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KANSAS CITY • since 2015

Unlabeled Academy: Music Distribution

An Introduction

Music distribution connects future fans to an artist’s work. It also happens to be an important aspect of promotion.

Traditional music distributors were the sole way of recording an album before the Internet came along. Independent artists everywhere would only get their songs heard if they had a record label.

Digital music distribution is essential if you want to get fans to hear what you’ve created. Distribution optimizes visibility and awareness about your music. Once it catches fire, it won’t be long before you start getting paid for the music you make.

This article will go over everything to be mindful of when it comes to the digital distribution of music. It will also tell you how to go about doing things right the first time around.

How Does Music Distribution Work?

Once upon a time, distributors were needed to get albums into stores. Record labels promoted music in order to encourage people to buy records. Middlemen involved with the process took a cut of whatever revenue is generated.

Today, thanks to the advancement of modern technology, music can be shared on a growing number of digital platforms (Spotify and iTunes being the two most popular options). Digital music distribution is a practical approach to getting your songs heard, retaining the rights to the music you make, and establishing a name for yourself.

What is It?

The process of music distribution involves getting people to hear an artist’s music. Conventionally, distributors made agreements with various record labels in order to get albums on store shelves. Digital distribution has since altered things, as middlemen have now been cut out. As a result, artists are able to distribute their music to platforms online directly and retain all royalties by doing so.

How Digital Distribution Works Today

The objective of digital music distribution involves getting the music you create on Google Play, Spotify, iTunes, and similar streaming platforms, as well as various online music stores. Some people see these platforms as digital record shops. After your music is uploaded to them, listeners will be able to download, stream, and purchase it. In exchange, royalties will be paid out to you based on where and how the music was heard.

What's So Special About Digital?

Consumption of digital music is at an all-time high, and those numbers aren’t slowing down anytime soon. The amount of revenue earned by this industry makes things clear – digital distribution is the best possible option for an artist today. Consider the following worldwide revenues the industry experienced in 2016:

  • 2% was attributed to synchronization revenue (ad syncs and movies).
  • 14% was attributed to performance rights (shows, radio, etc.).
  • 34% was attributed to tangible format sales (vinyl, cassettes, CDs).
  • 50% was attributed to digital revenues (downloads).

Bypass the hassle and costs that come with physical distribution, particularly if you’re putting out an album for the first time. Begin by establishing an audience. Build a name for yourself using digital releases first.

Be mindful that a majority of digital distributors will not be able to give you exclusivity deals. That means legal rights to the music you create doesn’t have to be given up. That is a big deal – if your record can be represented better by a different distributor, you’ll be able to legally break the agreement you made with your existing distributor.

Other extra perks include suggestion algorithms, which recommends your music to various listeners based on the things they enjoy. This happens to be the most popular way that people discover music these days!

Ready to get started distribution your music?

Find a Suitable Distribution Platform

Once your music is recorded, you’ll need to upload it to platforms like Spotify and iTunes, among others. Your initial step will be to find a suitable digital distribution platform.

Recommended Digital Music Distribution Platforms

Keeping all of the royalties you make is important. Familiarize yourself with each distributor’s fees, as well as the commitments involved with each option. Some distributors will tell you that they do not take any cuts, but there may be hidden fees involved in several instances. It goes without saying, then, that due diligence must be conducted!

You will need a music distribution company. Here are several popular ones who can help you:

  • AWAL (only selected applications).
  • Ditto Music.
  • Symphonic
  • DistroKid
  • Tunecore
  • CD Baby.

These platforms come with their own set of prices, which include annual fees, set-up fees, and a small percentage of record sales. Coordinate your budget – meticulously go through the distributor’s pricing terms and plans.

Don’t forget – when you sign up with the distributor, you’re entering a professional partnership. Select one that is suitable for you. Be sure that the distributor accommodates your needs, provides you with resources, and helps you achieve your goals.

Allow Your Music to Be Searchable Using Metadata

Metadata involves keywords and short descriptions that help people find what they’re looking for online. Metadata is important when it comes to digital distribution. Every distributor will request metadata information from you. When the right metadata is used, people will be able to search for specific types of music on the Internet, breaking down their choices by genre. Potential fans should be able to effortlessly find music that you put out there.

As such, when submitting an album for distribution, you need to provide the following metadata details:

  • Artist bio.
  • Composer information.
  • Track titles.
  • Record label.
  • Release date.
  • Title (of single or album).
  • Artist name.

Keep it short and sweet. Common words are what you should be using. Choose ones that are timeless and simple – refrain from using hashtags or trendy words. People should be able to find and download your music not just tomorrow, but three decades from now, too!

Music Promotion

Set a promotion budget that is realistic for you. Be mindful that the average music distribution company generally promotes artists that make money for them.

Make sure your presence on social media is strong. Don’t be shy – proactively increase your exposure.

Generate a buzz for your album ahead of its release. You can release sneak previews (perhaps recorded jam sessions) on Instagram. A show can be played in your personal studio that you live stream. Music previews 30 seconds in length can be posted to SoundCloud.

Try to get the music you make heard by as many people as you can. Harness the power of referrals. Performed live at shows. Have blog articles written about you. Book radio appearances. Think of creative ways to put yourself out there. You must understand that this process doesn’t come with any shortcuts!

View More Unlabeled Academy Articles

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Audio Engineering

Music Production