Our first focus was development. Once you spend the time learning your instruments, writing your songs, playing shows, you will eventually have an AHA! moment. You know when you are ready to release your songs. I personally don't believe in stockpiling songs and music just to fill up an album or to wait for the best song you have ever written, but I also don't believe in releasing something just to release something. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot.
Distribution according to wikipedia is: one of the four elements of the marketing mix. Distribution is the process of making a product or service available for the consumer or business user who needs it. This can be done directly by the producer or service provider, or using indirect channels with distributors or intermediaries.
What this means for music is; getting your music out to the DSP's in the most optimal way possible. Finding a distributor is not a guarantee to get placed into playlists, some distributors do offer an additional service, but a distributor is mainly a company that get the music into the right DSP's and has an accounting system available and a back-end platform that allows you to see how your music is growing. This article helps you make the right choice in finding a distributor and setting yourself up correctly to be able to get playlists.
Article 3 is going to dig into how to get playlist and do promo. A lot of artists and labels always mention Spotify, and Spotify playlists, mainly because those numbers are able to be seen by everyone in the industry, so it can be used as leverage, but that doesn't diminish Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer, and others.
1. Splits and shares
Before you release anything, get your business details worked out. Who are the cowriters on the songs, who is the owner of the master what are the master splits, are you using samples on your song, are you releasing a cover song? You DO NOT want to release anything before you figure this out. If you are confused by any of these words, make sure you check out this article first explaining rights and shares in music publishing. If you want to know more about master rights and producer splits, click here. Once you figured out these details you can safely release your music. Make sure that you always credit anyone that has spend time on your project, if that first basic step is not done right, I can guarantee you Karma is gonna get you somewhere down the line. Treat your collaborators right!
2. Distribution Partner
Everyone has heard of Tunecore, CD baby, One RPM, the list is endless, the fees vary and the additional services are all different. Attached is a chart that compares all the services, fees, DSP delivery times so you can make your best choice.
I have helped various artists set up their business and connecting them with their distributor and here are the things I have learned that are most valuable.
Is there a person available to talk to you? When you nailed down your list of faves to 3 possible contenders, email them all. The first one that gets back to you personally, I would get in business with. All these services run online, you can upload your songs, requests ISRC codes but sometimes things still get mixed up, release dates might get mixed up, you uploaded the wrong cover art, and in that case, the most important thing is to know someone at the company or know that someone will get back to you ASAP.
The next question to ask yourself is Who is going to handle accounting splits? As mentioned in point 1, you might share the master with someone. If you don't want to hire a fancy accountant right away, there are only a few distributors who offer the service of splitting the income for you and directly pay your collaborators. This saves you a lot of work. These distributors are Distrokid and Stem. I highly recommend that if you are anticipating payments to others in the future regarding your music. BTW. This only concerns master splits, when it comes to publishing, your PRO takes care of those splits.
Do they offer label services and do I want them? Just so you know, label services are an additional cost to the distribution, they could either include marketing, playlist pitching, mailing list management, etc. My professional opinion is to not opt into any additional services and instead do those yourself or hire a separate company for that. You have to understand that distributors releases thousands of songs a week, so that also means that have hundreds of people opting in for additional services, that means your music is just being offerend in bulk to providers and that usually never leads to success, however going back to my first point, if you can find a personal supporter in the company and someone who believes in your music, I'd say opt in and see what happens.
3. Timing is everything.
I have noticed that a lot of people want to choose the fastest way to get a song released.
To put this in perspective, a lot of major labels take a 3 month lead in time, from delivery to a distributor to the release date. Indie labels sometimes have an 8 to 6 week lead in time. The reason is, a lot of DPS's need a minimum of 2 weeks before a release to select songs for playlists. If you upload a song on Monday to have it released on Friday, you are pretty much taking away the opportunity for your song to live in the system and get a placement. By uploading the song with at least a 4 week lead time, you can submit your song, make sure there are no errors, you can remind the DSPs of releases, you can arrange for a premier blog post or a video premier. Basically, you will be ahead of the game.
Another important timing issue is the life of a single. I like to keep 6 to 8 weeks between singles, that way the current single can be promoted long enough, all other press that will come in can be used for promo while you can already start shooting out PR requests for the next single. The releases are also far enough apart that by the time your fans are tired of the new song, there is already an announcement for the next one.
4. Albums are dead, long live the singles.
So you took the plunge, wrote 10 songs, produced them, all together it took a year or more to make, many rehearsal and lots of blood sweat and tears and you want to put that sucker out. You release your album, it comes out and ....... crickets.......
I'm sorry to say this but unless you are Lady Gaga, no one is waiting for your album..
Also, by spending a year on this massive project, you also lost a year worth of releases.
Singles give you the opportunity to have a sales pitch for each song, if one single takes off and does much better than the other songs you released previously, you can easily change direction and choose another single, or even create a new single to match the
demand. You can bundle 5 singles into an EP and do an EP release. The Ep release again is another story and by closing out the project, it allows you to change direction for the next body of work. Going back to the previous blog post regarding development, if you developed yourself well, you have a bank of songs that you can pull from, a team ready to shift from one single to another and plenty of stories for each release.
In the days of social media and self releases you won't survive if you are not willing to be flexible. Dreaming of an album is something only an artist wants, fans are not waiting for that, they want to be reminded that you have music out, they want to keep discovering the new stuff.
5. Create the story lines.
Your fans want to know who you are and what your plans are. Click here to learn more about how to engage your audience, and here about the tools to use. However, the people who also want to know more about you and your music are the DSP moderators. If you want to be placed in a big moderated playlist, you HAVE to have something going on. Spotify has it's own pitch tool where everyone now can submit to playlists. The most important part of that tool is the little information box. Are you touring, do you have a video, what are your socials, is this song part of an EP or an Album, why did you write it? You might find this odd, but think of it like this, EVERYONE wants to have their songs on a playlist, those spots are very expensive Realestate, why would you give away a spot like that to an artist who has nothing going on if you could give it to someone who is going on tour next month, who has an amazing acoustic video or a great news article.
Your social media and your stories are no longer just for you to engage an audience, they are also for the DSP's to know you are doing what you are supposed to do as an artist.
You want to make sure that you create connections with blogs, connect with the same sources for each release and with each release also expend the list. The more blog posts you are getting, reposts of songs, followers on Spotify, youtube streams on your videos, all those are ways to create more stories. So, you have your 5 singles lined up, you have your distributor, you have made some PR connections, the next big thing is marketing.
Next week I'll dive in the big questions of : How do I get on playlists, how can I get featured on more blogs, why do I have 5k social media followers but only 10 of them listen to my Spotify?
Follow me and shoot me your questions!
Do you need help with building a personalized development plan to take your music to the next level?
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