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UK Distributor dumps independent labels with “Dear John” style letters (that in some cas

A well known UK distributor early last year starting dumping independent labels, sending some the following letter.

“Dear “label name here” In an effort to streamline our service to labels, we regret to inform you that due to income from your label, has now fallen below our profitability threshold, we will be taking down your content from all services in the next month. For any invoicing / accounting questions please email “label manager email here” There are a gamut of companies out there who will be happy to have you aggregate your content to digital services, some suggestions: The Orchard Believe CD BABY Thanks”

Others weren’t so lucky and the first they knew about it was when they realised their songs were no longer available on Spotify, iTunes, Deezer etc.

I find the decision a little odd, considering that the task of digital distribution is quite simple, they send the audio along with the relevant meta-data and then collect the revenue periodically from each store/streaming platform. They then deduct their fees and distribute that to the rightsholder. The only “heavy lifting” in that task is the accounting, I guess if they’re outsourcing the accounting then it may not be cost-effective to keep labels on the books if the fees earned aren’t greater than the cost of the accounting.

Still, the manner in which they went about executing this decision was a little callous and left at least one label, a reader of this blog, with a lot of work to do to restore their online catalogue.

It’s quite simple to get the songs back online, as the letter bluntly points out there are lots of companies more than happy to deliver your content to online stores, the only issue is what will happen to your statistics?

The most likely answer to that is they will be lost.

I contacted Spotify for some advice on switching distributors and keeping your stats, they said that in order to make sure the stats are not lost it is essential for the tracks to be uploaded with the new distributor before the original uploads are removed.

The tracks should be uploaded with the same audio files, the same ISRC, and the same artist name and track title. Spotify will recognise there are 2 tracks using the same ISRC and as ISRC should be unique to each track and never change once assigned the 2 tracks using the same code will be merged and appear as one track with the same stats. The original release can now be removed and the new upload will keep the old stats.

I’m assuming other platforms like Deezer and Apple Music will work in a similar way, so by uploading the tracks with a new distributor prior to them being removed the whole catalogue should retain the statistics and remain available during the process of switching distributors.

For those that didn’t receive advance warning the stats will probably be lost, although it may be worth contacting Spotify (and each of the other platforms) and asking if they can manually retrieve the old stats associated with that ISRC and apply them to the new upload.

The lessons to be learned here are to regularly check on your catalogue on the various platforms to make sure everything is available as it should be and to keep full and detailed records of your releases including the ISRC and the relevant meta-data should you need to upload them again with a different distributor.

It also drives home the importance of choosing your distributor and other trading partners well.

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