Every musician or beat producer knows that situation: you finished your new original song and want to make it available for the public on all major digital music stores and common streaming services. Previously, several providers offered this service next to other services like the collection of royalties in exchange for a subscription fee or a fee per release and year. Tunecore, Spinnup (pay per release) and Ditto Music and Distrokid (annual subscription fee) are some known providers of that kind in the distribution sector. But there is a trend that seems to change the fundamentals of the digital distribution market - free distribution for musicians!
Free Distribution! - The Offers
Amuse.io was the first provider offering free distribution to all major platforms (150+ stores) I heard about. As I got in touch with this emergent company from Stockholm in early 2017, it was advertised as "world's first mobile record company" that allows the user to distribute his music only by using his mobile phone. With its cofounder Will.I.Am, Amuse offers you the free service because they hope to find the next outstanding hitmakers so they can sign them afterwards to their label. The app allows you to have insights into all available data generated through the stores and streaming services that can help the artist to optimise his promotion, touring and maybe also help to plan the next upcoming releases. Another benefit is that there are no cuts of the musician's royalties.
However, there are also some disadvantages like a missing web service (access via, e.g. computer is what I miss here) and multi-user support ("coming soon" as stated by Amuse) that is probably needed for running an independent label via Amuse with multiple acts managed through a single account. Advanced analytics and royalty splitting is also announced by the startup as planned features in the future. Worth a try - absolutely love their concept and their brand!
The music streaming giant Spotify announced "Upload beta" in September that allows artists to distribute their music directly to Spotify. This feature is free, and the content owner also received the full royalties. Very interesting that Spotify now tries to take down the digital distributors; about the company's intention we only can speculate right now. Nevertheless, it needs to be said that the artist logically can distribute to Spotify by using that feature and not to Apple's iTunes, Amazon Music and other major stores.
Currently, the service is only available by invitation to musicians with a US bank account and tax ID. But Spotify is already working on a rollout in other countries. Get more information about the new feature here.
Also currently in the beta phase and silently launched was the free distribution service Level of Radar Scope Ltd that is managed by Warner Music executives from the UK and US. As you read through the website, you see that the company is not sure at the moment of the final set of features and if the service remains entirely free. That also reflects the terms of service of Level where the company reserved itself the certain freedom to change some conditions. Level offers statistics next to landing pages for the musician's releases and can be compared with the functionalities of the competition. With only nine available stores/platforms to which the artist can distribute his music, the possibilities are significantly lower compared to Amuse.io with over 150 stores but still covers the most important channels.
Pros And Cons Of Free Distribution
The question I am asking myself now is if this movement of offering free distribution has overall a positive impact or results in negative changes in the music industry.
Just think about the huge load of additional music that will flood the music platforms. By removing the barrier of the required "investments" by the artists to be able to distribute their music to the major channels, the average quality of the distributed records can be possibly be lowered. Because absolute amateurs can release their music without paying anything or other spam content can be easily put on the platforms. It also needs to be mentioned that only a very small amount of the daily released music worldwide is explored by the music audience. The free distribution will additionally exacerbate the situation to be explored and to somehow stand out of the masses.
However, for the (semi-)professional music sector producing proper products, it can reduce the costs connected with a release, but if this amount is significant and if that benefit whitewashes all other (possible) downsides of the industry shift is questionable.
What do you think about this change? Did you already have experiences with the mentioned services? Leave a comment down below or write us an e-mail. With those questions we say goodbye for this one - see you next time :)