Digital Distribution Options

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Sep 14, 2017, 09:58 PM

I’m looking at the various options for getting your songs available for digital distribution (Spotify, iTunes, etc.) and wondered what experience or tips others might be able to share. It’s quite bewildering. Anyone used CD-Baby, Distro-Kid or another service? I did find this very helpful review of the various services here:
http://aristake.com/post/cd-baby-tunecore-ditto-mondotunes-zimbalam-or

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 16, 2017, 12:16 AM

Hey Gavin. John has distributed our work through CD Baby. They’ve been great so far. What I like about them is that they will distribute to other digital partners so that we only need to register our stuff once. With one stop at CD Baby, our stuff then goes out to Google Play, i-tunes, Spotify, Amazon, and Groove Music. Pretty neat. Also, they let you set the dollar amount in sales before payment. That’s a great service because then you’re not getting paid silly amounts ($5 here, $10 there). With their “Distribution Pro” packet they will collect royalties from other providers so, again, you’re only dealing with one entity. What’s more, if you’re already registered with a pro, they will work with the pro to collect royalties and they won’t (or at least they say they won’t) compete with them. It took us a while to figure out that CD Baby will work with APRA (my pro) without any breach of contract but they do work together.

I’ve had some experience with Bandcamp. They’re not my first choice because they don’t distribute beyond their own site and they take 15% plus 30% of each sale to pay for the PayPal service. So for every sale, you take home 55% of the sale (I won’t swear under oath that those figures are right, but those are the numbers that spewed from the vaults of my memory). That said, it’s free to upload music to Bandcamp.

As I see it, the main differences between these two are that Bandcamp is free and CD Baby is not but Bandcamp doesn’t have the wide distribution that CD Baby does.

Hope that helps

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Sep 16, 2017, 11:52 AM

Thanks for the info, Jenny. All of the companies listed on the really excellent comparison I linked to will distribute to all the various places people buy or stream from. I have been considering CD Baby, but am now inclining more towards Distro Kid or Amuse.

Ditro Kid was founded by the original people behind CD Baby. I guess the name Distro Kid is a nod in that direction. What I like about them is the simplicity. You pay $19.99 a year and can distribute as many songs as you like.

Amuse is relatively new and based in Sweden. They are free. Apparently their business model is based on analyzing the data, seeing which of the musicians they distribute is gaining traction and trying to sign them to their label. I don’t know if they will find that model sustainable.

The comparison also pulls no punches in suggesting which less than reputable distributors should be avoided.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 16, 2017, 05:05 PM
Gavin Sinclair - 16 September 2017 11:52 AM

I have been considering CD Baby, but am now inclining more towards Distro Kid or Amuse.

Ditro Kid was founded by the original people behind CD Baby. I guess the name Distro Kid is a nod in that direction. What I like about them is the simplicity. You pay $19.99 a year and can distribute as many songs as you like.

I guess it boils down to what works for you. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a subscription service. I write a lot of songs, but most don’t get recorded and if they do, most don’t get beyond a rough demo.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Sep 17, 2017, 09:27 AM

Jenny, Gavin,

This topic caught my attention and I’d like to ask a few questions, if you don’t mind!

(question) Do you/we need copy write before handing a song/album over to CD baby?

(comment) We need to choose a PRO and have been putting it off. Right now, BMI is how we’re leaning. 

To receive payment, do you need a business for them to pay, replete with tax ID’s etc, or will they send it to a personal account?

We write a TON of songs and I’m thinking that getting them out there, steadily, is a good balance to performing as much as possible to help build our name.

Thanks!

 
     
Larry Gude Joined May 23, 2017
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Sep 17, 2017, 12:00 PM

Larry, obviously I’m not an expert. In fact I have no experience of actually using a distributor. That’s why I posted my original question. Having said that, here is my understanding from reading up as much as I can on the subject, in particular from the article to which I posted a link.

You do need to own the copyright. In other words, you can’t be stealing someone else’s work. This doesn’t mean you have to have registered the copyright. If you wrote it, music and lyrics, you own the copyright. There may be other reasons, covered elsewhere on this forum, to register the copyright, but, as far as I can see, it’s not a prerequisite for distributing your song. The situation is different if you want to cover someone else’s song. Most of the distributors will let you do this, but you need to obtain the mechanical license. Some distributors, including CD Baby and Distro Kid, will do this for you, for a fee.

