All About Music Distribution

Are you a music artist looking for info about music distribution? This handy how-to guide will tell you everything you need to know today (and a little bit more).

 

Music distribution in 2017 is all about digital. But what exactly is it? Music distribution is the act of getting your music into the hands of listeners.

That’s it.

And while it may feel like there’s an awful lot more to learn, as a musician with online access and only a little money, there’s not much else you need. This will explain how to get your music live for purchase and listening all over the world, practically overnight.

Today, nearly all music distribution is digital for lots of reasons. We’re going to assume you already know the future is in online music distribution and skip the explanations about the dinosaur methods of yesterday.

But first, let’s examine why every musician should take advantage of music distribution.

  1. Music distribution is open to everyone
  2. It’s totally affordable
  3. It makes artists money
  4. Music distribution goes around the world

That first point is one everyone should know. Nobody is turned away. No record is shut down. All the people of Earth are welcome to publish music around the world.

But you’re probably more interested in the second point. Practically anybody can afford music distribution right now.

And what of making real money? Can that actually be done? The IFPI says yes, with 50% of all music sales last year coming directly from digital and only 34% from physical formats.

Streaming alone went up more than 60%. Musicians are making more money online than in any other way, live performances included.

It is a statistical fact that everyone doubles their chances to make cash with global music distribution.

The last point mentioned above describes the reach of music distribution today. When you distribute music online, you distribute to almost every corner of the planet.

This is especially true if you choose to distribute your music through MondoTunes, which has the largest distribution network in the world, the same one used by Universal artists like U2, Lady Gaga, and the Black Eyed Peas.

So now that you know why you need music distribution, which company is right for you?

A Brief Look at Music Distribution Companies

In the beginning, there was CD Baby. Founded away back in 1998, CD Baby did exactly that. They sold CDs.

After almost 20 years, their name brand is the one most people point to first.

It’s probably due to this that Wired Magazine nods to their healthy “community vibe.”

 

Seven years later, along comes Tunecore.

Tunecore provided digital retailer solutions.

This meant that musicians could go online and make their music available from online music stores.

Wired Magazine notes that Tunecore has a simple, easy setup, which is something everyone can appreciate.

 

 

Of course we’re biased about ourselves — so here’s what LedgerNote has to say about us, instead:

“The whole point of an online music distributor is they handle all the work of getting the music out. It’s a major job for them, especially if they’re getting the music to as many outlets as possible.

“Take for example a company like MondoTunes.  Their reach includes all of the big dogs such as:

  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Spotify
  • Google Play
  • Tidal
  • and over 600 more…

“With one fell swoop you can hit the sites above, toss in YouTube, Vevo, Deezer, Rhapsody, and pretty much every other distributor you can imagine.  One of the main principles of a takeover in marketing is to ‘Be everywhere at all times.’  This is how you pull that off with a literal fraction of a fraction of the effort it used to take.”

Wired Magazine loves the pricing at Mondo, which was about $40 per album at the time of writing — but today you can distribute an infinite number of releases for the same amount.

What neither LedgerNote nor Wired mentions is that Mondo is the next step in the natural evolution of music distribution.

“We essentially were the ones who linked major label distribution for indie artists,” says founder Javan Mershad. “Then we embraced recent technology and leveraged it to provide unlimited uploads.”

But is music distribution through MondoTunes all about facts and figures?

Not at all.

Excuse my breaking the so-called fourth wall, but what’s most important to me (Sean McCauley) is the relationship we have to you artists out there.

Not all of us, but we’re all for you.

Everyone from the founders, to the support crew, to the press team and mastering geniuses are themselves musicians with real music experience in the trenches. We’ve performed, we’ve sold albums, we’ve printed tee-shirts, we’ve been stiffed by the show promoter and we’ve been robbed by the indie label guy.

For my money, I suggest Mondo for the simple reason that we’re artists, too, and we shoot straight.

-Sean McCauley

Senior Editor, MondoTunes

 

 

How to Make Money Selling Merch

When you’re ready to start making money selling music merchandise, here’s how to get started.

 

One of the best ways to make money as a music artist is by peddling merchandise, or “merch,” as it’s called. It’s a great way to advertise music, especially for studio musicians who can’t sell tickets to live performances. If you’ve got creativity, a computer, and just a little starting cashola, you can start selling merch inside of a week. Here are some tips to help get your merch started.

The age-old merch staple is the tee-shirt. We’ll use that as our main example.

 

The easy part is simple economics. Go online and shop around. See how many shirts you can buy for as little as possible, but stay honest with yourself about how many people are likely to buy a shirt from you in a certain amount of time. Let’s say a month. How many people purchased your music last month? That can give you a decent idea of how many people might buy a shirt if it were available.

 

But your music doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the merch equation if your merch is marketable. If it features a logo, theme, or style that is attractive to people regardless of the fact that it’s a band tee-shirt, you can sell it to people who’ve never heard your music, and advertise your music at the same time, which is of course the whole point of band merchandise to begin with.

 

Look at this merch from heavy-metal crew All Shall Perish:


How many Bernie supporters do you think bought this shirt without ever having heard the band? Some.

 

The idea is to get a logo or theme together that will appeal to as many people as possible. That’s the hard part. Once you’ve got the idea, sketch it out on a pad of paper or, even better, using a computer. You’re going to need to put it in digital form for the best bang for your buck, anyhow, so you may as well start there if you’re comfy being creative on your laptop, desktop or smartphone.

 

You’re going for a catchy logo, phrase or cool-looking image. Some of the best-selling and best-recognized music logos include the Wu-Tang ‘W’:the Grateful Dead “Jerry Bears:” and the Bad Religion “Crossbuster:” 

That last one’s a doozy. It’s too controversial for most musicians to flaunt, but controversy does sell records. If you don’t think that logo got all kinds of attention in the 1980s (and continues to do so today) then you’re crazy. For artists trying to get people talking about their music, there’s no such thing as bad press.

 

Once you’ve got a logo, printed phrase, or other image you think will sell, you can get to work doing the actual business side of merch. You’re going to have to invest in your brand before people can buy your shirts, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are companies who will sell you large, black, cotton tee-shirts at about $7 per shirt, complete with an embroidered logo, and ship it to your house for free if you buy $200 worth of them. That works out to just under 30 shirts. You can price those at an even 10 bucks per shirt and make almost 50% profit. Not bad.

 

But you don’t have to sell shirts.

 

Everyone sells shirts. Why not get custom embroidered straw hats for summertime? Cigarette lighters with your band name on them? Beer koozies? Umbrellas? You get the picture.

 

There’s an item for every musician’s bank account and fan base. If you’ve got the imagination, the world will supply the buyers.

 

Happy merchandising, and have fun telling the world about your music!

 

–Sean McCauley

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