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GET YOUR MUSIC OUT THERE: DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION EXPLAINED

So you’ve written a banger – maybe you’ve even recorded an EP, or better yet, a full album – and you’re wanting to put it out in the world for people to hear. After all, you’ve put so much blood, sweat and tears into this new music, that it would be a sin not to share it.


Back in the day, musicians wanting to showcase their music and get it to their fans had to do it by way of record labels getting the music to distribution companies, who would get physical copies of the music (i.e. CDs and vinyl records) into stores. Fast forward to around 2018, major retailers started phasing out the sale of CDs due to the rise of digital streaming platforms, ultimately changing the way musicians released their work.


Today, Spotify and other streaming platforms have made it easier than ever to listen to your favourite tunes, discover new artists, and stay on top of the latest releases – but the question is, what goes into getting your music onto these platforms?



Digital Music Distribution in a Nutshell

The goal of digital distribution is to get your music onto an online music platform (i.e. Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, etc.) as well as onto social media platforms. Through these digital service providers (or DSPs for short), fans can stream, download and sometimes even buy your music.

The catch here is that not just anyone can upload their music to these streaming platforms. If you’re a musician wanting to get your music onto a well-known DSP, you’ll need a middleman – enter the music distributor.


While sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp allow for easy distribution of music without needing that middleman, they offer little reach and few opportunities to gain new listeners.


Music distributors are there to get your music onto popular platforms and help you reach a wider audience. They can make sure your music gets onto platforms specific to different regions, such as NetEase in China, so that you don’t miss fans from around the world.

They also make sure your music gets onto social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, making it possible for people to use your music on their videos (which is another great way to market your music.)


Possibly the most important reason to use a music distributor is receiving those royalties. Music distributors collect your royalties from all DSPs and make them accessible for you in one place, meaning you don’t have to chase after each provider for your cash.



Choosing the Right Distributor

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a music distribution company. There are many different distribution companies out there, each offering different services and payment models. Research is key when it comes to choosing the one that works for you.


Some of the most popular independent distribution companies include:

When researching the different options, you’ll need to consider a number of factors. For example, some companies work on a subscription model where you’ll pay an annual fee to distribute unlimited songs and keep your music on streaming platforms, as long as your subscription is paid; whereas others allow you to pay per single, EP or album once-off.

Some companies take a percentage of your royalties, while others allow musicians to keep 100%.


There are plenty of extras and add-ons unique to each company, such as music mastering and trade marketing packages, so make sure to go through the lists thoroughly when making a decision. Keep in mind that not all distribution companies are open to everyone – some require artists to apply first.



The Important Stuff

As mentioned, there are some key things to take into account before choosing a distributor. If you have a fan base in places such as the Middle East or China, make sure your distributor covers DSPs in those regions. You want to make sure your music gets onto the platforms that are popular in those areas, otherwise some fans may miss your music.


Another important aspect is making sure your music is available on Instagram and TikTok. Social media platforms have the power to make music go viral and get your song trending. This exposes your work to a much broader audience and increases engagement.

Content monetization goes hand-in-hand with this, so finding a distributor who can keep track of your music’s use in TikTok videos or Instagram reels is crucial if you want to avoid missing out on more royalties and ad revenue.


Also take note of things like publishing royalties if you write your own music, and whether a distributor can provide you with promotional and marketing tools to get your music onto popular playlists and featured spots.


Last but not least, make sure the distributor provides good customer service. You’ll have more peace of mind knowing that you can chat to a support agent if you have any questions or if something goes wrong.



Your Music's on Spotify: Now What?

Getting your music uploaded to DSPs can certainly feel like an amazing accomplishment, especially for those artists just starting out. But the work doesn’t stop there.


It’s one thing to get your music onto a streaming platform, it’s another to get people to actually listen to it.


While singles, EPs and albums are the reason you’re on a DSP in the first place, making sure you’ve got your About section covered and social media links linked on these platforms are just as necessary to get you noticed. Adding as much relevant info and photos as possible makes all the difference.


As we briefly touched on earlier, one of the best ways to get your music out there is by getting it onto a playlist. Some distribution companies offer help in this department, but there are some ways you can get onto a playlist yourself.


Spotify playlists have gained popularity over the last while, and include three different types:

  • Editorial playlists – these are playlists compiled by an actual human being that has taken time to listen to the songs chosen for the playlist.

  • Algorithm playlists – these are data-driven playlists based off of music that a user frequently listens to.

  • User-generated playlists – these are playlists created by… well, users of course. Anyone is able to create their own playlists on Spotify.


Start by making your own playlist with around 30 tracks, including your music. Sure, we all love a good guilty-pleasure mix of genres to listen to in the comfort of our own homes, but this type of playlist isn’t going to get Spotify’s attention.


Curate a genre-specific playlist reflecting your own music. Think about where you fit in the music scene – what bands would you like to tour with? Which festivals would you most likely play at? Create a playlist targeted to your desired audience.


Next, you’ll want to pitch to playlist curators. Try reaching out to smaller curators – your chances of being included are better, and they’re a great place to start. You can type genre-related keywords into Spotify’s search to discover playlists. Approach independent curators and try building a relationship with them so you’ll be included for playlists to come.


Remember to continue cross-promoting on your socials too. Make sure your website, DSP links, and social media channels are linked on Linktree or a similar tool, making it easy for new followers to find your music at the tap of a button.


Make sure your social media bios are clear – it’s the first thing people see when viewing your profile, so if you’ve got a new single out, MENTION IT and link it in your bio. It's imperative that people clearly see who you are and what you do, but keep it short and sweet. Engage with your followers, as well as your ideal audience in a meaningful way.


If you want people to care about your music, you’ve got to show you care about them, so approach each marketing avenue with intention.

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