Digital publishing can be as simple as putting up your music on your website or on Myspace, LastFM or Yourtube. [See: Promoting Yourself, ‘Presenting Yourself Online’] Making your music available and shared among your friends through social networks can be useful in getting your work out to an audience. You may not be able to sell your tracks on iTunes independently, so this is when a label or distributor may be useful. There are a number of aggregators who work with labels and artists for digital distribution such as Kudos Records and Diogenes for independent and experimental music.
What is Digital Publishing?
“Digital distribution – in its rawest and simplest sense – is about making sure that a registered musical work is being correctly represented within the digital marketplace, ensuring it follows an appropriate 'supply chain' (the smooth process linking production to final delivery of a work).
In order to get your work (on a label or direct from the artist) distributed, the first thing you need is a contract with retailers such as iTunes, Amazon and eMusic (note: there are over 400 platforms around the world). Since these do not accept direct deals with artists and even very rarely with labels, there are middlemen called 'aggregators' which represent the label/artist digital rights and would have agreements in place.
There are other types of companies that allow artists to upload their content directly and take an upfront fee rather than a percentage of sales and do not represent the content via marketing and content placement.
As far as 'what' you need to provide: the obvious three things are (1) audio, (2) metadata (the most important element in the digital ecosystem), (3) the artwork. Normally, it helps if you also support all this with press releases and reviews.” – Eric Namour, Diogenes
Words of Advice
I don't really see [digital] as any different to a record or CD, EP. It's a format. Some companies produce digital releases, other companies produce vinyl only. It entirely depends on where you see your market.
– Alison Wenham, Chief Executive, Association of Independent Music
Artists can make their works available to the crowd by themselves. If the choice is online self-distribution without any type of intermediary, they should turn to platforms such as CD Baby and Tunecore who allow just that. If you were to go via intermediaries (aggregators) who accept artists directly, then you should not rush into any deal – locking you into a 5-year exclusive contract.
– Eric Namour, Diogenes
Interview with Eric Namour, founder/director, Diogenes
What is Diogenes and what do you do?
We define Diogenes as 'digital for experimental music' to show how we position ourselves as being the only true, genuine source to help niche/ experimental music labels and artists to actually be represented properly within the digital ecosystem. In conventional terms, Diogenes is a digital aggregator working closely with labels to offer them various services which include: delivery into specific music retailers (iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, Boomkat, Other Music and a few others); an emphasis on Diogenes backend shop (a full version is aiming to launch this year as the only dedicated source for/of experimental music with various tools to support releases such as Electronic Press Kits (EPKs) etc.)
How did you start?
I have been working in the digital supply chain industry since its early days (2004) whilst organising experimental music events in London under the [no.signal] name. I have received a request from Fonal to help the label with 'something' and when another label asked if [no.signal] did digital distribution, it made me think that I should probably offer this knowledge and access to like-minded labels. I decided to set up a small aggregator for experimental musicians who didn't know where to go and Diogenes was born in March 2007.
What is the process involved in your work? Who are your various partners?
There are various sides which we need to cover, mainly:
1. Operations: making sure all the labels/artists are pro-active in sending new releases in the right format along with press releases, reviews. We then supply a monthly release (we call that a batch) to our third-party technical partner (CI – the leading independent platform for the music industry) and then coordinate and follow-up with the digital music services, making sure the products are live and appearing well.
2. Development: Regardless of anything, this industry is clearly as tech as it is about content and music. If we don't develop new tools or better systems, we will get caught by costs and it will not be a sustainable venture unless it seeks outside investment, not something we are keen on doing. We are building systems with a third-party developer, which would allow better and quicker reporting, tools for labels to upload content and view their catalogue along with other features that can be used at low cost, such as Electronic Press kits and download coupons.
3. Sales & marketing: a lot of our work has to be focused on getting new labels who would not necessarily know about the benefits of 'being digital' (which is different from selling MP3s, as many labels see it). It takes a lot of time and patience to find the boundary between underselling and being a typical salesman, which doesn't work for our kind of niche music industry. I try to make sure that everyone within the field is aware of the Diogenes alternative, in case they are keen on making the jump.
To make sure we keep our labels and retain a small public/audience, we work on monthly mailouts, try to pitch for music services to include new releases on their featured mailout and push information / reviews via Facebook. We are developing our blog this summer to have more regular content generated.
4. Legal and Strategy: This is quite an important factor of my work – making sure that I'm on top of most of the advances of the industry, from the technical sites offering new tools to the music services changes of features and sales analysis. There are multiple sites now offering things other than just selling and they need to be analysed before investing in distribution.
5. Partners: Our label partners are made of over 40 labels from 12 territories, including Fonal (FI), Bo Weavil (UK), Digitalis (US), Alga Marghen (IT), Incus (UK) and more.
A full list is available here: diogenesmusic.com/labels
We are also offering other types of services to organisations such as The Wire magazine by backing up their Below The Radar online series of compilations to subscribers. This is a quarterly release compiled by The Wire and setup by Diogenes.
How did you develop the business? What are your sources of income?
The business was developed by linking the contacts I had in the digital industry (the retailers), the experimental music scene (the live events) and the technology know-how (via my other job as a director of operations at a media platform, which offers the technical backend for independent labels/distributors). It was easy to set up the operations side; the sales side was harder as it is always a very slow process of convincing labels.
The main sources of income are:
Percentage of royalties earned from sales
Production fees when applicable
This was all made possible because of my main source of income, which is, as for many other artists and labels, via my main job as director of operations. Since March I have been dedicated to Diogenes, trying to focus on getting more consultancies to sustain the digital representation business.
How do you see your business developing in the future?
Apart from the consultancy to independent labels seeking operational advice, we aim to focus on getting our own shop up and running to narrow the options of experimental music to one source. We will be offering access to artists directly and also be creating packages for festivals who want to offer some special compilation.
Eric Namour has been working in the independent digital marketplace for over six years with a focus in operations, project management and account management. He has a BSc in Business Studies and an MA In Creative and Media Enterprises. He is founder of [no.signal] in London and has been producing live experimental music events since 2004. In 2007, he founded Diogenes and now works as a freelance consultant in digital strategy and operations. Diogenes is a London-based digital hub for experimental and underground music labels and works to secure relationships with specific Digital Music Stores (DMSs).