Digital distributor DistroKid is launching a new service called Upstream that will allow independent artists using the platform to share data with record labels in hopes of getting signed, the company announced today.
The move by DistroKid is the latest by a tech company to charge the music industry for access to its data. In 2019, Spotify, a minority investor in DistroKid, launched Marquee, a service that allows artists and labels to pay for sponsored recommendations. DistroKid is the biggest independent distributor in the world, with over 2 million artists, outpacing competitors like CD Baby and TuneCore, which distribute 650,000 and 250,000 artists respectively. DistroKid will be paid a “small finder’s fee” by participating labels if an artist is signed, and the company was quick to note that the fee cannot be “recouped from the artist’s royalties or affect artists pay in any way.”
Republic Records signed an exclusive deal to be the first label on board with Upstream, but DistroKid says more labels will follow in the coming months.
DistroKid founder and CEO Philip Kaplan tells Billboard that Upstream will be an opt-in service for all DistroKid users. “If an artist does not want to be signed or does not want to share their data, they don’t have to opt in,” Kaplan says. “They don’t have to do anything, and nothing will change.”
Kaplan says artists that do opt-in will share their Upstream profile with labels, which “contains links to the artist’s music, genres, streaming data, location of the artist, demographic info of the listeners are available, social media links and related artists.”
“Through the years, many labels have pursued us and tried to get some insight into the artists that use DistroKid,” Kaplan says. “At the same time, artists who use DistroKid often ask for help in their careers, with all the things that labels do. So, it made sense to play matchmaker and essentially introduce artists who are looking for labels.”
Upstream will be led by industry veteran Ché Pope, formerly the COO of G.O.O.D. Music, and the vice president of A&R at Warner Music. Pope — who has worked with artists including The Weekend, Teddy Riley, Hans Zimmer, ASAP Rocky, Lauryn Hill, Eminem, and Dr. Dre — will act as a bridge between participating labels and artists looking for record deals.
“Ché is a visionary with unparalleled experience & insight as an artist, label exec, and technologist,” Kaplan said in a statement. “He will be hugely valuable to Upstream label clients, and his foresight into helping artists get a fair deal is trailblazing.”
“Philip, Ché, and the team at DistroKid are leading disruptors in the music landscape, and we’ve been interested in working with them for some time,” Avery Lipman, the founder and president of Republic Records said in a statement. “Upstream gives us an effective way to discover and connect with artists we’d love to work with. Many of the artists on our roster have used DistroKid in the past, so it makes perfect sense.”
While the exclusive window with Republic will last “a few months,” according to Pope, DistroKid is looking to quickly add labels to Upstream’s service as fast as possible. “We’re going to sign up thousands of labels, we have tremendous interest already.”