You’ve worked hard at creating your music. You’ve mastered it to perfection and created artwork for the physical CD and even gotten some pressed. But how do you really get your music out to the ears of the listening public? After all, you didn’t make your masterpiece so that it could sit on a shelf or in a file in your computer. So how DO you get distribution? Well, here’s the not-so-short and not-so-decisive answer on the subject.
In order to get their music out there, an artist must have either a distribution deal with a record label (which is rare these days) or an artist can self-distribute through many of the available sites that are online. There is a great article written by entertainment attorney Bart Day called The Different Kind Of Deals Involving Record Labels: A Thumbnail Sketch where he identifies the different considerations that an artist can have with a distribution deal with a label. Mr. Day does a nice job laying out the different deals that can be made with major labels and distributors, but most artists will not be in the position to be distributed by a major label right away. The age of the Internet has given today’s artist a viable distribution alternative, which is the Publish-On-Demand (POD) concept.
There are several online services that now assist in the distribution of an artist’s music. One of these services is TuneCore.com, where an artist can pay a flat fee ($9.99 for songs and $29.99 for albums) and TuneCore will make sure that nearly ever digital outlet in the Internet market (including iTunes) will carry that artist’s music. TuneCore is exclusively for music distribution, and it is the favorite of many of the artists with whom I work. They like it because they are able to keep the royalties from the sales and they don’t have to sign away any licensing rights.
Another service that does POD services for music is called CreateSpace.com. They only connect with one digital service, AmazonMP3, so they have less distribution power with the digital outlets. But they have a great option for physical CDs where they create CDs on demand. An artist doesn’t have to worry about spending money to press CDs and then have them collect dust. With CreateSpace’s system, the POD means exactly that…the CD is printed ON DEMAND once the ordering customer pays it for. CreateSpace takes a percentage (a fixed charge of $4.95 plus 15%). The breakdown of what an artist could expect for royalties from selling a physical CD with CreateSpace can be found here under the Pricing & Royalties tab. The nice perk about this system is that the artist doesn’t lose any money because of unsold CDs, but they can still market their catalog of CDs to fans who might buy them due to being able to publish or print on demand.
Last but certainly not least, probably the most commonly know POD site for music artist self-distribution is cdbaby.com. CDbaby is unique in that customers can actually purchase music directly from their site, and they also distribute your music to a few other digital markets such as iTunes, AmazonMP3, Spotify, and others. They don’t distribute to as many as TuneCore, but they certainly cover the main digital markets that most people visit.
Now, all three of these sites are set up for an artist to sell his or her music. Often though, in order to build their fan base, an artist will give away free downloads. This can be done in a lot of ways, but some of the most popular are ReverbNation.com, Soundcloud.com, HotNewHipHop.com, and Myspace. All these sites allow artists to upload their music, and then allow those who wish to download it the ability to do so rather easily. Many new artists must start this way, as they don’t have enough of a fan base to be successful at selling their music yet.
Whatever path an artist chooses, they should understand that just putting their music out into the world will not necessarily get them the attention that they need to make sure that the music sells. They still need fans to buy it, a way to get the word to the fans where to find it, and a way to create buzz about their single or album so that they get some press coverage for that press kit that I discussed in my last blog post. Just knowing how to self-publish or distribute, however, will go a long way towards making that phenomenal music career a reality.