I know I’ve asked the above in my Adult years. I’ll be happy to answer! I know I can’t be the only one who was a little shaky about their knowledge of this early on. Let me fill you in!
A Distribution Company
Is a company who works close with a Record Label. This idea itself is a little bit outdated but we’ll catch up to the modern music Industry fast. The Distribution Company is to ensure records hit shelves and are in stores. The manufacturer of the material in a tangible format (For example, Vinyl records). Distribution also handles logistics. It’s up them to know when Bob over at the Shipping Department placed that last crate of vinyl onto the truck for delivery.
From Label to Shelf, is for the Distributor to handle. If providing a more 21st century answer, a Distribution Company is not dissimilar to days gone by. Nowadays they deal in digital goods more than other commodities. This drives down cost to the musician for distribution. We have demand and competition to thank for this. It does also open the doors to a LOAD more music submission.
Who Does This Here Distributing Thingy?
Let’s cover a few examples of Distribution companies and the nuances between their offerings. Once we understand the ‘Who’ here it will be easier to comprehend the ‘What’ they do.
Distrokid – Announced the other day (today being 1/31/21) they are largest Distribution company Globally. I believe them! Far as I’m concerned there are pros and cons to being their customer but I only am one because they stood out when Googling years ago. There’s nothing too fancy, there’s nothing in particular that’s missing.
One questionable aspect of their approach is how they deal with auto-renewal of your annual membership fee. Make sure your credit card associated with them is always up-to-date. When you activate a new card, make your first stop following that Distrokids billing page. Why the urgency? If your card is out of date come time for them to bill you your annual fee and the card is declined, your account is shut down. The songs on Spotify distributed by Distrokid are removed from the platform. Seems a bit rash, right? What if I simply forgot my Distrokid login?
I Can Get From Their Side Why This Is Done.. Kind Of?
There’s the obvious reason it costs them money to their financial institution when your transaction fails. Still, most businesses regardless of Industry, assess a fee once the account is no longer in arrears and everyone moves on with their lives.
Depending On How Long
You’ve been with Distrokid the fallout from this scare tactic of theirs can be catastrophic. We rely nowadays on numbers and statistics, the higher the better. Accumulating listens, streams and likes always takes time. The numbers associated reflect a lot of effort put in from the artist. They could be requested of you by someone looking to finance your project like a label. If this cannot be produced due to what’s sounding more and more like a Father trying to teach his kid a lesson on diligence in finance, it could be damaging to this lucrative opportunity. How does this simple billing mistake revoke your entire catalog? Even after talking through what happens their logic for operating this way is still a mystery to me.
See For Yourself!
As always, don’t listen to only me. Head over to that horse and get your research from it’s mouth instead..
Their ‘Musician’ tier is $19.99 / Year. Included you are able to upload unlimited songs and lyrics. You will receive a ‘Spotify Verified Check Mark’. In addition, you can collect ‘team’ earnings for 1 artist or band.
Their ‘Musician Plus’ tier is what I use for $35.99/Yr. Included Included you are able to upload unlimited songs and lyrics. You will receive a ‘Spotify Verified Check Mark’. In addition, you can collect ‘team’ earnings for 2 artists or bands. Included on Plus and not ‘Musician’ is synced lyrics for instagram, daily sales stats, customizable label name, preorder date, release date, and iTunes pricing.
They offer the ‘Label’ tier of service for $79.99. Included you receive unlimited song uploads and lyrics uploads, the ‘Spotify Verified Check Mark’, synced lyrics for Instagram, daily sales stats, a customizable label name, release date, preoder date, iTunes pricing. You will be able to collect team earnings and this is for 5-100 artists or bands.
Their ‘Artist’ Tier Is $19.99/Yr. And Sports The Following:
Your material is distributed to 200+ outlets, Ditto takes 0% commission, unlimited releases, self-managed playlist service, as more digital streaming platforms come to market your material is added free of charge, immediate payouts, hourly iTunes and Spotify trending reports, Vevo Distribution, and prerelease features. This is all for one Artist.
Their ‘Professional’ Tier Is $29.99/Yr. And Sports The Same As Above Plus The Ability To Release Compilations For Two Artists. They Also Have A Label Option Starting At $69.99/Yr.
I picked Ditto and Distrokid first because they are standard. This is what you can expect, more or less, from a Distribution Company. It’s not exceptionally exciting but there’s some folks approaching it with unique angles worth mentioning as well.
Amuse is great if you plan your releases in advance. I used them for years ahead of Distrokid. Happy to say there were no issues of note. One must be patient when using Amuse. That’s the tricky part. If you do have the patience they are
At their most basic of levels. Completely and with an impressive lack of strings attached.
