Digital Music Distribution – Expectation Vs Reality

Reality is subjective, we know that – but there is also a collective reality that can slap you in the face when your expectations differ from it, and in this case we’re talking about expectations of music distribution.


What we find a lot with artists that are new to the distribution game, is their expectations of how it all goes down – what our role is, how we work with the stores, how fast we can get your music up.


While we’re good at what we do, we‘re always honest with out artists and don’t overpromise. So we want to help keep your expectations in check as best you can as we outline some of the realities you may face during your musical journey.


Expectation: You can get your music online in a few hours

Reality: It takes a few days minimum

Be careful expecting your music to be in online stores within a few hours of uploading – it simply won’t be. It takes a few days at the absolute least so plan accordingly. Any platform that says they can get your music up in a few hours must be a magician – even Spotify says it takes five business days for your music to go live. We know you’re excited, but good things take time,


The amount of music that is uploaded daily is growing – at the moment it’s around 20,000 new singles a day – and with that comes a longer queue for the digital stage. We strongly advise a 3-4 week lead in to give your release the time it deserves, and to allow distributors and online music platforms to have everything ready for you.


Expectation: You can make changes to your release whenever you want

Reality: It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Once your music is online, it is very difficult to make changes to it. Nearly 100% of the time, if you want to make changes to stores it’s in or the artwork or even the song itself, you need to takedown the release and re-upload (starting at the back of the queue we mentioned above).


Please please please make sure you are happy with your release before you upload it – the audio the cover art, all the spellings of people’s names – so that you don’t have to take it down again.


Expectation: You can simply use other people’s music for a cover, remix, sample

Reality: You HAVE to have permission or a license to use anyone else’s work

If you want to release a remix, use samples or perform a cover of someone else’s song, or to use imagery belonging to another entity – you must get permission beforehand. Obtain the correct licences to release a cover or use a sample. Ask to use imagery you don’t own and get the permission in writing.


Funny things can happen if your song takes off and you don’t have agreements in writing. Everyone comes out to play and you must make sure you have done everything by the book – otherwise you open yourself up to litigation. Imagine if someone sampled your music and didn’t ask, or uploaded a cover of your song to online platforms and did not obtain a licence for it? Not cool.


Expectation: A distributor will do everything for you

Reality: Your distributor is not your whole team

We love being your distributor, but a distributor is not anything other than that. We’re not your lawyer or agent, or manager, or label. A distributor gets your music into stores, looks after the collection of your royalties from those stores and pays them back to you. We also provide a bunch of data and other tools to help you mange your career. It lifts a great deal of weight off your shoulders compared to 10-15 years ago, where distribution was much more than a few clicks away. But we are not here to help you record, promote your releases, get you live bookings, or sort out paying your producer.


The rest of your music handling is up to you – and the team of people you find to work with you. Remember, there is no one on the planet willing to do more work for you than yourself. The harsh reality is that no one cares about your music more than you do – so work hard and you will pick up people along the way who are willing to share some of the workload.


Expectation: You’ll get famous right away

Reality: It takes a lot of hard work

“Fame, fame! What you like is in the limo” – Bowie


Does fame come over night? Well, we’re sure it does for a small few, and probably leaves them just as quickly. The ‘overnight success’ is actually someone who’s been on the grind for years. The general public simply feel like you’ve suddenly appeared. And to them – you have! To you, it’s years of consistent work and gigs and writing and communicating with your audience until you have a loyal fanbase. Then you repeat until you have a larger fanbase. Continue this cycle until you’re an ‘overnight success’. Perhaps don’t expect to literally be an overnight success as this will leave you deflated if it doesn’t happen, and please don’t come to us saying we didn’t do enough to make you famous. See above about what role we play.


Expectation: Music is a way to get rich quick

Reality: Again, it takes a lot of hard work

Money! You’ve just started out so putting up a single will catapult you into a pool of insane riches. Right? Probably not. Don’t expect to get rich quick. This requires work and dedication to your craft and business. Seemingly, the only people who get rich quick were born into wealth or bought a winning lottery ticket. And there is nothing wrong with either of those things. But if you don’t have those get to work and focus on building a fanbase. You can keep track of how you are doing with your streams and sales via your Spinnup stats and sales reports. Be kind to yourself through the whole journey in this industry. If you have 1 stream or 1 million streams, celebrate it. Then look at ways to improve and get your music heard by more people.


Reality and expectation don’t always go hand in hand – especially in this industry you have chosen to be in. A wonderful, infuriating, magical industry. Sometimes it will go beyond your wildest expectations, and we truly hope this happens, but sometimes you need to know the realities to keep it all smooth sailing.


If there’s one thing you can expect, it’s that making it in music it won’t be easy. But nothing worth doing ever is, and only the bravest people take their passion and turn it into something that the world can share.