Music distribution has changed a lot, to say the least. With the approach of our new digital age, all the brick-and-mortar distributors, as well as shops, have disappeared. Let’s have a look at how music distribution has evolved. Of course, we’ll also check out opportunities for indie musicians. It’s actually now easier for you than ever to publish your music. Check out Ari’s Take to view more about digital distribution companies.
The Bricks and the Mortars
Everyone knows how music used to be distributed – more or less. You had to be discovered by a record label. At the very least you needed some connections to a record label. They were the only chance to ever record your music and to share it with the world.
If you didn’t have connections and knew someone who knew someone, you needed to do lots of live gigs. Live gigs were the only means to possibly being discovered by a record label.
The record label would record your music and make vinyl, which was then sent to stores. At record stores, you’d always have different sections for each genre as well as a top ten shelf. Right at the entrance of each record store was always the shelf with the latest releases.
It was the prime spot to make your music known. Obviously, not a single customer could pass that shelf at the entrance without noticing your record. It was hard to get onto that shelf. Only thanks to your label’s PR team your record would appear in it.
It was the same later with tapes and CDs. At least tapes gave you the opportunity to record your music. But the quality was not very good and you couldn’t even sell it to the whole country. At best, you could record your music on tape and send it to record labels. If they liked your music, they’d sign a deal with you and the rest was history.
Sympathies for the Devil
Even though it’s always grand to get a record deal, it’s always come with lots of limitations for musicians. Very few record labels would actually let you play your own music.
You could probably still write your own songs, but the end result was more for the money pot. Once you get a deal, you lose all rights to your own music and turn into a puppet that has to play what you’re told.
You could have had a band, but it’d often get torn apart for another musician your label prefers. Ultimately, musicians are more or less turned into a money-making machine for the record label. It should come as no surprise that so many musicians get addicted to drugs or other substances. What they love doing is cut out of them and replaced by a new program.
Moreover, musicians who have signed record deals usually only get 20 % of their royalties. The other 80 % go to the record label for recording and PR expenses plus a bit for their own pockets.
Everything has Changed
The music distribution area has drastically changed with the onset of digitalization. At first, only the large record labels started to also offer digital distribution. That basically meant, there was still no way for indie musicians without them. Fortunately, that has also changed.
For a while, it’s been possible that you could upload your own music to Apple, Spotify, and Soundcloud. They only couldn’t keep up with it anymore. Each platform has its own rules for metadata and it’s a headache for them to deal with each indie artist song. Don’t even mention the sheer volume of administrational work for them to pay each artist. For music outlets, it’s a lot easier to deal with digital distribution companies.
What are Digital Distribution Companies?
Uch companies are your key to get your music to all the different music outlets. Make no mistake, there are far more than just Apple, Soundcloud, Spotify, or Deezer. There are hundreds of them. A digital distribution company submits your music to each outlet with its required metadata format. You don’t have to take care of it yourself.
Similar to record labels, distribution companies also collect royalties for you. Contrary to when you’ve signed a record deal, you actually keep all of your royalties. And you keep your rights to your own music.
Being indie means being self-sufficient
As high as the advantages are, they usually only distribute your music and collect your royalties. If you need PR services, you have to do it yourself basically. At least that’s not heard anymore these days either. You just have to promote yourself on social media. Other than that, Distrokid or LANDR are two great digital distribution companies for indie artists.
Digital distribution and label services are possible
If you’re looking for a little more to publish your music, some digital distribution companies offer label services. And some can offer you a record deal if you want it. On the downside, it’ll chew away at your royalties again.
Amuse and AWAL
While Amuse is open to all like most digital distribution companies, AWAL only takes on new artists that have already been doing well. If you’re doing well, they’re offering you additional services which could result in AWAL in a proper record deal via their parent company Kobalt. However, they’d still not own your music and all rights remain with you. At least neither of them takes a distribution fee unless you opt for Amuse’s pro plan. Amuse doesn’t take a commission, but AWAL does with 15 %.
Stem and Symphonic
Stem, as well as Symphonic, have been two more digital distribution companies that are going a little further. Unfortunately, Stem takes a commission of 10 % of your royalties. Symphonic doesn’t and they have a fairly high playlist plugging success rate. Similar to AWA, Symphonic isn’t quite open to all indie musicians either. They have focused on the Latin American market and only take on indie artists they believe in being successful.
ONErpm is another digital music distributor that also has its own record label. If you catch on, you’d be offered a label package. You’ll get PR and advance payments. But while their service is free and open for all, they take a 15 % commission. With a full-label package, you easily end up at a 50 % commission of your royalties.
Parting Words on Digital Distribution Companies
So there you have it, with this guide you’ll surely find the best distribution company. As an artist, the focus should always be music, so taking the “business” weight out of your shoulder is always a plus. So take your time and do your research to ensure maximum comfort.