You don’t need a separate business identity. How you handle that is between you and the tax man. Most businesses are sole proprietorships, which do not have a separate tax ID. A single member LLC is in the same position. You just fill out a Schedule C and attach it to your return. For a business without inventory, this is very quick and easy.

I can’t really comment on the PRO, as I have no experience with one. Like you, I might also sign up with one and, since I appreciate this forum, would incline towards BMI. On the other hand, ASCAP membership gets you free LANDR membership which includes distribution. That sounds like a nice benefit.

I have a question regarding BMI. It is free to join as a songwriter, but costs $150 to join as a publisher. If you are distributing your own songs but choose a label name when you sign up with a distributor, just because it seems cool to do so, does that make you a publisher?

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 17, 2017, 12:42 PM

Thanks Gavin, I should have clarified; I meant to ask about our own material that we do not as of yet have the official, registered (mechanical?) copy write.

I do know we own it when we create it but I’ve read of some competitions that require you have to have the official, registered CW. Thanks for figuring out what I meant! As I understand it, CW right now, the mechanical, official one, takes months, may up to 6 so, that’s great if many of the digital services don’t require the mechanical CW and it would seem doing work with them would only help strengthen ones claim to CW if any conflict were to arise.

The little I think I know about your question, you can be your own publisher, you just have to create a publishing entity that would then receive the publishers share of royalties?

In any event, I’m excited about the digital distributors. To be able to get art out there and start to generate even a few bucks would be fabulous. To be able to be prolific about, even better. MAB has made clear how small a fish in how enormous a pond we are all in, but the flip side is that if something WERE to get a little note, there is the opportunity to go ‘viral’ so to speak, and have a hit or two. And that is, I think, our strength; we write a lot of catchy, fun little songs.

Thanks!

 
     
Larry Gude Joined May 23, 2017
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Sep 17, 2017, 12:58 PM

Larry, I’ve never registered a copyright for a song, but I have for my novels. It did take a while to get the official certificate, but, as I recall, you are protected as soon as you register, unless it is refused for some reason. In other words, if there were ever a legal dispute, the date you submitted the registration would be the one that carried weight. (Usual disclaimer about not being an expert, etc.)

I know I can be my own publisher. My question is really about what constitutes a “publisher” in BMI’s eyes. I can register as a songwriter for free or as a publisher for $150. What I’m not clear about is whether attaching a” label” (which would be a name I make up) to my songs when I fill in the data at the distributor website makes me a publisher, even if any money earned is paid directly to me, and the “label” is purely for coolness, vanity, an unwarranted air of professionalism and just because I can. Maybe I need to ask BMI directly.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 17, 2017, 03:39 PM

The advice I was given was that once the song is recorded (be it on your phone or a fully mastered radio-ready recording), it’s copyright is a given. Because I am a producer as well as a writer, I have never registered copyright. If my songs are in the public realm, they are recorded in some fashion. It doesn’t matter that most are demo quality only.

When I write a lyric (not recorded) I automatically own the copyright. It is harder to prove however.

You are producing your songs, Larry. There really is no reason to waste money registering them.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Sep 17, 2017, 04:13 PM

That’s my understanding too, Jenny.

One advantage of registering the copyright, here in the US at any rate, is that an infringer can be subject to “statutory damages,” a fixed amount, independent of any actual losses caused by the infringement. Not only does this save the costly process of establishing the extent of the losses, but the statutory damages can be a lot higher. At least that is the case for books. Of course, it’s usually a lot easier to get over the initial hurdle of showing that an infringement has occurred in the case of a book than in the case of a song.

There have been lengthy discussions here about copyright. Larry, if you are interested, just type “copyright” in the search box.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 17, 2017, 04:23 PM

For me, the scariest part of putting your music into distribution online is that you have to be able to say, “It’s finished.” No way to go back and change it after you discover that you could have done something better. I suspect a lot of us are bad at that.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 17, 2017, 05:56 PM
Gavin Sinclair - 17 September 2017 12:58 PM

Larry, I’ve never registered a copyright for a song, but I have for my novels. It did take a while to get the official certificate, but, as I recall, you are protected as soon as you register, unless it is refused for some reason. In other words, if there were ever a legal dispute, the date you submitted the registration would be the one that carried weight. (Usual disclaimer about not being an expert, etc.)

I know I can be my own publisher. My question is really about what constitutes a “publisher” in BMI’s eyes. I can register as a songwriter for free or as a publisher for $150. What I’m not clear about is whether attaching a” label” (which would be a name I make up) to my songs when I fill in the data at the distributor website makes me a publisher, even if any money earned is paid directly to me, and the “label” is purely for coolness, vanity, an unwarranted air of professionalism and just because I can. Maybe I need to ask BMI directly.

