Finding A Distributor

Finding a distributor is hard. It can take months and months before you find and secure a distributor and it's not easy for independent labels or individuals.

Don't give up or get discouraged, keep plugging away even if you can't find a distributor after months of searching. Distributors get a lot of packages on their desks every week, so it's imperative that you contact them first before you send them a package. When calling a distributor, you may get them on the first try, or it may take you weeks before you get a live person to talk to.

If you don't contact them first, and send a package to them unsolicited, it might get tossed or sent back unopened. But you say, 'My product is awesome! They would never do that with mine.' Sorry to bring you bad news, but it may never get opened. As a matter of fact, it may never get past the receptionist desk without prior permission. So why not make sure that your product has a much better chance of getting heard and get permission first.

So let me repeat myself, always always get permission first. For those of you who feel you could never make any cold calls, you will have to get over it, or have a friend do the calling for you.

Getting through the first phone call is always tough, but then you will see as you make more and more calls, that it gets easier every time. You are in competition with a lot of people who are making the calls. If you don't call, the chances are very slim that you will ever be heard.

If after the first time you call, you still feel like you are just too embarrassed, try making up a character and call as that character. Become "Jicki Wicki" from "Nagawicki". (You never know it could lead to an additional career of acting!) Make it a game.

To get a list of distributors, you can call Disc Makers at: 800-468-9353. Ask for Gus Compson or Scott McCormick and order their distributor guide ("Guide To Finding A Distributor") and manufacturers list. They are booklets, and they are FREE.

The distributors guide lists the distributors, contact names, email and web site addresses if any, phone and fax numbers (many are 800 numbers which will save you long distance fees), and what kind of music they accept.

If by chance you find any information that is incorrect, please contact Scott McCormick at Disc Makers (800-468-9353), and give him the corrected information. After all, you did get the book for free, why not help him out a little?

It is important that you submit to a distributor that distributes your kind of music. It may take you 6 - 8 months from the time you start contacting distributors, get the actual product in their hand, and get them to finally listen to it, before you find one. The person you send it to, is not necessarily the person in charge of final decisions.

Here are few words of advice on finding a distributor:

On your first call tell them your name and label. If you haven't picked a name yet, make one up.

Ask about their submission and distribution policies.

Ask if being the only act on an indie label is going to cause a problem. (Something we did not know before we wasted a lot of press kits, long distance calls, and time, is that many distributors will not take product from indie labels unless they have at least 3-15 CD's in their 'stable'.)

Ask what they want in the press kit. Some want an entire press kit with a CD (forego sending a headshot unless specifically asked for one), while others just need a letter of summary which contains recent happenings, targeting ideas, and review excerpts if you have any. It's important to find out this information before hand. We found out, after much wasted money, that several distributors only wanted the letter. They had opened the package, read the tear sheet, and thrown the rest away. Once we started calling frequently, they asked for the whole package again. What a waste of resources!

In your letter/press kit they will want to know your "SRP" which is your Suggested Retail Price. For those of you who are unfamiliar with retail versus wholesale, retail is the price the consumer would pay in a record store and wholesale is the price the distributor pays to the product owner.

My suggestion for SRP is $11.98 - $12.98. You don't want to price yourself out of the market.

When you look in a record store, most major-label artists CD's are "on sale" for $11.98. Distributors will typically take 40-60% of your SRP as their cut (which at 40% x $11.98 gives you $7.19 per CD), and the record stores will typically mark up your SRP by $1.00 - $4.00.

If you set your SRP at $11.98, and the store adds an additional $2.00 to the price of your CD, the cost to the consumer would be $13.98. However, if you set your SRP at $13.98 and the store adds $2.00, the price to the consumer would be $15.98. Which price do you think a consumer who had never heard of you be more likely to pay?

Double-check what music they currently distribute.

Ask if they require your music to be played on a particular radio station. There are some distributors that require you to be played on specific stations before they will distribute you. If that station does not play your genre of music, you have wasted your product, money, and time. Let me give you an example of why this is another key question. We had asked all of the above questions with the exception of this particular one. Then we shipped the package off. When we contacted them later, they asked us if we were playing on a certain radio station. We said no. It turned out that the station only played alternative music. Our CD is Country/Jazz. You can see the problem. When we approached them about this fact, they said they did not distribute Country Music. We asked when they stopped distributing Country Music. The gentleman we spoke with at the time we initially called, said he was thinking about presenting Country Music to the company, but hadn't had the chance. He realized that we would never be played on the station they require airplay on so he dropped it. A great example of wasted time, effort, and money!

Inquire where their distribution arm reaches. Ask for specific states and regions. Some distributors only distribute in certain states. If your radio airplay, live gigs, and promotion are not in those regions, they cannot help you.

When is the best time to reach them? You really need to ask every company you deal with when the best time is to reach the contact person. Many people have certain contact hours, not just PD's (program directors) and MD's (music directors). This has been our experience working with our CDs and several others. If you don't get a time of day, say noon until 5 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you may not be able to get them or talk to them at all. Then it's a pure waste of resources (telephone bills) and time. Some people say anytime, and that's great, but many say, "Well on Monday's I have meetings and I am not available. I don't like to be called on Friday's and bothered etc." So it's best to ask first.

Who are some of the major stores that buy from them, and in what areas? Call several of the stores and double-check their references. If the stores have never heard of them, they may not be a legitimate distributor. Save your product from an unscrupulous person who may be trying to rip you off.

Tonya Rae has had 3 #1 hits that went straight to the top of the indie charts and an astonishing 8 top 20 hits. She has just been nominated for "New Female Vocalist of the Year 1998" for the "Golden Music Awards" to be held in Nashville, TN on March 14, 1999.

If you would like more information on money saving tips for recording, marketing ideas, phone scripts, industry contacts with email addresses, phone numbers, etc. when available, please check out the new Tonya Rae book written in conjunction with North Shore Records called, "Hidden Secrets To Making And Promoting Your Music Revealed".

Tonya Rae