What is a Distribution Deal? 8 Pros & Cons to Great Success!

distribution deal

Distribution Deal

Distribution is an important part of the music industry and with changing times, now music distribution has become a digital process. Digital mediums have surpassed the sales of physical mediums of distribution. 

Whether you are a budding artist or an established one, you must have a digital distribution in place so that you can reach all your potential fans. It helps you increase your network as a brand by reaching as much audience as possible. 

So here we bring to you everything that you need to know about distribution deals. 

With the advent of technology, the role of distributors and music record labels have changed considerably. People have started spending more time online and less on buying physical stuff. 

Whether you are a musician or producer, once you are done with your latest track, the next step is to push the music for release. For the artists who are already signed by the labels, the release activities are taken care of by them but for the independent artists, they need to execute all their tasks independently. 

What is a distribution deal in the music business? 

Just beware and be clear about the distribution deal. 

– One type of deal is a simple agreement between a distributor and an artist. This allows access to specific online streaming platforms. 

This type of deal that allows musicians to release their stuff on streaming platforms is beneficial for independent artists. It allows you to upload your music to the distributor’s online platforms and they can further use their distributor account to upload the music so that the numbers can be increased and you can start receiving the royalties. 

The ‘deals’ are in the form of Terms & Conditions of use, which you will typically find in the small print of the website or with the link at the bottom. So read all the terms and conditions properly so that you don’t end up with nasty surprises. 

– Then comes the actual distribution deals that are quite alarming. In this, the dealers typically promise to utilize their network and contacts to you more streams and results. 

In exchange, they will take a lot of royalties somewhere between 20%-30%. These agreements keep you in a lock-in period which means you could be tied up for several years. 

The problem which many faces through these deals is that they often dilute the royalties especially when both you or the distributors are taking the cuts. 

On a specific note, if you are just looking for streams then instead of distribution deals you may think of considering radio or other modes as an option. You can also get in touch with playlist curators or the synchronization agents. 

– Third comes the traditional distribution deal, which is often not relevant to you as an artist. The record label’s role helps to deal with the recording, producing, mixing and mastering services, etc. of music, as well as its promotion and marketing. 

This deal is however less prevalent now as the industry is moving towards online platforms. You are now required to hand over your copyrights with most deals in exchange for a range of services and distribution of your music is part of that process. 

If you want to retain all rights by yourself then self-distribution is the only way but that is not possible as you have other important things to do. 

In a nutshell, distribution deals are between the music distribution companies and labels which provides the right to the companies to sell record label products. 


● Distributors are in a better position to sell and promote you as well as your music as a brand. 

● They can help you network and leverage their connectivity in the industry. 

● They can offer you better equipment, equipment in terms of shoots, recordings. 

● They can help you close on favorable deals which might not be possible if you plan to do so independently. 

● Bigger budgets and broader connections also help major labels get the best deals on manufacturing, advertising, and other expenses since they do business in bulk. 


● Major labels sign up with numerous artists therefore, you might end up fighting for your place or position if your music isn’t selling. 

● When you sign up with a major label, most of the time the bargaining power is against you. 

● Your dependency is entirely on external factors. This means relying on other companies and working as per their terms and conditions. 

What are record companies looking for in an artist when signing up deals? 

There are several music distribution companies eyeing for talented artists. Here we will help you understand what record labels are looking for in an artist when they plan to sign up. 

● Great combination of music and talent. 

● They are more interested in your music and would be interested to check the play counts. If they are viewing unreleased demos then they might be interested in the portfolio of work you have done before. 

● They are interested in building a brand out of you. Hence, they will be looking out for what is unique in you. Is there any interesting story to tell your fans about it? Having a great combination of music, story, and super visuals in a killer in itself. 

Should you sign up a distribution deal with a label? 

Distribution deals for an independent artist may differ from a band. 

We would suggest that as an independent artist or a producer keep distribution deals aside for a while. You can sign that later when you are in a position to negotiate on better terms that could be beneficial to you. 

In the interim, you can start reaching out to your potential fans on your own and once you have stabilized yourself you can then leverage the other contractual options. 

Signing up with any record label requires understanding and knowledge about what exactly they are looking for. So keep building your true fan base and understand the psychological order of the events before you tie up with one.

Distribution Deal

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