When it comes to choosing a digital music distributor to get your music on sites like iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Spotify, you want to feel confident in your choice. If music is important to you, you want to know who’s handling your music assets, the quality of the service and the value you’re getting for the distribution fees you’re paying.
Here are 10 questions you should ask any digital music distributor before you entrust your music to them. Choosing the right distributor is just as crucial as picking the right guitar (or microphone or drum set or, well, you get the point).
1. Is music distribution their primary business?
Many companies provide other products and services in addition to distribution. That’s not a bad thing, but you want to make sure that they equally support and invest in the distribution portion of their business and are not using it as marketing “hook” to build other parts of their business.
2. Do they take any portion of the sales revenue your music generates from distribution?
Different distributors have different business models. Some distributors will take a cut of the distribution revenue you earn from the downloads and streams of your music. Other distributors, like TuneCore, believe that artists should keep 100% of their distribution sales revenue.
3. Do they have a dedicated Customer Care team?
Let’s face it. We all need a little help sometimes. If you run into trouble during the distribution process is there a team that can answer all of your questions quickly and get your music back on track and headed to stores?
4. Do they have an online help tool so you can easily find answers to questions you might have?
Many of your distribution questions can likely be answered very quickly, and without the help of a living, breathing human. An easily searchable help section can often get you the answers you need to get through a few minor hiccups.
5. Do they provide guidelines on how to format your release so you have smooth distribution to stores?
The digital stores have very specific requirements when it comes to the format of your release (audio files, artwork, and release information). You’ll want to know these details ahead of time so you won’t experience any holdup on distribution. Does the distributor monitor the assets being delivered to double check that everything is formatted correctly?
6. Do they support their artist community?
As an artist, you want to feel like you’re part of a large, creative community. The distributor you choose is lucky to have you, and should provide you with the kind of support you deserve. Are there opportunities for you to increase your fan base? Or do they give you tips from other artists to help your career move forward?
7. Do they offer iTunes trend reports so you can see how your music is selling in stores soon after it goes live?
When your music goes live in stores you’ll likely be very eager to see how it’s selling, so you want to make sure the distributor offers iTunes trends reporting. Ask them if the reporting is updated daily or just weekly. Do you view the data in csv files? Or do they offer a dynamic web-based tool so you can sort and view sales by release, track, geolocation and more, right from your account?
8. How transparent and detailed is the sales reporting?
It’s important for your digital distributor to be completely transparent with respect to your digital sales and streaming revenue from all the stores you sent your music to. You should know exactly which songs/albums were downloaded and streamed where, and for how much (to the penny). Do you have access to your sales information 24/7? Is it presented in a way that is easy to understand, filter and sort?
9. Do they offer Publishing Administration to help you collect your worldwide songwriter/publisher royalties?
If you’re a songwriter, you earn additional royalties from the sales, streams, and use of your music around the world. When a distributor offers a publishing administration service, there’s a built-in audit trail that lets the distributor make sure you’re receiving the correct amount of songwriter royalties. Also, ask them if the service is in-house or if they use a third party.
10. Do they offer Ringtones?
Ringtones are a great way to make more money from your music by turning a 30 second snippet of a song into a ringtone to sell in the iTunes store. Why not make a little extra money and let your friends hear your music whenever someone calls?
Obviously there’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a digital music distributor. Getting your music for sale online is a big deal! We urge you check out our help site for answers to all these questions and more, and always feel free to reach out if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Did we forget some critical questions to ask? Let us know in the comments.