7 Common Mistakes about Music Distribution that Musicians Make

Mistakes about Music Distribution

Distribution is the best way to get heard. However, how do you do it right? Music distribution is misunderstood. There’s way too much confusion about what it means, how it works, and how to do it effectively. And that’s when you’re ready to release. It’s changed a ton since digital distribution took over. So it’s time to clear up some of the confusion once and for all… Here are 7 common mistakes about music distribution you need to forget.

1. Physical Distribution is Dead

Many people tell you that physical is dead and digital is the future. And they are right!

Streaming and digital downloads are the most popular method to access music. However, that doesn’t mean NO ONE buys vinyl, cassettes, CDs, or different physical formats anymore.

In reality, physical sales still account for 39% of recording industry revenue. In case you are an independent artist, it will take you a while to wait around for enough streaming royalties to roll in.

If somebody wants to buy your physical release give them the option! Revenue from physical releases can add up much faster than streams.

Don’t believe the hype about the death of physical. Physical revenues are gonna be around for a while. Diversify your releases, tap into the right audience, and get paid for your music digitally and physically.

Mistakes about Music Distribution

2. MP3s Are All I Need

MP3s are great. Their small file sizes and ‘stream ability’ are huge assets in terms of digital platforms.

However, in case you’re serious about distributing your music right you NEED high-quality WAV masters. Most of the major platforms—like Bandcamp, Spotify, and Apple Music—require or encourage high-quality WAV files for all submissions.

Audio Format guidelines for distribution:

  • 16 bit (sample size)
  • 1 kHz (sample fee)
  • 1411 kbps (bit rate) stereo WAV information

Beginning with HD 24-bit WAV mastering gives you exactly what you should upload to every main platform.

In case you’re taking care of your distribution on a site like Bandcamp, uploading the highest-quality files gives your listeners everything they need. Bandcamp explains it perfectly in the FAQs section:

“By starting with the highest possible quality source, we’re able to convert your tracks into a bunch of different formats and quality combinations, including MP3 (320, VBR V0), Ogg Vorbis, Apple Lossless, FLAC and AAC.”

3. My music isn’t good enough for distribution

Believe it or not, Distribution can be part of your artistic process. Distribution doesn’t just mean getting your music up on platforms like Spotify or iTunes.

Running your own DIY SoundCloud page, or uploading your tunes to YouTube, is distribution too. Your DIY distribution channels are useful tools for perfecting your tracks before distributing with the majors.

Share early and get feedback. If you sit in your studio stressing about whether your tracks are good enough to share or not, your music will never matter… ‘Cause no one will hear it.

Be transparent about demos and sketches of tracks you’re working on. Use the information you get from peers and listeners. So when you move into bigger distribution channels you’ll be coming correct.

“If you sit in your studio stressing about whether your tracks are good enough to share or not, your music will never matter… ‘Cause no one will hear it.”

4. Distribution means sitting back and letting the money roll in

In terms of distribution ‘set it and forget it’ is as far from the truth as it gets.

Always keep in mind: Your music distribution is just as good as your music promotion.

That means staying engaged with your followers and audience as much as possible. The best way to do it is to make distribution become a PART of your promotion.

Construct hype around your projects. Make your audience transparent with what you’re working on and your process.

“In terms of distribution ‘set it and forget it’ is as far from the truth as it gets.”

So that once you do upload to the big distro platforms, your streaming links will be extra juicy for your audience. In case your promotion is smart then your distributed music will get listened to.

5. Distribution and publishing are the same thing

In music, distribution and publishing are completely different.

Music Distribution gets your music into the ears of all those music enthusiasts and potential fans out there. It’s how your music moves from your studio to the rest of the world. That means things like streaming platforms, physical releases, and album downloads.

Music Publishing is the way you get paid for all those places your music is being played—usually in the form of royalties.

Publishing also covers placements and syncs. Placements and syncs are when your music is used commercially like advertisements, video games, or movies.

6. Distribution Platforms make my music Findable

Distribution platforms make your music available. However, they DON’T make your music findable. That part is up to you.

Each platform has a unique tagging system. Research the tagging systems on the platforms you’ll be using the most. Proper tagging will make your music findable within each platform.

Tags will vary depending on the platform. However, some essential tags to keep in mind are:

  • Year
  • Genre(s)
  • Collaborators, co-producers or co-writers
  • Record Label
  • Release Date
  • Album title

7. Distribution Platforms will automatically promote my music

There are other ways to make your music findable faster too. Playlisting has become a key way to get your music heard.

Spotify playlists are especially helpful for promoting your material. Make a playlist of stuff you’re inspired by, put your music in it, and show it through your social media channels.

This will increase your streams and make your music more visible on the platform. Collaborating with other artists on a playlist is also a superb method to gain visibility.

Tastemakers often search playlists to find the next best sound. When that super-aficionado comes looking for your music, it needs to be there.

Building your voice as an influencer through playlists will pique the interest of potential fans and give enthusiasts a better understanding of where your music comes from. It’s a win-win.

Streaming platforms include distribution channels AND promotional tools. So get involved and make your music findable.

Distribute and Contribute

Distribution means getting your music out there. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all process.

The successful distribution includes all the other work you do such as finding your best possible sound, promoting your music, and building your visibility.

The future of smart distribution is a willingness to adapt to a changing industry. However, with the right perspective, keeping your music ahead of the curve is possible.


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