4 Things I Learned About Music Distribution as an Independent Artist

creator toolkit music Dec 08, 2017

I often get asked questions about being an independent artist. Below are some of the most popular ones!

1) How has independent music distribution become easier, and why does this benefit artists?

Independent music distribution has become much easier as artist-created platforms have risen up to fulfill the traditional services provided by record labels. For example, I do all my direct distribution through a platform called DistroKid. DistroKid allows me to pay one small fee per year to get my songs licensed and distributed to all the major music stores online. Only $19.99 a year!! Furthermore, DistroKid sends me a monthly check with 100 percent of the royalties I'm owed from online music sales and streaming. There is another site called Soundrop that does the same stuff as DistroKid, except for a fee of $9.99 for every song you are trying to distribute. I've done the calculations, and if you are making $80 or less per year from online music sales, Soundrop is the better option for you. If you plan on making more than that, you'll want to distribute through DistroKid.

2) Why did you go independent versus trying to get on a label?

In today's digital age, there are very little reasons for artists to sign an old school record deal. There are many different kinds of industry deals, from licensing deals to distribution deals… just make sure you never give up your creative rights and decision making to anyone. Ever. I believe strongly that YouTube’s success as a media site is leveling the entire playing field. Any artist with the drive, talent, and the know-how to create their own content can make a living doing what they love, which means more music, more art, more inspiration, and more people on this Earth doing what they were meant to do: create and inspire!

Instead of working with a label, I do everything myself. My workflow is something I would recommend EVERY artist replicate: Create content that is genuine to who you are as an artist, basically what you LOVE to do, what you are best at. Then utilize your social circle or social media influence and fund the creation of your content with a crowdfunding platform. For example, Patreon is an INCREDIBLE platform made by an artist for artists (created by Jack Conte of Pomplamoose). Because of Patreon, I have supporters that help give me a consistent, guaranteed dollar amount for every video I publish.

Next, use DistroKid or Soundrop as your main distribution platform. They will license all of your songs for you, make sure your content is 100% legal, and then they send you a check every month. This saves you time from having to report sales and doing the licensing of your songs, which allows you to get back into the studio and create more content!

3) What online platforms can consumers use to find/buy your music and music of other independent artists? And why do you use the ones that you do?

In order of what I recommend:

#1 – iTunes (integration with ecosystem)

#2 – Google Play, Amazon

#3 – Physical albums available on your own website

#4 – Streaming options: Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Deezer, iTunes/Beats

I currently use every distribution platform I can find, as I want my music to be as accessible as possible to everyone all over the world.

4) What is the future of music distribution? Fewer people on labels? More independent distribution? More platforms for online distribution? And what does this mean for consumers?

I believe the future is here. Using YouTube as the distribution platform for the music video and single, DistroKid for the distribution of the digital track, and supporting consistent content with Patreon is basically everything a label can offer you other than radio play. We all saw what Macklemore & Ryan Lewis just did with their last album. We the people are taking back the power from “the man.” Artists are creating sites like DistroKid and Patreon, and we can create our content, distribute and support ourselves. No longer do we need a label or some old rich man in a suit to tell us that our music is good. Listen to me: don’t sign, push ahead, create your own work that speaks to you, and do it alone. It’s the future, it’s here, and we can do it together.

In the end, if you are an independent musician, you should do WHATEVER you can to prevent people’s hands from reaching in your pocket. Pay your production teams by the hour and keep 100 percent of the backend. Use crowdfunding to help pay your production costs, and push your audience to the places on the internet that give you back the most money and support as an INDEPENDENT musician/creator. Currently, that is Patreon for me. By the way, these aren’t secrets. This is what is available, and people should be using them. If you are an independent musician or creator and you aren’t using these sites to help make a living, you are missing out.

In addition I suggest using a new website that I love called Tubular Labs. In my eyes, it’s the only place you should go to learn about how to process and understand any and all analytical data to support your work and your marketing ideas.

While we’re at it, if you aren’t on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and/or Tumblr engaging and answering your supporters, you are doing something wrong — especially if you are using Patreon. These people are PAYING you to make content. The least you can do is make sure to talk to as many of them as you can. If you think you won’t have time, people can be a lot more understanding than you think.

Engage. Be genuine. Be who you are, and do it yourself. You will have a better chance of succeeding if you do. Don’t allow anyone to take large chunks of your revenue stream. They didn’t create your brand, they didn’t develop YOUR talent — don’t give them your money. Do it yourself and you will succeed.

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