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Digital Music Distribution to Streaming Services

October 31, 2019 • 10 min read

I believe one of the first things artists lookup on the internet, after finishing their first song(s), is regarding music distribution. This is undoubtedly a need these days, in the digital era.  But do you know exactly how should you proceed with it? There are a few things you should know before you even get started researching ways to upload your music to digital partners. One of the most important is that most of them don't allow you to upload your music directly, as an independent artist. But if that's the case, how can you distribute your music? That's exactly the objective of this article, let's try covering most of the information and answering most of your questions.

What is digital music distribution?

Simply put, it consists of taking a digital song and having it available in all major music platforms you can think of. From Spotify to iTunes, Amazon to Beatport, each partner works in a different way. Some of them might not even work with the genre of music you're trying to distribute. The good thing is that you don't need to worry about all that, because as we've mentioned before, most of them won't allow you to directly upload your music into the platform.

Why should I distribute my music?

There's not just one answer to that question. The reason is quite simple, the main objective is making sure your music gets heard. For that to happen you have to make sure your music is available in all sorts of formats, and it's present in platforms that focus on music. Social media is also important, of course, but other than exposure, you're not getting much more from them. Let's do, below, a quick listing of pros of why you should distribute your music:
  • You'll provide one simple audio file and streaming services/ online stores will automatically convert it to whatever formats they work with (mp3, AAC, FLAC, OGG);
  • Your music will be available on platforms visited by hundreds, even thousands of people every day;
  • You'll be able to collect revenue from streaming, downloads, licensing, and any other way partners use to exploit your music;
  • Once your music is on a digital partner, it gets harder for people to simply steal and exploit it without the appropriated rights.
I don't think there are cons when it comes to music distribution. If you think there is, I would be glad to hear it, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment area below. But in conclusion, I believe there are many more reasons to do than to don't distribute your music. Of course, you could just stay in the social media realm, there would be nothing wrong with that. But if you want people to see you as the professional artist you are, you must consider distributing your music. You can still share your music on Facebook, Twitter and such, but you will be able to provide links where people can support you, by paying for your music.

What is a music aggregator/ distributor?

But what is necessary for you to distribute your music? Since you can't do it by yourself, who can help you? That's where a music distributor/ aggregator comes in. They are a service that intermediates the artist and the store’s relation. Their work, basically, comes down to receiving, analyzing, delivering, collecting royalties and paying artists for their releases.

Why do I need an aggregator/ distributor?

As we've mentioned before, the DSPs (Digital Service Providers, aka the Streaming Services and online Music Stores) don’t allow artists to upload directly. They may even let you register to some extent, but you don’t have the option to upload. Spotify for artists, for example, only allows you to claim your (already distributed) Spotify album and artist page. Many others, like Spotify, will allow you to write a bio, add a profile picture, see some stats, but not to upload. That's where we come in!

Why can't I distribute the content myself?

Let's imagine, for a moment, that we are a digital store. We have to deal with hundreds of new releases on a daily basis. Hundreds of artists. Obviously, we'll have to allocate resources and staff to deal with all those new releases/ artists. I don't think one person would be able to handle everything, and so do DSPs. It’s down to how the industry has been doing so far and the DSP’s business model. In this model, they don’t need to allocate moderation costs (in infrastructure and manpower). As the artists will probably upload to more than one DSP, it makes sense that this moderation is centered on the aggregator, which is bound to follow certain upload guidelines for each store and one moderation works for all stores. As a former music producer, I can tell you about my own experience that it's better that way. Isn't it hard enough to have to worry about making good music? Not only that, you have to prepare the content you're going to share in your social media, gigs... Each DSP requires files to be arranged in a specific way. Specific dates, guidelines to follow, agreements to sign, payment forms to fill... I'm good, let someone else handle that for me.

Why is Magroove's music distribution service different?

Many aggregators charge per release, normally around USD 19-29. That’s the price per year and once you don’t pay the fee ("upload fee"), the release is taken down. Others charge per year per account. On which case you pay $39 per year and you’re free to upload as many releases as you wish. Once you don’t pay (the “maintenance/yearly fee”), the releases are taken down. Others charge a one-time fee and it’s up forever (“one-time fee”). As you see, there are numerous partners you can find. Some smaller aggregators, for instance, only ask for a percentage, which usually varies from 15% to 30%. Although that might not sound like much, especially if you're dealing with a small income, it's like a third of your earnings. You worked hard for that, didn’t you? If you’re a musician with an established career or a somewhat large fanbase, 15-30% of your earnings can be considered abusive. That's a model commonly chosen by smaller distributors, which may have a clumsy tech structure or unresponsive customer service. Some go even further and ask for a percentage of the rights. We won’t talk about that here! The point is, you have to be careful. Check the information before you signup for anything. If you don't feel comfortable, talk to someone that has some background in the area. Most plans of most services I have mentioned above might not be ideal for you, but what other option would you have? Magroove!

