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Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of answers to questions that we receive commonly. Last updated (with two years and 20 pages of new material!) on June 16, 2010.

General

For Artists

For Fans

For Artists & Fans

General

 

What exactly is this website? What do you do here? And no tech-jargon!

We built, operate, and maintain a website (the one you're visiting right now) that provides the necessary tools for independent musicians — that is, those who control their own recordings — to put their music into the hands of anyone on the planet. We're also happy to work with record labels that treat their artists fairly. Everything is self-service, and artists upload all their own material to indietorrent.org. Artists set their own song prices, and some decide to give their music away at no cost. Anyone with Internet access is able to visit our digital music catalog to sample, buy, and download the music. We reward artists who offer at least one album at no charge by giving them a "Virtual Tip Jar" into which appreciative fans are able to donate. We operate on a small footprint and have automated-away nearly all of the manual labor. For this reason, we are able to give about 85% of every dollar in sales directly to the artists. indietorrent.org's honesty and uniqueness is unmatched in any other digital music store on the Internet. Virtue is one of the primary factors that sets us apart from our competitors.

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I was just going to comment on the fact that indietorrent.org displays its total number of customers and total sales revenue on every page.

That's part of our commitment to keeping everything above-board. Unless we display sales figures in real-time, how can anyone be sure that we're accounting for every sale and paying artists their dues? Go ahead, buy something. Watch the total increase by your purchase amount, and ask the band whose music you bought if they were notified of the sale.

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Who is eligible to create an account on indietorrent.org? Anyone?

Absolutely anyone is permitted, encouraged, and invited to join the indietorrent.org community. Create an account today. If you're an artist, it costs nothing and there is no commitment, so try it out. If you're a music-lover, consider creating an account to receive mind-blowing updates on how the website and service are evolving, if nothing else. (We have a NO SPAM policy, don't worry.)

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How do I create a new account on indietorrent.org?

Visit the Create a New Account page.

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For Artists

 

How much does it cost to sell my music on indietorrent.org?

It is not possible for you to owe us money, and we never request credit card details from you, as we do not charge or bill artists for any reason whatsoever. Rather, we keep a cost-covering portion of each transaction after the money is received from the paying customer. We retain 10% of each sale (or donation) to cover our expenses, which include webserver overhead, customer service for artists and fans, programming, administration, merchant account fees, legal fees, and so on.

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Wow. Are you sure that indietorrent.org will be able to survive on only 10%? You should take more!

We're humbled and appreciate the sentiment! Speaking forthrightly, 10% should be more than enough. We may live to eat our words, but we believe that when run properly, a business of indieTorrent.org's nature should be able to operate on a marginal cut of the revenue. The reason that artists are gouged so deeply in retail stores and elsewhere on the Web has directly to do with parasites, who add no real value, inserting themselves into the equation. We've automated the heck out indieTorrent.org, and as such, only a handful of individuals are required to power the entire operation — and that will be true indefinitely, due to the scalability and ingenuity of the platform. That said, we graciously accept donations to assist us in "fighting the good fight".

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What requirements must I satisfy in order to upload and sell music?

Simply stated, you must own the exclusive copyright to any piece of music that you upload, or you must be the copyright holder's appointed representative (such as a label manager). In cases in which multiple individuals share copyright ownership, the same premise applies: all interested parties must be involved. This is why bands have lawyers. The finer points of internal legal agreements between artists (and/or their managers or labels) are not our responsibility; we are simply required to collect and retain affidavits from individuals who assert that they meet the requirements described in our Terms of Use.

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If I upload my music to indietorrent.org, am I able to sell it elsewhere, too?

Of course. We do not mandate exclusivity. For more information, see our Terms of Use (you will notice that it includes nothing about offering your music elsewhere; that's none of our business).

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Once I've created an account, how do I begin uploading and selling my music?

Now that you have an account, you'll be able to request an Artist Profile (which gives you the ability to upload and sell music). From within My Account, click My Digital Catalog, and you'll be walked-through the Artist Profile Request form.

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Does indietorrent.org support Label Accounts through which any number of Artist Accounts may be administered?

Yes, and to our knowledge, we're the only digital music store on the Internet to have accomplished this monumental feat. Seriously.

Label accounts are treated in much the same way as Artist accounts, but with a few key differences, which will become apparent as you begin using a Label account.

Labels are able to customize their profile pages, just as individual artists are. What's more is that if the label does not wish to customize every single one of its artists' profiles, it can upload a single "Label Template" that will automatically be applied to any artist on the label that lacks a custom template. This makes it possible for labels to have hundreds of artists' works displayed in a beautiful digital catalog with minimal customization required. At the same time, this implementation allows labels who do wish to customize every single Artist's template to go right ahead. Labels can even customize only their top-ten selling artists' templates, for example, and let the "default label template" apply to the remainder of their artists.

Once a Label Profile Request has been submitted (and we have approved it), you are able to begin adding individual Artists to the Label. From within each new artist account that you create, you simply click the "Generate New Code" button, and 40-character code will appear just below the button. Then you use your browser's Edit → Copy function (or an equivalent "shortcut") to copy the code. This code is a "secret key" that we use to verify that you have access to the Artist account that you're attempting to add to the Label. Once you have the code on your computer's clipboard, click "Log Out" in the site header and then log into the Label Account. While logged-in with the Label account, in the "Tools for Labels" section, click "Add an Artist to Your Label". Paste the secret code into the box and submit the form; you should receive a success message and be guided back to My Account. The Artist now appears in the "Individual ARTIST Statistics" area of My Account.

You may click on any of your label's artists and take immediate control of that Artist account, without having to log in and out of the Label account (that's what the secret code was for; it makes needing to know the credentials to each Artist account irrelevant).

It is possible for Label account operators to specify whether or not each constituent Artist's "Representative Information" is ignored in favor of the Label Representative's. This makes it possible for labels to dictate whether the label will receive a single payment for all of its artists at once each pay period, or if each artist on the label will be paid separately each period. Paying artists separately, if by PayPal, costs everybody more overall, due to the per-transaction fees. For this reason, we advise labels to go ahead and check "Ignore Artist Representative Info" in their Label Profiles, which will cause two things to happen:
  1. A single payment will be sent to the Label Representative. The label may then pay each artist his fair share, such as by paper check or direct deposit, and avoid any unnecessary PayPal fees.
  2. The Label account operator's "Withdrawal Threshold" Account Preference setting will override whatever value (if any) is specified at the Artist level.
This functionality makes it possible for labels to delegate management responsibility of individual artist profiles (or even groups of them) to different individuals within the organization. When the "Ignore Artist Representative Info" box is checked in the Label account operator's Label Profile, the Artist account managers' preferences (specifically, the Withdrawal Threshold and Artist Representative Information) have no effect, and therefore do not matter nor require moderation. Of course, delegated Artist account mangers are still able to add new albums, correct existing albums, delete obsolete albums, etc.

At the present time, as a Label Representative, you must create a new User Account and submit a new Artist Profile Request for each artist. While each account must have a unique username, you may use the same email address (and password, if you wish) for each account.

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Why do you ask for artists' representatives' phone numbers? I don't want to provide that information.

Wouldn't you want us to call you if we had a $10,000 check for you, but we couldn't track you down due to a typo that you made while submitting your Artist Profile Request? We thought so. If this requirement really rubs you the wrong way, just include a fake phone number, and we shall assume no liability for lost checks...

