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A brief for Composers, Producers, Musicians and Recording Artists

It’s January 2009 and we’ve all realized a long time ago that the big multinational record labels are no longer going to be the savior, discover us and make us filthy rich!  It’s up to musicians and composers to have their own sales and marketing plans along with distribution.  But, being in business for oneself is not usually what most musicians, composers or producers are thinking when they set about making music.  What to do?

There’s several ways to get your music sold nowadays, regardless of how good (or bad) it is.  Actually, I don’t believe there is any bad music.  Perhaps a better way to describe it is “music that doesn’t appeal to me.”  You can have long debates about the merits of any music.  As one music executive once told me, “There’s a market for anything.”  Essential reading for this is Wired magazine’s Executive Editor Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

How does one go from making music in your bedroom studio to being sold in stores, both physical and digital around the globe?  Anyone who has tried to find a link on iTunes to “submit music” will know that there is none.  It’s like trying to get in the door of Sony Records.

Enter the Aggregators.

Aggregators are basically wholesalers.  They’re like the middle men between musicians and the retail outlets both online and physical.  They take in massive quantities of music, do all the accounting and paperwork, rights clearances, give you the tools to sell and then deal with the distribution outlets like iTunes, Amazon, Napster, eMusic, Rhapsody, and even physical stores like Virgin, HMV, Target and Walmarts of the world.  And, there is no gatekeeping.  You too can put your ridiculous novelty song about burps on iTunes as long as you pay the fees associated.  What?  It costs something?

Well, that’s how these guys make money.  The aggregators invest in the tools, the accounting systems, personnel to allow you to distribute your work.  It’s up to you to self-monitor the quality AND market the work.  It’s actually no different than a publisher paying Barnes & Noble for enhanced placement on the endcap of an aisle.  They  pay lots of money for those big endcap displays.  And now you can too.

There are now so many aggregators, like CDBaby, IODA, TuneCore, AudioLife,  many of whom offer both online and offline presence in the market.  I’ll be posting a comparison chart of the Digital Aggregators in the near future.

Besides retail sales to end customers, as in listeners, the other big avenue for money is in licensing your music for use in movies, television, websites, videos, presentations etc.  This is where a huge portion of  revenue for the big record labels is coming from and you can do that too.  Production music libraries like the one at 300 Monks offer a fast, efficient way for filmmakers, producers and advertising creatives to find and legally license high quality music in a vast array of styles and moods.

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