Music distribution: what happens after I upload my song?

Posted on 20 Jan 2014 |

Hannah Boothby and Davide d'Atri, Soundreef

Hannah Boothby and Davide d'Atri, Soundreef

Artists, record labels and publishers often ask us what happens when they’ve uploaded their music - when will it be used as music for business and what affects how much airtime it will get? We’ve put this blog post together to answer some of your questions about this.

Why can’t you use my music straight away?

Getting your song broadcast by Soundreef involves six stages: registration; dealing with your current collecting society; approving, tagging and cataloguing your song; activating your song; delivering the song to clients; the clients broadcasting the song – and then you getting paid! Some of these stages take longer than others, and it can be a long process, but bear in mind that you don’t actually have to do anything at all once you’ve registered. We handle all the administration and make sure you get paid. It’s better than trusting to the old-style collecting society system, where your music gets used anyway, and you don’t get paid!

1. Registration

How long this stage takes is entirely up to you – it can be minutes or days. During the registration process, we ask about:

  • Whether you’re an individual or a company.
  • Your contact and PayPal details, so that we can get in touch and pay you.
  • The names of your songs, so that they can be registered on our system.
  • The collecting societies you use, so that we can contact them.
We never share your data with anyone else.

2. Dealing with your current collecting society

As part of the registration process, we’ll send a letter to your current collecting society telling them that we’ll be collecting your royalties for background music in Europe from now on. We send a batch of these letters to collecting societies every month. This means that, if you register your tracks just after we’ve sent a batch of letters, you’ll need to wait up to a month before this stage is completed.

Things can sometimes take a little longer, depending on your local collecting society, since some use different procedures or take longer to approve artist requests (the fastest are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC). We’re hoping to publish a blog post about these procedures soon.

3. Approving, tagging and cataloguing your song

Once you’ve completed the registration process, our Music Supervisors listen to your tracks and decide whether we can use them. This process can take anything up to 60 days, since there are often a lot of tracks in the queue – though it can often be faster than this.

Each song that they choose to use then needs to be tagged with labels such as tempo, mood and music genre, then added to our catalogue. The tagging process takes between two and four weeks, and this is part of the 60-day approval process period.

The time it takes to get from stages 1 to 3 can take anything from two to eight weeks.

4. Activating your song

Once your song has been approved, tagged and catalogued, it is put in our database, and will show up when the database is searched for certain types of music.

5. Delivering your song to Soundreef clients

Your song is delivered to Soundreef clients in two ways: to in-store radio producers, and via our web radio service.

Most airplay comes from in-store radio. Since we have over 150,000 songs registered, it isn’t feasible for in-store radio producers to select individual songs from it. Instead, they give us a description of the kind of music they would like to play, and our music supervisors choose music from our database that fits this description. For example, they might tell us that they have certain marketing targets, and their in-store radio company might suggest that certain types of music would suit this. The descriptions tend to be very general at this stage (such as ‘radio friendly rock and pop’). We then work with the in-store radio company to choose the music. We start by sending the in-store radio company a batch of songs, and they then give us feedback that helps us refine the selection. We then send them more music, and we repeat this process until they have exactly the music they want.

The other way your songs get used is via our web radio service. This is a service designed for small shops and businesses who do not work with in-store radio companies. Our music supervisors hand pick songs to appear on our web radio service in order to fit a certain mood, or create a certain atmosphere. The web radio service is divided into different genres – for example, rock, pop, lounge, house, classical.

Whether your song gets picked depends on its quality, suitability for background use and its genre – so if you’ve supplied a high quality rock/pop song in exactly the style our client is looking for, it could be played in as little as two weeks from activation. If you’ve uploaded, say, a few stomping dance tracks that we absolutely love, they might not get used for as much as six months, since no dance music has been requested. You could describe this as, ‘the quality of the song discounted for the genre of the song divided by what is needed by the market’.

You should also remember that, no matter how good the track, we can never actually guarantee that it will be used!

6. The client broadcasts the song

The songs get played in the client’s store or other business.

In-store radio producers keep a log of all the songs that they play in each store, which is returned to us every 30 to 90 days – so if your song is broadcast at the beginning of the 90-day period, it will be a while before it’s added to our calculations. However, it’s pretty rare that it would take this long – it’s usually a maximum of 45 days.

7. You get paid

We assemble the logs from all the in-store radio companies and combine them with our own logs, generated by our web radio channels. We then parse these to add up the total number of times each song has been played.

We publish our results every six months, on the 29th of January and the 29th of July, then we pay you via PayPal.

8. We announce the results for the semester

We publish the statistics for each semester (for an example, see the results for July 2013), and we use these to try and forecast future earnings in our trends and estimates tool.

How long will all of this take?

As you can see, there is a lot to organise after registration, and it all takes time! The total time depends on various factors, such as when you submit your song and how many tracks our Music Supervisors currently have in their queue, but you should expect to wait between two and eight weeks before your track becomes active or inactive.

It seems like a long time to wait – but bear in mind that you don’t actually need to do anything at all after you’ve registered your song. You can just sit back and wait, and we’ll handle all the administration, keeping you informed along the way!

Can you give me any idea how much I can expect to earn from my music?

If you'd like to work out how your tracks are likely to do, you could try out our trends and estimates section. It's a new tool we are developing to forecast your sales and music usage, to help you work out how much you could earn and be played by broadcasters in the current semester. Although it’s still at an early stage, it aims to give you information that is based on a variety of different factors and is as up to date as possible. We usually publish trends and estimates in the middle of the semester, so that we can base our estimates on previous data. This means that your song needs to have been active for this amount of time before estimates can be meaningful.

Remember that this section is still being developed. As it involves new technology, and since forecasts are never completely reliable, the information we provide here might not be accurate, and it might not predict actual performance properly yet. Please don’t rely on it!

We publish reports on how much you've been paid on the My Money page every semester, on the 29th of July and the 29th of January, and we pay money out to you the next working day.

Still not sure what’s happening?

Post your questions in the comment section!

We love to hear from users, and our commitment to transparency means that we tell you as much as we can about how we calculate and pay your royalties. We’re constantly updating our FAQ and blog to try and give you as much information as possible – your questions are really helpful to both us and other users!