We have seen in the past two weeks on the magazine that music distribution is a vast sub-realm of the music industry, and that there is a real dichotomy happening in the independent side of it. On one hand, there are emerging independent artists who are just starting their careers, while on the other hand, there are the more established artists who choose to work with a music distributor in order to open new doors for themselves.
While the profiles of artists are almost opposites, music distribution has undergone so many changes over the years that the boundaries between these two types of artists are starting to blur out. Wiseband, since 2012, has taken the bold decision to offer the artists who subscribe to their offers services that both music aggregators and digital music distributors offer – meaning that they combine the offers of Spinnup & the likes as well as of IDOL, which we both introduced these past two weeks on the magazine.
To better understand this hybrid company’s choices as well as the benefits they provide to emerging artists, we have met David Raimbaud, head of distribution of Wiseband, and asked him a few questions.
hauméa : Hi David, and thank you very much for accepting to answer our questions today ! First of all, can you tell us more about what led to the creation of Wiseband ?
Wiseband : So Wiseband comes from a previous company called Yoozik, who was founded by Henri Pierre Mousset, and in the early 2000s, he was the director of a record label called Yotanka. He started selling the label’s band items online on the first online stores, and he thought there was something to develop around that. He therefore started setting up online shops for music bands. And these shops were starting to gain momentum. There was a hype around selling articles on the internet, so to know how to sell on the platforms that were getting launched, so the first iTunes, the first versions of Spotify at the time, was very useful. This also allowed for the first contracts to be signed with digital platforms, which then began to distribute artists in addition to selling their articles online. And the reason for creating Wiseband was to be able to give the power to the artists, so that they could distribute themselves, without having someone else doing it for them. So Henri Pierre Mousset created Yoozik in 2008 or 2009, and it was renamed Wiseband in 2012, and I’ve been working for Wiseband since 2014. It took some time to find the right formula, and also for the market to be ready to accept this kind of artists as well.
hauméa : And did you feel that there was something missing in the music distribution market when Wiseband was founded ? Or have you adapted your formula to your artists & labels over time instead ?
Wiseband : Well, the music distribution market is a market that evolves very quickly, so we have always adapted to change, and even to the opening of new platforms. At first I think we adapted according to the needs of the artists though : when they told us they needed to be on such and such a platform, we made sure to sign contracts with said platforms. And it has always evolved over time and with time.
And then let’s not forget that we launched at a time when there weren’t many music distributors yet. We had the advantage of signing direct contracts with all these platforms, which is almost impossible nowadays. There are many music distributors who are just starting out today but they partner with another distributor to do so. It’s the case for all the new distributors that are coming in, it’s been like that for a few years now.
hauméa : Two weeks ago, I was talking about music aggregators on the magazine – so about companies like TuneCore, Ditto, Spinnup and more – and I talked about music distribution for emerging artists in general. Wiseband’s offer seems to be somewhat hybrid, however ? I see that on your website you have list offers just like an aggregator would and you have different subscription formulas, but you also offer traditional distribution services, such as playlist pitching to the platform’s editorial teams. Can you tell us more about your offers & expertises there are at Wiseband ?
Wiseband : Yes, as you say, we are an aggregator, so we are open to everyone. Anyone can distribute their music with us. However, we have been specializing ourselves for 5 years now – it was I who worked on this, particularly – in playlist pitching. We’ve asked ourselves the question “how to grow the audience of our artists ?”. And we also were wondering how to work with bigger artists, as well. And in order to do this, we had to carry out marketing actions with the platforms, and find editorial playlists to pitch to promote the upcoming single releases we had. So we have an “aggregator” part – where everyone can distribute their music – but since we have a hundred releases a week, when we feel that there is potential, that there is a track that is worth pitching to the curators, we will get in touch with the artist or with their label in order to offer additional services, which are not necessarily added paid services, since our business model is based on taking a percentage off the sales, which will be around 15% for a music label.
Read the first part of our report series : Music distribution – part 1 : a lesser known part of the music industry
hauméa : But then, how do you select the artists you are going to push on the platforms, because a hundred releases a week is a lot ! How do you analyze the market ?
Wiseband : So we have historical clients, aka labels with whom we have worked for a long time and who we know are releasing good quality music. Because that’s the first thing we pay attention to, it’s the music’s quality. And after that, there needs to be a certain level of anticipation prior to the music release, there are a lot of artists who come to us telling us that their music is coming out in three days, and in these cases, of course we won’t be able to push these kinds of projects to the platforms. Just like you, for online PR, if you are not given some time ahead of the release, you won’t be able to write about it. In other words anticipation is essential, it is a key element that tells us whether we are going to be able to push a release or not. And finally, the last element : we will check if the artist has provided us – or the label – a maximum of communication assets : the biography in English and in French for example, high quality pictures… so that we can introduce the project to the platforms correctly and be as convincing as possible. If we have very few elements, it will be complicated for us to try & get artist playlist.
hauméa : So the fact that a certain track is from an emerging, almost unknown artist isn’t something that necessarily prevents you from pushing the track to the editorial teams ?
