Distributor and Label: What’s what?
Every label needs distribution, but not every record label is a distributor. So, what are the differences between the two? How do you know which is more suited for your career?
Come with me. Hop in my time-machine and let’s head back to the 70s…
It’s a magical time. Music is being played from Vinyl and music discovery is led by the radio and live shows.
With limitations on how artists can find success it is much harder to go out on your own. Only a handful of channels are contributing to the consumption and discovery of music and this leaves control of artist’s fate to just a handful of people. The radio stations determine what gets broadcast, venues decide who can play live and the big labels decide what can hit the record-store shelves. Effectively the labels and their contacts have complete control over the spread of music.
Now, lets head back to the present. Things have changed in more recent times with the rise of the internet. Technology such as file-sharing, downloads and streaming have reinvented the wheel changing how music is shared and consumed.
These changes paved the way for artist independence with the assistance of music distributors offering an alternative path to break into the industry.
For many artists it can be hard to know the difference between distributors and labels. Here, we will explore an overview of what these services do and what might suit your needs…
What do Record Labels do?
In short, the job of a record label is to represent, exploit and market recorded music.
Record labels engage in a wide range of functions within the industry spanning artist recruitment, music production, publishing and copyright management. The primary focus of a record label is marketing, as they rely on public awareness of their artists in order to make money. They still curate great music and nurture the artist, but their involvement is most essential in marketing.
Major record labels offer deals to the world’s most prominent artists, putting their music in the hands of millions of consumers within days. Whilst smaller and indie labels focus on using their networks and contacts to promote to more niche audiences, helping them become better known and build a name.
Typically, an Indie label is thought to be more in the know of ongoing trends and offer a more personalised service than the big leagues, but the paycheques won’t be as high.
Often labels will take a significant cut of artist’s earnings from their music in exchange for a full-service support partnership.
However, some labels set artist contract terms in their own favour. Such as with newly signed artists, labels will exercise complete control over the type of music they record. It is very possible to have a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with a label. Some artists recognise a number of these conditions for what they are: a compromise to gain wider access, more support and nurturing into an established artist. As an artist becomes more established, they will often be able to negotiate better terms.
What do distributors do?
A distributor is a company who will manage your distribution for you. Distribution is the process of delivering your music to the public via channels such as Digital, where it can be downloaded or streamed. Digital distributors upload music to streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, as well as to digital stores including Amazon and iTunes.
Distributors can work with artists and labels to get their music out to the world. Independent artists can benefit from utilising a digital distributor’s service to get their music out around the world. By using a distribution agency, independent artists can sell their music without the constraints and retain full ownership.
Some distribution companies will accept everyone who wishes to sell their music. Others will focus on working with a select catalogue of artists who they feel their platform can help more. Distributors vary in pricing models, some of which charge upfront or annual fees, others work on a royalties share basis and a number use a combination of the two.
Distributors provide exceptional value to artists in saving them time and ensuring the widest reach for a reasonable price. The service offered by distributors is more transactional than that of a label. You pay for distribution services and they get your music up on the biggest digital platforms and you keep control of your advertising, production and music. Most distributors do not get involved in promotion but may offer some additional services to help your music achieve a wider reach.
Which one is right for me?
Which one is right for you will depend entirely on what you are looking for…
With a record label you will get the full package. This is great if you are just starting out as an artist. They will know where to find your target audience and how to get you there. A record label will nurture you into a future successful artist and build up the foundations of your fanbase. However, you will likely surrender a large portion of the earnings and creative control of your brand, music and image.
A distributor is more suited to you if you are looking for a more independent approach. With a distribution deal you will be able to get your music out to the world while keeping full control. If you use a distributor you will need to take care of your own marketing and promotion. If you feel confident in your own promotion skills, or know someone to help, distribution is perfect for you!
Are you looking to get your music out there? With Identity Music you can get your music all over the globe in order to gain the maximum exposure. By using our distribution and music promotion services, you’ll be able to take control while watching your music reach new heights.
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