Hey there and welcome to Day Two of our Exposing 7 Scams in 7 Days series. Today we’re diving into Distribution Deals and how much of a fool you are when you sign away your masters for something you could do yourself for $15. Unbelievable. Some artists should be obligated to get certified in the basics of music business before posting any links to their music.
1. What is a real distribution deal?
Back in the day, a distribution deal meant that the record label covered the production costs and ensured the physical delivery of your CD in brick-and-mortar stores. Today, very few labels actually go the extra mile to HELP you. Helping you entails someone doing things for you that you can’t do for yourself. That might come in the shape and form of a direct monetary advance, a press coverage plan, a marketing campaign, all supported financially BY THE LABEL. Or by a third party if you sign with an independent distributor or publicist. So once more for those in the back: if someone is not putting money in your pockets to help you do more than what you usually do for your releases, it is not a distribution deal. It is a SCAM.
2. So how do artists get scammed into fake distribution deals?
In several ways. The most disturbing model of such a scam is when the company, often under the pretense of an independent record label, asks YOU for money to put your music up on all streaming platforms. Some of you might be like: “you mean to tell me there are artists who PAY the label to simply make their music available online?” Absolutely! A whole lot as a matter of fact.
This sadly happens with:
a) Artists who are transitioning from doing covers to releasing originals. As they don’t have any previous experience and are too confused by the new terminology that comes with distributing your own records, they fall for the scam big time and overpay hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, for what you do for yourself with $20 a year with DistroKid and $15 per release with CD Baby.
b) Older artists who are not internet savvy. They are usually barely starting out on social media and they are the perfect prey for so-called independent record labels that nobody ever heard of. It is ridiculously common to see these older talents pay high amounts to someone working from the shadow in order to advance their career. They get so happy that now they can find their music on iTunes and Spotify and their nephews and families are proud of them that they don’t even think they’re getting scammed. Mind you, some even pay as much as $500 every month to these fake labels to continuously keep their music online. Shame on you scammers!!! How would you feel if someone stole from your grandma???
The second model of a scam distribution deal is the one that is hardest to catch on! And we know first-hand good artists that have been badly burned by such contracts. These sharks find your YouTube channel, analyze your socials and streaming numbers, make sure you’re mathematically guaranteed to blow (they run down your growth numbers) before they even consider you, and because you’re a super safe bet, they put together hard-to-understand contracts where you’re signing away your masters to them! For no payment either!!! They promise in exchange to put your music up online and in physical stores and split the royalties with you! If we were to put into one honest sentence what these low-life individuals are doing, it sounds like this: “I will pay $15 to CD Baby and I will own all your songs in exchange and take the fattest cut out of the sales too.” Do you see how STUPID it would be for you to sign such a deal??? These people are buying your entire catalog for fifteen mf-ing dollars while you’ve put in most likely thousands of dollars to even record those songs, and tens of thousands if you shot professional music videos and promoted them too. The worst part is that because you’re much further in your career than the artists in a) or b), you won’t stop growing. So quite literally, with every small or big success you get on your own, that fake label is getting a minimum of 50% out of it. And you’re doing all the work while they’re collecting free royalties. Sort of… Let me pay you to be your slave.
In conclusion, read those damn contracts a thousand times. Go to avvo.com and hire an entertainment lawyer for an incredibly low fee for a virtual consultation (some even do a FREE first consultation when it’s open season for new clients!!!) Right now Avvo’s directory includes over 11,000 entertainment lawyers waiting on potential clients to reach out! ELEVEN THOUSAND! You can save yourself years, money, reputation, resources, pain, and tears just by doing your homework.