Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Amuse Distribution No Longer Free 😱

Yesterday, I got an email from Amuse Distribution informing me of their decision to nuke their free tier. Immediately, it reminded me of a recent Live stream where I told artists that due to Spotify’s new monetization threshold, free distribution would be coming to an end. By that time, Onerpm had already switched to an Invite Only model and now, I get this news about Amuse.

Amuse no longer free

Starting March 27th Amuse’s free tier “Start” will come to an end. Old releases will remain in stores but artists will be required to upgrade to Boost or Pro to distribute future releases. Notably missing is whether the royalties from releases that are allowed to remain in stores will continue to pay out 100%. I’ve reached out to Amuse for an answer, but they’ve yet to respond.

What’s interesting here is the reasoning. Unlike Onerpm, Amuse doesn’t take a percentage of the artist’s revenue on their free tier. They claimed that they were using distribution as a farming system to identify talent. I’ve always held the belief that Amuse’s model was unsustainable, but for other reasons, like the fact that it was free. In its email, Amuse attributes the removal of its free tier to industry changes. The only change has been the introduction of monetization thresholds across streaming platforms.

Amuse, going by their offer, has nothing to gain from the success of an artist’s music. Consequently, they also have nothing to lose. So, why would a decision that doesn’t impact them cause their model to change?

Guess #1

They weren’t paying artists 100% of their royalties. Many distributors use facilitators like Fuga to handle distribution. These companies charge fees and those fees are passed on to the artists. A percentage of artists’ revenue is taken off the top before being disbursed to them and isn’t counted as part of any fee charged by the distribution company. This is how they’re able to still claim you get to keep 100% of your royalties.

Amuse’s share of the collective pennies being earned by their artists may have covered the cost of distributing their releases. With zero dollars coming in, Amuse would now be responsible for subsidizing those releases with their own money. That’s not something they’d want to do so, they end free.

Guess #2

With most artists losing their streaming revenue, paying for distribution doesn’t make much sense. As a result, they look for free distribution and with Amuse being at the top of that hill, it’s where everyone turns. That results in a massive influx of artists and releases that don’t generate any revenue to cover the cost of providing the service. It’s kind of like immigration. A country can handle a little bit of it, but too much strains resources and results in new policies.

Eliminating the free tier puts Amuse in direct competition with other digital distributors like Tunecore, Distrokid, and CD Baby. You can read Amuse vs. Distrokid vs. Tunecore to see how it compares. Previously, it was in a league of its own. Amuse was the only option for music distribution that allowed artists to pay absolutely nothing. They didn’t have to pay an upfront fee or a percentage of revenue. That was the reason for Amuse. What about now? The only thing they’ve seemed to change is a slight drop in the price of Boost.

All and all, it’s the end of an era for Amuse, and likely the end of Free Music Distribution.

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