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Music Distribution then and now.

Music Distribution then and now.

What is Music Distribution?

Music distribution is the process of giving music from an artist to an outlet making it available to the public for purchase and listening.

This is the same whether that outlet is a physical store or a digital music retailer.

Since the 18th century music distribution has been primarily physical, first through sheet music and the through records.

The music went from creators into shops where consumers could purchase it.

There is often a music distribution company that signs deals with record labels or artists, which then gives them the right to sell their music to shops.

Put simply, the distribution company acts as a middle man between the artist or record label and the store.

The distributor takes a cut of the income from each unit sold and then pays the label the remaining balance, who then pays the songwriter through mechanical royalties.

Most distributors expect record labels to provide them with finished, ready to market products. But sometimes distributors offer manufacturing and distribution (M&D) deals.

Brick and mortar distributors were once the only way for record labels and independent artists to get their music in the hands of their listeners.

But digital distribution changed all that for the better. In 2015 digital sales surpassed physical and we haven’t looked back.

Streaming and digital platforms are the new record shops. The goal of digital distribution is to get your music on as many digital platforms and digital music stores as possible. 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 you music was listened to.

Just like traditional record stores, digital outlets receive music from digital distribution companies. But instead of shipping boxes of Vinyl every week, digital distributors deliver digital music with a couple of clicks on the computer.

So what used to take weeks of months of shipping and manufacturing is now simple and possible with a couple of clicks.

There are also more benefits from digital distribution like:

  • Reaching a bigger audience
  • Boosting your profile to all fans world wide
  • Keeping track of all the rights of your music
  • Your money reached your pockets faster
  • Data and analytics that can help you plan your future career

There are tons of music distribution services out there. Before choosing, remember that keeping 100% of your royalties is the key.

Educate yourself on all their fees and what you’re getting into before you decide. Look out for hidden fees. Do your research and see what distributor is best for your needs.

Many digital distributors like CDBaby, TuneCore, and HorusMusic allow users to create an account and sign up online. These are paid services which cover not only the free platforms like youtube, soundcloud, bandcamp, etc but also the paid ones like Apple Music, Spotify and Google Play.  However, some companies like The Orchard, Stem or AWAL are invite-only, meaning they only work with clients they hand-select.

Sites like iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play and Tidal, typically don’t allow users to directly submit content. They only deal with approved distributors or digital distribution aggregators, thus signing up with a distributor is crucial.