Producers face many challenges in their music career, especially with getting started. Outside the struggles of finishing music, a lot of producers struggle with the next steps of getting their music heard. Gravitas Create decided to reach out to our friends and partners over at Symphonic Distribution to get some professional advice on music marketing and distribution. We highlighted some of the best nuggets in this post, but for the full thread, you can click HERE.
Jorge is the CEO of Symphonic Distribution, one of the leading independent partners for digital music distribution services to stores such as iTunes, Beatport, Amazon, Spotify and more. Because Jorge Brea wasn’t backed by a big record label a decade ago when he was a DJ and producer, he was having trouble getting his music out. So in 2006, with no venture capital or outside funding, he started a company at his parents’ house in Tampa, FL that would make it easier for him and his peers to get heard. The days of this small startup are long gone, however, today the company has distributed over 850,000 releases of over 13,000 record labels and 150,000 artists around the globe and paid out over 15 million in royalties. The company has employees in Tampa, Florida, Brooklyn, New York, Madrid, Spain and has representatives in the Dominican Republic, and Colombia.
Artists and Record Labels that have had their content distributed through Symphonic Distribution include: Bassnectar, Deadmau5, Waka Flocka Flame, Datsik, The Movement, Tommie Sunshine, Richie Hawtin, Play Me Records, Moody Recordings (Bad Boy Bill), and many more of various genres and music focuses. Including Gravitas Recordings.
Could you please tell the things one has to look into when you’re about to sign a track to an old/new label?
I think we do live in a time that if you are new and looking to get your name out, you are able to get it out without a label. A label is really great for being there to help elevate your profile but most labels have to put in a lot of work and time to promote an artist and get sales / streams up for that artist so in my view it doesn’t hurt to sort of “self release” music on an artist focused distro like us (or others, to be fair) and then once you’ve built up a good repor, have started to market yourself and build a name, then you can show this to labels and potentially start to ask those questions.
If you are a new artist, demanding promotion, money etc… it’s a bit much to ask for someone that will be investing money and time to promote you and likely not make anything in return. Money is offered to proven players and folks that have millions of streams. (Certainly, want to ensure that’s not taken the wrong way when I say it).
The other option is, if you want to control your music and its monetization, you could start a label but, know that its more of a name that will feature your content and to make a successful label, you’ll need to do quite a bit to grow it (the folks at Gravitas are a testament to working hard, reinvesting and doing what they can to grow their artists but I’m sure they would even state that it’s not easy).
Long answer I know but, if you are new, not really releasing much, do self-releasing and build up a good quality portfolio…. communicate that your music is out there and when you feel that you can identify with a brand, go forth and see what they think about taking you on.
Do you think it is beneficial to use distribution to put out your music on all the major platforms and then offer free downloads via a download gate on SoundCloud?
I (Jorge) personally don’t see it as a bad thing. Streaming providers, in particular, are a great way to earn revenue and somewhat offer songs for free given that they have their own subscription models and such. We’ve encouraged clients to put out their tunes via the streaming providers but even use Bandcamp directly. Any which way to monetize and grow works for me and I don’t think it hurts.
If you are using a distribution service what are the best ways to get traffic to the major stores. Besides just social media reach.
Working with your distributor to allow us to pitch your material is one way. That said, not very easy and many other factors in place but that’s a way to move the needle so to speak. I would recommend picking a store that you want to promote your music the most. Spotify is a great option since they are growing a lot in subscribers.
What distribution endeavors have gone wrong, and what did the artists, distribution company and/or associated label learn from the experience.
From our side, nobody is perfect. We’ve launched offerings that didn’t catch on and have spread ourselves thin at some point. Even Jesse at Gravitas and I have discussed that sometimes, offerings we may do may be far away from what we’ve focused on (distribution and promotion) and that I think is a mistake all companies do when they are experiencing growth and want to continue the growth but also diversify it.
Where we’re going now is repositioning the company and ensuring that messaging to individual artists is clear and separate from that of a record label but ultimately building tools that will help labels run their businesses. Not an easy task and very frustrating at times. To sum it up though, we’ve had a lot of successes but every mistake keeps us humble and hungry to continue to make every client a success story.
