Tag Archive: Digital Music Distribution

  1. Three Key Streaming Questions for Independent Labels and Artists

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    Streaming is now the main way of making money in the sale of music and this will probably continue to be the trend in the near future. Because of this, it is important that those who are wanting to enter into the marketplace are aware of the main talking points around streaming, in order to be aware of what could negatively affect them but also, how to make the most of the opportunity. Here are four of the key topics discussed in streaming:

    When it comes to releasing music it is now hard to ignore the option of having your music available to be streamed if you want to maximise your revenue. However, the constant criticism of these platforms paying famously low royalty rates can sometimes make artists and labels feel like they are being ripped off. As with any other decisions in your career, it is important to analyse what is best for you individually - what characteristics your audience has (would they use streaming platforms?) and then decide where is best to place your music.

    What is the YouTube Value Gap?

    Are all streams equal? YouTube has roughly ten times (or more) the users than Spotify but Spotify pays ten times the amount of money. This is what the industry is struggling to deal with.  However, this needs to be discussed carefully as the industry wouldn’t want Spotify and Apple Music to try to drop down to YouTube’s lower royalty rates. Rather, we need to understand the value that each platform offers apart from just their royalties. Artists and labels should also be able to find out what they are making on every stream, on every platform, in order to allow them to pick where their music is distributed.

    It’s a good idea to look at the difference between YouTube and other streaming platforms as YouTube = promotion, and Spotify, Apple Music etc. = consumption (e.g. where the money is made). Giving away your music for free for promotional purposes doesn’t always work. For example, if you release a track to be streamed for free on YouTube there is no guarantee that people will listen to it and then seek out and listen to your track/s on a paid platform (e.g. Spotify) because you’ve already given it away for free. But sometimes, this is exactly what YouTube is great for. It’s important not to force the industry into one model. Every artist is different and all consumers listen differently so it’s important to analyse what is best for your music and your audience.

    If you’re worried that putting your music on YouTube won’t generate consumption on other platforms then it can be used to release trailers for upcoming releases instead. This generates interest in your music and ensures that if they want to listen to your music then the only place they can get it is on the platforms that pay higher royalty rates. Focus reach over reward e.g. using YouTube/VEVO to up-sell to other higher-paying platforms, tickets to live gigs or sites selling your merch.

    Is Windowing a Good Thing?

    Spotify have recently renewed their deals with labels to allow them to ‘window’ releases on the premium tier of their platform. This is something that is already done by the likes of Apple Music. This means that some releases may only being available to premium-tier users for the first 2-weeks after release. It’s interesting to have the option, but every album and artist should be looked at through different lenses meaning that windowing isn’t always the way forward but relevant in some cases.

    The main concern was that this “punishes” users of free-tier streaming. However, so many streams are now coming from premium users (up to 80% for some artists) so therefore this is less of a problem than it used to be. Artists and labels need to get the balance right to encourage listens rather than stifle the opportunity of getting new listeners.

    Do Indies and Majors Get the Same Opportunities?

    Independent artists and labels do extremely well on streaming platforms. When looking at how major and indie repertoire is represented on streaming platforms, Apple Music favours heavily onto indies.

    However, independent music is perhaps more niche so it can be harder to get into certain playlists. It’s about relationships and these are getting stronger for the indies. Thanks to good relationships between distributors and streaming platforms you no longer need to be signed to a major label to get the same deals. There aren’t any shut doors for independents, you just need to speak the right language to whoever can open that door for you e.g. why does your track benefit them? Where does it fit on the platform? Who can help you get your music onto that platform?

    When it comes to releasing music it is now hard to ignore the option of having your music available to be streamed if you want to maximise your revenue. However, the constant criticism of these platforms paying famously low royalty rates can sometimes make artists and labels feel like they are being ripped off. As with any other decisions in your career, it is important to analyse what is best for you individually – what characteristics your audience has (would they use streaming platforms?) and then decide where is best to place your music.

