Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Myth Of "Distribution Is King"

Up until about the year 2000, it was pretty much a given that anyone who owned, controlled, or created content had the world at their feet. Without the movie, song, CD, DVD, television show, piece of art, book, poem or any other creative endeavor, what else was there to sell?

Somewhere in the last decade this concept has been twisted to where it's now popularly believed that content is not longer the essential part of commerce, but distribution is. I suspect that this idea has been perpetrated by marketers and the distributors themselves in an effort to increase their importance and obtain a bigger slice of the pie as a result.

Is distribution important? You bet it is. You can have a great product, but if you can't make it available to buy, then you won't have as many sales. But distributors overestimate their importance, and they're beginning to believe their own hype. If you have something that's really great, people will find their way to it, more so now than ever.

But the distributors will have you believe that you can have a great piece of content like a song, and it won't blow up (sell a lot) unless it has distribution. Or will it?

In the old days of Music 1.0 through 2.5 when the record label was essential to an artist's success and the fan only purchased physical product like vinyl records and CDs at a record store, distribution was a lot more important. There was only a single distribution channel and you had to abide by the system in order to get in it. But now that we're in Music 3.0 where the artist can communicate directly with the fan, I'd venture to say that distribution is LESS important than ever.

You want to distribute your songs online? There are at least a dozen online distributors besides iTunes that will do that for you, and if you don't want to use them you can go directly to your fans via email, social networking and your website.

You want radio airplay? Traditional broadcast radio that requires the big machine for placement is dying and turning to talk-radio, so you won't be played anyway. Plus it's now irrelevant because it's influence is at an all-time low and going lower. But there are hundreds of online radio stations that will gladly play your songs if they like them and they fit their formats, and there are dozens of streaming sites where you can list your music by yourself.

You want to distribute your product physically? You probably can't get it into most record stores, but so what? There are fewer and fewer of those every month anyway. But you can sell CDs and merch at gigs and personal appearances, which can amount to some big $$$ if you have the fanbase and visibility.

If anything, the viral nature of the Internet proves the point. Content is still king! People don't buy distribution, they buy content.

So don't believe the myth. After all, without content, what is there to distribute?
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soulofsound said...

Couldn't agree more.

Quality will always surface, if not immediately (through lack of distribution or marketing), then over time.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit. The increased fragmentation has left the audience overwhelmed and looking for aggregators, which are in fact the distributors. The content needs to be of nice quality, as research suggests (look e.g. Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market) and after that it is all about packaging and distribution.


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