What platforms are artists having the best and least financial return on their music?
The numbers are confidential but from what we see, Spotify is #1, Apple #2, Pandora, YouTube, Deezer, TIDAL, Beatport, Traxsource, Juno, and on down. I think the days of boutique shops are nearing their end and I wouldn’t be surprised if more shops started to close and/or merge with each other.
From a mass scale, there is concern about Spotify making profits especially with them going “public” with their direct listings. Ultimately everyone that’s huge in the space is backed up by billions of dollars and uses music as another tool to let you interact with their hardware. While not heavily talked about yet, Amazon is likely to be a huge player with the number of hardware devices and integrations they are putting towards their music product.
So aside from the industry-specific talk, that’s what I see as the top partners from our level. There are a ton of artists and labels very focused on Beatport and certainly, they’ve done a great job at repositioning themselves again but, streaming isn’t going anywhere and is the way music will be consumed…. if people don’t like it, then they will adapt at some point but I don’t see downloads being alive in the future. (PS: Bandcamp though seems to have figured things out nicely download wise although I think they lack recognition for artists and labels in the form of top 10’s etc…)
What have been some of the most effective and unique ways you have seen somebody market their music successfully?
Hi there! So I think the most effective way to market your music today is to definitely to do a combination of digital ads across different social media platforms. I would consider doing Snapchat ads, Instagram story ads, Spotify ads, research and learn about Facebook pixels, use Spotify Codes to promote releases to name a few. We actually did a post on 70 Ways to Promote Your Music on our blog. This has a bunch of different things you can be doing. http://blog.symphonicdistribution.com/…/70-music…/ The most important part of it all is to measure the results so you can learn what really works for your audience.
A few campaigns that I’ve really liked in the past have been Luz Pinos, she did a collaboration with a local hat maker for her release, that you could only get a pre-order etc. I think its great to collaborate with other creative minds and makers in other mediums because they will bring life to your music in different ways that you wouldn’t expect. She also did a very nice job teaser her music video, with very short, engaging, enigmatic clips. Its just one example of an indie artist, that fits her genre and voice, but I think she did a good job at crafting an authentic message that fit her voice.
What’s a good distribution tracking company to work with? For example, I’ve seen a lot of people online complain about Distrokid’s methods. Tunecore, on the other hand, seems to have a good reputation.
It really depends on what you are looking for. We’re a distributor and work with artists and labels which is a differentiator. We’ve actually compared ourselves to Tunecore and DistroKid here. In terms of DistroKid, to be blatantly honest, I believe they are misleading in their offering. “Free to register” means that you can get an account but you can’t do a thing unless you sign up to a tier. “19.99 unlimited” has many limitations in terms of amounts of artists etc. and lastly, I’m not a fan of brands that feature a specific person as the figurehead. The artist and the music should be at the forefront. With that said, those companies have done a good job and they deserve props because to build out tech that is scalable is never easy. You can read our comparisons here: http://blog.symphonicdistribution.com/category/competitors/
Is it important to purchase a trademark for yourself before working with distribution tracking companies, and posting your music on common websites like Spotify and Bandcamp?
Good question, however, a trademark for each and every song will be quite costly. You can certainly copyright the music but in my view, if you aren’t generating a lot of streams or are growing musically, then I wouldn’t recommend spending the time and money on it. I would say to ensure that you sign up to a publisher and/or pub admin service which will ensure that you are able to maximize your royalty collection.
Do you have any tips on the marketing side to build a small audience before going through distribution services? Or what would be the best approach to releasing on subscription services without having a SoundCloud following?
Janette will chime in on this one I am sure but really, for sub-services (DSP’s as we call them) you want to ensure your music is original, that you have a good quality in production (so that people will dig it and continue to listen to it) and then that the branding is solid. A release cover used to mean more than it does now but give that thought when releasing. Other than that, it’s about signing up and distributing so there isn’t much of an approach other than that. The challenge becomes in marketing and getting eyes and ears on your music and that goes back to your first question of which Janette will check it and advise.
