This week I received an assignment to read and review Ari Herstand's report on the many Aggregators. We were then told to pick which one we thought would fit best for our record label, Elementary Records. Ari’s report reviewed the most well known distributors such as: Amuse, AWAL, CD Baby, DistroKid, Ditto Music, Fresh Tunes, Horus Music, Landr Distribution, Mondo Tunes, One RPM, Reverbnation, RouteNote, Stem Music Distribution, SoundDrop, Symphonic. and Tunecore. There is obviously a lot of competition in this realm of the music industry so the tricky part is deciding which company works for you or your label as an individual.
After looking over Ari’s review I decided to think about what was most important for Elementary Records when searching for an aggregator. No commission (or minor yearly fees), payment splitting, a wide range of distribution, good customer service/personal help, and a good reputation. Some of the distributors offered unique options to their clients like a 50/50 split record deal contract for those who are “catching” and the ability to upload lyrics with your songs. There are ones stronger in Asian markets and ones more well known in the US.
There were some companies in the report that had threatened to sue Ari so obviously I did not look anymore into those. There were also some others that seemed too new and unstable financially to really invest in as a label. It will be interesting to see how these companies grow and develop.
I initially wanted to go with CD Baby as my first choice because it is the one that I recognized. Unfortunately, CD Baby does not offer payment splitting, and there are extra fees for each new project that you release. They do seem to have the most credibility because of their lifespan as a company, but upon further review, I found that most people are disappointed by the lack of customer service and help with issues that seem to be easily fixable (reviews on trustpilot.com). There were a few conflicting reviews on this site that said CD Baby had great customer service, but just to be safe, I moved on.
The aggregator that I think will be most helpful to Elementary Records is Stem Music Distribution. They have a personal representative that is dedicated to making your experience with their company work for you. They also have zero upfront fees and a low commission of 5%. Stem offers automatic payment splitting and mechanical download payment splitting. And the artist (label) can edit an already released song without going throughout the process of taking it down and putting it back up.
The New York Times wrote, “The indie music sector already has a well-established network of alternative distribution companies like TuneCore and CD Baby, which deliver unsigned artists’ work to online services for what is usually a small fee. But those services have no means to divide the royalties if a song has, say, two producers and five writers, an example of the kind of collaboration that is now common in pop. Instead, the main performer would be responsible for accounting.” Most of Elementary Records releases will be a collaborative effort of students or projects that students take on which will need to have accurate payment splitting. Not only does Stem release music, but also videos, which could be helpful for students in our video media program working in Elementary Records.
My second choice for our distributor would be ReverbNation. I choose this one because there is no commission, a multitude of very organized data and many helpful opportunities that other distributors do not offer. These include television placements, label submissions , festival slots, and two releases per year for $19.95 a month. That is a pretty good price for that many opportunities as long as you are confident in your material. The only thing that I am not in love with is that a lot of the communication feels inhuman, and automated. But that’s why it is my second choice. On this website linked here a user of ReverbNation goes through all the data and feedback you receive frim the RN team. There are many feedback categories that include: pricing, standard insight, songwriting analysis, audience identification, production quality, and commercial potential.
Thanks for listening!
Abby K Davis