How To Prepare Your Music for Global Distribution

The CD or single is recorded and mixing has begun---and you're already starting to think about 'getting it out there'!

To help prepare you for the release, Ed Gertler, an independent music distributor, explains three important things to consider in the Q&A below.

What are ISRC Codes and why are they important?

ISRC (International Sound Recording Codes) are administered by the RIAA and with the advent of digital services, they have grown into something far more important than their original intent. Once an ISRC code has been attached to a recording, you should maintain that code forever if possible.

Essentially they are like digital bar codes for each track (though the RIAA objects to that description). All non-terrestrial airplay is tracked via the ISRC codes so any mechanical (songwriting) royalties are tied to them. Terrestrial radio stations don't use them currently but the better stations want them when they play your music which means the day will come when all royalties are tracked using them. SoundExchange uses them to direct your performance royalties.

As mentioned, all digital services use ISRC codes to track activity for each song. You cannot submit them to services like iTunes without these codes. Whenever possible, you should have these codes imbedded during your mastering for new recordings as this makes tracking much easier and increases your ability to collect revenues. There is no database that maintains a master list of ISRC codes. Once a code is established for a track, the owner of the corresponding master takes ownership of the code.

Why should Indie Artists use Barcodes?

Barcodes and the corresponding UPC codes are associated with a specific piece of commerce. They have no real value until that association is established.

Even if an artist is manufacturing an album for their merch table, they should still have a barcode for two reasons: 1) If you ever have an opportunity to sell your album at a retail store or Amazon, you won't be able to do so unless you have a bar code.  2) It adds a subtle level of professionality to your product that will impress your fans. If you decide to release your music on the digital services, you will be required to provide a UPC # (the 12-digit # associated with a bar code). If you need one anyway, you might as well have it on your physical CD. 

Why should Indie Artists consider working with an individual distributor instead of a company to distribute music?

Until an artist reaches the point where a legitimate label is interested in representing them, they are responsible for generating the interest in their music whether that's digital or physical product or shows. Great music is the best place to start but until there's a connection with the fans, it's just another undiscovered classic. Your digital distributor (aggregator) can be an important part of that process.

Most services are passive insofar as you sign up, pay your fees and they make your music available to the digital service providers they work with. The artist is responsible for submitting their music through a web site and few of the optional enhancements offered by the services are available. If you screw something up, getting it fixed can be a challenge. A good independent digital distributor handles the submissions for you and can explain the many options available. Fixing a problem can be as simple as a phone call. They can also provide important career guidance as far as ways for you to promote your music and grow your fanbase.  

Note: I've worked with Ed in releasing my last three albums, and I can say without hesitation he is great at what he does. Reach him at Ed Gertler (615) 378 1104 to learn more about his services.