Friday, February 13, 2015

A Musician’s Guide To Digital Distribution

So, you have survived the sleepless nights and long studio hours involved in making a record and finally got your song professionally mixed and mastered. You are then faced with the question, “What do I do next?” The next logical step is to have your music available for sale. With the advance of technology, it is important to have your music available digitally. It is the new age method of selling music. The latest fad is using Beatport, Spotify, eMusic and iTunes for example, to access music. If your music is not on these platforms, you are simply not in the game.

But what are the processes involved and the requirements necessary to make this possible?
I will endeavor to assist in preparing you for this important step of selling your music through an aggregator/distributor. The distributor acts as a middleman between you and the digital music service. It is important to note that digital distributors have far less operating costs than the physical music distributor (the CD guy). This is because there is no physical inventory to store, no actual shipments to be made and no copies to be pressed. The new age distributor collects music through licensing; manages the asset (by assets I mean the metadata, audio file and artwork); delivers the music to online stores; receives the revenues generated through sales and streams; and issues royalty statements and payments to artistes. The greatest costs they face, therefore, are the fees paid to submit music to stores and wages paid to staff.

A distributor will either collect a flat fee for submitted content or take a percentage of royalties on sales. Of course, the flat fee structure varies from one aggregator to another but is usually around the cost of US$10 for single submissions, US$20 for an EP, and somewhere around US$40 for an album. The average royalty rate for aggregators who rather collect a percentage of sales is around 15%. It is also usual to pay an annual maintenance cost to keep your content available in stores, so do not be surprised if you should see these deductions, which can range from US$10-US$50 depending on your type of submission (single, EP or Album).

What are some things to consider when selecting a distributor?

Firstly, it is extremely important to determine which stores matter the most. Of all the online stores available today, iTunes, Amazon, MP3, Spotify, Pandora and Rhapsody contribute the most to the digital music sales market share; with iTunes reported on October 10, 2012, as having a 64% share of the online music market, and a 29% share of all music sales worldwide. iTunes has been the largest music vendor in the United States since April 2008 and the largest music vendor in the world since February 2010, with its 10 billionth song Guess Things Happen That Way by Johnny Cash sold on February 25, 2010. Revenues in the first quarter of 2011 totalled nearly US$1.4 billion and by February 6, 2013 the store sold 25 billion songs worldwide.

If you are an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) artiste, however, then JunoDownload and Beatport are considered the kings of this genre, with Beatport leading by far. Sales in Beatport grew from an annual revenue of $600,000 in 2010 to $6 million in 2012. This makes Beatport the favourite for digital distribution of electronic music. With a number of Jamaican producers and artistes venturing into the EDM genre and a growing interest in EDM promoted events recently, Beatport should be a consideration for local musicians when selecting a distributor.

When choosing an aggregator, therefore, it is important to know what stores they service and whether those stores matter most to you.

Secondly, it is important to take into consideration the delivery times and submission criteria. Different stores have different submission periods; some stores may work with a two-week period while others work with three. It is important to note that the closer the distributor is to the store, the shorter the submission times will be. In relation to submission criteria, some stores stipulate certain formats for music distribution to which an artiste has to conform - whether wav which is required by iTunes or mp3 which is preferred by Amazon. Others are known for screening the music submitted to their store and so request a showcase of an artiste’s catalogue for review. As a result, one must accept that there is no 100% guarantee of acceptance with every store.

Thirdly, it may be prudent to consider whether the aggregator provides UPC/ISRC (Universal Product Code/International Standard Recording Code) codes free of charge or whether it is a paid service and the cost of such service against providing your own codes. These codes allow for easy and internationally standardized means of administering and communicating about your music. It helps track store sales, distribution numbers, and even radio airplay. It's also used by royalty collection societies to identify revenue generated by tracks, to its owners.

Fourthly, it is important to consider the right payment deal based on the distributor models. Whether you prefer a flat fee, royalty cuts or a combination of both is dependent on what the retail cost of your music will be on each store and any recurring cost of maintaining such store presence. It is not possible in this forum to delve into too much detail in this department, but I will advise that from the foregoing, you may apply a formula to determine the deal that would be most profitable.

