About Music Distribution
Everything Musicians Need to Know
Music distribution is
the link between your finished record and your future fans.
Distribution is a
crucial part of music promotion. Brick and mortar music distributors used to be
the only way for record labels and independent artists to get their records in
the hands of listeners.
But digital music distribution has taken the
center stage. Digital surpassed sales of
physical mediums for the first time in 2015.
As an artist, digital
distribution has become a must in order to reach all your potential fans. Smart
distribution grows your visibility. It gets your music into as many ears as
possible. And it helps you get paid for your music.
So here is everything
you need to know about digital music distribution and how to do it right.
How Digital Music Distribution Works: Then and Now
distributors got records into stores and labels got people to go buy them
(through promotion). Along the way, each of these middlemen took a percentage
of the revenue.
This system still exists
today. At least to some extent…
But the role of
distributors and record labels has
changed dramatically. Not to mention the changes the internet has brought in
the way people consume music. People spend more time online, and less money on physical music.
resources and energy of physical distributors are often focused on top-selling
records only. Smaller bands who sign to them get trapped in exclusive
agreements that end up hindering their success.
That’s why digital distribution
has become the smart way to get your records out there, keep full rights to
your music, and start building a name.
Is Music Distribution?
Music distribution is how music
gets delivered to the listener. Traditionally, distributors enter agreements
with record labels to sell to stores. However, digital distribution changed all
of that by cutting out the middleman—allowing artists to distribute music
directly to online stores while keeping 100% of their royalties.
Digital Music Distribution Works Today
The goal of digital distribution is to get
your music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and other streaming platforms and
digital music stores.
Think of them like a digital
record shop—Once you get your music in them, people can stream, download and
buy your music. In exchange you receive royalties depending on how and where
your music was listened to.
Just like traditional record
stores, digital music stores receive music from digital distribution companies.
But instead of shipping boxes of vinyl every week, digital distributors deliver
digital music to the major music stores I mentioned above.
So what used to take weeks or
months of shipping and manufacturing—not to mention a lot of upfront costs—is
now as simple and fast as a couple of clicks.
Best Music Distribution Companies
There are tons of music distribution services out
there. Keeping 100% of your royalties is key. Educate yourself on all their
fees and what you’re getting into before you decide. Some say they don’t take a
cut, but there are hidden fees in some cases. Do your research!
The Orchard (they work with
AWAL (selected applications
More about choosing your
digital distributor below, read on!
The Many Benefits of Digital
Why choose digital
Digital music sells the best,
and will continue to rise. The revenues of the music industry make it clear –
digital is the way to go. Here are the global revenues of the industry in 2016:
50% from digital revenues
34% from physical format sales (CDs, vinyl, cassettes)
14% from performance rights (radio, shows, etc)
2% from Synchronization revenues (movies and ad syncs)
So be strategic. Make your
music available where your fans actually hang out: online.
You’ll have more chance of reaching them.
Save yourself the costs and
hassle of physical distribution – especially on a first album. Start by
building an audience and a name with digital releases.
Plus, many digital distributors
don’t have exclusivity deals.
It means that you’re not giving up the rights to your music. That’s huge.
Because if your next record is better represented by another distributor,
you’re free to end the non-exclusive agreement anytime.
There’s also added perks like recommendation
algorithms. These might suggest your tracks to people based on what
they listen to. That’s how people discover new music in the digital world!
Ready to jump into
distribution? Here are the steps to follow:
1. Find The Right Digital
Ok, so your record is ready.
You’ve mixed it and mastered
it. Your album art is
ready to go. You’re excited to get it out.
Now you might be wondering how
to get your music on iTunes, Spotify and all the other major stores. The
first step is to find the right online music distribution platform.
Get to know the major distribution platforms:
LANDR is the
only distribution service that gives you professional mastering and global
distribution all in one place. Pricing starts at just $1/month and you keep
100% of your royalties. That means no terms or hidden fees. Just all your hard
LANDR gets your music on over 250 music stores and platforms including
Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon. It even provides an
easy-to-follow reporting dashboard to track your success and fan base to make
important decisions about your next moves as an artist. Big in Sweden? Time to
book a tour.
Our Favourite LANDR feature:
We’re a little biased here, but our favourite LANDR release feature has to
be the price and the ability to keep 100% of your royalties. It makes LANDR the
distribution service that independent musicians can depend on.
At the end of the day we know
that you just want to get your music out in the world. Which is why we’re happy
to be offering such a simple and effective way to do it that’s artist-first and
Check the pricing here.
you worldwide digital distribution for albums, singles and ringtones. It also
gives you a Music Publishing Administration pack that allows you to get
royalties and syncs.
TuneCore will get you on:
iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube Music and more.
Our favorite TuneCore feature:
the Music Publishing Administration is a one stop shop for licensing your music.
