11:14 PM on 01/22/13
This kind of stuff is actually my day job... It's really, really hard to co-ordinate the digital release of new music with digital partners. The easiest way to control the initial output would probably indeed be to upload everything to a channel you can 100 % control yourself, like YouTube (first make the track hidden, when it's processes you can make it public whenever you want). Obvious downside is - as remarked above as well - that you're missing out on sales and charts. The theory is that once some buzz gets going those will follow anyway but there's no way of knowing that, of course.
That being said, there's other somewhat less precise ways as well; what you ideally want to do is make sure the music is released through one business partner first, and promote that heavily. Partners such as Deezer, Spotify and iTunes all try to offer the best packages for "your" artists (I work for a major in Belgium) and obviously want exclusivity on new stuff. Most of the time, they do not get this, but there are cases in which it does indeed make a lot more sense to do a pre-order on iTunes and release the album or single a day sooner there than via other channels. Downsides of this are you can't possibly control what happens between the time you sent it through for release and the release itself. This takes at least a couple of days, with polishing, technical stuff from the Apple side, and all that, and the music passes through multiple people's hands... so it's hard to definitively control the output and you can never fully guarantee a leak won't happen before it's on iTunes.
There's a whole load of things to be said about major labels / their tendency to indeed still focus on local markets instead of seeing the bigger picture and this obviously is a big factor in all the above but at least for the one I'm working for, we're at this time actually steadily making strides to get with the times. But that's a different conversation altogether so I'll leave it at that :)