I (Janette) would say that before releasing music, you should have at least an artist page on Facebook with good branding associated with it. This can serve as a temporary website for you. I would also recommend early on to sign up for an emailing service like MailChimp (its free up to 1k subscribers) or create a Google form so you can start collecting fan emails. Nowadays a lot of posts get lost in feeds so having your fans emails is really important. Also, keep in mind that you can release music w/o a Soundcloud following. Streaming services will have their own audience so you would share it to these, in hopes of getting more fans/followers.
Welcome to check out our blog…we share tons of articles on how to promote your music. http://blog.symphonicdistribution.com/ Check it out and ask away!
Do you have any secret Spotify pro tips for artists trying to break into that ecosystem, gain more exposure, and make some money off of streaming?
The platform is growing tremendously and it’s important to learn about all the tools at your disposal. Best tip to break into the ecosystem is to BE in the ecosystem so then via algorithms your music can get more attention and added to more playlists Main tips I would recommend:
1. Claim your profile via https://artists.spotify.com/ this will allow for you to customize your profile by adding your profile and banner pics, add a bio and Wikipedia
2. Create an artist picks playlist with a mix of artists that you would love to work with (smaller and bigger artists) Share this playlist on social media and tag these artists so they can potentially follow it and you never know if it will strike a relationship offline. I would consider revamping this playlist from time to time, to keep it fresh. Think festivals, moods, activities etc.
3. Encourage your fans to follow you on Spotify. This way when you release new music, it will be featured in algorithmic playlists like Release Radar and Discover Weekly. Add an embed follow button to your website.
4. Sell your merch and add your gigs to the platform http://blog.symphonicdistribution.com/…/promote-gigs…/http://blog.symphonicdistribution.com/…/sell-merch…/
5. Talk to your distributor about their process to pitch for official Spotify playlist
6. Share your music on Reddit subgroups
7. Request your music to be added to our Symphonic playlists http://blog.symphonicdistribution.com/…/symphonic…/ ☺
For more tips, we recently created a guide that goes over these tips and many more. Welcome to check it out here https://symphonicdistribution.wishpond.com/landing-page…/
What insights could you provide regarding launch and distribution of non- digital music along with digital? Any numbers that you can share that would give insights into how to best focus music launching energies in digital/non-digital realms?
I assume you mean Physical alongside digital? If not let me know but… I think the physical market is extremely difficult. Effectively, a record or cd is more of a business card now than something that will be consumed. Most computers don’t even have CD players now and further, vinyl is awesome but, it can be quite expensive.
I think if you have a catalogue of music on physical, digitizing it and releasing it certainly isn’t a bad idea and if you were to be a label, signing up to a % based deal with us or anyone usually means that the only cost you may have is the time in digitizing and then uploading to get it out to the masses. In terms of any results, you will get, that really depends on the music, brand, and what is being done to promote it. Unfortunately, it’s tough to give insight on the success rate. If you enjoy data and reports though, check out www.buzzanglemusic.com and ifpi.org
When should a music producer/musician consider joining a PRO?
If you want to have your music considered for licensing, ever work with a supervisor or anything of that sort, then for sure sign up at that point. I recommend that if you’re starting to see some decent returns from streams and downloads, to go forth and immediately register. If not, don’t think that it isn’t worth your time because PRO’s protect your music to an extent and ensure you are being compensated in various ways aside from downloads and streams so it’s really up to you but, make great music first, build a good story around you and your brand, release it, hopefully it becomes somewhat successful and then do immediately register at that point. (that’s what I’d say).
In the beginning or in the building of your career, focus on things that will help you grow and then start to put in the other pieces this way your not spending a lot of time in things that you may not see a return in for the amount of time your putting in. I’ve seen a lot of artists and even labels do a lot before they make money and that discourages most which is why I recommend this. One final point, have a pretty humble expectation of what your success may be. It may not happen the first, 10th, or 20th time you release a song but know that an overnight success never happens in that time span and it may take you 5-10 years to be that.