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Digital Distribution 101

July 19, 2014 by Sarah Hamilton
Article Series: The Digital World with Ditto Music
Filed Under: Artist Content

Navigating the digital space - from distribution, to release campaigns, to online marketing. How to get featured on iTunes, into the charts, an explanation of royalties and revenue. Anything digital we've got you covered.

Most of you are probably aware that you can get your music onto iTunes and other online stores by now. You’ve heard about Spotify and the controversy surrounding their royalty payouts to artists. You read things online, you talk to other musicians, and you try to create a bit of a plan. HOWEVER, there’s just so much to know. So many different schools of thought, business models, companies appearing and disappearing.

Don’t fret.

We’re going to give you a basic, simple guide to digital distribution. We work in the field and we understand what’s up.

Welcome to Digital Distribution 101 with Ditto Music.

We will pose and then answer 5 questions for you, that will help you navigate the digital world with finesse and the knowledge to make a decision that’s best for your music and your future.

What IS digital distribution?

Digital distribution refers to the process of packaging, delivering and selling music online, and then the dissemination of royalties back to artists. Companies that do this (like Ditto Music) are usually referred to as digital aggregators. Bands upload their music to our website, we package it up correctly and put it in the correct formats for the stores, deliver it to the stores, and then also pay out any money earned to our artists.

Why can’t I do that myself?

Nearly every store prefers to work with an aggregator, and will only grant contracts to aggregators. This is because of the technical work involved in delivering music correctly, and because we are also a contact point for you, the artist. Itunes don’t want to be dealing with millions of bands individually, so we take care of this, and send the music for you.

Do I have to be signed to a label or have really good music to be on iTunes?

No! Anyone can be on iTunes and sell their music online.

You don’t need to be signed to a record label, or a certain level or standard to be sell or stream your music online. As long as you have some cover art and audio files at a decent quality, most online music retailers such as iTunes, Spotify will accept your music. There are still a few that like to pick and choose what they display on their store, but they’re in the minority. Basically, if you’re a musician with anything recorded, you can distribute it digitally, and put it online to earn money.

What is the best business model for my band?

There are many different business models out there – different prices, and ideas. Some companies will take a percentage of your royalties, but you don’t need to pay upfront. Some companies will have an upfront fee and a yearly subscription fee, but won’t take any of your royalties. Some will just have an upfront fee. Make sure you read the fine print, carefully read the terms and conditions so you know what you’re paying for. Is it an exclusive contract that you won’t be able to exit easily?

Ditto Music for example, is a non-exclusive contract, with an upfront fee and yearly subscription fee, but we don’t take any percentage of royalties. This means you can leave and take your music down easily if you get signed to a major record label for example. It’s vital you know what you’re signing up for.

How do I actually do it?

It’s not scary. Check out a few different companies, and websites. Get in touch with them and ask any questions. You’ll see that some companies don’t focus on customer service, and some do. Make sure you research and talk to other people about their experiences. Then just pick which company you’ll go with, upload your music to the website, and you’ll be delivered to the online stores and streaming sites before you know it.

But how do you rise above the millions of other people on iTunes and Spotify? THAT is a question we’ll tackle next month.


The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.

Author Details

Sarah Hamilton

Sarah is Ditto Music's Client Manager for Australia. Ditto are a digital music and music video aggregator with offices in Melbourne, London, Liverpool and Nashville. With over 60 000 bands signed to us worldwide, Ditto assists with distribution to stores such as iTunes, Spotify and many more, marketing, promotion, chart registration, Vevo channel creation and other services that allow independent artists to make the most out of their careers while still remaining independent and in control.

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