Creating Your Own Offline Music Distribution Network

Malljamz-distro Recent news of the development of a CD distribution network via 7-Eleven by Mall Jamz and Thump Records reminded me of one of my favorite topics, creating distribution platforms that use networks of retail and other commercial outlets that do not typically sell music. This concept has mostly been explored on a local level with diverse outlets that one's local fanbase frequents, for instance an indie rock band getting local fashion shops, bookstores and coffeehouses to carry their album, and on a national level with major chains, including Starbucks and Whole Foods.

However, I think there is a lot more possible for indie artists, labels and other music businesses to develop scalable distribution networks based on targeting individual and small chain operations that serve relevant markets.

There are different ways to approach alternative outlets. Mall Jamz and Thump Records are distributing genre compilations via 7-Eleven targeting individual store demographics in an effort open to indie artists and labels. When indie bands target local alternative outlets, they tend to focus on shops that serve their target market which often clusters around specific neighborhoods but is less about neighborhood demographics than about local shops that serve particular subcultures.

However, I think the strongest scalable network would follow the example of Zumba's new music marketing platform, which is focusing on Latin music suitable for Zumba exercise classes, by targeting outlets that would actually use your style or genre of music in their everyday activities. If successful locally, one has a strong case and possible contacts for expanding one's distribution beyond a local level to a regional or national scale.

Possibilities include:

  • Yoga studios and meditation centers for meditative or relaxing music.
  • Dance studios and gyms for upbeat music with varying rhythmic foundations.
  • Sex toy shops for music designed to "get your freak on."
  • Bookstores for music appropriate for browsing, more upbeat than meditation music but not so upbeat as party music.
  • Ethnic restaurants for related music traditions.

The ideal is to find establishments that usually don't carry music and would be willing to feature your music at a front counter or similar hotspot while periodically playing the music as well. For short term local efforts, one might make this happen via good will. However, to maintain local networks and to expand to larger regions, one has to either pay-to-play or focus marketing efforts on encouraging folks to check the outlets for one's music.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. Flux Research is his business writing hub and All World Dance: World Dance News is his primary web project. To suggest websites and related topics for review, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. I like this article. This is a very realistic and possibly worthwhile way for independent artists to promote and hopefully sell their music. Everyone has places in their respective neighborhoods that they shop at on a regular basis. These are the kind of places that artists would have the best chances of getting their music featured or even just promoting with fliers or posters because the people will already know you and like you because you’ve supported their business for so long… why not do the same in return? I would also like to note that if indie musicians have any friends in other cities, or even countries for that matter, they should ask them if they could send them cds and fliers/posters to place stores they frequent in their respective neighborhoods, too. The majors have the money and connections to advertise EVERYWHERE and they do so for a reason, maximum exposure. Indie artists have to think the same way. They may not be able to promote their music to the lengths that the majors do, but they should try and do what they can.
    Free album download at http://www.facebook.com/chancius

  2. “I would also like to note that if indie musicians have any friends in other cities, or even countries for that matter, they should ask them if they could send them cds and fliers/posters to place stores they frequent in their respective neighborhoods, too.”
    That kind of grassroots networking is a big part of how punk grew in the 80s. And they did it without the web.

  3. For the past 11 yrs my company Melodica Music Marketing has represented major, independent artists and labels to 1500+ “non-trad” retail chains and accounts in over 80 categories of retail including performing arts centers, museums, bookstores, gift, lifestyle etc. For more info http://www.melodicamusic.com

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