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The Basics of Music Distribution

Laura, the founder of LOF Audio, mixing a song on her computer

Photo credit : Geneviève Cayer

Picture this: you just received the final master of your song from LOF Audio, and you’re pleased with the final result (I mean… duuuh).

What’s the next steps? Where do you go from here?

Not to worry, we’re here to guide you towards getting your songs on all those fancy streaming services!

The Label Kids

First, we’ll rule out the obvious; if you’re signed to a record label, this entire process should be taken care of (as per your agreement with them).

After all, a record label’s job is to manage your releases and cover the expenses for the recording and the production in exchange for a large part of the money you generate.

Without Putting a Label on it

Types of distributors

However, this isn’t the case for independent artists who want to distribute their music to the various streaming services; this scenario requires a music distributor company.

There are two types of distribution services:

  • Brick and click

  • Digital

Both the Bricks…and the Clicks

Brick and click distributors are local companies who distribute your music to the various streaming services and sometimes even to local radio stations.

The benefit of opting for a brick and click distributor is that you are contributing to the local economy by encouraging a business near you.

It also means that you’ll most likely be getting a service from an actual establishment that can offer you a more customized and flexible service.

Finally, dealing with a brick and click distributor means you’ll most likely get a more efficient customer service and a more accurate price that takes into consideration the taxes of your country or region.

An example of a brick and click music distributor in Quebec is Amplitude, a company that is nonprofit and officially recognized by the Musicaction foundation.

All the Clicks

Digital distributors are mostly based online and are accessible throughout the world.

They are convenient because they usually offer other services that are related to your release, such as online promotion tools, physical copies, merchandise and digital mastering.

In terms of pricing, these services are split between two distinct categories:

  1. One-time payment + royalties:

Services like CD Baby offer to release your music in exchange for a flat rate that is accompanied by a small royalty on your song’s total revenue.

The royalty is usually under 10%, so it’s not even close to what a record label might take.

  1. Subscription-based:

Services like Distrokid offer to release your music in exchange for a fixed amount payable every year.

This is more cost-efficient for people who release a lot of music throughout the year, since you don’t pay extra for every song or album you put out.

The only issue with online distributors is the fact that they are usually US-based companies that don’t contribute to your local economy.

The distance factor also comes into play when you’re trying to order some merchandise or some physical copies, then the delivery time becomes significantly longer and there may be some duty fees when your goods enter the country.

Also, since their business is done online, there usually isn’t a phone number you can call if there’s ever an issue.

For some people, this can be a deal breaker because they like to be able to speak to someone in order to resolve any problem they may encounter. That’s definitely something to keep in mind when deciding what type of distributor you’re going to choose for your next release.

Reaching conclusions?

Now that you know a bit about the world of music distribution, the most important thing to keep in mind is that whatever service you end up choosing, the essential part is having a solid product that will reflect the passion and the hard work that you put into your project.

None of us like to make a deal that doesn’t suit our needs, and doing the proper amount of research and understanding is key to making the whole experience positive!

Stay creative,

Yaz and the LOF Audio team

A guy playing guitar and singing
Yazid, Assistant to the Regional Audio Engineer

Yazid is a Moroccan-born singer-songwriter, musician and record producer from Gatineau, QC. He joined the LOF Audio team in the fall of 2022 after finishing his college studies in audio production at Recording Arts Canada. He has been writing music for more than five years and has been performing since 2007; his first album "Mauvaise passe" is now out and available on all streaming platforms.

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