Now, in my book we would all be better off if that music/title was AJ music (rather than a competing website). Drawing traffic to Envato is the primary object, all sales we make here is a function of the sessions initated here. Not being visible on marketing platforms where competitors are only lessens our capacity of conversion. And so it goes. I’d be much more “fine” with iTunes dropping “royalty free” music if they made sure it was done properly across the board. As of now, it just seems a bit random who is in and who is out, and since end customers do not know anything about this debacle they will simply go on and lock into whatever they first manage to find.

I would think a better solution for iTunes would be to attach an informative text to “royalty free” albums, explaining they are not buying a YouTube or broadcast licence, but rather a convenient batch of demo previews, problem solved.


Which is why selling royalty-free on iTunes makes no sense, since you’re not selling licenses on iTunes. iTunes is not in the Royalty-Free business so there shouldn’t be any music labeled as such.

Now, I understand you know what you’re doing and that for you, a little misleading is fine if it leads to more sales.

But i think it’s delusional to think you can educate people on RF and licensing by blurring the lines some more.

As for freeloaders not buying anything anyway, well I don’t think that’s always true. Penny-less students may become professional videomakers for instance, or some may realize that creation needs to be funded (yeah right). More importantly, if we give people the impression that they can license music for 0.99 via iTunes, there will be even more freeloaders, as well as cheapos and people that just cannot resist a great deal. People that wouldn’t normally steal but think that going the iTunes way is okay, since it is labeled a such.

Ultimately, this is your responsibility and if that strategy works for you then why not. I personally do not think any good can come out of this mess. No offense.


After reading the above 2 posts,
I realized that the holy grail of being exclusive on Envato has been actually broken (in a matter of speaking) by Envato themselves.

They allowed for “personali listening” songs, in order for the artists to sell more. In the long run, people can compromise their own exclusive AudioJungle portfolio because of freeloaders getting their “personal listening” songs for just 0.99 USD and use it freely as they would have actual licenses bought. Who can hunt all these people ?

I’m sure there’s a fine line that anyone can draw for themselves.
I personally don’t know if I should create “personal listening” versions on iTunes and sell them, or just create new music under a certain nickname that will be sold on iTunes differentiating it from my AudioJungle portfolio.

We’re all afraid of thieves, and I learned the hard lesson on Beatport.

Anyway, fear will not accomplish anything. There’s a saying “you cannot find a forest without broken trees”. There will always be broken trees. Just create good stuff, on iTunes as songs, on your AJ portfolio as commercial licenses, and keep growing and enjoying life.

Worring about this or that will only make you worry more, or even disrupt your regular workflow.