Finding a distributor is hard. It can take months and months
before you find and secure a distributor, which is not an easy
process for independent labels or individuals.
Don't give up or get discouraged; keep plugging away, even if
you can't find a distributor after months of searching.
Distributors get a lot of packages on their desks every week, so
it's imperative that you contact them first before you send them
a package. When calling a distributor, you may get them on the
first try, or it may take you weeks before you get a live person
to talk to.
If you don't contact them first, and send a package to them
unsolicited, it might get tossed or sent back unopened. But you
may think, 'My product is awesome! They would never do that with
mine.' Sorry to bring you bad news, but your package may never
get opened. As a matter of fact, it may never get past the
receptionist's desk without prior clearance. So why not make
sure that your product has a much better chance of getting heard
by getting permission first?
For those of you who feel you could never make any cold calls,
you will have to get over it, or have a friend do the calling
for you. Getting through the first phone call is always tough,
but then you will see, as you make more and more calls, that it
gets easier every time. You are in competition with a lot of
people who are making the calls. If you don't call, the chances
are very slim that you will ever be heard.
If, after the first time you call, you still feel that you are
just too embarrassed, try making up a character and make your
call as that character. Become "Jicki Wicki" from "Nagawicki."
(You never know; it could lead to an additional career of
acting!) Make it a game.
It is important that you submit your CD to a distributor that
distributes your kind of music. The person you send it to is not
necessarily the person in charge of final decisions. From the
time you start contacting them, it may take you six to eight
months to get the actual product in their hands and get them to
finally listen to it, before you find the right distributor.
Once you finally get one, it can take an additional few months
to get added to their database. Here are few words of advice on
finding a distributor:
* On your first call, tell them your name and label. If you
haven't picked a name yet, make one up. * Ask about their
submission and distribution policies. * Ask if being the only
act on an indie label is going to cause a problem. Many
distributors will not take products from Indie labels unless
they have at least three to fifteen CDs in their 'stable.'
Additionally, many distributors will not take you on unless you
already have established airplay. The catch-22 is that many
radio stations, while they may play an independent artist, will
only do so if they have national distribution. * Ask what they
want in the press kit. Some want an entire press kit with a CD
(forego sending a headshot unless specifically asked for one),
while others just need a letter of summary which contains recent
happenings, targeting ideas, and review excerpts, if you have
any. It's important to find out this information beforehand. We
found out, after much wasted time and money, that several
distributors only wanted the letter. They had opened the
package, read the tear sheet, and thrown the rest away. Once we
started calling frequently, they asked for the whole package
again. What a waste of resources! * In your letter/press kit
they will want to know your "SRP," which is your Suggested
Retail Price. For those of you who are unfamiliar with retail
versus wholesale, retail is the price the consumer would pay in
a music store and wholesale is the price the distributor pays to
the product owner.
My suggestion for SRP is $11.98 - $12.98. You don't want to
price yourself out of the market. When you look in a music
store, most major-label artists' CDs are "on sale" for $11.98.
Distributors will typically take 40-60% of your SRP as their cut
(which at 40% x $11.98 gives you $7.19 per CD), and the music
stores will typically mark up your SRP by $1.00 - $4.00. If you
set your SRP at $11.98, and the store adds an additional $2.00
to the price of your CD, the cost to the consumer would be
$13.98. However, if you set your SRP at $13.98 and the store
adds $2.00, the price to the consumer would be $15.98. Which
price do you think a consumer who had never heard of you would
be more likely to pay?
* Double-check what style of music they currently distribute. *
Ask if they require your music to be played on a particular
There are some distributors that require you to be played on
specific stations before they will distribute you. If that
station does not play your genre of music, you have wasted your
product, money, and time. Let me give you an example of why this
is another key question. We had asked all of the above
questions, with the exception of this particular one. Then we
shipped off the package. When we contacted them later, they
asked us if we were playing on a certain radio station. We said
It turned out that the station only played alternative music,
while our CD is Country/Jazz. You can see the problem. When we
approached them about this fact, they said they did not
distribute Country Music. We asked when they stopped
distributing Country Music. The gentleman we spoke with during
our initial call said he was considering presenting Country
Music to the company, but hadn't had the chance. He realized
that we would never be played on the station on which they
require airplay, so he dropped it. A great example of wasted
time, effort, and money!
* Inquire where their distribution arm reaches. Ask for specific
states and regions. Some distributors only distribute in certain
states. If your radio airplay, live gigs, and promotion are not
in those regions, they cannot help you. * When is the best time
to reach them? * Who are some of the major stores they
distribute too, and in what areas? Call several of the stores
and double-check their references. If the stores have never
heard of them, they may not be a legitimate distributor. Save
your product from an unscrupulous person who may be trying to
rip you off.
This is just a sampling of things you must do in order to obtain
a distributor. Don't forget to get your music listed with
iTunes, Sonymusic and all the other online distributors. Once
you actually obtain a distributor it's an entirely different
playing field, and a lot of work, but well worth it. For
additional information, as well as contact names, address, phone
numbers, email, etc., check out my book, The Indie Guide To
Music, Marketing and Money.
Copyright 2005 Jaci Rae