Music Distribution For Independent Labels

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There are an overwhelming amount of music distribution companies designed for indie labels, but picking the right one is crucial to a label's success.

A study from the Worldwide Independent Network claims that indie labels make up for “38.4% of global recorded music market share in 2016 with global revenues in excess of $6bn.” With the influx of artist’s interested in indie labels, it’s imperative that labels offer the finest music distribution services and tactics.

Getting music licensed through a Performing Rights Organisation (PRO) is one of the most important things to do before distributing music. These services will ensure that artists get the compensation they deserve if their music is used in visual media, including adverts, games, TV shows and movies. In a way, this is a means of music distribution and although it can be bit costly, it requires little maintenance on the label or artists part. Each country uses a different licensing company: BMI or ASCAP is used in the USA, APRA or AMCOS in Australia and PRS and PPL in the UK.

Before we get into which music distribution companies are best depending on the artist, labels should never rule out services that just put their music on streaming platforms – Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, ect. It can be expensive to use major distribution companies, so if funds are low and the artists signed on to your label have a decent following, then CD Baby or Tunecore is the way to go.

Keep this in mind – the more advanced services don’t just place music on streaming services and store shelves, they help connect the band to the fans. That requires much more effort and investment than simply putting music on music distribution services. Some of the companies below work with over 100 different independent labels – those numbers don’t lie.

One of the most popular services is Alternative Distribution Alliance. Not so long ago, Warner Music Group (WMG) took over ADA, which might tarnish ADA’s ‘independent’ image a bit, being WMG is one of the major labels found across the globe. This seems to be a common practice among the more popular music distribution services catered towards indie labels. That aside, they offer an incredible amount of services. They’re actually the same group that helped Macklemore’s Thrift Shop hit the chart tops, according to NPR. Over 100+ independent labels have decided to use them as a means of distribution. ADA says they give the, “indie community access to an unparalleled global distribution system and a dedicated team that provides a complete spectrum of marketing, merchandising, promotion, and music licensing services.”

What exactly can they offer? Customized label services by release and territory, worldwide sales, distribution, retail marketing including global account management for key digital retailers, radio promotion, publicity and marketing services, product management, dedicated sync licensing and consolidated worldwide accounting. If hard copies are on the list of requirements for your label then this one isn’t the way to go because they are now solely digital.

Next up is Caroline Records, a sister company of Universal Music Group (UMG) another big player in the major label game. The company does not flaunt exactly what services they borrow from UMG but the Caroline Records about page says they use, “the resources and sophisticated analytical tools needed to push through the inherent barriers that many organizations in the independent community face, to take maximum advantage of opportunities created by the hard work of our artists, partners, and staff.” In terms of  music distribution, they offer physical and digital sales, playlist pitching, synch/licensing, brand partnerships, radio promotion product development and supply chain development.

The Independent Label Alliance is a smaller company, but they’re also global and highly reputable. They currently work with five labels and offer distribution, marketing, artist development and promotional services. They do not promote exactly what each of these services entails but they are completely independent from parent companies. This may be an attractive characteristic to those trying to stay away from a mainstream demeanor.

Label Engine is another fully independent service that caters to indie labels. It was created by DJ Lazy Rich (Richard Billis) with the intention of making it as easy as possible for labels to run their business. The company has grown into something spectacular and claims that over 1000 labels use the service. This is also one of the few companies out there that are very transparent with what they have to offer and what everything costs, a good sign that there’s no funny business going on behind the scenes. The services offered range from distribution to, “100 stores worldwide, including iTunes, Beatport, Spotify, Amazon and Youtube…,” as well as daily sales reporting for participating stores, a number of promotional and accounting features, all for just 15 percent of all sales with no subscription required.

Each one offers different services, caters to different genres and even different continents. Don’t settle for the most popular one – do your research and find the one that best fits your label and the benefits can be outstanding.

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