LANDR, the platform that first appeared to do automated online mastering, is now distribution, too. And they’ve added online giant Beatport as a partner.
That news came quietly earlier this week, but it demonstrates LANDR are serious about making a turnkey solution for distribution as well as mastering. The deal is, if you aren’t a label big enough to work with Bandcamp directly, and/or if you don’t have your own distributor, you can’t just send music to online stores.
LANDR offers to entirely streamline the process. If you trust their algorithmic approach to mastering, all you have to do is upload and hit release. Your music is mastered (with some minor, simplified ability to tweak the results), and off to Beatport – plus Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Google Music, and some others.
The pricing is certainly aggressive. Distribution is bundled in with the mastering fees at no additional cost. And in an unprecedented move, LANDR give you 100% of royalties and charge you nothing. The whole system is based on explosive growth. To master WAV files, you have to pony up for the 25EUR/month fee (for unlimited tracks, if you’re a heavy user). But it appears even the lowly 4EUR/mo track does WAV distribution.
There is a catch, of course. First, I’m not entirely convinced by LANDR’s algorithmic mastering. Mastering with a human actually isn’t all that expensive, depending on who you use – and tests I did with LANDR’s system were compelling, but only on the level of what you might get with a preset in a good mastering plug-in. I know – I’m going to get in some trouble with the LANDR folks for this. But my thought is this: some of what mastering engineers do is based on taste, not just on something that could be derived from a large sample set. I rely on a mastering engineer to catch little mistakes and ask questions. Now, maybe people don’t want to pay extra for that, but – then I’d ask if they really want to do a proper digital release, or if they might as well just stick stuff up on SoundCloud and not overthink it.
I’ve confirmed with LANDR that you don’t have to opt into their mastering scheme just to use distribution. You can subscribe to the distribution only – which is even more affordable than mastering with distribution built in. (This also comes with some cute apps and stats and stuff that can be frankly a bear to navigate on big distribution platforms.) As it’s subscription-based and there’s no contract, you do have to keep paying the subscription to keep your music out there. (On the other hand, there’s no exclusivity, so your label could move on to another distributor later with new music without any hassle.)
There’s a second factor to be aware of here: just dumping music on distribution often isn’t effective. Having a human to pitch music makes a difference.
That said, even given my reluctance there, this distribution offer seems terrifically competitive. If you’ve finished an EP, and you just want to make sure people find it whether they type something into Spotify or follow your artist name on Bandcamp, this looks cost-effective and easy. There are other entry-level distribution services that don’t require contracts, but they tend to either charge big fees or else they lack stores like Beatport.
Revised: that pricing is insanely low, like too-good-to-be-true low. 10 tracks cost $1 a month. 30 are $2 a month. Unlimited is $4 a month. There are discounts for paying annually that get it even lower. Now, some distributors charge nothing, but they take more than 0% of your royalty. So this is impressive.
LANDR have posted on the topic:
It’s worth doing some homework; we can cover more on distribution soon. (While I work on that, let us know how you’re distributing, as it’d be great to get some notes!)
Anyway, my kneejerk opinion:
Mastering, worth a try, but it’s still worth finding a solid mastering engineer if you can.
Distribution: this is so insanely affordable and easy, you’d be crazy not to at least look. (I’m exclusive with my distributor, so I’m out!)