Lastly, I find one of the most important considerations to be the legal agreement that you will sign with a distributor. This agreement will cover the distributors right to sell and distribute your music to stores and to collect any revenue arising from such distribution. Some of the key components to a distribution contract include:

·  The term of the agreement – the term may be based on a number of years or may be tied to a number of releases (whether one album or two etc).
·  Territory – it is important to determine whether a distributor will have exclusive or non-exclusive right to sell your music within certain restricted territories or throughout the world.
·  Rights – Will the agreement speak to rights to reproduce, manufacture, distribute and sell only or will it also grant the distributor synchronization rights or other rights that have been previously limited to master license agreements?
· Distribution services – Will the agreement make reference to promotion and advertising? This is not a usual feature of distribution agreements.
·  Distribution Fees – whatever payment deal is determined above to be most profitable to the artiste, that deal MUST be included in the agreement.
·  Termination – Upon termination, how much time is the distributor given time to remove music from stores?

These are just some of the thoughts one should have when embarking on this next step in a musical career. If there is still doubt as to how to proceed, it is important to contact an entertainment attorney to obtain legal advice. 

Tova Hamilton is an Entertainment Lawyer. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Aidonia To Begin Work On New Movie

As promised dancehall recording artiste Aidonia is definitely taking a proactive approach towards his career for the New Year with the unveiling of a new project. Coming on the heels of his 1V Clothing Line and the Maxfield Park Primary School Scholarship program, the Bad People deejay in the days ahead will commence work on his latest venture; a movie chronicling snippets of his life and that of the members of his camp. Though still in its infancy the proposed 40-minutes visual will be an accompaniment to the soon-to-be-released Open Sky Rhythm which showcases the musical skill set of the JOP camp among other top tier acts.

According to Aidonia, he didn’t want to merely shoot another set of videos but instead present the compilation in a more realistic and appealing manner via a movie format while still encompassing the personalities of each member of his camp into the storyline.

“JOP has always been about difference and setting trends, from the way we pen lyrics to even the delivery. So we decided to present the Open Sky Rhythm but in a different format from the clich√© music video and hence the birth of the movie concept. The fans can look out this project is definitely going to be something to talk about.” – He explained.

Though sparse with the details Aidonia admits he has enlisted the services of three accomplished directors to work in tandem with him and his team and affirms that the final product will be as thrilling as any silver screen blockbuster. 

Meanwhile, with his song Lightening featured on the Wul Dem Again rhythm enjoying immense popularity in the local entertainment space, the fast rhyming lyricist has struck again with another potential club banger, this time adopting a retro-styling on his latest effort titled 90s Gangsta Town. Produced by Ancient Records and featured on the Brawd Board Riddim, the deejay offers a stern warning to all the modern day wannabe gangsters.

Look out for the official premier of the 90s Gangsta Town viral video premiering on Friday, February 6th at 1:00pm on Youtube ( also check out his latest freestyle medley session with Seani B from BBC 1XTRA [WATCH VIDEO]. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Digicel to Host Bob Marley's 70th- 'Redemption Live'

A star studded line-up of the Caribbean’s best musicians are gearing up to pay tribute to world reggae icon, Bob Marley, at a free concert in celebration of his 70th birthday being hosted by Digicel on Saturday, February 7 in downtown Kingston.

The concert, dubbed ‘Redemption Live’, will feature performances from Capleton, Cocoa Tea, Freddie McGregor, I-Octane, Judy Mowatt, Kabaka Pyramid, Marcia Griffiths, the Marley sons, Taurus Riley and Tessanne Chin along with some surprise performances. Last year, Digicel streamed the concert live to over 10,322 viewers from across the world. This year, it will be streamed live once again via Digicel Jamaica’s social media pages.

Digicel Group Head of Sponsorship, James Wynne, said; “Digicel is passionate about connecting our customers to their culture. With our live stream of the Bob Marley free concert in Kingston, we are bringing the once in a lifetime musical experience to fans across the globe in celebration of his 70th birthday. Bob’s life and musical journey continues to inspire millions across the world. He is one of the greatest musical icons of all time – his impact through his music goes beyond the shores of Jamaica and transcends social, racial and political boundaries. Digicel is delighted and honoured to be support Bob Marley’s legacy and to be a part of the celebrations.”

The Bob Marley Foundation General Manager, Marie Bruce, said; “We are thrilled by the line-up of artists scheduled to perform at the concert and we appreciate their support of the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley's musical legacy. We are very happy to be partnering with Digicel to bring this celebration to the people for free. We have no doubt that this show will be a memorable one and so we invite everyone to join us on the waterfront in downtown Kingston and online as we celebrate together in One Love."

The Digicel team will also be participating in the Bob Marley birthday celebrations on Friday, February  6 at the Bob Marley Museum which will be attended by the Honourable Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna. The celebrations will culminate with the annual ‘One Love’ Bob Marley football competition where masters and celebrities will face-off on Wednesday, February 18 at the Harbour View Mini Stadium.