  2. How Important Are Streaming Playlists?

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    You can have a successful marketing campaign without playlist support from streaming platforms, but it is definitely something you should consider as a marketing tool for your next release. As more and more people turn to streaming as their primary source of music listening, applying techniques that relate to these platforms can certainly help boost your reach.

    How Important Are Streaming Playlists?

    How Many People Actually Listen To Playlists?

    Before considering whether playlists are right for you, it’s important to understand how many people actually engage with playlists rather than going direct to the single, album or EP that is available.

    Kobalt Music Group (one of the largest independent music service providers in the industry) says that about 10% of streaming plays come from playlists – therefore, perhaps basing a campaign around specific services’ playlists isn’t a great long-term strategy. This is because once the music comes off the playlists you have nothing left and you are potentially only appealing to 10% of your listening audience.

    If you want to get your music onto playlists you should be mixing this with other techniques that can reach other sectors of your audience.

    What Playlists Are The Most Important?

    The answer to this question totally depends on what music you are making. Perhaps the most well-known playlists are the ‘New Music Friday’ playlists. However, the tracks on these playlists burn fast – they are constantly changing. It may be considered a high-profile playlist, but if you are considering using playlists as part of your marketing campaign then it is perhaps more beneficial to be on a more specialised playlist with less followers as this may have more engagement.

    You should define what genre of music you make and then search for playlists that are created around this type of music. Follow them for a few weeks and get to know how often the tracks are changed around. This will tell you which playlists will give you the most coverage. It’s not just about how many followers it has – a playlist could have tens of thousands of followers, but if your track is only on there for a few days then this won’t give you as much exposure as a playlist that has a couple thousand followers but gives you weeks of coverage.

    How Do I Get Playlisted?

    On sites like YouTube where there’s a user-upload system, you don’t need to engage the actual platform, just the person who is making the playlists. This can often be quite easy – most people have some sort of contact details on their channel / profile or there is a messaging system embedded into the platform. Again, find out what each playlist curator usually includes and tell them why your track would fit with that playlist.

    If you are going for the big-guns like Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer etc. then the chances are you may already be using a distributor to get your music on that platform in the first place. Some of these distributors have great relationships in place with these platforms already, and can help you get onto various playlists through their own in-house marketing packages.

    What Can I Do Myself To Boost My Marketing Efforts?

    When it comes to playlisting, you don’t have to always rely on other people to include you in their playlists to help with your marketing campaign – create your own! If you’ve got a new track you want to tell people about and link people to in your website / social media announcements, first create a playlist that has your promoted track first on the list, followed by some of your other material. For example, after someone has watched a video on YouTube it automatically starts playing content from other channels.

    If you link people to your own playlist on YouTube then it keeps people on your own content. Similarly with Spotify or Apple Music – yes, you want to be promoting that specific track, but you should also be getting people hooked on you as an artist! Why not point them in the direction of more of your content? Linking people to playlists you’ve made of your own music can do this.

    Playlists are certainly important in a marketing campaign but are not the be-all and end-all of one. It’s all about analysing your own music and figuring out what playlists and what other strategies are best for the genre of music you create and for the audience you are trying to promote to.

  3. Release Checklist

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    When you’re ready to distribute your music, there are a few things you need to check to help speed up the release process.

    Release Checklist


    Metadata (Information such as the artist, release title, genre, copyright information etc.)


    • Product titles and track titles should be formatted in title case. (e.g. This Is Title Case, This is sentence case).
    • The following should all be lower case, unless they are used at the beginning or end of a title: a, an, and, as, at, but, by, for, from, in, into, nor, of, off, on, onto, or, out, over, so, the, to, up, with and yet.
    • The following words should be abbreviated in the format outlined below: Featuring = ‘feat.’, Number = ‘No.’, Part = ‘Pt.’, Volume = ‘Vol.’, Versus = ‘vs.’.
    • Do not use generic titles such as Track 1, Track 2, or Instrumental, unless they are actual titles of the tracks. If a track contains more than one song, in the ‘title’ field these names must be separated by a slash (/). Note that you must place a space before and after the slash.