Wiseband : No, it’s the opposite actually, we see that when a project is new that there is a little excitement on the platform’s side. They like to receive new projects. So if someone who hasn’t released anything yet has a great first single, it can even help them to stand out sometimes.
hauméa : Your feedback here is very interesting because I know that some music distributors, who have big artists amongst their roster for example, tend to push the popular projects to the platforms first. So it’s interesting to hear a completely different point of view. It is also a good way to have artists come your way !
Wiseband : I must say that, and I think it is a value that we all commonly share at Wiseband, we tell ourselves that we don’t know who’s gonna be the next big artist, but either way, we will promote projects the same way, whether they are emerging or well-known, we will defend them with the same energy.
hauméa : What types of artists and labels sign with you ? And how does an artist or a label sign with you as well ? Because I know that between aggregators and digital distributors the processes are completely different.
Wiseband : In terms of paperwork, once the artist or the label subscribes and set up an account on Wiseband – we have an artist formula and a label formula – we create & sign a digital distribution contract. However, there’s no such thing as an exclusive deal with us. And also, for many aggregators, if you do not renew your subscription with them after a year, they remove all of your work from streaming platforms. We don’t work like that. If the artist does not renew their contract with us, their music stays online. And we think it’s fair.
Then, in terms of music genres, our roster is very diverse. And they come from all over the world too. Wiseband is French but we have a lot of artists in the United States, South America, India, Africa and especially in North Africa… it’s an international roster. And our artists are mostly entrepreneurs, so people who want to take control of their career. Besides, among our success stories, most of them are self-made artists. Sometimes they have even signed contracts before that were not very transparent from the start, and they want to take control again over the creative process.
hauméa : And in addition to the services that you offer artists and labels, do you have a wider range of services, like add-ons I would like to say, that you offer to some artists of yours ? I know that you have developed a merchandising section : is this something you only offer to some artists ?
Wiseband : Yes indeed, so there are two types of services that are somewhat related : so there is the merchandising services which is a separate offer and therefore a paid offer, that they ask for depending on their needs. If they have to press vinyls, or merchandising objects of all kinds, they can ask us. And on the other hand, we have a promotion service : we have a marketing team that will take care of YouTube campaigns, campaigns on Spotify, on Deezer for audience acquisition. So we do a lot of things, but these are additional services, which are not included in the main “artist account”.
hauméa : So if an artist wishes to do more than just get their music on streaming platforms, they come to you and you activate these services for them.
Wiseband : Exactly.
hauméa : And to come go back on music distribution – and this is a question I asked Sylvain Morton, the head of distribution of IDOL last week – at what point in the career of an artist is it useful to sign a distribution deal ?
Wiseband : So when you want to get started, there are plenty of artists who start with services like TuneCore, but to take a step forward in your career development, there comes a time when it’s good to surround yourself with a team that can help you grow your audience, to find your audience even, and to do that, you kind of have to work with a distribution team. And that’s because a single artist cannot go and pitch their tracks to all the platforms, for example. So staying independent without someone working on your online presence – I mean it’s possible – it’s difficult. If you don’t have a team that can help you build your artistic identity and your audience… I mean, if you want to find a live booker, for example, they will look at your stats ! So being surrounded by competent people for this seems inevitable to me.
hauméa : And do you recommend them to sign with a music distribution company at a specific moment of their career ? Is there a best time to do so ?
Wiseband : So I think it’s up to an artist to tell themselves if they wants to take their career to the next level. Do they want to live up to the potential of their music ? I think that’s what determines the right moment to step up, because when you start to break through, as an artist, then of course you have to get in touch with a distributor, since you’re starting to grow and when you start to grow you need to have a team around you. But when it comes to the “moment” to do so, I think it is the artist themselves who trigger it in their head. If they tell themselves that they want to go further, if they feel like music is their thing, their passion, and if they want to push it further. Or else, you can stay on SoundCloud. But their music wants to meet an audience, and if they want to meet an audience then they have to work with a music distributor.
hauméa : Finally, how do you see the future of music distribution ? Streaming has been adopted by a lot of people around the world but, at the same time – and especially among artists – artists prefer to find other ways to “break through”, so they get into TikTok or to newer technologies such as NFTs and even metaverses. Do you think music distribution will have that much of an impact in the upcoming years in an artist’s career ?
Wiseband : Well, when it comes to the technical side of music distribution, a lot of us can do it, and we all offer more or less the same thing. However, in the future – at least at Wiseband we have been developing in this direction for the past two years – we keep asking ourselves how can we support artists. And such a task also involves finding the right song, the right mood that will work well on TikTok for example ! We want to give them access to a network of influencers – and I’d even go as far as saying that our company will eventually turn into an artistic consulting agency. We can’t just distribute music, otherwise I think we wouldn’t be here anymore anyway. Our job will be in the upcoming years to manage the data we receive in order to better support artists and advise them correctly accordingly.
Get to know more about Wiseband on their website as well as on their Instagram account.