Thinking of self releasing? This article is for independent artists seeking to release their music through a digital music distributor.

Can I release under other artist and label names?

Some digital distributors may not offer you the option to create additional artist names or label names under your account. If you’d like the option of having a side project (or two) or want to be able to release the music of a budding artist you really believe in, then this might be crucial to future projects.

The best online distribution services will give you the power to release under multiple names.

Will I pay rent on my tracks?

Some online music distributors use third party delivery systems that charge clients per track for having the music available. This has the potential to turn your digital assets into liabilities if the tracks don’t make much revenue.

It’s also a disincentive to building a large catalog, as tracks that have few streams or sales may make a negative income. This compounds with larger catalogs of music. A large catalog of moderately successful music could outperform a hit single. If you’re a musician for life, this is worth considering.

A musician with just one (hit) single is unlikely to notice the rent. A musician with a larger catalog of tracks could feel the pinch.

How about Beatport, Traxsource and Juno Download?

If you are trying to target DJs with your music, it’s not going to happen via the major streaming sites. DJs need to be able to download the music. Some of these sites require you to set up a label page prior to release delivery.

Your aggregator may not be an expert at dance music and might not have these platforms as a priority. It’s worth finding out if they can get your music on the DJ platforms under the correct subgenre.

Do you recognise these fingerprints?

Content ID is super important and if your music is played on radio, at clubs, or featured in online videos it’d be nice to see as much revenues as possible. Fingerprinting of music is used as a form of DRM (digital rights management) by services such as DJ monitor and YouTube.

But in order for the funds to get back to you, your music distributor must send them all the information first.

Do you have direct deals with the stores?

Like my earlier point about rent on tracks, some digital distributors use third parties to access music platforms. This is unlikely done for free, which means any commission your distributor charges is after a commission by the third party delivery service.

This can have a dramatic affect the revenue you receive, because the amount referred to as ‘net receipts’ in your contract will be starting from a lower value.

What do I pay for?

Some music distribution services charge additional fees for essential items needed for releasing music online. The advertised rate might appear reasonable, but may have extra charges on top for:

ISRCs
UPC codes
Pre-Orders
Issuing Takedowns or changes
Sending you music to DRM services
Registering your music with collection societies

This may not be super transparent and the time you sign the initial agreement, but it’s worth knowing! Surely, you’d prefer to spend that extra money on quality art, mastering or marketing! Lots of little additional fees will make a hole in the budget of a self releasing musician.

What’s in it for you?

You might be able to draw your own conclusions on this one, but I think it’s really important to look at the business model of the service provider.

If you get 5 million streams, does the distributor make the same money as if you’d gotten 50 streams? If so, are you sure they have your success in mind?

A service that makes its entire revenue from new sign ups and subscriptions, may be black belts at acquisition and yellow belts at releasing music. They may also be trying to limit the human resources they spend dealing with clients as there’s no dividend for educating their partners on best practice.

This article was penned by Arlo Enemark of Noisehive. Noisehive offers digital music distribution and hands-on support to independent artists, bands and record labels. It is not a website based aggregation service staffed by web designers; its staff are music lovers and music industry professionals with deep ties to music and a wealth of industry experience. 

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