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Does indietorrent.org reject Artist Profile Requests like iTunes? If so, on what grounds?

We are not the arbiters of what constitutes "good music". As such, we do not reject Artist Profile Requests on that basis. Nor do we charge a non-refundable application fee, like iTunes. We approve Requests within 48 hours, unless we determine that foul play is afoot (for example, Joe Smiley in Tucson, Arizona is attempting to upload and sell copies of The Beatles' records).

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I requested an Artist Profile and was approved, but now I am being asked to upload WAV or FLAC files ("lossless audio files"). I've never heard of WAV or FLAC. Why can't I just upload MP3 files?

The answer is multifaceted. When MP3 files are created, the audio data is irreversibly damaged. MP3 files sacrifice fidelity in order to minimize file size; that's why it is often necessary to "crank the volume" when playing MP3s. During MP3 creation, the majority of the audio data is discarded. Selling MP3 files is akin to selling black and white photocopies of colorful oil paintings.

Furthermore, what will happen when MP4 replaces MP3? And when MP5 replaces MP4? Will you log into every store in which you sell your music and re-upload every track in the latest-and-greatest format? By requiring WAV or FLAC files, we solve the antiquated-format problem entirely. We can transcode your WAV or FLAC files to quite literally any other format, en masse, with no action required from you. Additionally, requiring original-quality files enables us to provide your customers with music in any format and at any bit-rate; we just convert the lossless audio file to whatever format the customer wishes, and the quality of the audio is dependent only upon any limitations of the target format.

FLAC deserves special mention. FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. The "Free" refers both to price and to freedom: there are no royalty fees associated with FLAC, unlike the proprietary WAV, MP3 and M4A formats. If you offer your music in MP3 format, Fraunhofer (the patent-holder) demands 2% of all sales revenue. Regardless of who pays those fees, the money ultimately comes out of the artist's pocket, and nobody here wants that. You can read more about FLAC vs. MP3 in the Fan FAQ, Am I able to play FLAC files on my iPod (or other portable audio device)?

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I don't want to learn how to encode FLAC files. Can I just upload WAV or AIFF files?

You are welcome to upload WAV files, but not AIFF files. AIFF is a proprietary Apple format, and we choose not to support it when there are open, cost-free alternatives.

If you elect to upload WAV files, be aware that you will upload twice as much data as with FLAC files. This means that it will take twice as long for you to upload your audio files.

In the time you spend uploading twice as much data, you could be learning about FLAC, why it's important to the freedom of music, and how to improve your production work-flow with the format. We provide picture and video tutorials that detail the entire process of creating FLAC files from WAV/AIFF files or existing CDs, and we're happy to answer any questions. Standardizing on FLAC also reduces the load on our servers dramatically, due to the smaller file sizes. Your sales dollars are paying for site overhead; why not work with us to help minimize everyone's costs?

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If I have my music in MP3 format already, can't I just convert (transcode) the MP3 files to the WAV or FLAC format?

Nooo! Don't do that! Please, do not create your WAV or FLAC files from lower-quality files (such as MP3s); this is commonly known as "up-sampling". You must use a source that is CD-quality or better when creating your WAV or FLAC files. In addition, do not artificially inflate the size of your WAV or FLAC files by using a sample datum size or sample rate that is higher than the source; to do so would be entirely wasteful. We'd be left with what is essentially a 25MB MP3 file that sounds exactly like the original 5MB MP3 file. Why waste 20MB of space on our server and disappoint your lossless-audio-loving customers? Creating WAV or FLAC files isn't that difficult! And we've prepared a tutorial for you!

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How widespread is FLAC support? I still don't fully understand why I can't upload MP3s. How will this requirement affect my customers?

We direct you to the following Fan FAQ: Am I able to play FLAC files on my iPod (or other portable audio device)?

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I noticed that I have the option to create a for-free Torrent-based album. What does that even mean?

It means that instead of setting your own song prices and demanding money for your music, you have the option to offer your music at no charge. For-free albums are handled differently with respect to how you prepare the files, how you transmit the files to us, and how your downloading fans receive the files. And by "differently", we mean "better, easier, faster," in many respects. First, there are no restrictions on the format or quality of the files that you include; you are able to include any number of additional media files if you wish (such as lyrics, an AVI video, or even DVD VOB/IFO files). Second, once your BitTorrent client is properly configured, uploading to us becomes a breeze; even massive file transfers are handled gracefully across intermittent disconnects and the like. Third, your fans benefit from blazing-fast download speeds when a sufficient number of people are downloading your music simultaneously (we're talking over 1MB/sec).

We employ the wondrous BitTorrent protocol to distribute for-free albums, largely because it's a self-regulating, give-and-take system. You may wish to think of a BitTorrent "swarm" as a web, with new downloaders landing in the center. When a new downloader joins the swarm, everybody surrounding him begins piping data his way at an increasing rate. When his download is complete, he moves towards the outside of the web until he has uploaded as much as he downloaded, at which point he drops off the swarm and is done downloading and uploading altogether.

The coolest part about uploading a Torrent-based album is that you automatically receive the ability to accept donations from your fans as a result. A donation link will appear on your Artist Profile page as soon as you activate your first Torrent album. Your fans are able to click the link and donate to you with a credit/debit card or PayPal account. We add any donations that you receive to any money that you have earned via "traditional", for-pay album sales.

For more information on Torrent-based albums, see Fair enough. What advantages does the Torrent-Based Donation Model offer?

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Hmm, that sounds pretty good, but I've heard/read/believe that Torrents are questionable, if not outright illegal. What is indietorrent.org's response to that?

People commit crimes using tools that seem incredibly innocent, that is, until the crime is discovered. Just because a given tool has been used to facilitate illegal activity does not mean that the tool should be made illegal. According to the logic that often inspires this FAQ, cars should be illegal because drug-runners drive cars. BitTorrent is just a tool, like any other, that can be used for any number of purposes. BitTorrent is incredibly well-suited to moving massive amounts of data with perfect accuracy, nearly infallible redundancy, and extreme efficiency. It's no wonder that "software pirates" have taken to its use. We assure you that we have no intention of doing anything illegal with BitTorrent technology. If we are ever accused of illegal activity, it will be because a rogue agent from one of the Big Four labels plants one of their artists' albums on our site under a fake name and then cries foul after buying his own record with a stolen credit card. Furthermore, your largest prospective audience consists of "software pirates", so the fact that we are using a technology with which they are plenty familiar is all the more incentive for them to grab your material and then donate to your cause.

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What if I need assistance with creating WAV or FLAC files for upload to indietorrent.org?

If you need assistance preparing your audio files for upload to indietorrent.org, visit our Help & Resources page. We have prepared comprehensive video tutorials for Windows and Mac users. We also accept CDs by mail, and will encode albums at no charge; just ask for our mailing address. If you're a Linux user and feel left-out, we have you covered. We'll have a Linux tutorial published in the near future, but please feel free to contact us for help in the meantime.

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But if I offer my music in the FLAC format only, how will my customers, many of whom have never heard of FLAC, playback the files?

We understand that not everybody knows (or cares) about FLAC, which is why we automatically create MP3 files from the WAV or FLAC files that you upload. The segment of your customers who couldn't possibly care less about the quality of the products that they buy can download the MP3 files, which still sound pretty good, and copy them to their Apple i-devices.

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Can I upload WAV or FLAC files, but also provide my own MP3 files? Your automated transcoding process makes my MP3 files sound less than perfect.

