The internet was my source for everything when I taught myself web design, photography, promoting techniques, design and all sorts of other crazy shit used for my band Midnight Mob. I wanted to make this my first topic since Carly is going through it right now with getting the music out there for Misfit Saints. When it came to Midnight Mob I did all the heavy lifting no one else wanted to do, but Misfit Saints is her fantastic voyage, therefore, a beautiful catastrophe full of head scratching enlightenment. I am more of a details person and when you spend a bunch of time and money you at least want the satisfaction of hearing it on your preferred streaming platform and getting it there by a means you feel confident in.
In a nutshell the most popular gatekeeper companies contracted with Spotify, Apple, Deezer and every other music streaming service are CD Baby, TuneCore and ReverbNation. I'm not going to present charts comparing everything because in the end it's a decision you need to make after thinking outside the chart. There is no right or wrong choice, it is a choice based on current situation, future projection, analytical data and how realistic you are as an artist. All choices offer the same stuff at slightly different price points and package deals etc...
Recently Carly brought to my attention Distrokid. So I began my research and this led me down a really hairy asshole. I went from a reasonably advertised $19.99 to an unecessary $76.94 and to a very arguable $92.94. That all of a sudden doesn't seem so appealing. When you go to DK website you’re immediately confronted with exchanging email for rate access. I opted in and these are the tiers: Musician $19.99 yr (one artist and no custom release date), Musician Plus $35.99 yr (two arists, custom release date, custom label name, custom preorder), Label 79.99 yr (five+ artists and everything else).
DK gives the artist 100% of the royalties, but if you really think about it paying into the company each year to keep your music active everywhere could add up to indirectly taking a big chunk of your royalties since every year you're starting at negative money. The avg artist sells very little and most likely operating at a loss each year or never seeing any royalties because the label is taking all royalties to keep paying the yearly fee and other expenses. If your single is selling at .99 cents each then you need to sell 20 singles, which does not sound like much. The kicker is that the big distributors like Spotify & Apple have the ability to charge pennies and the artist has no control of that pricing and this is where the majority of the streams come from. If you’re a label this is a sweet deal as long as you don’t have artists concerned about getting paid, which isn’t the worst thing at first because the real objective is putting out quality music and having balls out promo. If your label isn't pushing promo then I would ask about royalty cuts because then at least you can take some dough and put it into an ad or something. Maybe get someone on Fiverr to work some black magic. DK states that it is easy to setup up royalty song splits for everyone involved so that is a massive plus.
So you might be thinking what happens if the artist or label stops paying the annual bill. DK then has the option to pull down all your music, which is pretty straight forward. DK offers a hidden failsafe for this possibility and it’s a legacy add-on that if paid will guarantee your music not to be taken down. The shadiness of this add-on is that you can’t find it anywhere on the website as far as if it is paid every year or even how much. Other websites show the add-on costing $49/album and $29/single. Based on checking various reviews I would bank on this being in addition to the annual putting you more in a hole each year. If you’re an artist selling out massive clubs this doesn’t matter, but for the majority this could be an unnecessary expense eating into other band budgets. Another hidden add-on is called store maximizer $7.95/year. This one is important because by adding this means your music will be consistently put in new digital stores as they pop up, which “maximizes” exposure. This is a pretty necessary and increases your annual from $19.99 to $27.94 and if you want legacy for your album then it would be roughly $76.94/yr. Now what is the gap to get to $92.94? Earlier I mentioned the Musician Plus plan for $35.99/year. If you are taking more a professional approach to your craft then this would be your option because it includes a customized release date. So to get to $92.94 you would start with $35.99 instead of $19.99. Any business knows that behind any new release or special whatever the fuck comes a full court press PR campaign. Having a customizable release date allows you to plan all sorts of content and flamboyant chutzpah around the date to make it fucking earth shattering. Stronger than Godzilla's punch to Mothra's powdery bug dick.
This amount can be justified based on user experience and if you’re killing it slinging merch and snaggin guarantees. It’s the price of doing business. I have zero experience with DK, but I am calling pimp on how the tiers are hidden until email is given, and the add-ons, I can’t view until I give credit card info, which I didn’t. The only reason to hide all these extra fees is because DK knows they're not the sexiest chicken in town and airhead musicians are easy street walkin ho's pushing it in the nighttime for dollar menu specials. The underlying issue with this stuff is what happens when the band stops touring and goes their separate ways. That indie label that uploaded your hard-worked tunes will stop paying or you keep paying your annual with less and less people interested, which becomes a financial leetch. DK states in their FAQ it's easy to switch to DK from another distribution company but does not address the reverse situation. Also going back to the indie record label scenario. This is a great way of getting around all these fees if they are picking up the tab, but just realize if they go out the backdoor of the restaurant, the party is over and your left holding the check anyway. At some point you will pay. Plus you'll probably have to contact DK about getting your music back because you don't have any of the label login information and that must be a pain in the ass, but maybe not since indie labels basically have a one week expiration date.
My opinion not only comes from years of being a touring musician, having various conversations with industry professionals, but also utilizing my BS in accountancy with over a decade of experience. I did the cubicle during the day and touring musician at night for close to 10 years. It's a grind and a half consistently gritting your teeth and a crash course in business savviness. In regards to other companies mentioned. TuneCore charges $29.99 in year 1 then $49.99 for each following year. ReverbNation is my favorite of the annual payment companies because not only is it priced at a reasonable $19.95 but along with it you have the ultimate bundle of free shit for your band to use now like a website, facebook app, tour widgets and an endless network of musicians, conferences and opportunities to move your band forward. Sign up free with ReverbNation regardless because many helpful tools are free. The super bonus is access to never ending networking possibilities with other bands in your boat all over the world.
The annual fee debate will never end, but for me personally CD Baby is the way to go as a new artist. You pay either $29 or $69 for your album and that’s it. No hidden anything, no worries of your music disappearing and no annual payments. I would opt for the pro tier at $69 because of the Performing Rights Affiliation (PRO) setup. PRO’s make sure you get paid all your due writing/publishing royalties and if you play big shows you can submit your set lists to get paid more money. It's hard to justify the annual payment system just because a bands avg lifespan is so short. In the end all your substantial money comes from guarantees, physical merchandise and bigger TV/Licensing placements. If I'm going to put some blood, sweat and tears into something I want that something to last forever.
I plan on disseminating more knowledge spunk like this for those craving such knowledge spunk.
Peace, Love, Vanzig