I think I might have found out the answer to my own question. Record labels represent artists. A PRO represent songwriters, NOT artists. Therefore, making up a label name does not affect registration with a PRO as a songwriter. Art least, that’s what I took from this excellent article
https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/02/15/how-to-get-all-the-royalties-you-never-knew-existed/

So, it seems to me that there are the following possible steps, if you are both writer and performer:

1. Sign up with a distributor, such as CD Baby, Distro Kid or Amuse to get your songs into the download stores like iTunes and streaming services like Spotify. They will collect the royalties due for these downloads and streams.

2. Sign up for a PRO like BMI or ASCAP. They will collect royalties due to you as songwriter when your songs are played in public venues or radio (AM/FM or digital).

3. Sign up with Sound Exchange. They will collect the royalties due to you as a performer for digital radio. Due to a weird anomaly of US law, it seems that AM/FM radio doesn’t pay royalties to performers, only songwriters.

Signing up with a CD Baby Pro Plan might mean that they handle 2 and 3 for you in exchange for a commission.

If anyone who actually knows what he/she is talking about wants to jump in and correct any misunderstandings in the above, please have at it!

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 17, 2017, 06:09 PM
Gavin Sinclair - 17 September 2017 04:23 PM

For me, the scariest part of putting your music into distribution online is that you have to be able to say, “It’s finished.” No way to go back and change it after you discover that you could have done something better. I suspect a lot of us are bad at that.

Actually, you are able to change the content. It’s not straightforward though. You can withdraw the song, make the changes to it, then redistribute. It takes about a couple weeks to have it completely removed. You pay to redistribute.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Sep 17, 2017, 06:16 PM

Yes, Jenny, I was aware that you could take it down and replace it. As I understand it, though, you lose all the data as far as plays, downloads, etc. because it is essentially uploading a new song.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Sep 17, 2017, 06:23 PM

Yup. You lose them.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Sep 17, 2017, 09:48 PM

All the links at the top of the page are worth study. FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions can tell you a lot.

A Performance Rights Organization (PRO) collects Songwriter Royalties and pays them to the Songwriters who register the titles of their Songs with the PRO. That same PRO collects Publishing Royalties and pays them to the Publisher who is registered in reference to those Song Titles and Songwriters.

The Songwriting Royalties are paid to the writers named in the registration. The Publishing Royalties are paid to the Publishing Company. You can register your Publishing Company with the Secretary of State of your state of residence.

You can negotiate with other Publishing Companies for a share of your Publishing Royalties. They may want 100%, or you may be able to negotiate a lesser amount, retaining some percentage of Publishing Royalties for the company you name in your registration of your Song Titles with the PRO.

You retain 100% of Songwriting Royalties, unless someone negotiates a share of them. Artists may ask to change one word, or more, making them a Co-Writer, thereby giving them rights to Songwriting Royalties. The Publisher or Management of an artist recording your Song may try to negotiate a share. Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Parker, always negotiated a share.

Transitioning from a hobbyist, a creative ‘artist’, writing Songs, to a company engaged in marketing product demands education in how the business works. If you let someone else ‘handle’ all that you may find you’ve signed away the fruits of your labors. As an adult, when you sign your name to a contract, you are bound by the terms to which you agree. The more YOU know the more able you are to assist a lawyer or manager and protect your interests. Paul McCartney recently (2016-17 regained ownership of Songs he signed away decades ago.

‘Copy Writing’ means ‘writing’ words, copy, for commercial use, for example, words on a potato chip bag. ‘Copyright’ refers to your ‘right’ to ‘copy’ your intellectual property for fun and profit, to the exclusion of other people exploiting your property for fun and profit without your permission. As soon as you put your product into ‘fixed form’, written or recorded, the ‘right’ to ‘copy’ is bestowed. To give you legal standing as the owner demands Registration with the Register of Copyrights of the U. S. Library of Congress. The date your product is received by the Register of Copyrights becomes the date of Registration. Registration would enable you to get a hearing, if you have a case, in Federal Court, where Federal Copyright Law is heard. No lawyer who knows his business should take your money if you don’t have a Registration. No Federal Judge will allow your case on his/her docket without a Registration.

[ Edited: 17 September 2017 09:57 PM by Gary E. Andrews]

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? http://www.garyeandrews.com

 
     
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Gary E. Andrews Joined Apr 12, 2005
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