No, you can't upload your own "custom-tweaked" MP3 files, mostly for the reasons outlined in previous FAQs regarding lossless formats (e.g., WAV or FLAC) vs. MP3. Once MP3 is a dead dinosaur, you would have to come back and re-upload custom-tweaked MP4 files, MP5 files, and so on. Further, there would be no consistency in how the files are created from one artist to another, and we'd end-up with mismatched bitrates, a mix of CBR and VBR files, etc. We feel that the flexibility and zero-maintenance afforded via our current approach outweighs any benefit to be gained from hand-tooled MP3 files. Many fans (and artists) claim that they are unable to differentiate between lossless (e.g., WAV or FLAC) and lossy (e.g., MP3) formats; if those claims are true, then a carefully-tuned MP3 file seems even less practical.

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Is there a file size limit on the files that I upload?

Yes, but the size limit is 2GB (that's 2,000MB). If you are uploading audio tracks in excess of 2GB, we'd love to hear them first... Seriously, if you intend to upload massive audio files, please consider making the album a Torrent-based, zero-cost album. Huge data files are no problem when included in for-free albums, but they cost us (and therefore all artists) enormously when uploaded to for-pay albums that never sell.

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Are there quality/resolution limits imposed on the WAV or FLAC files that I upload?

A few, but most of the limits are lower (not upper) limits. We do not restrict the resolution (that is, the sample datum size and sample rate) of WAV or FLAC audio files. When you prepare your WAV or FLAC files, a sample datum size (bits per sample) of 16 bits or higher is acceptable, as is any sample rate of 44,100 kHz or higher. In other words, the audio you upload must be CD-quality or better.

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Am I able to upload WAV or FLAC files that include more than two (2) channels, that is, "surround" as opposed to "stereo"?

Not yet. As recording in more than two channels becomes increasingly common, we will add support for 5.1 and 7.1 channel surround-sound audio.

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How must I name, tag, or otherwise prepare my WAV or FLAC files?

You don't need to do anything besides ensure that the correct WAV or FLAC file is uploaded for each track. We handle all of the meta-data and tagging using the information that you provide during the album creation process, so tagging the WAV or FLAC files is entirely unnecessary (we strip any existing tags). You are able to edit the album and track meta-data at any time, including the track preview start and end times, via your Digital Catalog. When you save your edits, we automatically update the tags on your master audio files (which we store in FLAC format, internally), as well as the MP3 files that we create for your customers' convenience.

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Does indietorrent.org assert ownership rights over my music?

No, and we don't want ownership over your music. We minimize our liability and legal expenses wherever we can. Our Terms of Use state the ways in which we use your music with your explicit permission. For example, we need to be able to serve your customers copies of your audio files, otherwise none of us would be here. In the future, we may be working with streaming radio station, Fiat+/-Lux, to secure free airtime/exposure for our artists, and our Terms of Use will be modified accordingly at that time. (We will make free Internet radio play an opt-in feature, which means that artists will be required to understand and consent before their music is played on the radio.)

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What does indietorrent.org do to protect my music from unauthorized access?

This question only applies to for-pay (as opposed to for-free) albums. We make no effort to protect for-free albums, because in such cases, viral and rampant copying is the whole point! Conversely, for-pay albums are protected from unauthorized access via our website. This means that unless a customer has paid for an audio track, it is impossible for the customer to download the track from our website. That's not to say that paying customers can't share purchased music with their friends and families; the license under which we release your music allows for such copying (see our Terms of Use). While there's nothing that prevents account-holders from sharing their login information with the public, thereby granting download access to the individuals' purchases, we monitor such behavior. As far as customers purchasing your music and redistributing it on the Internet is concerned, again, that's allowed, per the applicable license, but only for non-commercial and non-endorsement-implying purposes. For those who wish to steal and sell your music, there's nothing we can do to stop them. Even the RIAA, with their bottomless pockets, can't stop that behavior. Would you really want us to divert your profits to a fool's errand?

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I've become aware that it is possible for people to steal my music using a tool that intercepts and saves the streaming MP3 track. What is indietorrent.org doing to prevent this practice?

Nothing, because there is no way to prevent it. You must be familiar with the adage, "if it can be heard, it can be copied." We settled somewhere between chasing a phantom and throwing our hands up: we offer your customers 90-second track previews. The "standard" is 30 seconds. In the future, we may provide artists with the ability to allow the entire track to be previewed, in which case the number of so-called thieves will increase, invariably. We believe that print-quality artwork, several download formats from which to choose (all for a single price), and other value-added services will inspire some portion of listeners to part with their cash. For that reason, we will not expend resources in vain a attempt to govern how your music is accessed and used. If you have genuine concerns in this regard, hire a copyright lawyer. They go for about $400 per hour. We could even make a few recommendations!

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Will indietorrent.org make my music available in other online stores, such as iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, etc.?

Why would we do that? We detest those companies, and we will do absolutely nothing to assist them, even if you don't agree that they are scum.

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Are my sales figures reported to the Billboard charts (Nielsen SoundScan)?

We do not report download statistics to any third party at the present time. The primary reason for this is that SoundScan (and therefore the Billboard charts, etc.) require music to be bar-coded with a UPC label and ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) numbers. We feel that if we require all music to be submitted with UPC and ISRC, a significant number of musicians will be deterred from using indietorrent.org. While ISRC codes do not carry a monetary cost, there are considerable monetary costs associated with obtaining the UPC codes, and both code vendors have a monopoly on their respective industries. (Why don't we make including the codes optional? Continue reading...)

Additionally, the RIAA is the only agency in the United States with the authority to assign ISRC codes, or grant other organizations the authority to do so. Because the RIAA is a criminal organization that extorts money from innocent people (see How the RIAA Litigation Process Works), we are reluctant to integrate their products or services into indietorrent.org. We would rather not encourage the RIAA's behavior by sending our customers to the RIAA's website to apply for ISRC codes. More importantly, we want no part of any illegal activity, and the RIAA's activities are demonstrably illegal.

A number of artists have stated that Billboard reporting is essential to transparency: "Without an independent means by which to verify that artists are being paid fairly (i.e., the public Billboard figures), it is trivial for labels to steal from their artists." We understand this position, and it is precisely the reason for which we enable artists to "Display Earnings Publicly" in the indietorrent.org Digital Catalog. Even if an artist's label controls his indietorrent.org catalog, and the artist has no access to the account, the artist can demand that his label display the artist's earnings publicly on indietorrent.org. This enables the artist (and the general public) to monitor sales figures, in real-time, without requiring login access to the indietorrent.org artist account. Frankly, we are surprised that so many artists appear to trust Nielsen and its affiliate companies, given there is no way to verify that Nielsen isn't cooking those books each month and cooperating with the big labels to marginalize the royalties owed to their artists.

We have considered making UPC and ISRC number entry optional upon album creation, but unless we receive a compelling volume of complaints from artists, we have no intention of playing into the Recording Industry's hand. Support for Billboard chart reporting would require considerable effort on our part; unless the majority wants it, reports will not be sent to Nielsen SoundScan.

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I would like to customize my Artist Profile to include my own colors, graphics, etc.; is this possible?

For just a few months longer, not without our assistance. We're working with artists on a case-by-case basis to customize their profiles, and there is no self-service interface available yet. In the near future, we'll be adding an interface through which all artists will be able to customize their own profiles. If you'd like us to customize your profile in the meantime, please contact us, and we'll send you the Customization Guide.

