Music distribution is one of those tasks that fall on the business side of the music industry, but its importance for artists can not be overstated. For the real beginners here, Horus Music provides us with a great music distribution definition here:
"Music distribution is the process of getting music from artist to store, making it available to the public for purchase. This is the same whether that store be a physical store or digital music retailer."
With that definition in mind, it's clear why it matters. Distribution is the key to making your music available to the masses. It sounds simple enough, but as we will discuss here today, this is grand topic with a lot of intricacies.
Our goal is to give you a high-level overview that answers the what, why, how, and where of music distribution. Let's walk through these and make sense of all of this.
What is Music Distribution?
Didn't we answer this already? Well, yes. But as I also said, while it all seems simple, there is a lot to unpack here. Starting with the definition above, let's dive in a bit more to what exactly music distribution is.
Distribution used to be a more brick and mortar operation, but like most of the music industry it's now moved to the digital age. The good thing about this, the process use to include a long wait time but it can now be done in mere days.
Music distribution allows you to get your music in front of people on digital streaming platforms. It is the pipeline that distributes (go figure) your music to as many people as possible. Growing your organic social following, your YouTube channel, playing live shows, etc. are all great ways to grow your fan base. But music distribution is still the key to reaching a maximized size audience.
What are the benefits of Music Distribution?
So you have made it this far and you are on the verge of choosing to have your music distributed, but you want to know what the major benefits are. This is a big step in your music career, so understanding what you get out of it is a crucial component to making the leap. Let's look at a few here:
- We mentioned this earlier, but you have the ability to reach a global audience on the biggest platforms out there.
- Being on these platforms gives you credibility. Your music will be accessible and hosted next to some of the biggest artists around the world.
- The process of distribution will let you retain the rights to your own original music.
- Allows you to start earning for your music.
- Opening up to a large global audience will give you data driven insights into your fan base and which of your music performs the best, globally, and/or in specific regions of the world.
Assuming this all checks out for you, now you will want to get started with getting distribution. So, how do you do that?
There are many ways to go about this but here are a couple of important facts.
First, you need to go through a music distributor to get your music on the major platforms. Before the digital revolution, the distributors handled sending out music to all the record stores. Today, they still act as the middle man and they are the gatekeepers for you to get on major streaming platforms.
Secondly, you have a good number of choices when it comes to music distribution. Choosing one will ultimately come down to you doing your research and finding the deal that you think is right for you. Whichever company you choose, and the deal they provide will have an impact on your earnings. That is to say, choose wisely.
What to Look For
Rushing into this decision is a losing formula as you can't be too careful here. Some distributors will require a membership fee, which can be monthly or annually. Others will take a royalty fee, meaning part of each sale your music makes. Others will charge a one time fee or any combination of the three.
These will all be fairly straightforward, but there are other fees to look out for. Some companies will have hidden fees or fees buried in the fine print. Because of this, it would be wise to have a lawyer or someone with some contract knowledge look this over. If you plan to make a career out of the music business, it's not a bad idea to get some sort of legal representation as you will be entering into a lot of agreements along the way.
Recapping What We Have Learned
Music Distribution is a wide scoping topic with many ins and outs. Our goal today was to introduce you to it and give you a beginners guide for getting started. Let's look at our main takeaways from today.
- Getting music distribution (digitally) is the best and most efficient way to get your music out in front of a huge audience.
- There are many benefits to music distribution including; exposure, credibility, copyrights, income, and data-driven insights.
- You need a distributor to get on major digital platforms like Spotify.
- Fees can get complicated, so be careful and consider seeking the help of a contract lawyer.
Armed with this knowledge, you are ready to begin exploring your options and ultimately decide on a music distributor. For those interested in this topic, check back for Part II of this series where we cover five key things to look for in a music distributor.