While music distribution seems like it should be a simple, straightforward process with just a few steps, the reality is far more complex. Here we follow the meandering breadcrumb trail from when a song is written to when it actually becomes available to the public.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Releasing music should be a simple process, but in the digital age, that is rarely the case.
The business of music should be simple. An artist or group writes a song, records the song, and then they make that song available to the public.
But that is not our reality. In today’s music business, artists and groups still write songs that eventually get recorded and go on to be made available to the public. However, there are numerous additional steps in the process that must be taken to ensure reach and revenue. Here’s one example:
A local band writes a song they love. The group plays a few shows to raise money and books studio time. After recording, the group sends their material to be mixed and mastered by someone with a history of success in their genre. While that is happening, the band works on the cover art for the song, finding an artist to make that cover art, and funding the creation of their press kit.
Once the song is returned, the band must upload the material to a promotional site to try and get the interest of press and industry professionals prior to the song’s release date, all of whom have to be contacted one at a time. The group must also upload their music to a digital distribution platform (perhaps multiple platforms) and ensure their song will be available on all of the dozens of streaming services. They may also need to order physical copies of their music, which can take anywhere from one week to several months to get back.
The band must also promote the release extensively across numerous channels, all with no guarantee of success or response.
That is the reality of life in music for most artists working today. Fans don’t always understand the work that goes into getting a single song to the public, and some artists don’t grasp why going the extra mile to ensure all those things are to the best of their abilities can impact the response the material receives.
Thankfully, a new video exists that breaks down music distribution in today’s entertainment industry. Check it out:
While the new age of music business can be complicated it also has its fair share of perks:
- Faster payment/royalties
- Manufacturing costs are much lower (especially for digital-only releases)
- Artists can release more music, more often if they choose to do so.
- More music is available to more people than ever before, and it requires far less cost/effort to access it.
Considering how much the industry has changed in the ten years since Spotify first launched, one has to wonder what it will look like a decade from now. Will streaming still reign supreme? Will consumers have as many choices as they do now? Will vinyl still have a market? Only time will tell.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.