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Is it possible to integrate my indietorrent.org storefront into my existing website?

To some extent. It is possible to make your Artist Profile appear quite similar to your existing website, and your customers may not even notice that they've left your site. We do not, however, provide the capability to point a subdomain on your website to our server. bandcamp.com, for example, allows for this, and we considered implementing the feature heavily before deciding against it. So few people will care or understand how to perform the required steps, and so many will butcher their own website configurations if they try, that we had to pass. If a sufficient number of artists request the feature, we will reconsider.

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I would like to place an indietorrent.org logo or link on my website, my MySpace page, etc. Where might I find the required graphic files? What link (URL) should I use to direct fans to my indietorrent.org Artist Profile page?

You should use your short-URL (e.g., https://indietorrent.org/bandname) when linking from anywhere else on the Web to your page on indietorrent.org. This is the URL that you specified while submitting your Artist Profile Request. If you cannot remember what you entered, this URL appears both in the Artist Profile Request approval email that we sent upon approving your Request, and on your My Digital Catalog page.

You will find graphics to display in our Logos and Artwork section. This will be ready soon!

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What techniques can be used to promote my music on indietorrent.org and encourage people to buy it?

The first thing you can do is place links (and logos, optionally) that point to your indietorrent.org page on your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter pages. The second thing you can do, if you have a fan mailing list, is let all of your fans know that your music is available at indietorrent.org, and, most importantly, that you receive all profits when fans buy your music here. We recommend that you send a note out to your mailing list whenever you publish a new record on indietorrent.org. Another measure that you can take to ensure that your music reaches the masses is to upload at least one for-free album that fans are able to download at no charge. These Torrent-based albums have a tendency to spread like wildfire, as they usually appear on dozens of different Torrent trackers. (We do not prevent other trackers from automatically scouring our site for .torrent files and mirroring the files elsewhere; we believe that any exposure for our artists is good exposure.) While we do rely heavily on artists to drive traffic from their own websites to indietorrent.org, we reward the artists who move the most music (either for-pay or for-free) by showcasing them in our Featured Artists section for an entire month. We are also negotiating with Fiat+/-Lux, a digital radio station that has expressed interest in putting indietorrent.org artists into its rotation. See Does indietorrent.org assert ownership rights over my music? for more information regarding Internet radio play.

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Do I have access to fans' (people who buy my musics') email addresses?

That depends on whether or not the fan decided to give you access to his or her email address during checkout. We feel that email addresses should be volunteered, not collected surreptitiously, when fans are paying money for your music.

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Am I able to collect email addresses from fans who download my Torrent-based albums at no charge?

No. We don't collect email addresses from fans who download Torrent-based albums. We may decide to change that in the future, if a sufficient number of artists feel that such a change is prudent. It is worth adding that when fans donate to you after downloading your music at no charge, they have the option to reveal their email addresses to you.

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How is indietorrent.org different from MySpace, Facebook, etc.?

We provide a digital distribution platform for the masses. We're not a social networking site, and we don't provide blogs and other social networking tools. There are plenty of other sites that were built for that purpose. We built indietorrent.org specifically to distribute music. No ads. No ridiculous page layouts. No profit motive for corporate stakeholders. No egregious privacy breaches. No assumption that we know best. We could go on and on.

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My WAV or FLAC files won't upload! Why!? I'm losing my patience!

"Patience, Young Grasshopper." But seriously, we're here to help. First, we suggest that you not upload over a dial-up Internet connection (DSL is fine; we're referring to 56kbps modems). We're dealing with sizable audio files here, and dial-up is ill-suited for the purpose.

Are you receiving "connection with the server was reset..." and similar from your Web browser (usually on a white or gray background with an unhelpful message), or audio file validation error messages on our colorful website? If the former: 1) the problem is on your end; or 2) the problem is on our end (possible, but unlikely). Mozilla Firefox is notorious for the "connection reset problem" (of course, Mozilla denies that the problem exists). Even if you detest Google, we strongly recommend using the Chrome Web browser to upload, because Chrome displays an upload progress bar that actually works. Why other browsers have not implemented such a feature is beyond us. If the latter (you are receiving audio file validation errors): 1) there really is a problem with your audio file; or 2) your audio file is being only partially uploaded, causing our system to think that the file is damaged. Pay close attention to the red error messages, if you are at least receiving the Upload Validation Results. If you are convinced that our validator is handling your files improperly, let us know, and we'll work with you to identify the problem.

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Why doesn't indietorrent.org offer parallel uploading capabilities, or some fancy Flash widget that handles multi-threaded uploads?

We believe that "plain old HTML" is the best implementation. HTML 5 will solve the "simultaneous file upload problem", and we really prefer not to employ proprietary technologies, such as Abobe Flash. For those who are really struggling to upload their files, we offer two suggestions: 1) send us CDs or DVDs by mail (ask for our mailing address), and we'll rip/upload the files for you; or 2) offer your album(s) at no charge, which enables you to leverage BitTorrent technology. The challenge of uploading massive files, uninterrupted, goes away entirely with for-free BitTorrent albums, which readily resume uploading after connection hiccups, untimely PC reboots, and the like.

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How do I edit an existing album or its constituent tracks?

Go to your Digital Catalog, click on the album to be modified, and then click "Edit Album Details". You are able to change nearly everything about the album and its constituent tracks, with one exception: you cannot add, remove, or re-order tracks. While it may be tempting to re-order tracks by renaming them, and then re-uploading alternate audio files, please refrain. Suppose that a customer buys a track, and before he is even able to download the copy that he purchased, you make a change that causes your customer to receive a song that is different from the one he bought. The customer would likely emit an audible "WTF?" We would prefer to avoid that.

If you must modify the track line-up, you should delete the entire album and start over with the correct tracks. (Yes, you will have to re-upload all of the audio files for now, but we are working on a way to allow artists to "copy" tracks from one album to another to mitigate the need to re-upload in such scenarios.)

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Once I've uploaded my digital audio files to indietorrent.org, am I permitted to remove/delete certain albums and/or songs?

Yes, artists are always permitted to delete any album that they have created. However, music cannot be expunged from our serves until 60 days after it was most recently purchased; this ensures that your customers have adequate time to download their purchases.

Also, our policy is to permit your paying customers to re-download copies of songs that they have purchased at any time in the future, which means that we'll dig into our offline archives to provide your customers with copies of music that you may have deleted from our primary servers.

Further, deletion is not always necessary (although, we prefer that artists delete albums that they no longer intend to sell); artists have the ability to disable individual songs or entire albums, which will remove the songs/albums from all public areas of the website and prevent future purchases. There are extreme circumstances under which we will move to expunge a song (or album) permanently from the indietorrent.org digital catalog, such as when an unauthorized party has uploaded music on another artist's behalf without the copyright-holding artist's permission.

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Am I able to sell physical merchandise on indietorrent.org, ideally, alongside my digital merchandise?

No. This response harkens back to our desire not to reinvent the wheel. We have specialties, and physical merchandise sales is not one of them. Our specialties include automation, ingenuity, and the ability to offer a service the likes of which the world has never seen. We are trying to avoid the overhead costs associated with shipping, warehousing, returns, lost packages, and all of the things that make distributing physical merchandise a drag.

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Am I able to embed a portable player on my website/MySpace-page/etc. that allows visitors to listen to my tracks on indietorrent.org?

