Physical distribution has never lost its relevance because of the revival of vinyl. When done right, physical distribution can help you reach a lot of fans and make a lot of money. When done wrong, you can make a loss. In this article we explain the entire supply chain for physical products step-by-step. Understanding this supply chain is essential for a successful physical release. 

Indieplant has unlocked its world wide network to its members. With an Indieplant Indie membership you can make your music available to stores around the world. This will save you an enormous number of rejections and hours of begging to get distributed. It's a huge time saver. You're very welcome. However... it does not automatically mean you will sell your music once you distribute.

This article helps you to understand the physical distribution process, enabling you to monetize your music on this platform.

Preparation 1: A good product

Obviously it all starts with a good product. Make sure your music is good; well mixed and audio mastered. When you produce your actual physical product (vinyl or cd) don't look just at the cost price. Instead look at the quality of your product as seen by your customers. Simply put: quality sells.

Preparation 2: Good marketing 

The second step is equally as important as the first: make sure your marketing is good. You will first need a proper marketing plan for this. Otherwise you will end up with a incoherent bunch of materials. When your don't have a plan, the outcome of your product will most likely make no sense to the beholder. And therefore it will not sell, costing you a lot of money. Having a good plan is one of the best investments you could make, it will only cost you some time and effort.

Tip: Check the Indieplant Academy for the course on how to create a professional marketing plan.

The better your marketing materials are, the more you'll likely people will believe in your product. And with physical distribution you need to convince a lot of people; buyers, sellers, marketeers, and finally, the consumer; your potential fan.

Good marketing is, in this case, nothing more than convincing people that their precious time (and money) is worth spending on your music.

Most successful artists (or at least their label and management) understand this all too good. If you have trouble seeing the importance of have a good product and especially good marketing, you unfortunately won't stand a chance to make it in the music industry. Whether you like it or not, it's vital that you understand the importance of great marketing. So let's get to it!

You'll need:

  • A great, catchy story
  • Good, original artwork 
  • High quality merch (optional, but useful to make a strong believable brand and vital to make money)
  • A great music video (kinda optional, but highly recommendable to make your brand believable)
  • Snappy quotes from relevant blogs, mags, artists or other influencers. It strengthens your credibility.
  • A clear one-sheet
  • A strong PR campaign (Never skip this part. You need it to convince the following professionals that you deserve their time.)

From this point on the process takes 6-9 weeks on average.

Step 1: Buyers at distributors

Every distributor has a department of buyers. Distributors service a certain area, for example a country or state. They work together in a network of sub-distributors. So once your product is released in this network, you can reach stores all over the world with your products.

The buyer is a gate keeper, much like an A&R manager at a record label. He determines if he can sell the product and if so, how many time and attention (human resources) it deserves. If your product and marketing is not prepared properly, he may decide not to spend (much) resources on your product.

Even if your music is the incredible, if the buyer isn't supplied with the marketing tools he needs to convince the rest of the supply chain, then what else can he do then to move to the next product on his desk?

Now you know (one of the many reasons) why it's so important

to accompany your music with great marketing.

Step 2: Sellers at (sub-)distributors

So, your marketing is ready and the buyer believes in your project. Now he will pitch your product (with the help of your marketing materials) to the sales team and sub distributors. These are the guys and girls that really need to feel believe in your product. They need to sell it to the buyers at stores and risk their carefully built relationships with them over your product. The better your marketing and music are, the less risk they will feel. And therefore, the better they can sell your product. 

The one-sheet is leading here. Make sure that it contains all relevant information. 

Step 3: Marketeers

The sales process is backed up by a marketing email to the buyers at stores. Remember the importance of original artwork? This is one of the reasons. These emails are packed with releases. If your release stands out with beautiful original artwork, the marketeer might give you a better spot in the list!

Good cover art and a good (short) story makes you stand out when it counts.

Step 4: Buyers at stores

The buyers obviously need to be convinced to buy your product and free some space on their shelves. We hate to break it to you but there are a lot of other cool releases competing for the same space. Again, strong and original marketing helps. So do your planned PR efforts! If a buyer knows that your music is well promoted he/she is more confident that it will sell.

Step 5: Sellers at stores

The sellers at stores recommend cool new music to their customers. By placing it near the counter, in a special display, or by telling their customers about it. Distributing posters and other promotional material can be helpful.

An example of simple yet effective original artwork.

Step 6: Consumers

If everything goes to plan and you've prepared a great release, supported by professional marketing and you're succesfully distributed to music stores, the goal is to have the customers discover and ultimately fall in love with your music and brand. Make sure that everybody that visits the store will recognize your brand and release because of your online presence, which should obviously be complementary. Preparing a professional press kit, having an lively online presence and connection with your fans, will aid your sales in the real world.

You can create a professional, free EPK at Indieplant Backstage.

That's it!

We know, it's quite a lot. But if you want to get your release in stores and have them get bought by your (new) fans, this is what it takes. You could make a lot of money. One of our indie labels sold 32.000 LPs (5 releases) in 2015. At a PPD of €10, you can imagine that it was worth the effort!

Hopefully this article helped you to understand how the distribution supply chain works and why it's so important to have a great product, but also a solid marketing plan and execution. You can do this yourself, get help from professionals at Indieplant or combine the two. However you choose, your Indieplant membership provides you with the tools you need to take control.