The Magroove music distribution concept

We have decided that none of the deals mentioned are good enough. That's why we came up with our own concept. After all, we are music professionals as well, we see eye to eye. What troubles you is what troubles us. So, what can we do for you? No money upfront asked. No upload fee. No annual fee. No one-time fee. No percentage split. No rights asked. We just keep the first 5 dollars the release profits, per year. Everything above that is yours. You keep 100% of your rights. No exclusivity, meaning you’re free to leave anytime and to have content uploaded elsewhere at the same time. No strings attached at all. PLUS you get a (totally free) individual online store to sell your custom merch, buy t-shirts to sell on concerts or have a link to send to your fans. Check out an example by visiting our online store. PLUS you get added to our music recommendation system. That’s powered by a musical Artificial Intelligence. This means it hears all music equally, despite popularity, and recommends it accordingly. If your music sounds like someone else’s, our AI is likely to recommend you if someone searches for that artist's name or that other artist’s song. All for free. Pinky promise. Music Distribution to iTunes

Myths of music distribution

The aggregator/ distributor you choose becomes an important partner in your journey. Whoever you choose, make sure you keep a good business relationship with them. Keep in touch and don't hesitate to contact them in case you need it. Unfortunately, as in many other business activities, some of them will try everything on their power to get your attention. Even if sometimes it's not entirely true. In this section, I'll cover a few aspects you have to pay attention to when you're deciding for an aggregator/ distributor over the other.

My music isn't good enough for distribution

Learning is an important part of the process of making music. Just because your music doesn't sound like the music of huge artists, with massive fan bases, doesn't mean you can't distribute it. Although it's true that you need a minimum quality to get your music out there, it doesn't mean you have to work years perfecting your skill before you try a release. Building a fan base takes time, allow people to know you, to keep track of your work. Analyze what's working on Spotify, for instance, and what's not working on iTunes. All that should help you prepare for your future releases. There's nothing wrong with releasing an "ok" song, as long as you try improving so that next time your music gets better.

My aggregator/ distributor will do all the work for me

If you mean that we will distribute your music to a vast number of partners, you are correct. We will also make sure your music gets fair chances of getting featured out there. We're going to help you for that to happen. But you should always think about the distribution process as teamwork. Magroove, as an aggregator/ distributor, will do everything in its power to ensure your music gets heard/ download. But we can't ensure that actually happens. You still have work to do.

My aggregator/ distributor ensures Features

Which brings us to another important point. Any aggregator/ distributor that promises you features on any third-party partners is lying. It is not that simple. We will do everything in our power to make sure that happens, but ultimately the decision lies to the DSPs. On my own experience, it comes down to a few simple things. First of all, the fan base that said artist or band managed to build over the years. Music quality shouldn't be first? Yes, but in order to build that fan base. When it comes to being selected for a first-page banner, the DSP wants to make sure you already have a solid fan base. So music quality, indirectly, gets you there. The second point is your marketing efforts. We live in the digital era, so it's getting harder and harder to stand out among the crowd. DSPs want to see what are you doing to accomplish that. Finally, consistency. It's important that DSPs see that the work you are doing has some continuity. Releasing good albums or songs on a regular base helps.

In conclusion

Just like with social media, while choosing an aggregator/ distributor you should always ask yourself where are your fans. Based on that information you can choose from those that offer a good distribution deal and have that platform available for you. The information on this article should help you understand the subject, but ultimately the decision is yours. We (Magroove) offer the best services to independent artists as we can. We believe that it’s not the artist that should be charged, but the listener. It’s the customer that should pay for the product, not the producer. I've been where you (most likely) are now. I did some bad deals in the last 10 years, so I've learned from experience what's best. Be wise, when given the opportunity, learn from someone else's experiences. And as usual, you can count on us, the Magroove Staff's expertise is at your service. Last, but not least, I know that being a musician these days can be hard. But if that's what you love, please don't give up. Remember that the journey is more important than the destination. So enjoy it! Magroove will be happy to be part of it if you allow us.  
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