Not yet. We're working on it (really). If you're an HTML 5 and AJAX guru and would like to help, please consider joining our volunteer development team. When we're done, your fans will be able to listen to and buy your music from any website on which the player is embedded. (Your customers will be redirected to the indietorrent.org Shopping Cart once they select the tracks to be purchased and click "Add to Cart" within the embedded player.)

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How does album and track pricing work?

Artists are able to set their own prices for each individual track, as well as a "Full Album Discount" that applies when the customer purchases every track on the album simultaneously. The Full Album Discount is divided evenly across all tracks on the album. Fans are not able to specify their own download prices, as they are on a few other sites; that's a losing business model, unless a minimum price is imposed. When customers are permitted to set their own prices, $0 downloads are particularly threatening, because they cost the distributor money, which introduces the possibility that the service accrues debt. If and when we decide to let fans set their own prices, there will be a minimum price imposed (calculated based on the zipped album's file size and the credit card processor's fees). Artists would also have the ability to specify a minimum download price that is higher than the minimum price that we impose.

To explain further, if the fan sets a price of, say, $0.32, every penny of that will go to the credit card processing company (because it keeps 2.9% + $0.30 of each transaction). So, not only do the distributor and the artist not make any money, but the banks grow richer. In such a case, it would make more sense for the distributor simply to give the music away for $0 and not process a sensitive financial transaction with no net gain (while at the same time paying the banks for doing virtually nothing). To reiterate, if in the future we decide to allow fans to set their own prices, there will be a minimum price imposed that is at least $0.32, plus enough for indietorrent.org to cover the overhead costs.

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How do album covers and art (CD booklet/liner notes) work?

indietorrent.org is one of very few digital music stores that supports print-quality artwork for album covers and CD booklets. After you create a new album, you'll have the opportunity to upload artwork. We accept two different files: a JPEG file for the album cover, and a PDF file for the CD booklet (also referred to as the "liner notes"). The JPEG file must be at least 200 pixels square. If the JPEG file is rectangular, we will center and crop the image. If this treatment affects your artwork undesirably, you may wish to crop your artwork to a square in an image editing program before uploading it. Generally speaking, higher quality is better where the JPEG file is concerned. We include the original JPEG that you upload (as opposed to the smaller thumbnail that we create from it) with each multi-track download, inside a ZIP file. As such, you don't want your JPEG file to be enormous, or it will weigh-down your anxious customers' downloads and eat-up space unnecessarily on our server. Cocnerning the resolution (dimensions) of the JPEG image, 1492 pixels square is considered "print-quality". How did we arrive at 1492? No, not because of Columbus (good guess, though). Let's walk through it.

According to printingforless.com, standard CD cover size is 4.724 in. (12 cm.) squared. In the printing world, 300 dots per inch is considered basic print quality (exceptionally fine artwork is sometimes bumped to 400 dpi). So, 4.724 in. x 300 dpi = 1417.2 dots. If 1 dot = 1 pixel, 1418 pixels is our number. We must, however, add 74 extra pixels to the width and height to account for a so-called "bleed". A bleed is necessary whenever the cover artwork must extend to the very edge of the album cover. Unless your album cover is white, you probably want a bleed. The bleed allows the customer to trim-off a little bit of the image so as not to leave an unsightly white border around the edges (due to imperfect trimming). If we add the recommended 1/8 in. bleed, we arrive at 1492 pixels. In other words, at 300dpi, with a 1/8 in. bleed, the image would be 1492 pixels, squared. "What's it all mean, Basil?" It means that a cover file of 1.5MB or so should be sufficient for print-quality reproductions, when prepared properly.

There are no restrictions imposed on the CD booklet PDF file, so you can put anything you like in the PDF file. Be conscious of the PDF file's size for the same reason outlined above. We strongly suggest that you include artwork for the actual CD surface in the PDF, so that your fans are able to print circular labels to stick on the face of their burned discs (or laser-in with a LightScribe optical drive). The disc surface artwork should come from your drawing program, so it retains its original quality. If you do not have access to the original artwork files, a 300dpi scan of the pressed-and-printed CD will suffice.

We restrict access to album artwork and liner notes on a few different levels, and for various reasons. We think it makes sense to provide incentive for fans to spend a little more money, buy a full album, and get a very cool reward: a print-quality CD booklet with high-resolution photos, beautiful vector art and typefaces, and so on. To that end, where for-pay albums are concerned, customers must purchase the entire album (either all at once or in pieces) to gain access to the CD booklet PDF file. In contrast, fans expect cover artwork to be standard (even if it's print-quality), so we provide all paying customers with access to the JPEG cover file, even those who only purchase one track from a given album. With respect to Torrent-based, zero-cost albums, as long as the user is logged into indietorrent.org, he or she has full access to view any album artwork that you upload. We require users to be logged-in to view the artwork because without that protection in-place, automated bots leech our bandwidth and use your copyrighted images to profit others. Logged-in users are able to access the artwork directly through the Album Details page (which is not true of for-pay albums; that artwork must be downloaded from within My Account, post-purchase).

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I want to give some type of bonus gift to people who buy my music, whether it's a single track or the full album. Or maybe I'll only give the big spenders a reward. Does indietorrent.org support this capability?

Indirectly, yes. When customers buy your music, or donate to you, they have the option to reveal their email addresses to you. If they elect to reveal their addresses (which are covered by our strict Privacy Policy, mind you — don't get any ideas), you are free to contact them with further instructions for retrieving a bonus download or similar. We do not provide hosting for bonus files or anything of that nature; it is up to you to host the files and coordinate with the customer.

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Okay, I realize that I am missing-out on the ability to receive donations directly through my indietorrent.org account (I saw the message on the My Account page). What's involved?

Artists who are offering at least one free-to-download album at any given time are entitled to receive donations through a "Virtual Tip Jar"; we automatically include an enormous link on your Artist Profile Page as soon as you Enable a for-free Torrent album. If you've never heard of Torrents or BitTorrent, have a look at our tutorial, Getting Started with Torrents.

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Why would I want to give my music away at no charge? I worked hard to create it!

Hard work doesn't necessarily equate to value; hard work is only the first step in establishing value. We beat this issue to death in our Manifesto, but to reiterate, people are becoming increasingly less likely to pay for anything digital (it's not just music). No amount of kicking and screaming will change this fact, and we are forward-thinking enough to realize that our efforts (and yours) are better spent determining how best to capitalize on revenue that is derived from sources other than raw album sales. This has been going on for awhile now... didn't you hear?

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article2602597.ece

http://www.musicneutral.com/discuss/2009/09/03/how-music-piracy-helps-musicians/

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Fair enough. What advantages does the Torrent-Based Donation Model offer?

They are countless, really. It is all too easy for music services, such as ours, to become mired in debt over massive bandwidth and Web hosting expenses, especially those that offer original-quality audio for download (whether at no charge or otherwise). bandcamp.com is one such example of a novel business that will likely run out of money if it doesn't revise its policies. (UPDATE: bandcamp.com faced massive backlash recently when it began charging artists to offer free downloads beyond the first 100; our predictions are already coming true.)

The Torrent-Based Donation Model gives indietorrent.org the ability to place the burdens of many "hidden costs", such as bandwidth and hosting, on the downloading fans. The term "crowd-sourcing" has become popular recently, and those who are familiar with the premise might view our Torrent-based delivery service as "crowd-sourced music distribution". In essence, downloading a for-free album requires the downloader to upload as he is downloading; there's no such thing as a free lunch, which creates a self-sustaining system that is able to operate in perpetuity with almost no financial investment required. It is for this reason that artists are most likely to maximize their profits via the Donation Model; all of the overhead costs that have cut into artist profits in the past have disappeared, while there are still viable means by which to earn income via listening fans (donations, concert tickets, licensing royalties, etc.).

