Before the internet and The Orchard Music rolled into town, there was only really one route available to artists looking to get their recordings heard by an audience – they needed a record label and the label would then take care of the distribution of the record, shipping it out to brick and mortar stores everywhere in the hope of selling enough units to garner a tidy profit.
Nowadays, with the advent of streaming, getting your music out of the major DSP’s (Digital Service Providers) – including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, etc. – has never been easier. In fact, there is a plethora of distribution companies whose business models center around a service whereby artists pay a flat fee (or sacrifice a percentage of sales revenue) in return for their music being available across the globe. One the well known companies playing in this space is The Orchard Music.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the organisation and the orchard music distribution offering, compare it to other distributors and look at where it fits in the marketplace.
The Orchard was founded in 1997 by Richard Gotterher and Scott Cohen in New York with the simple mission of helping independent artists sell their music to mainstream global audiences. Since then the company has opened offices around the world and spread into physical and digital distribution as well as royalty collection and in 2015 the company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Music (who brought the 50% they didn’t already own for a cool $200 million).
In a nutshell, the Orchard is a full-blown artist and record label services company that reaches digital and physical retailers worldwide complete with digital natives specialised in marketing, advertising, sync licensing, video monetisation, royalty collection, and more.
In this section, we will take a look at some of the services that the Orchard offers. Let’s take a look!
As you would expect, The Orchard Music artists benefit from global digital distribution to all the major DSPs including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, and many more. The Orchard is what’s known as a specialist aggregator – this basically means that they are not open to absolutely any artist, they only work with a curated talent for a cut of revenue from sales (typically around 15-20%).
Lots of fans still prefer to consume physical records, whether that’s in the form of a CD for the car or a vinyl. For this kind of audience, The Orchard also offers a physical distribution service (primarily within the USA and Europe), plus video distribution to global music channels and a sync service where they pitch their catalogue to different sync opportunities in film and TV, etc.
Finally, the Orchard also offers artist-controlled landing pages and ad campaigns that can help artists’ music reach a wider audience.
The key differentiator with The Orchard is that it has some of the best and most user-friendly tech available to independent artists. With The Orchard Workstation, artists can see detailed business intelligence of how their music is performing as well as manage their content and marketing with a few clicks.
Artists can put together video products to be shared across all deliverable services and easily share music with their audiences via dedicated landing pages and customised Ad campaigns.
In terms of costs for the service, distributors often have a range of different pricing models. In the case of the Orchard, they don’t take upfront fees but rather they take a cut of sales revenue of around 15-20% depending on the individual deal.
This can be seen as a little high – distributors that take a cut of sales typically take around 15% of digital sales (and often around 25% of physical sales) but it varies from distributor to distributor.
Now we will look at some competitor distributors to help you choose the best one for sharing your music with the world!
Tunecore is one of the most established digital distributors playing in the market, they have a really good model where artists pay a one-time fee to distribute their single or album for a year and renew as they please. For singles, this comes to $9.99 and for albums, you are looking at $29.99 per year. The great thing is that after you’ve paid your flat fee to Tunecore, you receive 100% of the revenue paid out by the digital stores (after they have taken their normal cut).
Tunecore is an open market – so anyone can sign up to Tunecore and distribute their music to the major DSP’s globally including Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc. This is a good thing in the sense that there are no barriers to entry – the downside here is that you are essentially paying for your music to be on the shelf. On the flip side, because the Orchard is a curated distributor that only works with top talent, they have more clout with the DSP’s and so if you can land a deal with a company like the Orchard, you have more chance of landing a spot on a key playlist. That’s not to say Tunecore artists can’t land spots on major playlists, it’s just that these artists will need to work a little harder to demonstrate the appeal of their music.
One of the coolest things about Tunecore is that they payout weekly. To put this in context with other distributors, you will often get a quarterly statement on 60-day terms – so if you have a big spike at the start of a quarter, it could be 5 months before you see that income.
CD Baby is also a really well-established digital distributor. Unlike Tunecore who charges an annual renewal fee, CD Baby charges a one-time fee ($9.95 for a single, $29 for an album) and then takes 9% of digital sales moving forward. And CD Baby can also deal with global CD and Vinyl distribution and even have services for the manufacture of CDs.
Again, unlike the Orchard, CD Baby is not curated, meaning their services are available to anyone who wants to distribute.
Finally, CD Baby also has a number of promotion services available to their artists and a really good interface for seeing how your music is performing.
The amazing thing is that Music Gateway offers music distribution for free (yes, you read that right – free!) and you keep 100% of your sales.
They distribute to all the major DSPs and they even offer a free mastering service. Not to mention the other services available with Music Gateway – including Artist Development, Showcase pages, and of course their first-class sync pitching service.
Music Gateway compares pretty favorably to the other distributors on the market:
Specifically comparing Music Gateway to The Orchard, there is obviously a pretty significant commercial benefit to distributing for free and keeping 100% of your sales revenue if you have a significant number of streams and downloads – The Orchard’s 15-20% cut might not sound like much but when the sales really roll in, it could become a bone of contention.
Similarly, Music Gateway is much more accessible than The Orchard. There are countless examples of artists that labels have ignored because they didn’t see the potential of the music – The Beatles, 1975, U2, Dave Grohl, and Linkin Park were all rejected by labels before being discovered – and Music Gateway’s pledge to empower creatives and help talent grow, no matter how big or small is a really valuable mission, and it allows artists to remain independent and make their own creative choices around their music.
That was our The Orchard music distribution review! The Orchard is a significant player in the music business and certainly has a great offering that has shown incredible commercial success (doubling their EBITDA – Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortisation – after the Sony takeover in 2015).
However, as a curated service, the barrier to entry is quite high and they will only work with select talent and artists that have obvious commercial potential – so they might easily pass on lesser-known, original artists that can also be incredibly successful. The Orchard music artists tend to have solid foundations and fanbases already established before they begin working with The Orchard so in many cases, they’ve previously used other distributors such as the ones we’ve mentioned before graduating to a relationship with the Orchard and Sony.
There are some other great distributors that don’t have the same barriers to entry, allowing artists to remain independent and reach their audiences so I’d generally advise artists early in their career to investigating other distributors which can allow you to retain your independence and find your audience.
Get free music distribution and find opportunities to get your music in film, TV, and more through sync licensing. Finally, you can amplify your music to those that need to hear it music promotion and professional sharing tool. Try all of this out for yourself by joining Music Gateway. Get your free trial, no strings attached.