To get your music heard, it is essential for you as a DIY artist to deal with music distribution. You most likely know the difference between digital and physical music distribution. Physical distributors supply the physical product in the form of cassettes, CDs or vinyls etc. to stores. Digital distributors make sure that your music can be streamed or downloaded on the internet. In this article, you will learn what to look out for when choosing a digital music platform. We want to make sure that your tracks can quickly and easily end up on streaming, download and social media platforms and that you are able to increase your reach and income.
The age of (digital) independent releases
Digital distributors have become increasingly important with the rise of streaming and download platforms. Since the digital release of music requires significantly less financial and organisational effort, newcomers in particular often release their music digitally only to begin with. For independent artists, releasing digitally with a DIY platform means not having to commit to a record company and retaining full control over their music rights, thus also the creative output and money earned. If you are an independent musician still looking for a partner to release your music with, take a closer look at digital music platforms like MusicHub. These platforms, like labels, help you get your music onto streaming and download platforms (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Tidal, etc.) and social media platforms (Instagram, TikTok, etc.). Additionally, many also offer useful tools and services beyond this. There are many possible partners and not all features make sense for every musician. As an artist, you should therefore ask yourself what is important for you, where you might need help and how user-friendly the platform is (in regards to your ultimate goal).
Features and functions
To help you choose and decide, we have created an overview of possible features and functions (selection) as well as costs.
You can use a different platform for each single or album that you release (note that you should only use one platform/provider for one release). This means that a service provider or partner can bring one or more of your releases to the desired social media or streaming and download platforms. Take a closer look at the partners because not all of them have the same selection of streaming, download and social media platforms and, ideally, decide on a provider with whom you want to work in the long term. It's similar to your bank or e-mail accounts: multiple accounts can quickly become confusing and mean extra work for your next career step. Hence, choose the music platform that offers you the most suitable features and through which you would like to commission all your releases. If you are not satisfied, you can of course change and move your existing releases to another platform if you wish (learn more about it at the end of this article).
The promotion of your music is an individual undertaking and often not the hobbyhorse of digital distributors. There are independent agencies that can take on this time-consuming work for you. However, some platforms offer helpful features and tools that can support independent artists in promoting their music. The offers vary greatly: from spotlights in playlists or on social media to the creation of audiovisual content and smart links (pre-save function, etc.), to radio promotion and playlist pitching. You should always bear in mind that quality can vary greatly and there is no guarantee of success in promotion. Strategic advice and release planning usually cost extra and are rarely of high quality if they are not approached individually. For this reason, MusicHub offers self-help in the form of numerous blog articles, our e-learning academy, webinars, community events and there is much more on the horizon.
Once you've found a digital music platform to release your music independently, you'll find that a good user interface (UI) makes a big difference. In addition, you may have detailed questions about specific issues such as Digital Service Providers (DSP), delivery times, royalties, metadata, etc. and this is where reliable, fast customer service can help you. Larger companies in particular often automate customer service or even outsource it. If it's important to you that your questions are answered in a timely manner by a real person, don't just look at the big players. Newcomers to the market in particular often offer human customer support, which, like you, has the goal of bringing your release successfully into the world.
Additional thoughts about features
There are several other functions and tools offered by some platforms, such as mastering, copyright registration, GEMA work registration or repertoire search and fan reviews. When looking for a digital music platform, the most important thing is where you are in your career, how far ahead you are thinking or what your next steps should be. This will determine which tools and services are useful for you and which you may not (yet) need.
Moving from one platform to another
Maybe you already have a distribution partner but would like to move to another? Just like with mobile network operators or electricity providers, you may at some point feel that a change of provider would make sense for you. You may want to find a clearer or more intuitive digital space to organise your music. If you'd like to change platforms, you have three options:
- One option is to initiate a so-called takedown with your old service provider. This will irrevocably delete the tracks (or albums), after which you can close your account. After that, your old tracks would be ready to be redelivered to Spotify etc. via another platform (but the original streaming numbers and any playlist placements would be lost). You can nonetheless upload and release new material.
- The second option is to upload your unreleased songs after you have created an account with the new distribution partner. The already released catalogue then remains with the old service provider, where you keep your account in this case and the old streams and playlist placements etc. are also retained.
- The third and probably most pragmatic and best option is that you first resubmit the old songs to the new platform (e.g. MusicHub) and as soon as they are online, initiate a takedown with the old partner (the synchronisation of the old and new releases is done via ISRC codes and the matching of the metadata). Quality control by Customer Support ensures that everything is correct and that nothing appears twice in the end. With this option, your streams and playlist placements are also preserved.
No digital music platform's service is free. Some charge a monthly fee (sometimes per release, but with some providers you may also have an unlimited number of releases), which may also be coupled with a small revenue share (usually between 0% and 20%). Higher revenue shares are also to be found in the different pricing models on the market. As with other products, you should look at the price-performance ratio. This is of course a personal decision, as every musician has different needs.
We hope that this brief overview makes it a little easier for you to choose and motivates you to get your music heard. If you have any questions, including about our service, please contact our customer support team by email at email@example.com.
P.S.: If you would like to learn more about MusicHub, have a look at our offer. MusicHub is an all-in-one platform offering you a wide range of tools, services and knowledge: from digital releases and intuitive organisation of your tracks, to detailed statistics and analytics, support with promotion, smart links and add-ons like lyric distribution, e-learning videos and a strong community. MusicHub has it all in one place.
Photo Credit blog cover: © istock/recep-bg