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I understand the philosophy; are there any technical advantages to offering Torrent-based albums?

Again, the advantages are countless. First, it is possible to include any number of additional media files in your Torrent. For everyone's benefit, files contained within the torrent must have one of the following file extensions: flac, mp3, wav, aiff, aac, mp4, m4a, ogg, mkv, avi, ifo, bup, vob, mpeg, mpg, jpeg, jpg, gif, png, pdf, svg, eps, ps, tif, tiff, tga, raw, txt. Basically, all common media formats are supported. This makes it possible to distribute "bonus" materials, additional photos, lyrics, etc. along with the audio tracks.

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That sounds great. Am I able to change the contents of my Torrent file once I make it available and it "gets out there"?

No. The very nature of the BitTorrent protocol depends on everybody in the "swarm" (the mix of uploaders and downloaders) having exact copies of all the same files within the Torrent. If you modify the files within the Torrent, the .torrent file's hash (or "fingerprint") changes, and as far as the software is concerned, the two .torrent files aren't even similar. The software is blind to the Torrents' contents, by design. We do, however, permit artists to re-upload a new Torrent file, thereby overwriting the old file. Note that fans whose downloads are not yet completed when the new .torrent file is uploaded may or may not be able to finish downloading the original Torrents' contents, as we stop tracking the old file as soon as the new file is uploaded; our tracker will also refuse to track the old file, but DHT (Distributed Hash Table) peer-to-peer transfers are still possible.

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Is it possible to relocate (move) the media files that my .torrent file is referencing — while seeding?

Yes, but the procedure is a little tricky and varies per BitTorrent client. The procedure is basically as follows:

  1. Stop the Torrent.
  2. Remove the Torrent from your client (but don't delete the actual .torrent file — or the media files — from your computer!).
  3. Move the directory (folder) that contains all of the media files to the desired location.
  4. Re-add the .torrent file to your Torrent client (i.e., open the .torrent file or drag it into your BitTorrent client).
  5. When prompted where to save the downloaded files (this applies even when you are only seeding/uploading), choose the location to which you moved the media files in step 3. Your BitTorrent client should begin checking the integrity of the files that already exist on your computer, and seeding/uploading should resume shortly thereafter.

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When my customers download my music and burn it to a CD, I am worried about there being gaps between the tracks. My album really needs to be played-back without these pauses.

Many software audio players have their own solution to this problem (which only affects MP3 files, by the way — not FLAC). We have a FAQ entry for Fans that describes the process of removing these gaps from burned CDs, including CDs burned from MP3 files: When I listen to the audio files that I purchased on my computer, or attempt to burn them to a CD, there are gaps between the tracks! I want my music to play without the pauses.

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I would like the ability to offer download coupon codes to my fans. I am even willing to print and cut the cards myself; I just need valid download codes and a PDF to print. Does indietorrent.org offer this type of functionality?

Not yet. We are working on it, though. When we're done, you'll be able to generate any number of coupon code cards, and distribute them any way you see fit, either electronically (via email) or as a printable PDF document. We'll also provide detailed stats on coupon code redemption.

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Is it possible to download my entire sales history in .csv (or similar) format?

Not yet. Again, we're working on it. Feel free to jump-in and help!

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I thought that indietorrent.org gives all profits to the artist; my customer just spent $0.35 on a song, and the My Account page states that I received $0.00 of the customer's money. What happened?

See the corresponding Fan FAQ: I thought that indietorrent.org gives all profits to the artist; I just spent $0.35 on a song, and the My Account page states that the artist received $0.00 of my money. What happened? Also, consider lowering your Full-Album Discount price; full albums yield higher profit margins, so encouraging full-album purchases should be a priority for all artists. Be sure to upload the CD booket (PDF format required) for each of your albums; fans must purchase the entire album to access the file, which provides added incentive for full-album purchases.

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How am I paid? I want to know how often, how much, by what means, etc.

We pay artists on the last weekday of each month. We use a "Withdrawal Threshold" system, whereby the artist specifies how much money in sales he should accumulate before he is paid. If the specified threshold has been met by the last weekday of any given month, the artist will be paid via the method that is specified in his Account Preferences. The default withdrawal threshold amount is $50.00 USD, and the default payment method is a paper check, drawn on a U.S. bank. International paper check and wire transfer payments are heavily levied, and for this reason, artists outside of the U.S. must be paid via PayPal (PayPal's international fees are the same as its domestic fees). International artists who cannot supply valid PayPal information for any reason should not make any attempt to sell music on indietorrent.org, as we make no guarantee that we will be able to pay such artists at all, let alone in a timely or profitable manner. We are working on a better solution to the problem of exorbitant bank fees.

The details of each payment method are as follows:

 Paper checkPayPal
Available toArtists within the U.S.All artists (including international)
Payment delivery time6 daysImmediate
Associated feesNone (applies only when cashed within the U.S.)2.9% + $0.30 (this is PayPal's fee, not ours)
Payment is sent toThe address that is on-file for the Artist Representative (which is a subsection of the Artist Profile)The PayPal email address that is specified in Account Preferences
Shipping methodU.S. MailElectronic


IMPORTANT NOTE: Artists residing within the United States should use the paper check payment method whenever possible. The reason for this recommendation is that PayPal takes an additional 2.9% + $0.30 when the artist receives his money from us. As PayPal states, "Sending money is free!" What PayPal fails to mention is that receiving money is not free. To reiterate, artists who elect to receive payments via PayPal are double-charged: once when the customer buys the music, and once when we pay the artist. For small balances, the secondary fee may not be a concern for most, but for artists who sell a sufficient volume of music, this double-fee may be considerable. Paper checks are not subject to a fee, and any U.S. bank will cash them.

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Am I responsible for paying taxes on the income that I earn by selling my music on indietorrent.org? Will I receive a tax document of any kind?

You are responsible for paying taxes on any income that you earn by selling your music on indietorrent.org. We will not, however, send tax documents to you; it is your duty to ensure that your taxes are remitted to the appropriate authority in the country or territory in which you reside. When you pay those taxes, be sure to pay on the net amount that you received (that's the amount after all fees were deducted from the balance owed to you). For example, if you earned $100.00 in a given year, you would be responsible for paying income tax on $96.80 (see the next FAQ).

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My indietorrent.org Artist Account states that I earned $100.00 this period, but I only received $96.80 when I was paid. Why?

You were paid via PayPal, which keeps for itself a fee of 2.9% + $0.30; we have no control over this fee. You were paid via PayPal either because a) you live outside of the United States and are ineligible to receive a paper check, or b) you changed the default payment method from paper check to PayPal. If you reside inside the United States, we recommend that you change your Payment Preferences such that you are paid by paper check. See How am I paid? I want to know how often, how much, by what means, etc. for more information.

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The dollar is long gone; can I set my prices or shop in a currency other than the U.S. dollar?

It's a reasonable request, and we're working to make it a reality. If you're a programmer and would care to help with the required exchange rate feeds and so forth, we'd very much appreciate it!

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I'm an artist in Country-X, and I believe that somebody is infringing my copyright by way of selling my music on indietorrent.org. How can I stop this madness?

