The process of choosing a distributor for your music can be tedious. For those of us creating music here in Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the Caribbean, we know that getting our music out there the right way can seem like a daunting task. So here’s what, let’s make it a bit easier for you – that’s what we’re here for!
There’s obviously a lot to consider, but before we get into the companies themselves, let’s discuss the service they’re providing – Music Distribution.
What is Music Distribution?
Simply put, this is the process of putting your music onto platforms where your consumers can purchase, access, or stream them. Thanks to technology, the entertainment industry is constantly revolutionizing, and digital distribution is at an all-time high. No longer are we in the days of (solely) record stores or cassette shops. Everything now is available and stream-ready with just a few clicks.
The music industry has also seen steady growth over the last couple of years. For example, according to the RIAA, in 2022, the US has seen a 6% growth in revenue to a record high of $15.9 billion at estimated retail value. These distributors are your gateway into this market which makes it imperative that great care is taken when making your choice.
Music Industry Growth (due largely to streaming)
- 2022 End of Year Stats (Growth from last year)
- United States
- Retail – 6%
- Spain (recording industry)
- Wholesale – 12.4%
- Germany (recording industry)
- Retail – 6%
- United States
Figures quoted from RIAA’s Year End Industry Revenue Report, Billboard Business News & Promusicae’s Year End Report.
So What’s the Difference?
The 5 Types of Digital Distribution Companies
There are a lot of distribution companies out there but we can pool them together into roughly 5 categories. Let’s break them down for you:
- Major Distributors
- Independent Distribution Partners
- White-Label Distribution Solutions
- Open Distribution Platforms
- Semi-Label Distribution Services
- Major Distributors
These are the players in the recording market whose catalogs are large enough to grant them worthy interactions with prominent digital service providers (eg. Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, et al.). So essentially, majors don’t need distribution partners since the label’s distribution department shops the majority of their catalog. They distribute a large portion of independents as well. This in turn provides a higher chance of visibility on the DSPs if you’re signed to it, or distributed majors.
- Independent Distribution Partners:
Geared more so toward top-tier independent artists, these companies are the indie counterparts of major distributors. Better out, these are the high-performing distributors that managed to stay independent. Although the deals struck with these partners have proven to be beneficial, they are still guarded. Independent, up-and-coming artists must make a great case for themselves and prove that they are also worth the investment.
- White-label Distribution Solutions:
White-label solutions serve one main focus – they provide technical infrastructure for indie labels that may have well-developed distribution operations but lack that structural department. They focus on the administrative distributor functions which include delivering audio and metadata to various DSPs, as well as distributing royalties. You won’t actually see these companies branding themselves as *distributors but more so as technical support systems for other distributors or indie labels with sizeable catalogs.
- Open Distribution Platforms / Aggregators:
Now we’ve come to one of the most visible sets of distributors in the industry – *open distribution platforms. Although these companies only represent a fraction of the market, there’s no music professional/artist than hasn’t heard of DistroKid, TuneCore, or CDBaby. With services that include those akin to aggregation, publishing administration, distribution, and everything in between, their listing is your playground. Also, these services are easily accessible and could be worthwhile investments for artists in the early stages of their careers.
- Semi-label Distribution Services:
Rounding the types of distribution companies, we’ve got the newbie. To date, there are only a few of its kind on the market, they are keeping up with the ever-evolving industry demands. The good thing about semi-label companies is that you don’t need a record deal to release your music, all you need is a distributor. Like other companies, they offer basic distribution services but here’s the kicker – if they see that the artist is doing well, the initial deal can be upscaled to partnerships or full-on record licensing deals, along with some other things.
There’s essentially no ‘best’ music distribution company…
But here are 5 that we think are noteworthy (Finances Online)
Every artist’s needs are different, and therefore, the “best” in this case, would be subjective. Our advice to you is simply to identify your needs and then find the company that’s most aligned with them.
There are a lot of music distribution companies out there to compare, but below we’ve identified 5 of the more noteworthy players. If you’d like a more extensive comparison, there’s a fantastic Music Distributors Comparison chart by Ari Herstand of Ari’s Tales.
- CD Baby
If you’d like a more extensive comparison, there’s a fantastic Music Distributors Comparison chart by Ari Herstand of Ari’s Tales.
Although these companies are in many cases based outside of the region, they are still accessible to us. A great example of that is DistroKid partnering with D’Music, the Caribbean’s largest digital streaming platform, in 2022 with the key focus of helping artistes in the region succeed digitally bridging the distribution gap, and getting more music to subscribers.
Distribution in The Caribbean
Caribbean Music Distribution Companies
Though a lot of local and regional artists are represented by internationally based music distribution companies, our native counterparts are still worth considering.
- Caribbean Music Group (Trinidad and Tobago)
- Represents Machel Montano for Continental Europe (minus the UK) for licensing and publishing
- Fayann Lyons for licensing and publishing to the world
- Bunji Garlin for licensing and publishing to the world
- Also had a hand in Calypso Rose’s 2016 album “Far From Home” (Gold – France)
- Catalog of 3Canal, SuperBlue, Brother Resistance, and a large chunk of the region’s Calypso, Rapso, Reggae, and Soca catalog
- Tuff Gong International Caribbean Distributors, Inc. (Jamaica)
- Largest music distributor in the Caribbean
- Offers global distribution services (physical and digital)
- CD, vinyl & digital
- Caribbean licensee for Universal Music, Warner Music & Disney
- Network of other local and regional labels (good if you’re working towards cutting a deal or getting signed)
Things to consider when seeking out a distributor
Use the tools available to you! – You can never have too much applicable knowledge in this industry and we’re here to help you fill your toolbox. In addition to information about DSPs, you should check out MusicTT’s Resource Page where you can find loads of information and assets that will help you in your journey through the industry.
Distributor Usage per Release – You should only use 1 per release because if you use more than one distributor for a release, the song would be listed on platforms more than once. You can also switch distributors if you need to. This makes it even more important to choose the best distribution company for you.
No One owns ANY of Your Rights! – These distributors are not record labels, nor are these contracts. Even though they offer related services, they don’t own anything
There is simply no “Best Music Distribution Company” – Even though some may be seemingly better than others, every artist’s situation and needs are different. It’s always important to weigh your options and choose what’s right for you!