Music Distribution For Labels: Independent Labels

A picture of different vinyls and their records: Music distribution for labels
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When talking about music distribution for labels you need to identify that there are two types of record labels; Major labels and Independent labels. Regardless of your label’s category, the primary aim is to get your music to a large audience and make more money. To this extent, a label must place a premium focus on music distribution. Today, independent labels are at an advantage over major labels. Artists find it easier to access and work with independent labels than major labels, and Indie music (music made by independent labels) has a high streaming and download rate. Hence, as an independent record label, you are naturally at an advantage based on flexibility and cost.  

Music Distribution Today

Music distribution today is mainly digital and not physical. Since you can reach a larger audience at the click of a button, Digital music distribution is a wise choice. In recent years, digital music platforms have recorded a significant increase in the streaming of songs from independent (Indie) labels and a significant reduction in major labels music streaming. It is a perfect time to have an independent label. 

Music distribution is an integral part of music promotion, and an essential part of the functionalities of a label is music distribution. Music distribution links record labels and music stores together. That is, your songs can reach listeners far and wide through the middle man: Music Distribution. Independent labels, unlike significant labels, have a high need to partner with or employ music distribution companies or distributors to perform this function. As an independent label, you must know how to distribute your music effectively, using all available options to meet your target. This article helps you with a guide on music distribution for labels. 

  • Music Distribution
  • Music Distribution for labels
  • A complete guide for independent Labels

What is Music Distribution

Music distribution has always been an essential part of the music. At the time of sheet music, before the invention of discs and tapes, publishing companies employed people whose role was to print and deliver sheet music to stores.  Therefore, music distribution is, in fact, as old as the music industry itself.

Music distribution involves getting the music to music stores from where listeners can access them. In essence, music distribution remains essential from the era of sheet music through vinyl records, tapes, CDs, and music streaming. Today, there has been a lot of focus on the internet, and as this affects everything, it affects music and music distribution. Traditionally, music distributors get the music from the artist or label and distribute it physically to music stores in the form of tapes and CDs and receive payment for the services. Even though it is still done physically, the major attention today is on the digital music market. Since 2015, digital music sales have been more lucrative than physical medium sales.

Why digital music distribution?

Your target audience or consumers spend more time and money on digital music today than physical. To reach your audience and maximize your profit, you must take advantage of digital music distribution more. Digital music distribution will help you increase visibility, reach a larger audience, and maximize income. Nevertheless, to some extent, the traditional system still exists where distributors get the music to stores, and labels get people to buy them through promotions. Either way, you share your profit with the middleman (distributor) as an independent label. Although you keep full rights to your music, you don’t get to keep 100% of the profit you make on your music.

Music Distribution for labels

As a record label, music distribution is most effectively done by partnering with a music distribution company. To do this, you will have to sign a deal with a distributor. This deal is called the manufacturing and distribution deal, commonly called the M&D deal. M&D deal is a contractual agreement between the record label and the music distributor. Primarily for music albums, the distributor covers the manufacturing cost and recuperates it from record sales based on the agreement. You don’t have to bear the cost of manufacturing the music; the distributor takes care of that. However, the distributor takes back the manufacturing cost from the revenue made from sales and then shares the profit as pre-determined in the agreement with you. The process is straightforward, saves you the manufacturing cost, and you maintain 100% ownership right to your music, but it cuts down your profit to only an agreed percentage. 

How Music Distribution Works

Digital music distribution has made it possible for a label to distribute music directly to online platforms/stores and keep 100% royalties rather than use the middle man (distributor). All you need to do is open an account on your chosen platform, and your music can be on a digital music store. Major digital music stores are; Spotify, iTunes, and Google Play. Artists and record labels use these platforms to upload their music, monitor activities on their music, and claim due royalties. Music lovers use these platforms to stream, download, and buy your music, and you receive royalties. Nevertheless, as an independent label, to guarantee security on your royalties, you need to register as a publisher with bodies like Performance rights organization (PRO), among others.

However, it is more effective to partner with a distribution company. Their role is to distribute your music to several viable online music stores and platforms and secure your royalties. The role is the same in physical music distribution, with an additional role of covering manufacturing costs. There are many distribution companies you can make a music distribution deal with. Prominent distributors, especially in online or digital music distribution, include; AWAL, musician, Symphonic, Loudr, and TuneCore. 

Before deciding which distribution service to use or for music albums, the distributor is primarily a distributor to work with; you should conduct the necessary research, consider your options and find out possible hidden charges. Here is a guide to music distribution for independent labels.

A complete guide for independent Labels

Independent labels are often called Indie labels. As an indie label, you operate without funding or distribution of a major record label. Therefore, you have to work with other small companies for distribution and publishing. You can do it by making either long or short-term partnership deals with the necessary parties. However, at this point, you are probably not sure about what steps to take towards profitable and productive music distribution. The following pointers will guide you.

Identify what you want and what you can afford

To a large extent, you must understand your music, its audience, and your goals which often include reaching a large audience and making money. It will help you in deciding what works best for you at the moment. Knowing you can distribute your music yourself by leveraging the possibilities of digital music distribution, you may have a choice to make between that and partnering with a music distribution company. In making your choice, you must consider if you can afford to pay for the service of a distributor and if you can afford the manufacturing cost (in the case of physical music distribution). These decisions will help you discern the music distribution approach best suited for you.

Determine your distribution approach

After making the essential decisions as pointed out above, you can decide which approach you want to use to distribute your music. Here, you decide whether you want to distribute your music via a physical medium like CDs or Digitally. You can also distribute your music both ways. Also, you must decide either to distribute yourself or partner with a distributor, especially if your choice is digital music distribution. Once you determine this, you can take the necessary steps in the direction of your choice. 

Register and Join necessary platforms

If you distribute your music yourself, you should register with a performance rights organization (PRO) as a publisher for strong backing in claiming your royalties. You can check out top PROs here. With this done, you must open an artist/label account with online music stores of your choice to upload (distribute) your music and claim your royalties as due. There is a vast list of platforms or digital music stores to use. Your target audience will determine your choice. Also, major digital stores will limit your access to their services until you pay for the premium package, granting you access to more functions. Therefore, bear this cost in mind to maximize digital music stores. 

Find available distribution companies and choose

If you will be signing a deal with a distribution company, the next line of action is finding available music distributors. You should carry out proper research on the available distributors to make the right choice. Also, before signing any deal, you must understand everything in the agreement, the demands, and the charges. There may be some hidden charges involved. Hence, you must find out all you can. Consider all options and work with the most favorable distributor. Once your choice is made, you should state your demands and offer clearly to your prospective distributor and reach a consensus. Check out some music distribution service providers here

Give your music to the distributor and sit back

Finally, hand your music over to the distributor. The distributor will perform his role, and you can be expecting your profit and royalties. It is pretty straightforward, but you must remember the expected profit will be shared with the distributor. Nevertheless, your royalties are guaranteed.

Regardless of your choice, if rightly done, profit maximization is guaranteed. As an independent label, you don’t have to start by employing the service of a music distributor. You can start by distributing your songs online. Nevertheless, you will eventually need to partner with a distributor. It ]=will help lessen the workload and ensure a professional music distribution service.

Conclusion

Digital music distribution has made music distribution very simple and more effective. Your ability to make the right decisions and take a right and timely steps will help you maximize the benefits of digital music distribution. However, music distribution is not limited to online platforms. Hence, consider every option and go with what works best for you. Music distribution for labels may seem complex. However, following the guide as enunciated in this article will help you simplify the process as an independent label.

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Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

Ever since I can remember, music has always been my passion.

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