    • Version descriptions differentiate multiple versions of an album and should indicate how the version is different from the original (e.g. Bonus Edition, Instrumental Version, Acoustic Version etc.).
    • Version descriptions must not include ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Limited Edition’.
    • Mix descriptions allow multiple versions of tracks (such as remixes) to be differentiated from each other. Silent, hidden and ghost tracks must be clearly labeled here. Information such as ‘Live’ or ‘Instrumental’ should also be labelled.
    • Mix descriptions must not include ‘Clean Version’, ‘Single/EP/Album Version’, ‘Original Version’ etc.


    • Artist names, however, can be stylised, meaning they don’t have to be in title case.
    • The artist or artists must be credited in the artist field at both product level and track level. Input each individuals name on a new line. Bands or duos etc. count as an artist, it is not necessary to input each band members name.
    • Each individual credited in the artist field should also be credited in the display artist field at both product and track level. If there are multiple artists this should be formatted as ‘Artist One feat. Artist Two’ or ‘Artist One with Artist Two’ etc.


    • The barcode can be left blank and one will be assigned to your release or you can input a barcode you have been given.
    • The catalogue number can also be left blank and one will be assigned to the release or you can simply create your own. Please note that this number needs to be unique and therefore should be relatively long and/or alphanumeric (you can use your barcode).
    • ISRC codes must be formatted as ‘AA-BBB-CC-DDDDD’.


    • The release format type must be correct. A single release is one of between 1-3 tracks, an EP is a release of between 4-6 tracks (or less than 30 minutes in total) and an album is a release of 7+ tracks (or more than 30 minutes in total).


    • Some releases may need licenses for certain areas (for example, cover versions will need licensing for the U.S), the ‘licensed territories to include’ and ‘licensed territories to exclude’ fields let us know where we are able to distribute your release(s).

    Rights holders

    • The (p) holder field is for the name of the phonographic rights holder for the release.
    • The (c) holder is the name of the graphics rights holder.


    • The genres inputted must match the content of the release (we can be lenient to a point but we can’t submit a heavy metal track as an electro pop song!)

    Explicit content

    • Explicit content must be marked as such. This includes titles, artist names and lyrical content. There are certain stores that do not accept explicit content therefore this field must be correct.


    • The services field lets us know which stores to send your release to. Dance and electronic stores only accept dance and electronic music, karaoke and ‘sound a like’ stores will accept karaoke tracks, sound effects, public domain and excessive content whereas stores such as iTunes won’t.

    Album Artwork

     File sizes

    • The dimensions of the artwork should be square, 3000 x 3000 pixels minimum.
    • The image DPI should be 300 pixels/inch.
    • The image should be in RGB colour format.

    Artwork content

    • If there is text displayed on the album artwork it should match the metadata – the artist name and product title should be clear (however, you do not need to add text if you do not want to).
    • The image must be of high quality (must not be blurred, pixelated etc.).
    • Artwork must not contain pornography. Some nudity on artwork is accepted but the release may be marked as explicit.
    • Artwork must not contain pricing, references to physical packaging, references to it being a digital product, references to content that is missing (such as a DVD or lyrics) and must not advertise or up-sell another product.
    • The artwork must not be misleading (e.g. referencing an artist that does not appear on the release).

    Audio Files

    File sizes

    • Audio files must be 16 or 24 bit.
    • The audio file sample rate must be 44.1kHz minimum and 96kHz maximum.
    • The audio must be in stereo.

    Artwork content

    • The audio must sound professional (must be mixed). There should be no distortion, clipping or any other quality issues.
    • Any audio samples or unoriginal material used may need licenses.


    • Multiple copies of the same content will not be accepted (this could include repeated submissions of the same audio files with different titles or artist names).
    • Content may be hidden by some stores if if there are too many versions of a song that are available.
    • Compilations may be hidden by some stores if they contain tracks that duplicate tracks elsewhere in the store. Compilation may also be hidden if we or the stores realise that the tracks are not properly licensed or if the content has no editorial value.
    • Content must be legal and appropriate for the countries you own the license to distribute your content into.
    • Tracks on any album are not to exceed 99.

    If you have any questions regarding the release checklist please don’t hesitate to contact us.