Answered by: Michael Laskow
I just started my own record label and I want to land a distribution deal. How do I go about landing a deal? I already have two artists signed to my record label.

K Thompson

Hi there,

My best advice would be to search for distributors online, send them copies of the two CDs, and a well-constructed pitch letter. They're going to want to see sales records, marketing plans, marketing budgets, and anything else that tells them that you've got a high probability of selling at LEAST several thousand units.

From their perspective, why should they distribute something that has a low probability of selling? Why should they expend warehouse space, truck space, and general overhead for something that isn't going to sell? Many people think that distribution is some sort of magic bullet... "If only our CD were in record stores all across America.... I'm sure millions of people would buy my CDs if they were on the shelf!"

That's true if you had radio airplay on P1 stations (750k in payola per major city), a few million to spend on marketing (advertising, end caps in stores, co-op ads with retailers, in-store promos, etc), and a hefty tour to expose your artists.

I hate to be such a downer, but these are the realities of the music business, and this is why record companies make 85% of the money from sales of your CDs as an artist. They foot the bill and take most of the risk.

The Internet solves the problem of trying to convince somebody to give you shelf space, trucks, etc., but it still requires you to do the marketing to get the word out.

I don't think anybody does a better job of selling Indie CDs than CDBaby, but only a small percentage of their clients sell large quantities of CDs or downloads because only a small number of them really spend the time, money, and resources to let people know WHERE to buy their music.

MP3.com sounded like it was the answer to everybody's problems because ANYBODY could put their music up there for the world to see. The same is true for MySpace.com. But in the end, only the people who know how to market their music are going to benefit in a BIG way.

If there was a magic bullet that made all this cheap and easy, wouldn't everybody already be doing it?

Michael



Hello TAXI,

I'm a songwriter. My question is what chances do I have in getting my song listened to and possibly getting a deal if I have an attorney to submit my song to A&R at record companies?


Thank you,
Linda


Dear Linda,

Mostly, it depends on your music, and if you're pitching to the right people at the right time. But things have changed quite a bit over the years, and the number of attorneys that "shop" deals has dramatically dwindled over the last decade. There are just a few left on each coast. And they typically aren't interested in shopping you unless you've already got a LOT going on for yourself, like selling 10,000 CDs on your own, building a sizable fan base, and having labels already chasing you. I know it seems ironic that you have to have all that in place before they'd want to shop you, but they'd rather invest their time in the closest thing they can find to a sure bet.

Also, be aware that there ARE some unscrupulous attorneys in the big music cities AND in towns all across America that claim to be well-connected, and are happy to charge you $3,000-$5,000 to send your music to A&R people. Some of these jokers just shove your stuff into a package, and send it to a list of A&R people that THEY DON'T have personal relationships with. Needless to say, the A&R people treat those packages as UNSOLICITED MATERIAL.

You need to find an attorney that is a CURRENT power hitter, who is willing to take you on for a piece of the action. Truthfully, you'll find it easier to get an A&R person to listen to your material for the simple reason that there are hundreds of them, and only a handful of attorneys that still shop artists.

Good luck,

Michael



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