As CD sales continue to freefall, digital distribution has become the music industry’s new normal. In 2014, revenues from digital channels made up 46 percent of all music income. Digital revenues also increased 6.9 percent to be worth US$6.85 billion. All musicians want a piece of that pie, but grasping the ins and outs of this modern distribution method can be challenging. If you’re new to digital distribution of audio post production, here’s what you need to know.
Where to Distribute
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iTunes is the unequivocal king of the digital musical world, accounting for somewhere between 60 to 75 percent of all digital music sales. Amazon MP3 and streaming services Spotify and Pandora are also important digital distributors. Newer streaming services Deezer and Rdio are also starting to make waves, as are music identifying apps Shazam and SoundHound.
Some digital music outlets are also genre specific. For example, Beatport and JunoDownload specialize in dance music. You may like to research additional digital outlets specializing in the type of music you make.
The Importance of Music Distributors
Digital outlets like iTunes and Spotify rarely accept music submissions from labels or their artists. Instead, they rely on a network of music distributors who curate and deliver digital content. Some of the most popular are TuneCore, CDBaby, and Songflow. Connecting with companies like these is the best way to distribute your digital content. They have special software that automates the submission processes, which vary between online outlets.
Paying the Distributor
Digital distributors make money by charging artists a flat fee for content or by claiming a percentage of the royalties on sales. You could expect to pay a flat fee of $10 for one or two tracks, $20 for a six-track EP, or $40 for a full-length album. Alternatively, the distributor could claim royalties of around 15 percent. Additionally, some distributors charge an annual upkeep fee to keep your content available online. This cost could be somewhere between $10 and $50 depending on the number of tracks submitted.
The Legalities of Digital Distribution
You’ll sign a legal agreement when partnering with a digital distributor. This gives the organization the right to sell and distribute your music to digital stores and collect any revenue. Most large distributors have a one-size-fits-all contract. If you’d prefer to negotiate the terms, you could seek out a smaller, more specialized distributor. However, it’s difficult to ink a deal with these distributors unless you’re a label or an artist with a large catalogue.
Your contract will contain termination clauses and other agreement terms. If you’re an independent artist with dreams of label success, look for a contract that allows termination at any time. This way you can drop the indie digital distributor when you sign with a label, who will then handle your distribution and sales.
But perhaps you’re getting ahead of yourself. Before thinking about digital distribution, you need to lay down some quality tunes. Contact Carriage House Studios at (203) 358-0065 to record your songs ready for digital distribution.