How do you get your music “out there” and heard by people all over the world? A few years ago, making it in music meant signing a record deal. There was simply no other way. Taking care of your own distribution? That would have been a pipedream for musicians who relied on small gigs and open mic nights to be discovered by record companies.
Digital music has changed the industry and made it possible to distribute your music worldwide, even without the backing of a label. Music aggregation and carefully planned music distribution are the secrets behind the success of many indie artists. Here is what you need to know about choosing between distribution and aggregation and finding the right music aggregator for you.
What is Digital Music Aggregation?
Digital music aggregation allows you to distribute your music on various channels through one single point of contact. Usually, that single point is a music aggregator or music aggregation company. Music aggregators allow artists to distribute their work to a wide range of different outlets, all from one place.
What does that mean for you as a musician? You submit your music once, and the aggregator takes care of making sure it is published on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal. You reach a global audience in a very short time. Naturally, music aggregators charge a fee for their services, but that cost is generally small in comparison to the reach you may achieve.
Consider this: whilst a music aggregation company is taking care of getting you heard, you can focus on creating more fantastic songs. For most artists, that is hugely beneficial and worth the fees they pay.
Music Distributors vs Music Aggregators – What’s the Difference?
Since the advent of digital music, the area of music distribution has changed almost beyond recognition. Getting signed by a record label is no longer the only path to getting heard by millions. Music distribution and aggregation can take care of that for you.
As the music industry remains one of the most dynamic fields out there, the lines between distribution and aggregation continue to blur. Sometimes, it is simply down to a choice of words.
Put simply, full-service music distributors will cover both digital and physical releases of your music. Aggregators, on the other hand, pave your way toward digital music streaming platforms. They don’t offer physical distribution services.
What Music Aggregators Do
Most aggregators will charge a flat fee or a percentage of royalties earned. For that, they make sure every single digital streaming platform features your music. Aggregators take care of launching your music at the right time and in the right place, in close cooperation with you.
Marketing and promoting your music remains your responsibility. Few aggregators offer those services. That means, that you need to do some of the work to help your music be discovered by others. At the same time, you remain in full control over where and when your music becomes available to the public.
Aggregators make sure your songs or albums can be found on all relevant platforms, and you do the rest.
What Music Distributors Do
Music distributors generally have a wider remit and sometimes do more for your songs or records, for example, distribute physical records to bricks and mortar shops. As a result, their fees can vary, depending on the services required. Distributors will also take care of the aggregation on digital platforms; some even provide the marketing and promotion side of things.
Essentially, the work distributors can do for a piece of music is becoming ever more like what record labels used and still do.
For most record labels in 2022, a digital music aggregator is more than enough to accelerate their digital content to the top DSPs.
Why Should You Use a Music Aggregation Service?
Most musicians receive most of their income from streaming services. A few decades ago, (physical) record sales were the most critical measure of commercial success for an artist. Today, plays from streaming services have taken their place.
That is the single most important reason to use a proven aggregation service. Unless you have a record label supporting the distribution of your music, an aggregator is essential to be featured on all the streaming services that matter.
Aggregators can function as your support system, or your go-between, and manage your relationship with streaming platforms. Working with a music aggregator and controlling your own distribution allows you to stay in charge of your development as a musician. Using aggregators will also help you start earning money from your music sooner.
How To Choose The Right Music Aggregation Company
In the past, artists left record labels because their vision no longer matched that of their managers. Whilst choosing an aggregator may not be about matching artistic ideas, you still need to ensure your aggregator and you are a good fit.
Here are a few factors to consider:
- Target outlets
- Artist support
- Company purpose
- Tracking your numbers
- Added opportunities
1. Target Outlets
As an artist who has already built a following, you will have a good idea about the channels that work for you. Those are the places where you are already connecting to your audience.
Naturally, you want your music to be streamed on those channels, but how about others? You can extend your reach and your fanbase. So, when you are looking at an aggregator, it’s worth checking where they will distribute your music apart from the big platforms.
Most aggregators will make sure your creations feature on Spotify, YouTube Music, Tidal, and Apple Music, among others. But have you considered building a base on TikTok, for example? You may be surprised by how much your audience can grow in a short time.
Aggregators are always adding new platforms to their services. So, even if your favorite aggregator does not currently connect with one of your chosen platforms, it’s worth asking about their plans.
2. Artist Support
Do you care about getting good customer support? Of course, we hear you say. Everyone likes to be treated well by the companies they do business with. As an artist, you are the customer of a music aggregator. Granted, you are relying on the aggregator to make your music available to a global audience. But that is not unlike paying for any other service you rely on. Take internet access, for example. You pay a telecommunications company a fee to ensure you have high-quality internet access.
The relationship with a music aggregator is not that much different. The aggregator is taking a fee in exchange for placing your songs on streaming platforms. So, how do you know an aggregator you’re considering will treat you well?
Communications are a great indicator. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll have questions before choosing an aggregator. If the answers are prompt and to the point, you’re off to a good start. After all, any aggregator should be interested in winning new customers. Waiting for days to receive a response to your questions should raise a red flag.
