Digital Distributors vs Label Services

The concept behind success for any new artist, is ensuring that the right music is heard by the right people – but what steps can young musicians take to be certain that they will achieve this? The answer is simple, distribute their music in the most suitable way to maximise their current potential.

When looking to make this decision, the artist and their management will want to consider the current popularity of the artist, the size of their fan base and their financial situation – determining how much they are prepared to spend or give away, for the benefit of potential success. Ultimately, the artist will have to decide whether to opt for a digital distribution company, or a label services company.
For the purpose of this analysis, I will be considering Absolute Label Services versus Tunecore, a globally recognised digital distribution company.

Absolute is ideal for artists who are relatively early on in their careers, but are established enough to be cemented in their image, sound and are prepared to surge forwards. Services such as Absolute pride themselves on providing artists with ‘added value’, under this domain comes physical and digital distribution, marketing support, real-time analytics, synchronization, plus much more.
The main benefits an artist will reel from Absolute is the opportunities to take their musical career to the next level. A major part of this is the chance to work with pluggers; to ensure their tracks hit the right Spotify playlists or are aired on the desired radio stations. This becomes an essential part of a developing artists career due to the industry domination of streaming that has come about in recent years. Similarly, the access to real-time analytics cements an understanding of their fan base and the traction that their music is gaining; directly translating to a more successful social media campaign or correctly directed tour planning. The only drawback to all these beautifully sounding promises, is the aggregation fee of 15% which Absolute will take from all future revenue via their company.

Contrastingly, Tunecore acts solely as a Digital Distribution Company, asking for no distribution fee aside from their yearly set price. This flat rate is £9.99 for singles (per year) and £29.99 for albums (£49.99 in the second year).
Tunecore works well for artists who are able to manage themselves/their own label, who have a strong foundation which does not require the help or guidance from services such as Absolute. Similarly, this could work well for bands at the very start of their career who are not yet seeking that guidance – instead, they are simply looking to build a catalogue of online content, which they will then use to drive themselves forward.

An immediate benefit that an artist may recognise with Tunecore is that they allow you to keep 100% of the revenue made. However, Tunecore does not offer any added services and essentially, does not drive discovery unlike many label service companies.
It is at this point that it must be considered, is it better to give away 15% of something (keeping 85%), or keep 100% of a potential nothing.

Alternatively, there are other international services which to some extent, provide a happy medium for fresh-faced artists. Take AWAL (Artists Without A Label) for example. AWAL are a label services company, like Tunecore, that do not ask any artist for upfront fees, instead they take 15% of future revenues. Granted, this is somewhat ideal for an artist starting out on a low budget (as most do). Whereas, Absolute will ask for the artist’s marketing budget and will not take them on if they deem the situation to be unstable.

As well as the added value provided by means of marketing support, by releasing music under AWAL, an artist immediately becomes involved in a united community of unsigned artists, somewhat looking to support each other. To a lot of artists wishing to immerse themselves in the underground scene, this could be an incredibly appealing concept.

On the whole, it becomes clear that digital distribution services such as Absolute work well for artists/bands who are ready to take their career to the next level; who may have had previous financial success and have the foundations to keep going. Alternatively, Tunecore appears ideal for startout artists who wish to start building a catalogue of their music online or equally, artists later on in their career with an established fan base that they can make full financial gain from. Contrastingly, alternative services such as AWAL are perfect for artists that want to put their music out straight away and still receive marketing support, but may not have the immediate funds to support them and are more than happy to immerse themselves as part of the unsigned community.



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