Music Business: Choosing Your Platform
When it comes to putting yourself out there, the modern music industry more often resembles the wild west than the big studios and dreams of meetings with label heads that I had when I was young. The days of waiting “to be heard” are over with the advent of multiple self distribution outlets, which include major platforms such as Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music. Musicians used to have to jump through the hoops of businessmen and management to find the right distribution, but now it is as easy as having a credit card and a little bit of a knack for Googling. The free services like Soundcloud, Youtube, and Bandcamp all offer a way for an artist to upload their own music and promote it through groups, comments, and social media linking. While Bandcamp offers a premium service that allows you to sell your music just by linking your Paypal, Youtube still offers the option for monetization from ads on your original videos. Soundcloud’s premium service allows for more customization and provides access to a community of artists and fans that have propelled many artists (ex. Chance the Rapper, xXxtentacion, etc.) into the national spotlight.
As for the major paid services (such as Spotify, iTunes, and Tidal), there is still a remnant of the old industry in how you access them. There are major self distribution companies (such as CD Baby, TuneCore, and Distrokid) that all offer the service of linking your bank account or credit card to the account, and they send your songs to these major platforms. Distrokid specifically allows you to pay a yearly fee for an unlimited amount of uploads and provides an easily readable statistics break down. CD Baby and Tunecore are both longstanding companies in the self distribution business. Both offer a larger statistics breakdown than Distrokid, provide access towards printing physical copies, and provide different pay scales for individual projects versus a yearly subscription.
In short, when it comes to choosing distribution it’s all up to where you want to focus your marketing. You may find yourself with a huge following on Soundcloud and want to focus your marketing dollar that way, or you may have a song that starts trending on Spotify. The only real advice that stuck with me when I made my choice was to “pay attention to ALL the features and ask all the questions.”