Well, this is a question that is heavy on the minds of young millennials and creatives alike. With the birth of digital stores and streaming services in the last 10-15 years, releasing creative content doesn’t seem to be a major issue anymore. However, how to release your music in way that will yield tangible results (sales, exposure, brand/band awareness) similar to the way we used to see TLC release their music and have fans line up around the block for it. Well, there in lies the issue. And in addition to that, the issue that TLC and many artists faced then and now: “Once I release it, how do I make money on it?”
We at M|!D wanted to address this along with other very important issues that seem to be on the minds of songwriters, performers and creatives alike. But before we dive into today’s modern content release models, let’s take a look back to how things once were.
Here is a breakdown of the old distribution model that some of us grew up with but weren’t aware of the inner workings of it.
Major labels and large production houses mostly distributed music. You know, CBS, RCA, Capital, etc. - those guys. Specifically, these companies would record an artist’s work, physically print it on a vinyl record (let's start with vinyl for time’s sake), and then that same large entity would either be the distributor of the content or partner up with another large company that would ship, promote, distribute, and most importantly display the artist’s content in record stores.
These companies (most likely record companies) would even go as far as having teams whose sole purpose would be to visit every store the content was in to make sure that it was displayed correctly for the best possible chance for a consumer to see the product and buy it. “The works” as it was coined back then, included marketing items called “End caps” – which is a fancy marketing term for cut out displays of the artist and the artist content (posters, life-sized cutouts, giant ostentatious visuals). But then one lovely 90s day, Sean Parker and the rest of the Internet revolution changed it all.
So let’s jump decades ahead now, and talk about how an artist can market and release their music to masses to have comparable impact of the days of vinyl and life sized Britney Spears cut – outs.
How do I release my music now?
Great question. The answer is simple and the execution is even simpler, as I will explain to you. But, getting the same results as years past? Well, now that work, effort, and internal distribution conglomerate is up to you. I mean, outside of owning a warehouse and spilling hot vinyl on you (ouch!). We did our research to find the best companies out there that were the best bang for our buck when it comes to an independent release, and okay, a few that weren’t so much.
PROS: They do not take a commission and offer really transparent reports on your streaming and digital sales. Tunecore is noted as one of the best if not the best according to various iTunes, Spotify and Amazon MP3 trend reports. You can see how much you sold on iTunes and Amazon (and streamed on Spotify) THE NEXT DAY. You still don’t get paid for a couple months, but this is a great way to see how a release is doing. *Their backend stats are the best. They have better (more transparent) reporting of your sales, streams and demographics than any other service. Hands down. *They have a publishing service linked up
CONS: Yearly fees, They are now owned by Believe once they acquired Tunecore (they made every UK artist take down all their releases – losing all reviews, ratings and playlists – and redistribute through Tunecore.
PROS: They offer physical CD and Vinyl distribution as part of the digital signup price (they will fulfill (mail out) CD/Vinyl orders for a fee of $4 a pop). Only company to collect SoundExchange (Rights Owner) royalties for you. It’s a massive process (and headache) to signup as a rights owner (and fill out their catalog spreadsheet). CD Baby covers this for you. You still have to signup as a Featured Artist on your own with SoundExchange, but this cuts a lot of the hassle down.
PROS: Unlimited songs. You heard right. Whether you release 1 song or 1000 songs, it’s still $19.99 a year. * They offer revenue splitting for your collaborators and will pay them directly whatever percentage you designate. They are the only distribution company that has this process automated (Loudr does this, but you have to contact support) * They do not take commission.
CONS: They charge $.99 PER SONG for Shazam atop of the $20 a year.
So, in short, you have some options. And like I said before even though it may be easier to release your music to masses, getting your music into your next adoring hundred thousand fans may pose a bit of an obstacle. In short, it’s up to you. You have to be your own marketing team. And given that it is much easier to release music – well, let’s just say the market is a little saturated right now, but that shouldn’t discourage you from thinking of new and creative ways to hook new fans to your next release.
Let’s put it this way, if before you wrote a song, you sat back and said, “Well, there’s been music for the last 3 million years, and recorded music for at least the last 300 hundred, so what’s the point everything has been done?” But you’re an artist and what’s inside of you is unique and special and needs to be shared to the world. So if you believe in your art, you can find and will a way to bring it to the masses.
We at M|!D believe in you and I believe in you. And if you’re wondering what those ways might be, or where to start or who is doing a great job of modern marketing themselves, stay tuned because as the industry is constantly changing around you, we’re hear to provide you the tools and skills to navigate through the rough seas of the music industry. Think of us as your north start. Okay enough, nautical talk I’m getting seasick. Be sure to watch the video for more information.
Stay tuned, stay informed and stay creative. We got your back!!!