A Beginners Guide to Independent Music Distribution - ACM
08 Nov 2016

A Guide to Independent Music Distribution

How to release your music as an independent artist

Selling music online is a great way for unsigned artists and bands to start earning extra cash from their tracks and give their profile a boost. Once you’ve recorded your songs and you’re ready to release, getting your music into the major stores is a natural step to take your career to the next level.

But without the backing of a major label, how can independent artists sell songs online and release their music to the biggest stores and streaming platforms, like iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music?

Introduction to independent distribution

The independent scene is a fast-growing sector of the music business, and the industry has never seen such a level playing field for unsigned talent. In recent years, more and more artists are breaking into the mainstream without the backing of a major label, thanks partly to independent music distribution companies, also known as music aggregators.

Whether you’re an established artist with a loyal fan base, or a start-up band practising in your garage, it’s easy to release your music to the most popular online stores without the help of a label. Once you’ve written and recorded your songs, you’re good to go.

Just sign up to a distribution service, upload your tracks and for a small one-time or yearly fee, you can release your music to iTunes, Spotify and many other online music stores. It really is that simple.

Finding the best music distribution company

You’ve written your tracks, spent hours in the studio getting them just right, and now it’s time to release them through a music aggregator. But what should you look for in an ideal distribution company?

First of all, make sure they can release your music to the biggest and best stores. While many independent artists will be satisfied selling music on iTunes, Spotify and other mainstream platforms, if you’re a DJ/producer with a back catalogue ready to release, you’ll likely be more interested in getting your music onto Beatport, and in front of your target audience. So be sure to check that your aggregator offers the right service for you before signing up.

Then there’s the royalties you’ll receive. A number of aggregators will take a sneaky slice of  these – sometimes up to 9% – while others won’t take a penny, leaving you with 100% of the money you make from sales. So make sure to check you’re getting a good deal on your sales revenue before taking the plunge.

The best music distribution companies will also offer the ability to track your sales and live trending data, so you can see where your music is having the biggest impact. Some aggregators will give you access to extra tools to help boost your sales and break into the charts too, including worldwide chart registration, iTunes pre-release and SMS pre-order capabilities.

Client support is also important. If your aggregator doesn’t feature a phone number or easy-to-find contact details on their website, this could be a sign that they like to keep their artists at a distance… which is bad news should any problems arise with your latest release.

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Why release music as an independent artist?

Realistically, you’re not going to make a fortune from selling your music on major platforms, with royalty earnings for Spotify averaging at around $0.0011 per stream and iTunes offering only slightly more per download.

That’s not to say, however, that selling music online isn’t a good way to earn extra money from doing something you love; just don’t expect to be able to retire on your royalty payments – at least at first!

Aside from generating revenue from streaming and download royalties, getting your music onto iTunes, Spotify and other popular stores has obvious benefits. It offers new platforms from which to promote yourself to potential fans, as well as a professional online presence, giving you and your music more credibility. In short, fans and labels are more likely to take you seriously if they can easily find your music online.

If you’re hoping to build your fan base or get signed by a major label in the future, releasing your music independently is essential. A successful independent music career is a huge stepping stone to bigger and better things, and once your tracks are online, who knows where your music will take you!


If you’d like to be a student at ACM and receive guidance on your music career, please call our Admissions Team on 01483 500 841 or visit www.acm.ac.uk/open-days/ to book a place on an ACM Open Day today.

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