How do Feature Placements in Stores Work?

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This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of our friends at Symphonic Distribution.

As a distribution company, our efforts have gone beyond just the delivery and fulfillment for record labels and artists. We’ve branched out into various other services (Publishing Administration, Neighboring Rights, etc.), but of course, being that the word “distribution” is in our DNA and literally, our company name, it’s our core business.

An aspect that goes hand-in-hand with distribution is the marketing of products, labels and artists. We receive hundreds of requests in a given week that our team works hard to pitch to the different partnerships that we have. A lot of the requests are great and even when they aren’t, we try our best to educate our clients to take proper steps to where their products can be considered and featured.

We wanted to take a moment to give direction and educate as many people who want to read this regarding the featured release process as it pertains to various different online outlets. We feel that providing our honest opinion on the matter can help open up your mind and realize that just putting out a release is only a small piece of the pie that is music distribution, and that marketing, brand and artist development are essential pieces of what is going to be a more challenging music industry over the next decade.

Doesn’t guarantee you any longstanding success or sales

We might get panned for this, but it’s the truth. We’ve been in business for close to 10 years now and we’ve seen many record labels and artists have great success one day and disappear the next. Some of these were featured on the main page and charted in the overall top 10. So you get featured and you chart. Congratulations, that is something to be very proud of. But don’t get an ego and expect it to happen each and every time because music evolves and the business evolves. Next year we’ll be talking about a brand new record label or artist that just broke out and is huge. That artist may not even be into music in five years, so while a feature is important, it’s not the end all, be all in the industry. It’s just one step in a journey that, if you work at it, can last for as long as you want it to.

There is a misconception that if you get featured it will mean instant sales. That is DEFINITELY not true. We’ve seen products from labels that never get features sell better than those that are featured. This is part of the argument and issues we even have with paying for featured placement because there is no guarantee of a return on an investment if there were to ever be one. What features do is get your product out there visually and for the millions of hits that go to an iTunes, Juno and/or Beatport. It’s up to the consumer to be compelled by the image, the name, release title, and then of course the song to actually bite down. So realize first and foremost that getting featured is nice, but it doesn’t always get you the results you’d expect.

No one has a better chance than another

We’ve actually heard and have proof of digital distributors promising labels (including even at times clients of ours) guaranteed features and promotion on partners such as Beatport. The fact of the matter is, that’s not possible or true. No one has any guarantee over any piece of real estate on Beatport or any partner that accepts music unless they pay for it. So if you are ever given these empty promises, it shows a sign of desperation for whomever is giving them to you.

For a product to be featured, various things are looked at: the release cover, what the label and/or artist has as far as branding (that means a professional looking social network, website, press kit or photos are essential pieces). Think about this, if you just have a simple logo or a cover that is not up to the standards of what’s being featured, then there potentially won’t be a space for your product to be featured no matter how great it is. Take pride, time and invest in the appearance because that is the first thing consumers look at. If they see a crappy cover or see that you have pictures of you hanging out with your family at a Fourth of July barbecue as your main profile picture, then you need to realize you will never be featured if you don’t have professionalism behind your product.

You are one in a million, so stand out!

Often times, we get a ton of feature requests that are the same. The same DJ support, the same music, the same look and feel. In an industry that’s so over saturated (and getting worse every single day), you need to do something to stand out. The music, the cover–everything matters. And if you are looking at Swedish House Mafia as a model, that’s great, but if you are copying them and calling yourself the American House Mafia and you have four producers make one song, it’s just a blatant ripoff of something that already has been done, and people will notice. If it’s old news, it’s not relevant to be featured.

Lastly, just because you make a genre that’s featured a lot or sound even similar to it, or think that your artist is huge, don’t think you are warranted a feature. It can take a long time to get anything featured by anyone and it’s about the total package. There isn’t one blueprint that works for every single artist, as each artist has a different marketing anatomy. We try and analyze, review and see what the artist, product and label is about when pitching material, and we can assure you that other partners do as well.

Different processes and lead times

Just how every retailer or streaming provider intakes music differently and report sales differently, they also receive featured requests differently. So think of that first before you assume a distributor–either us or any others–aren’t doing their job. Many companies out there (even our competition) work very hard, spend money and resources to try and feature material–often times for a tiny percentage–just to try and propel a brand that may potentially leave them because of other company over promises.

Because every partner intakes featured requests differently means they’re also getting them at different times, thus, you may have to deliver a product one month ahead of schedule just to even be considered. We never think a good strategy is for a record label or artist to release something with a release date being one week from the delivery date because that gives everyone literally zero time to consider the product, and those requests are automatically deleted from anyone as it undermines others that are actually abiding by helpful tools and resources to get their products featured. Plan ahead, prepare your release and have a discussion with your delivering partner to go about strategies for the product before the release date is scheduled. If you’d like to get more details on all the features stores offer, review these here.

Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket

Many folks want and, believe it or not, demand features on Beatport. While that’s great for them, they aren’t the only partner in the world. We love them and are super proud and happy to see what they have become, but they also want to see artists be successful beyond Beatport. Work alongside other partners to get promotions and features, because if Beatport sees that it can help the chances of them considering your products in the future. We often get requests for main page features, which at times are a bit baffling if the artist or label has nothing out there to justify it. Be realistic that you have to work to get there.

As much as everyone criticizes Spinnin’ and other labels for being on the charts and featured all of the time, they started from zero, too. Sure, we personally feel they are a little too recognized (not just on Beatport, but in other areas as well), but they are a major company that started where you may be at this very moment and they got to where they are now by working hard and building up a brand, releasing what they consider to be quality music and much more. They treated their label like a business, and you won’t make it in the industry if you are just sitting there expecting things to happen.

Social network promotions don’t make a hit

It’s no secret that Facebook sucks now for fan pages. You may have 30,000 likes, but your posts are only seen by 2,000? What? Well, if you haven’t paid attention to that yet, then start to. If you are just saying “New release out now!” that may get you a few likes here and there, but how do you translate that to actual sales? It’s not an easy feat by any means, but the point is to make you realize that this is something anyone can do. Only doing this isn’t going to make a song or a label successful. The music has to be solid first, and then you have to work at a laundry list of items (and do it quickly before its no longer relevant) to get your material out there. If you’d like more information on best practices for social media for artist, make sure to check out.

To close, we realize this may be a bit on the downside, but our intention is to give you a no holds, barred and unfiltered point of view on features. We will still work very hard to feature as many products as possible, but it’s important for clients to have the right expectation that it’s not up to the artist, label, distributor or even label reps. It’s something that’s up to the marketing teams at these various partners to really consider featuring your product. While it doesn’t guarantee household name status, it is a great launching point to new potential fans. The important thing after that is to be consistent and continue to evolve and deliver quality material, otherwise it will be difficult to remember when your feature occurred in early February. After all, not many folks remember those who finished second.

By Jorge Brea
Founder and CEO of Symphonic Distribution

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