Amuse includes a promise to deliver your release to online streaming services within 28 days of upload. This was the patience I spoke of earlier. No matter how antsy you are the soonest release date you can get is the soonest available. For free I find it pretty cool that they will even address the next part. Amuse guarantees a reply to your email questions within 7 days of receipt. They keep the lights on by taking a 15% fee of royalties. This is actually not terrible. A little on the high side but nothing shocking. Also, realize you aren’t about to receive any substantial returns from streaming services just yet. Taking 15% of nothing, is still nothing. Last, they make an important distinction from their Amuse Pro service. Amuse will release your material to all major music services on both free and Pro. Pro takes the focus over to social media.
Sports 14 day delivery time to all major music services. On the Pro tier there will be a reply to your support inquiry within 24 hours. There is no royalty split on Pro. Pro grants access to social release on social media (how exactly, I still cannot tell. They say they will release to TikTok, Facebook and Instagram.). There are Team and Multi-user accounts and the ability to set custom release dates and label names.
Ehem… Excuse Me, Say What Who?
A P.R.O. is a Performance Rights Organization (AKA Publishing Rights Organization). These Organizations serve as an intermediary between Customers and Rights Holders. Interestingly enough, the first of these Organizations came from France back in 1851!
Let’s drop the fancy language a second. It is a P.R.O.’s job to get you paid off the material you have present in their catalog. If you aren’t getting paid, they aren’t either. They keep eyes out for use of your material so you receive payment on it (they can get also paid for finding out about it).
This aspect explained above is amazing. For my money, it is reason all alone to ensure you seek publication in a P.R.O. works catalog. Despite being pretty awesome for what they provide above, it’s not why I use them.
B.M.I. – Short for Broadcast Music Inc., B.M.I., was founded in 1939. It collects license fees from businesses that use music on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers. They then distribute these as royalties to the members whose work had been performed.
Their Site Explains
“BMI is the bridge between songwriters and the businesses and organizations that want to play their music publicly. As a global leader in music rights management, BMI serves as an advocate for the value of music, representing over 17 million musical works created and owned by more than 1.1 million songwriters, composers and music publishers.”
What B.M.I. is stating above is that they assist in licensing your material to folks who want to publicly use your material. They negotiate this usage, take a percent for doing so and give you the rest. They are able to assist Globally, which is great because Country-to-Country this stuff gets REALLY complicated.
They are free to use and you should investigate their services in order to make sure you are always paid fairly for your work. Also, they have the added benefit of providing you legal documentation which may be of assistance if the most lame of copyright circumstances befall you.
Neighbors to the North are more likely to recognize Canadian-based P.R.O. S.O.C.A.N. (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). SOCAN has an interesting focus.
SOCAN handles rights management for 150,000 songwriters, publishers, composers, and visual artists.
They are monoliths in Canadian publishing. As they themselves say on their site, “Without SOCAN, you would have to get permission and negotiate a royalty with every songwriter, lyricist, and music publisher whose work you intend to play (publicly perform) – a feat that most of us have neither the time nor the means to achieve.”
A & R
S.O.C.A.N. Discusses that traditionally they worked with labels to develop the career of artists they were interested in themselves. Realizing that supporting music publishers was of greater value to them than labels, SOCAN took their large base of loyal customers and began developing a strategy to flush talent out of the woodwork to help music publishers groom up and comers. The result is a higher demand for talent and why SOCAN is worth knowing the name of.
Participates in advocacy for the proper and fair use of their members musical material.
The SOCAN Awards are held annually in both Toronto and Montreal to celebrate Canadian artists.
Since 2006, S.O.C.A.N. has given out the SOCAN songwriting prize to honor the best works by emerging Canadian artists from the previous year.
The Prospect Of
Receiving money I’d not otherwise known about is exciting beyond belief. My P.R.O. functions as my trail of breadcrumbs. It’s a somewhat more an official way to present evidence of ownership. If you ever need to file a copyright claim against another party you want as much proof as you can muster. Paperwork (SIGNED paperwork!) has saved my butt from a MAJOR fire that could have led to expensive litigation at least once.
I use B.M.I as my P.R.O. which is free and straightforward to use. I cannot stress how important it is to take a moment and register your works. Doesn’t need to be with anyone in particular (unless you have good reason for specificity). Trust me, when you need their help you’ll be over-joyed you did take that moment to register the work. Now, don’t confuse what a P.R.O. does with trademarking.
While a P.R.O.’s work grazes copyright law, since it sort of has to, this next point is crucial. registering your work does not mean you hold any sort of trademark or copyright on the material. You can have this done. But, it is worth mentioning this very important difference.
Moral Of This Story
P.R.O. Stands for Publishing Rights Organization. You will want to align with the services of one. To find who is best for where you are located (or publishing internationally for your musical works), please turn to Google. There’s many P.R.O.’s and it’s best to do your research on who can help you inside the territory you are doing business most. They are good guys who find money for the both of you that would otherwise gone unpaid to anyone. They are a smart call for unintended consequences as well. If copyright issues ever show their faces documentation from your Publisher will help you draw a clear trail of breadcrumbs directly back to your art easier.