Our Terms of Use contain explicit instructions for filing this type of grievance. Due to the potential for malicious individuals to claim infringement falsely, we will not simply remove an artist's catalog at an unidentified individual's whim. We have no means by which to authenticate complainants via email; please expect to provide the required documentation when filing an infringement complaint.

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For Fans

 

The dollar is long gone; can I shop in a currency other than the U.S. dollar?

It's a reasonable request, and we're working to make it a reality. If you're a programmer and would care to help with the required exchange rate feeds and so forth, we'd very much appreciate it!

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Am I able to specify the price that I am willing to pay for a given song or album, in other words, set my own download prices?

No. For more information as to why this is the case, please see this Artist FAQ: How does album and track pricing work?

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Am I charged sales tax while making purchases or donations on indietorrent.org?

No. Intangible products (such as digital music) and services are not subject to sales tax in the United States.

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Must I create an account to buy music on indietorrent.org?

No. During checkout, you have the option to create an account, but doing so is not required. If you decide to create an account at any time in the future, it is possible to apply past purchases to the account, so that all of your purchases are accessible from within My Account.

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I would like to make a purchase but do not see a secure banking graphic that I recognize. How do I know that my credit card details will be safe?

Due to the fact that any website can display a secure banking graphic, without actually being secure, we encourage our customers to rely on our SSL certificate, which can be inspected and verified at any time. Nonetheless, we are authorized to display a secure banking graphic that is included with our SSL certificate, and this logo appears throughout our site wherever you have the opportunity to provide sensitive data. (Note that even though many areas of are website require encrypted communication over SSL, not all of them display this logo; we reserve use of the logo for pages on which payment data is provided, for the most part.)

When visiting the checkout area of indietorrent.org, you will see a lock icon in your browser. This indicates that your connection to the server is encrypted. Our certificate is issued by VeriSign, which is an entity that is trusted for the purpose of issuing secure e-commerce certificates.

We only store the last four digits of your credit card, which we use to verify your identify in the event that you lose access to your account for any reason. This is a fairly common practice and does not place your credit card at unnecessary risk. When you make credit card payments through our website, our payment processor simply provides us with a "pass/fail" response to the payment information you submit, and then the information is discarded. We employ a best-practice approach wherever server security and data integrity are concerned, and something extreme would have to happen for even your email address to be compromised, no less your payment information.

Studies have shown it is actually safer to pay with a credit or debit card online than at a retail store. See this explanation as to why.

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Once I have purchased music from indietorrent.org, how do I download the music for which I paid?

Once a customer has checked-out successfully, the purchased music is immediately available for download through the My Music page, and a "Download Purchased Music" link appears just below our header logo. We also send an Order Confirmation email message, which contains a download link.

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After I purchase music, must I download the music within a certain period of time? iTunes only gives me three days, and I'm on dial-up.

You have at least 60 days to download purchased music directly from our high-speed servers. Artists cannot delete an album that you purchased until 60 days from the date of purchase.

You can even re-download purchased music three years from now, should the need arise, but if the artist has deleted the album since you purchased it, we will have to dig into the archives and deliver the files to you via a slower, less convenient process.

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I thought that indietorrent.org gives all profits to the artist; I just spent $0.35 on a song, and the My Account page states that the artist received $0.00 of my money. What happened?

The artist chose to set the track at our minimum price-point ($0.35) and our credit card payment processor keeps 2.9% + $0.30 of each transaction that we submit. So, $0.31 went to the banks, and we kept $0.04 to serve the file to you, provide you with customer service, etc. Needless to say, this scenario left $0.00 profit for the artist. To mitigate this effect, buy more music at the same time. The more music that you buy at once, the more profit the artist will see (because the bank fees are largely percentage-based).

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I was able to download the music that I purchased, but now I am unable to open the files that I downloaded. What should I do?

Where are you receiving the error? Is your computer essentially saying that it doesn't know how to open the file? Or does the problem occur after your media player has already opened and attempted to playback the file? Depending on which type of file you're attempting to play, you may have software configuration issues to address.

Are you attempting to download and listen to the MP3 files, or the FLAC files?

  • Our MP3 files are entirely standard, so if they don't play on your computer, you are missing some basic audio software. Windows Media Player is notorious for being finicky about codecs, and you might try the K-LITE Codec Pack. Installing those codecs will allow Media Player to decode the MP3 files. If you are using Mac OS, try installing Perian (scroll down the page a bit for instructions). If you are using Linux, try installing the gstreamer package.
  • FLAC support is growing every day, but not every media player currently supports the format. If you prefer a lightweight player (as opposed to a "jukebox" with numerous features), try installing VLC Media Player. VLC will play almost any audio or video format, including FLAC. It will also play DVD movies, and is available for virtually every computing platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux). If you are looking for a player that's as robust as iTunes, but plays FLAC files, check-out a music player called Songbird. In our humble opinion, it's by far the best cross-platform player out there. Songbird will play MP3, FLAC, and dozens of other formats with no additional software or configuration required. Better still, Songbird has add-ons that can link the player to last.fm, Pandora, lyric services, and more. You may download Songbird from the official website: http://getsongbird.com. (We are not affiliated with Songbird in any capacity; we just like the software.) One "limitation" of Songbird is that it lacks support for the iPod Touch and iPhone, thanks to Apple.


It is possible to configure other players (such as Windows Media Player) to play FLAC files, but that's beyond the scope of the support that we're able to offer at this time. Search the Web for "play FLAC in Windows Media Player", if that would be your preference. In the near future, we'll have a tutorial that describes this very procedure.

If you don't think the problem is that your operating system is unsure how to handle the files, it could be a download-related problem.

Are you downloading the entire album in each case (by left-clicking the big, green links that say "Download FLAC" and "Download MP3", respectively)? Or are you downloading the individual tracks (towards the bottom of the "Choose Download Format" page)?

  • In the former case, the files are delivered as ZIP files (with the .zip extension) and can be unzipped with any generic decompression utility (including those built into Windows, Mac OS, and Linux). The ZIP files contain the album art, in addition to the audio files.
  • In the latter case, the files are delivered as .flac or .mp3 files, depending on whether you download from the FLAC or MP3 column of hyperlinks. If you are able to download individual files, but they do not open or play, read through the several preceeding paragraphs.

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When I listen to the audio files that I purchased on my computer, or attempt to burn them to a CD, there are gaps between the tracks! I want my music to play without the pauses.

Many software audio players have their own solution to this problem (which only affects MP3 files, by the way — not FLAC). Try a better software player, such as songbird, if this problem is occurring when you attempt to listen to the MP3 files that are saved on your computer. If this problem is occurring when you attempt to burn a CD from the MP3 files that are saved on your computer, the program that you are using to burn the CD must be configured to omit gaps between the tracks. Most CD-burning programs add gaps by default, which seems silly to us. The setting varies per program, but there is usually an input box with the number of seconds of silence (or gap) to insert between tracks. Set this value to zero (0) and playback should be fluid across tracks.

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I just paid for every track on a particular album, but when I download the full-album ZIP file, one or more of the tracks is missing! I want my file!

That's not a question, technically. Don't worry, you do indeed have access to download all of the tracks. Due to the massive size of some audio tracks, we are unable to include those tracks in the full-album ZIP file. You must download the missing tracks individually (look towards the bottom of the "Choose Download Format" page). While the download page contains a disclaimer to this effect, we have plans to add "Missing Files.txt" to the ZIP file whenever any number of songs are missing from the file and must be downloaded individually.