Their statistics are among the best to track how your releases are selling.
Check their pricing here.
Go for both digital and physical (CD and vinyl) distribution worldwide with CD Baby. Distribute albums or singles. Also get sync licensing for TV, film, and games.
CD Baby will get you on: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, Tidal, YouTube Music and more.
Our favorite CD Baby feature: The combo between physical and digital distribution gets you a full distro package. They’re the only who collect SoundExchange (Rights Owner) royalties for you (thanks for the tip Ari).
Check their pricing here.
Symphonic distributes your music worldwide. They get all your music marketing, licensing and publishing needs fulfilled. Symphonic does both physical and digital distribution.
Our favorite Symphonic feature: it gets your music on Beatport, especially good for electronic projects.
Check their pricing here.
gives you global digital distribution. Get your music on all major online music
platforms – including Tidal, Juno
Download and Beatport.
Through a partnership with Sony Music, Record Union offers artist opportunities that will
help you get heard.
Our favorite Record Union
feature: their upgraded Discovery Tool gives
your music more visibility. They’re also among the only distributors to offer
distribution on Juno Download.
Find out more about their pricing.
provides the largest online music distribution channel in the world. It reaches
hundreds of online stores and streaming companies in more than 140 countries.
MondoTunes will get you on:
iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, Tidal, Beatport and more.
Our favorite MondoTunes
feature: Unlimited uploads through the largest digital distribution
channel in the world.
market your digital music worldwide with iMusician. They help you register your
songs for publishing and neighboring rights (TV, radio and YouTube income).
The offer an encrypted ‘music
locker’ that will help you prove that music belongs to you.
Our favorite iMusician feature:
they look for commercial licenses for you. That’ll get your music publishing off
your music and sell it on Bandcamp. Unlike the platforms above, Bandcamp
doesn’t put your music on other online stores (iTunes, etc). It’s a stand-alone
online store. It lets you sell physical merch or self-release CDs.
Our favourite Bandcamp feature:
add a Bandcamp ‘Buy’ link to
Read more about
Topspin is a
digital store and a marketing platform for musicians. It lets you sell your
music (physical and digital), your merch and show tickets. Like Bandcamp, this
doesn’t put your music on other platforms (iTunes, Spotify, etc). Instead it
lets you embed it on your website or Facebook.
Our favorite TopSpin feature:
it’s similar to Bandcamp but with the added email feature. Collect your fan’s
emails and stay in your touch with them.
Check their pricing here.
Choose the best one for you
Each of these platforms has
their own pricing. It’s either:
a set fee per album/single
a yearly fee
a percentage of your record sales (10-25%).
Plan your budget: carefully
read each distributor’s pricing plans and terms.
Remember that a distributor is
a new professional partnership. Choose the most beneficial one for you. Make sure the distributor fits your
needs, your resources, and your goals.
2. Make Your Music Searchable
In traditional distribution
artists had to submit a ‘>one-sheet’.
That’s literally one page that contains all the info about your record (artist
name, album title, release date, a short bio, genre, etc.)
The equivalent in the digital
world is metadata. These are the short descriptions and
keywords that make it easy to classify and find something on the web.
Metadata is crucial in digital
distribution. All digital distributors ask for this information. That’s how
people browse for music online – especially with genre. You want your potential
fans to find your music easily.
So when submit your album for
digital distribution, include a list of metadata:
title (of album or single)
the release date
Make it short. Use the most
common words. Make it simple and timeless: avoid using trendy words or
hashtags. You want people to find your music 30 years from now!
3. Promote Promote Promote
“Your distributor will only be
as good as your marketing plans to sell the record. Don’t expect them to do
your [promotional] work for you.” – Indie Bible
Make sure you have a realistic
budget for your promotion. Distribution companies tend to focus their
promotional efforts on top-selling artists.
So do your own thing – create a powerful social media presence and
put yourself out there.
Create buzz about your album
even before it drops. Post sneak previews of your jam sessions to Instagram.
Play a show in your studio and live stream it.
Post 30 second previews of your tracks to SoundCloud.
Get your music to as many ears
as possible. Use radio play, blogs, shows, word-of-mouth, and any other way you
can think of to get your name out there. Send those emails and make those phone
calls. There’s no hack around it!
Physical distributors are closing their doors. What if that means
better alternatives for you?
Digital distribution now gives all
artists a chance: “Whether an artist sells 500 albums or 500,000, they should
be housed in the same place and treated with the same level of respect” says
the A&R for EMPIRE.
Having a solid digital
distribution track record is like having a stellar CV. It’ll get you better
shows, better visibility and more negotiating power.
Digital distribution is the most direct route to the ears of fans.
Do it right! Do it digital!
Article Attribution: Leticia, Writer at LANDR.