At the same time, if you find the aggregator’s team is rather unapproachable, then it’s probably not a great fit. Trust your gut feel during initial communications. Is it easy to get in touch with the music aggregation business? Do you get the idea that your music will be in good hands there? All these are great indicators.
3. Company Purpose
Gone are the days when all businesses had to do is deliver shareholder value. Today, some of the most successful businesses are built on having a purpose that goes hand in hand with their desire to make money.
Perhaps you have a purpose as a musician? A specific vision for your music? Finding an aggregator that shares your passion for your music and beyond is a great foundation for a successful working relationship.
Apart from a purpose that is bigger than a company’s bottom line, you may also want to research their business practices. How do they treat their artists? Are artists establishing long-term relationships with the business, or do they choose to switch aggregators quickly?
Looking beyond the business model can help you select the best aggregator for you.
4. Tracking Your Numbers
Numbers may not be everything in a business relationship with a music aggregator, but they are certainly important.
Making it easy to see how your songs are performing across different platforms and what royalties have been earned is a hallmark of a great aggregator. As an artist, you ideally want access to a simple dashboard that allows you to see all the relevant information at a glance.
You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to make time-consuming inquiries to see how many people listened to your latest release over the past week. Accessing statistics and analyses should be simple and straightforward. Those numbers will help you understand your audience better. They will let you see demographics such as location and gender as well as the age of your listeners.
Why does that matter for you as an artist? Knowing how your music is being consumed and by whom can make it easier to find better ways to connect to your listeners. It will help guide your marketing efforts and make them more effective.
5. Added Opportunities
It’s well worth asking whether your aggregator can do more for you than ensure your music can be streamed from a range of platforms or found in apps. Consider asking about social media channels and relationships with music journalists.
The music industry might be diverse and seem like a big place. But at the end of the day, many of the main players know each other and are very well connected. Those relationships can benefit you as an artist. You may increase your reach by being featured on a music blog, for example. Once published, this blog is a great piece of content to share on your social media or that of friends.
Music Aggregation Pricing Structures
Pricing should never be the only consideration when you are choosing a music aggregator, but it is an important component. We said above that working with an aggregator allows you to keep control over your music and the marketing of your songs.
The same should be possible when it comes to pricing. You should be able to stay in control of what you pay to the aggregator and what percentage of the revenue generated from your music is yours. Fair music aggregation companies realize that artists have different needs at different stages in their careers and adapt their pricing accordingly.
At LabelGrid, we offer tailored options to suit musicians who are just starting out as well as those who already have a large catalog to market. How much of your royalties you keep depends on the plan you choose, but generally ranges from 85% up to 100%.
We also understand that not every artist fits into the constraints of a preconceived plan. That is why we offer virtually unlimited custom accounts. They let you manage unlimited tracks and unlimited labels. Plus, you also gain access to advanced tools to help you promote your work.
But let’s assume you are not yet at this stage of your career. What if you are just starting, with only a few songs or a couple of albums to promote? In that case, plans like LabelGrid’s Solo plan should be right up your street.
For less than $100 per year, you can promote up to 100 tracks under one label. You have access to a WordPress plugin and get to keep 85% of the royalties generated through LabelGrid’s aggregation. It’s a great plan to get your music career going without breaking the bank.
Taking the Next Steps
If you’ve been creating music for a while or are operating more than one label, chances are you have a bigger catalog to manage and promote. LabelGrid’s basic plan raises the size of your catalog to 200 tracks under three labels. We find that this plan is very popular with musicians whose career has started taking off. It’s still competitively priced at less than $200, and you keep 85% of the royalties.
Want to keep more of the royalties your music is generating? We have an option for you. The Pro plan allows you to retain 90% of all the royalties your tracks are generating across digital channels. You can manage up to 500 tracks under five labels, too, giving you more flexibility to promote your music. At less than $500 a year, this plan also comes with premium support features.
Which One Should You Choose?
If you’re unsure about which plan you need, consider starting small and upgrading as and when your music brand grows. That’s a good way to keep costs in check and see what aggregation can do for you.
All our plans offer options to add additional services. LabelGrid Gate opens to door to advanced marketing services and features through our WordPress plugin. It simplifies your music marketing efforts and saves you time.
We also have a solution for those looking for royalty accounting support. As part of our white label services, we are happy to manage your catalog for you under your brand identity. Talk to us about your needs, but it’s a great way of outsourcing some of the background accounting work.
With LabelGrid, flexibility does not only extend to pricing. We understand that many musicians already have personal contacts in the industry and would like to continue furthering those relationships. If that’s the case for you, you can simply use our catalog manager and integrate it into your current workflow. It’s music aggregation made simple.
Final thoughts about music aggregation
Starting out as a musician can be daunting, but digital music distribution has opened unprecedented opportunities for indie artists. Music aggregation is one of the best ways of accessing those opportunities whilst retaining control over your work and your catalog.
Music aggregation services simply help you reach a global audience through digital music channels. A good music aggregator will put you in front of listeners through Apple Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Deezer, and so many more. You reach your existing audience easily, and new listeners can discover you at the same time. One upload is all that’s needed.
To learn more about growing your music career with us, get in touch today and start a trial.