If you are tech-savvy and want to know precisely why we don't include files over a certain size in the full-album ZIP file, here it is: we create the ZIP files dynamically (on-the-fly), and zipping files requires a lot of RAM — an amount more than twice the size of the audio file. A 10-minute, 24/96, 7.1 channel FLAC file would require more than 1GB of RAM to stuff into a ZIP file. Imagine several customers downloading simultaneously. The only alternative is to store pre-encoded and pre-zipped copies of every album in every format that we offer. bandcamp.com appears to take this approach, and we're curious to know how much hard disk space they've burned through to date. We'll buy additional RAM as needed and ask you to bear with us on the occasional single-file download.

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Am I able to play FLAC files on my iPod (or other portable audio device)?

At the present time, hardware support for FLAC is quite limited. The vast majority of portable music devices do not support FLAC because of the large file sizes associated with FLAC. FLAC files are about five times larger than high-quality MP3 files (or M4A files, which is what Apple's iTunes sells). The reason for this is that FLAC files contain 100% of the original audio data from the source, whereas MP3 files contain about 20% of the original data. This is why when one burns a CD from MP3 files, it is often necessary to turn-up the volume on the playback device.

Basically, the two formats serve very different purposes. MP3 is designed to yield the smallest possible file size, which makes it an ideal format for portable players with limited storage capacity. Conversely, FLAC is designed to yield the highest possible audio quality, with less concern for file size. When one burns a CD from FLAC files, the resultant CD is identical — bit for bit — to the original CD that was used to create the FLAC files.

MP3 uses "lossy" compression, which simply means that some data is permanently destroyed when an MP3 file is created from an original-quality file (such as a WAV file, which is the format used for off-the-shelf audio CDs). That's why MP3 file sizes are comparatively small. MP3 encoding tools check the audio track for frequencies that the human ear has difficulty detecting under "normal" listening conditions. Those frequencies are deleted from the resultant MP3 file, in order to yield the smallest possible file size while still providing an adequate listening experience.

FLAC serves the opposite purpose. FLAC employs "lossless" compression. This means that while FLAC also uses compression, the compression is completely reversible. No data is actually destroyed when the FLAC file is created from the original source. Have you ever worked with ZIP files? The principle is the same. When you put several files into a ZIP file, the ZIP file has a smaller size than the sum total of the files that went into it. Yet, when the ZIP file is extracted, the files inside are restored to precisely their original condition. You might think of FLAC as highly-specialized ZIP compression for audio.

We believe that customers deserve an exact copy of the data that exists on the physical CD for a given album. This is one of the many reasons that FLAC is our preferred format for audio distribution. Other digital music stores are perfectly fine with giving customers only 1/5th of the original data, because most customers don't know and/or can't hear the difference. In other words, most digital music stores prey on the customer's ignorance.

If you think about it, MP3 files should cost 1/5 of what FLAC files cost — after all, they contain only 1/5 of the original audio data. Yet, most digital music stores charge the same price for an album in MP3 format as one could expect to pay for the physical CD in a retail store. This practice seems insane (if not criminal) to us.

While hardware support for FLAC is limited at present, FLAC files can be converted to any other format. The loss in quality (if any) depends entirely on the target format. For this reason, hardware support is not much of an issue for FLAC. There are free tools available to convert FLAC to whatever format is desired, so if a given device does not support FLAC directly, one can always batch-convert the FLAC files to a format that is supported on the intended playback device.


As a practical example, I ripped all of my own audio CDs to FLAC files. I store these FLAC files on an external hard disk. Whenever I want to burn an original-quality CD, I can simply drag these files into my burning program (I use Nero Burning ROM, which has a FLAC plug-in). I also batch-converted my entire FLAC collection to MP3 files, so I can use them on my portable music player (which is a Creative Zen). In essence, I keep the "master copy" in the FLAC format, and then create files in whatever other format I need using a batch audio converter (such as dBpoweramp on Windows, or Max for Mac OS). With the plummeting cost of hard disk/storage space, the cost of storing my files in a couple of different formats is marginal. Eventually, I will be able to delete the MP3s and listen to the FLAC files on any device.


While there are ways to play FLAC files in iTunes and on the iPod, one can just as easily convert the FLAC files to MP3 or M4A for playback using Apple products.

We recommend that customers download the FLAC files after they buy songs on indietorrent.org, and then burn those files to a CD or DVD for archival purposes. That way, when a new audio format emerges, the customer is able to convert his or her FLAC files to the new format, while maintaining whatever level of audio quality is desired. This gives our customers freedom of choice.

What will everybody do when MP3 goes extinct? There are people who have spent thousands of dollars on MP3 or M4A files that can never be converted to a higher-quality format.

The Apple iPod does not support FLAC because Apple considers FLAC to be a "competing format". Apple has its own original-quality audio format, called ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec). ALAC is really just FLAC, with some additional meta-data that is specific to Apple hardware and software. FLAC is free, open-source software, which means it is perfectly legal for Apple to "steal" the format and add its own proprietary changes.

That introduces another point, which relates to patents and royalties. Fraunhofer owns the MP3 patent, and demands a royalty fee for its use. Most people don't know this, but any time an artist or distributor sells an MP3 file, Fraunhofer demands "2% of related revenue" in the form of a patent royalty. FLAC, on the other hand, is completely free to use, for any purpose.

As a final point of note, indietorrent.org offers MP3 files for each track that is purchased, at no additional cost. Even though customers are able to create MP3 files from the FLAC files that we offer, we provide pre-encoded MP3 files for convenience.

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Wait, you just said that artists must pay a royalty fee when offering MP3 downloads. How is indietorrent.org including MP3s with each FLAC purchase at "no additional cost"?

MP3 royalties only apply when an artist's sales volume exceeds $100,000 per year. We aren't sure if Fraunhofer expects us to fork-over that royalty when all of our artists combined exceed $100K in sales, or if the fees are assessed on a per-artist-who-exceeds-$100K basis. Fraunhofer has failed to clarify the matter for us. Hopefully, they'll get back to us before anyone hits that $100K mark. We're selling FLAC files, anyway. Per Fraunhofer's own licensing terms, we owe them nothing; none of the revenue is "related" to MP3 — it's earned exclusively through FLAC sales. If Fraunhofer demands that we provide them with a list of how many customers bought FLAC files and never downloaded the gratis MP3s, and also a list of how many customers downloaded only the MP3s, we'll let our lawyers hash-it-out with 'em.

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For Artists & Fans

 

In what format and bitrate are the audio previews on indietorrent.org?

80kpbs MP3 (Constant Bit Rate); low enough to stream over finicky connections, but high enough to serve the purpose.

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Is the indietorrent.org source code available yet?

No. We're attempting to determine what the best course of action might be, with respect to releasing the website's source code. We want to avoid the competition using our own capabilities against us, but at the same time, we want as many people as possible to benefit from what we've built. It's a tricky balancing-act, and we welcome your input on the matter.

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Shucks. Well, will you tell me how you accomplish [insert cool trick here] on indietorrent.org?

You are welcome to ask. We have plans to publish the full details of what's "under the hood" of indietorrent.org at some point in the future.

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Why indieTorrent?

The indieTorrent.org project provides an e-commerce framework that enables independent musicians to sell their own music while keeping all profits. Artists may join the indietorrent.org community free of charge, and are free to close their accounts at any time — no long-term contract, no fine-print. Learn More »