The Battle Between Signing to Labels and Digital Music Distribution

Music Distribution, EDM Insights, Artist Marketing

The Battle Between Signing to Labels and Digital Music Distribution

It may be easy to believe that once you’ve created your music, your work is done. In fact, if you are serious in getting into the business of music, the real challenge has just begun. Like you, there are other DJs and producers vying to get noticed and failed because they have not thought about their music distribution carefully.

What is Music Distribution?

Music distribution is the process of getting your music out to your listeners. In the old days, music distribution would entail peddling physical copies of the music (CDs and vinyls) to music stores. The person doing this is called the distributor. However, the business model has changed when record labels and companies came into the picture.

These companies have become involved into a network of distributors and retailers so that music becomes available to your fans, at the right time and at the right place. There is so much work in between, but a lot of artists and musicians believed that getting signed into label is the first real step into making it big.

The business model of music distribution evolved as soon as technology allowed fans to listen to music digitally. This means they don’t anymore have go to a music store and get their hands on your CDs and vinyls to listen to your tracks. They will just log online, go to a streaming service provider, and plug in their earphones… and voila! Your music is available almost instantly.

Whether music is available in physical or digital form, the truth still remains: you need to distribute it in order to get heard. Now, you need to know which is the better route for you: get signed to a label or do-it-yourself through digital music distribution?

What Can a Record Label Do For You?

If you are making music and would want to get out and let other people hear it, the traditional route has always been to get record label or company to do it for you. Oftentimes, when an artist is signed to a label, it would usually be assumed that he is worth hearing. Record labels and companies usually have strict filters in place and they don’t just accept any artist or producer. You have to be something special to be able to get signed into a label.

  • A Record Labelwill Treat You as an Investment. And for you to become a solid investment, you need to have something to back you up aside from your talent. You need to have a solid fan base and following, probably has performed in huge gigs and tours and have evidence that your audience will grow in number. This means you must have had some work done to establish yourself.

Major labels and record companies typically have the money to promote you as an artist and your music (which you may not have), so they will invest on you in hopes that they will get significant ROI when your tracks are sold. Distribution is just one of task of the record company, but it can do so much more for you – production, marketing, getting you more endorsements etc.

  • You will Get All the Right Exposures at the Right Places. Record companies don’t just have the money, they also have the strings to pull so that their acts get the right exposure at the right moments. A label rep may know a DJ who can give you a radio interview and airtime for your music. Meanwhile, it will just take one phone call for a record label to get you featured on a major music magazine in the country.

If you are just a budding artist, you may not have these connections readily available for you. And if you’re unheard of, getting your CDs bought from the record stores is going to be a challenge, not to mention unprofitable to you and the company. You have to stir the curiosities of the listeners and give them a taste of your music and your person to convince them that a trip to the music store to buy your CD is really worth their time and money. 

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of work involved before and during music distribution that an artist can’t do alone. But with the help of the label, that artist can get all the right support, network and finance to be able to reach more audience.

For record labels and companies, getting your music out takes more than just your creativity and passion. This is business, so they tap into their vast network of radio personalities, marketers, accounting staff in order to make sure that your music is seen on the stores and accessible to the fans.

The Guide to Self-Distribution or Using Labels

Digital Music Distribution Work

Over the recent years, music distribution has taken a new form. Listeners now have the option to purchase your CD from a record store, or simply stream them from sites like Spotify, Beatport, iTunes and MP3 Amazon.

Welcome to the world of digital music distribution.

If you believe getting signed to a record label is quite not right for you and wish to have more control over the distribution of your music, digital music distribution certainly is your best do-it-yourself route. This option allows you to distribute music to your own liking, and for a charge, you get to have added services like marketing and trend analysis from the digital distribution platform.

The Importance of Digitally Distributing Your Work

Nowadays, getting your music to physical stores will not cut it. You have to make it digitally available too. According to the IFPI report, 35% of the overall revenue of the music revenues came from online streaming. In Europe alone, streaming services already account 31% of the revenues. This means that if your music is not online and digital yet, you are probably going to be left unheard and left behind.

Benefits of Digital Music Distribution

  • Simple, Fast and Do-it-yourself. Taking this route proves to be simpler than having a label organize your music distribution. There are already a lot of music distribution platforms in the WorldWideWeb today, and their number is growing by the day. The likes of TuneCore, iMusician, DittoMusic and Symphonic Distribution allow artists to sign up to their services in a very efficient manner.

Simply go to their website, create an account, pay the fees and upload your music.

  • Reaches hundreds of music stores and streaming providers. Many of these platforms claim that they can get their music out to 200-300+ stores ranging in size and niche.
  • Simple business model. If you are quite not that business-savvy and don’t want to deal with the complicated process involved with the major record companies, you can consider digital music distribution as a great alternative for it follows a relatively simple business model. You sign up for distribution, and choose between releasing a single track or an album (or both). Depending on the platform, each track can cost around $10 and album around $40. Many of these platforms will encourage you to release as much as track and albums as you like. 

You will then have to choose between paying a flat fee or opt for a cut in royalties. Some companies may also charge you with an annual fee. Be sure to read the fine print about the fees and charges of your chosen platform.

  • Added marketing and promotional services. Many of the digital music distribution platforms don’t just stop in the distribution per se, they can also provide added promotional and marketing services such as monetizing your Youtube channels, helping you find gigs, sync licensing, mastering and even graphic design. These services typically come when you are signed with a label, but you can now get them virtually without the middlemen.
  • Tracking your tracks performance. A lot of these service providers also provide you trending reports so you know how your tracks and albums are faring in the market.

Which is Which: the Record Label or Digital Music Distribution?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all distribution mechanism. Different artists have different needs and a record label may work for one, while self-distribution may work for another. Regardless of what you choose, you still have other challenges to overcome, namely being one of the fish in the sea of fishes fighting to get attention from fans and listeners.

For instance, a record label could drop you anytime the fame wanes because they’re no longer making money from your music, while most of the digital music distribution platforms are unable to provide you with personalized marketing because their profit lies in getting more and more artists signed in to their services.

There are downsides and upsides to in getting either a record label or a digital service provider to distribute your music. What is more important is that you know and understand what your options entail in order to get your expectations in line.

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