“What is an “artist-friendly” distribution service?”
“What is Content Operations?”
“What is a licensing deal?”
This week’s guest on the unsigned podcast is Marcos Fuentes, Head of Content Operations at Amuse.
Our first international guest, patching in from Stockholm, Sweden (where Amuse is based), Marcos joins us to share his take on today’s landscape from his unique perspective as Head of Content Operations. Born in 2017, Amuse is one of the most artist-friendly music distribution platforms out there, and the first with a mobile-first offering (and also happens to be the birthplace of none other than Lil Nas X). Marcos is essentially in charge of facilitating releases, managing the integrations with the DSPs, and making sure everything runs smoothly. As such, he understands the world of digital music like few others and is an insanely valuable resource for anyone looking to better understand the music industry in 2020.
Marcos misspoke during our interview about Lovette Jallow’s work so we wanted to add her IG here!
What is Amuse?
Amuse is an artist-friendly music distribution service that people can use to digitally distribute their music – similar to CDBaby, Distrokid, AWAL, etc. The main differentiators of Amuse: it’s mobile-first and artists keep 100% of royalties.
Three Main Offerings:
1) There’s a free version accessible to anyone. Totally free to use, keep 100% of your royalties (which is pretty unheard of!).
2) Pro version – with additional features like fast-tracking releases, integrations with IG and TikTok, and Youtube.
(Bonus: They are also running a promotion right now in October 2020 where the Pro Version is 60%+ off… so if you’re thinking about it now might be a good time).
3) Lastly, they offer Artist Services through Amuse’s in house label division. Different from lots of other companies, rather than signing artists, Amuse works out licensing deals with artists for individual tracks (or albums). Their strategy here is mostly focused on finding those diamond-in-the-rough tracks and artists that will benefit most from their support and allow both parties to grow together.
As Marcos puts it, at its core Amuse is a music distribution service with some cool features on top of it – the big one being that artists keep 100% of royalties.
So you’re telling me Amuse is free, takes 0 royalties, and even has a label division that offers pretty sweet advances? So what’s the catch?
The one strike against Amuse, which Marcos will be the first to admit, is that it’s not quite as “fast” as it could be. Once you start uploading to Amuse, the first time will take 3 months to get paid a return – and from then on you’ll see a check every month. Additionally, single releases generally require 2+ weeks to upload – so not ideal for “we just recorded it let’s upload it right now” types.
All that said, Amuse is still one of the most artist-friendly music distribution services out there. The uploading process is super easy – that the first distribution service you can use right from your phone. The analytics are powerful and easy to read. The potential for single licensing deals is real (and not predatory). The free version is actually free. And of course, this can’t be stressed enough, your royalties are yours!
(Double Bonus: Marcos hinted that there may be some interesting upgrades on the way to speed things up… making now a doubly good time to sign up.)
What is Content Operations?
Content Operations is another one of those job titles that didn’t really exist 10 years ago. In a nutshell, the content operations team is responsible for facilitating everything that needs to happen to make sure every release happens as intended. This means every release is checked for quality, nicely packaged, delivered to the stores in the proper format, setting up feeds, and generally ensuring that everything happens as designed – and addressing those problems when they do arise.
While maybe not the sexiest part of the company, content operations is the engine that makes the whole thing go (Hint: Unsexy, essential jobs pay well and there’s generally less competition… just saying).
What’s the difference between “getting signed” and a licensing deal?
As we mentioned in offering # 3 above, Amuse has an in house label division that actually “signs artists” that use the platform. The reason for the quotations – these aren’t traditional label deals like you might be thinking. They are licensing deals. Lots of time, Amuse will license a single track or release from promising artists on the platform.
So what does this mean? Rather than signing a more traditional deal – that might include a % of everything, or commit an artist to a certain number of albums – a licensing deal like this is generally a smaller deal that is focused on a single release. In such a deal, the artist gives up a % of their royalties in exchange for promotional services from Amuse (i.e. they will help push the song) and an advance (cash money). This type of deal is unusual because it gives a lot of control back to the artist, control that most labels and other companies can’t afford to give up. It means that should circumstances change, the artist is not locked into a deal based on “old terms” – and leaves them free to renegotiate or pursue an alternative option.
How do you get a deal with Amuse? First, be a user. Second, catch a buzz. Amuse is genre and geography-agnostic, meaning they don’t care where you’re from or what kind of music you’re making. They follow the data. If you’re generating interest and creating a buzz, they’ll see that. There’s no one metric that will seal the deal, but there needs to be some combination of metrics and trends that tell the story that your star is rising.
Cult > Clout
Create for yourself. Don’t create for the algorithm. It might take longer to get on people’s radar, but if you are creating something unique and meaningful, when the fans come they will actually stay. It’s literally Marcos’ job to facilitate music releases and analyze their performance, and he says gradually building a cult following wins out over chasing clout every time.
In the wise words of Murph, “You could be the best at replicating a favorable sound right now. But if you don’t stand for anything – if you don’t have a real point of view – the rest of it falls flat.”