Do you run a record label and want deals with big companies? If YES, here are 11 sure tips on how to get a distribution deal for your record label guaranteed.

When an artiste sings a song, it has to be first distributed for the song to get to the final consumers (that is the fans). Normally, record labels sign deals with distribution companies and this gives them the right to sell the record label’s music. The distributors take a commission (which is a percentage of the price for which the record is sold) from each record and then remit the remaining money to the record label.

Music distributors will normally only work with record labels that have been in business for at least three years or have at least three previous recordings that have sold thousands of copies. So, if you fit into that category, then you may just be ripe for a distribution deal for your record label. There is however always an exception to the rule. If you have a record that is really popular among the fans and have a lot of radio air plays, then it can help you land a distribution deal faster than normal.

What is a Distribution Deal and How Does It Work?

A distribution deal should not be confused with licensing. Licensing is when a distributor purchases the right to an album from the record label. The licensee is free to do with the album whatever he pleases and he also keeps all the profit made from the sales of the album to himself.

A distribution deal on the other hand involves a distribution company signing a deal with a record label that allows them to distribute their records to shops and stores. The record label manufactures and promotes the album while the distribution company distributes and sells it. The distribution company gets paid based on commission.

Music distributors get records into retail stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy among other places that sell music. It is up to the record label to get those customers into the retail store through aggressive marketing techniques. Normally the distribution companies may not give you a lot of money because they are depending on you to drive your fan base into the stores to buy those records that they had already made available in stores.

But like the exception stated above, if you have a really popular track, you can definitely find a distribution company that will give you some promotional money that will help you continue to grow you brand and move it forward by way of marketing and promotions.

Here are a few tips on how to get a distribution deal for your record label.

11 Sure Tips for Getting a Distribution Deal for a Record Label

1. Set up a business structure

Without a proper business structure, a record label will come off as a vanity project instead of a legitimate business. Nobody would want to do business with a company that isn’t registered or recognized by law. So you will have to register a corporate name with the appropriate government agency to show that you are willing to do business. Once you have registered your business, you should then get a business permit or license to be able to operate. You would also need to get a tax identification number (TIN) because this business is a profitable business.

2. Get started

Trying to get a distribution deal is quite similar to trying to get signed by a record label. In both, you will have to send a demo of your work. In the case of a distribution deal however, the “demo” is usually a finished album or an already released album.

You would have to make a list of distribution companies you are interested in and research on which company you would like to give your distribution deal to based on past experiences of people who have used them. Once you have done your research, you would then have a put a call across to each company you like and try to convince them to allow you send in your package.

3. Make sure that there is a market for your style of music: you would have to prove this to the distributing company by showing them how many records you have sold through your live sales, internet sales and any other alternative sales channels. Here, the paper work and paper trails that serve as evidence of the little success you have made will be beneficial and thus give the distributor confidence to do business with you.

4. Make your pitch: the promo package you will send in should be structured in a way such as to tackle the questions that the distributors may have. Basically, they will want to be convinced that they will be able to convince stores to stock up on your records. You should include the following in your pitch in other to increase your chances:

  • An extensive and relevant press clippings for all the releases you have had so far
  • Radio playlist in the case that the song has been played over the radio.
  • Detailed press, radio and any other campaign plan you may have
  • Tour dates for previous and future tours that may be underway
  • The music itself

5. Choose the right distributor: most distributors’ nowadays are looking for deals that are exclusive. They will not agree to partner with other distributors and as such you will have to endeavor to sign the deal with the right distributor so that it can blossom into a long lasting relationship and not one that will crumble within a short period of time.

When searching for a distribution company to do business with, you should try as much as possible to find out what labels they represent and also find out how successful they were in getting their records into the hands of the retailers.

6. Be well financed: trying to work with a distributor without a realistic budget to participate and promote your product will be a huge mistake. So make sure that you have funds that you have stashed away for this explicit purpose.

7. Find out the reach of your potential distributor: some distributors are just regional distributors and as such, they do you distribute albums to every part of the country. This will really reduce your sales. In addition, most big retail stores will only work with companies that are national distributors.

8. Have a marketing plan

A lot of people are of the notion that once they get a distribution deal for their record label they can just sit back and relax while everything falls into place. This however is far from the truth. There is still a lot of work to be done even after you had have succeeded in getting the deal.

Your distributor is only as good as your marketing plan to sell records. Don’t expect that the distribution company will do all the work for you. You have to remember that the primary work of the distribution company is to get the records into record stores. You would have to get out there and work hand in hand with your distributor to ensure that you are driving sales to those stores where you records are being sold at.

9. Promotion: promotion and promotion plans that you may have are usually very important to distributors if you want to get a deal with them. Having a professional radio blogger or PR company can help you in your promotion efforts however, they don’t come cheap. Alternatively, you can create a detailed promotional plan and make it available to the distribution company.

10. Cultivate original content: nothing pays like being original in the world of performing art. Even though covers are nice for parties and events, but they are very unlikely to attract the interest of distribution companies because of their lack of originality.

In conclusion, before you are ready to run to big distributors like Sony, Capitol, Universal Music Group, Warner and all the other ones out there, make sure that you’ve done your homework properly and that you have everything in place.

Most of the time, you are only going to get one meeting. If you don’t show up and impress them in that one meeting, you probably will never get another meeting with the distribution company. So be prepared to do the deal, have all your paper work in other, have a budget, and be ready to do good business.

Ajaero Tony Martins