Free music distribution. Something for nothing sounds too good to be true and it almost always is. Most digital distributors that offer free music distribution, really don’t, what they offer is a revenue split with no upfront fee. Onerpm is free to the extent that you don’t have to pay an upfront fee. At the same time, Onerpm charges you 15% of your revenue. Routenote is another distributor that charges no upfront fee, but takes 15% of your revenue. Amuse is the only digital distributor with a free tier that’s truly free.
Companies that offer free music distribution attract artists with low performance expectations. These artists join with the intent of flooding the distributor with releases. Their goal is to have micropayments generated by each releases culminate in enough royalties to turn a profit. Artists in this group often fail to generate any revenue that would truly contribute to helping the distributor scale. Managing overhead becomes a critical issue that impacts the quality of service.
You’re not going to get quality customer service because these companies likely can’t afford customer service reps. What you’ll find is Virtual assistance and chatbots. The chatbots often malfunction soon as you ask a question they’re not programmed to answer. The quality of customer service with digital distributors is generally mediocre, but with free distribution it’s at a whole other level. You’ll also find them to be short on features, tools, and partnerships.
Because free music distributors don’t attract valuable catalogs, they lack negotiating power and influence. This leads to worse deals with digital service providers and fewer opportunities.
There is a high level of instability with free digital distributors because success means the pricing will have to change. Popularity will attract too many artists and too many releases that won’t generate enough revenue to compensate for the increased workload. The result will be a change in pricing which is evidenced by Amuse, United Masters, and others having to introduced new pricing tiers. In order to force those on the free tier to upgrade, they’ll strip away services provided on the free tier. The removed services include things like distribution to certain stores, customer service support limitations, and monetization opportunities.
How Artists Get Trapped
The ability to upload unlimited releases for free leads to artists taking full advantage uploading up to and over 100 releases. When the distributor inevitably changing its pricing, they’re trapped. Who’s taking the time to transfer 100 releases to a new distributor? By that time audio files, covert art, song credits, etc. are harder to find because computers got upgraded, hard drives got damaged, etc. Artists find themselves stuck, even if the service isn’t the best.