Apps & Mobile

Is Advertising Your Music Paying Off? [Case Studies]

HeroBy Jesse Lakes co-founder and CEO of GeoRiot

One of the hardest parts about selling music on iTunes is that there’s not currently a way to see which of your marketing efforts are actually leading to sales. You’re left with questions like: What social media platforms have a higher EPC? What artists/albums/songs are people actually buying? Which marketing channel brings the highest return for the cost? As the leading link management platform for the iTunes ecosystem, GeoRiot has been trying to answer those questions for clients since day one. At the end of last month, we released our Relative Conversion Score, which helps do exactly that.

So, what’s RCS?

The Relative Conversion Score (“RCS” for short) is a value that you can compare across any of our reports to see how well your specific efforts are at converting clicks to sales. We track every single click from your link all the way to the final purchase to give you the most accurate measure of conversions inside the iTunes Store available. Here’s how it works.

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In the screenshot above we see the top 10 sites that sends traffic to my purchase links. For each referrer, we see clicks, affiliate commissions, earnings per click and the Relative Conversion Score. From this information, we could guess that the band’s website was about 50% more effective than the label’s website in promoting a specific product. Further we could quickly extrapolate that Twitter (“” is their short URL) was about three times more effective than Facebook while both significantly outperformed YouTube. Pretty cool, huh?  

How it works.

The “Conversion Rate” metric was introduced into the iTunes Affiliate program via the PHG dashboard and was calculated by simply taking the number of items sold during the 24-hour affiliate window divided by the number of clicks, regardless of the items sold. For example, if you link to an album and had one click that resulted in the sale of three free apps, that “conversion” rate would still be 300%.

GeoRiot’s RCS is much more accurate for telling you which clicks led to sales of the specific item you’re promoting, instead of every item purchased after clicking any of your links. Here’s why:

  • We use three different data sets to calculate a score per click (not per link or per metric). This allows us to analyze every click, link, and sale to avoid “false positives” that would inflate values, and allows you to see the RCS value across each of the different metrics we report on (link, group, tracking tag, country, referrer, device, etc.).

  • We created a time based decay algorithm to determine the likelihood that a sale was actually the product you’re promoting. For example: It’s much more likely a purchase made two minutes after the click is that product, but a purchase made 23 hours and 59 minutes later might not be.

  • We’ve built in rules to handle multiple purchases of the same media type and price (since you can’t buy the same product twice – after you purchase once, it’s yours forever).

  • We also take into account things like pre-orders, products that had “up sell” opportunities (click a link to a song, but buy the album instead), and items available in multiple formats (Ex. Deluxe album) to provide better accuracy.

Taking into account the time of purchase, price, category, and a little bit of secret sauce, we then come up with the RCS value that you see in the dashboard. It should be noted this value is incredibly useful for comparing metrics against each other, but isn’t that relevant as an independent value on a single metric.  

The Challenges.

Although we do our best to provide the most accurate form of relative conversions, there are a couple of things that are important to note:

  • The data coming from the affiliate program is limited to the “Category” level (Music, Apps, Books, etc). Individual items are not reported.

  • The affiliate window is a maximum of 24 hours, and can be even shorter if the user clicks another affiliate link before purchasing.

  • The iTunes affiliate data needed to find the conversion score is often delayed 3-5 days but sometimes multiple weeks.

As with our matching algorithms, we’ll continue to tweak and tune our RCS algorithm so that it becomes even more accurate.

How To Get The RCS.

To take advantage of the RCS, along with a ton of other features, sign up for a free GeoRiot account.

About Jesse Lakes

Jesse Lakes first realized he had an issue with Geo-Fragmentation in 2009.  He’s been working on a cure ever since.  This path has taken him from being the first author about the iTunes Affiliate Program, to a job with Apple as the Global Product Manager of the iTunes Affiliate Program, and now as the co-founder and CEO of GeoRiot.  Based in Seattle, GeoRiot is working to eradicate Geo-Fragmentation and bridge the Purchasing Gap.


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  1. The only acts selling music on ITunes are those who are signed to labels. If they’re signed to a label, then it’s the label’s job to worry about how to market the act.

  2. I am working in online marketing, but still don’t understand this… I can imagine an average musician (who has basic (or less) knowledge about these stuff) reading this…

  3. @Swifter Hater : I don’t think you’re familar with how this works. You don’t have to be on a label to sell on iTunes, or Amazon, or any online store in fact. And it’s been the case for a decade.

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