Funding Distribution For Indies

by SaskMusic

July 31, 2009 in Doing Business


Types of Distribution:

  • Individual Consignment at store level
  • 'Indie' Distribution Services
  • Minor Label Distribution
  • International Licensing to other Distributors
  • Major Label Distribution

For Individual Consignment


  • Handle your own local distribution until a point where you are unable to keep in regular contact with the stores or you are unable to keep up with the sales (every 1-3 months).
  • Keep good records ' always request a receiver report, receipt, or design your own consignment form. You will need these statistics for press kits, business plans, grants, etc.
  • Call ahead to make appointments ' most stores have only one person to receive new or additional stock on titles, and they do take days off.
  • Leave up-to-date contact names and phone numbers with the stores.
  • Provide the store with play copies, and posters for release parties, listening posts.
  • Invite store staff to performances; put them on your guest list.
  • Provide the store with press material, performance schedules, and invites to CD release parties
  • Call back at least once a month to check stock and sales.
  • Keep in mind: It usually takes stores, with computer tracking systems, up to 5 days to enter a new CD into the system for receiving/sales.
  • Calculate a store markup of 25%, retail to the customer, before setting your wholesale price.


Do Not:

  • Expect stores to take more than 5 to 10 CDs to start.
  • Expect payment for at least 3 months after a new release. Some stores will pay out only after one contract/total number received sells out.
  • Expect that the CD will sell on its own ' all the other marketing factors such as live performances, print publicity, radio play, and live interviews play a major role.
  • Don't leave your product for longer than 3 months without checking the status.
  • Accept returns gracefully, and try again later when you have more of a fan base.
  • Put your recordings into stores where you will not be performing again for longer than 3 months, unless you have established a presence in that centre.
  • For 'Indie' Distribution Companies



  • Expect to be asked for a sales history to date.
  • Provide the company with a brief marketing plan, outlining other efforts to profile the CD.
  • Provide play copies for stores, and suggest genre of music to be racked in.
  • For those companies who provide promotion, keep them aware of performance/tour schedules, interviews done, radio play stats, fan stats, and give them copies of new press. Small flyers and newsletters work great for condensing this information. It's also more likely to be distributed with the product.
  • Some companies charge extra for promotion of a CD; others do not offer the service at all. Still, offer this information and send them only notable news.
  • Provide the distributor with guest list spots at performances.
  • Check out the stores while on tour for availability, racking position, ordering problems, or just to introduce yourself to the staff. The personal touch really works.
  • Let your distributor know of any gaps in store stock, and keep in mind they have many other acts to keep a pulse on. Be helpful about it rather than critical.
  • READ and UNDERSTAND the contract/distribution agreement before signing. You may end up paying more in handling fees than your record can support.



Approach this level until you're ready. Make sure your marketing plan is ready, and profile is high enough to achieve sales at this level. If you're not ready, and sales are poor, the product may be returned at your expense.

*** IMPORTANT Information Regarding CD Design ***



  • Cover art that is very dark is hard to reproduce for posters, release sheets, in newspapers etc. Please don't use a black background.
  • Try to place your name/band's name at the top of the CD - and more prominently than the title - on the cover.
  • The spine should have the following information: Band/Artist Name, Title of CD, Product ID (aka catalogue number; create a short and easy product code using band initials, year of release, etc)
  • UPC/Bar Code ' Fairly Essential. Some stores, for example A & B Sound, refuse to accept product that does not display bar codes.

Stores that accept independent CDs only through a recognized distributor (you can't walk in, as an artist, and have them place your product):

  • A & B Sound
  • Future Shop
  • HMV: Have recently discontinued acceptance of independent consignments. Unless you are with a recognized distributor, they will not carry your product. (IndiePool clients, for example, are accepted.)
  • Music World
  • Indigo Books

 © 2003 Melanie Cheek. All rights reserved, used by permission.

By Melanie Creek (Spirit River Distribution). Originally published August 2003.


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