Now There’s a Free* Competitor to CD Baby, Tunecore, and Distrokid

Now There's a Free Competitor to CD Baby, Tunecore, and Distrokid

With Level Music, Warner Music Group gets ahead of CD Baby and Distrokid by offering a ‘free’ digital distribution platform.  But, how much will it really cost artists?

Warner Music Group has quietly launched its alternative to established digital distribution platforms.  Dubbed Level Music, the platform allows self-releasing artists the opportunity to “release their music everywhere for free.”

As with Distrokid, CD Baby, Tunecore, Ditto, and UMG’s Spinnup, Level Music lets artists release their music on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, TIDAL, Pandora, Deezer, and Napster.  According to the music aggregation platform’s About page, it won’t charge artists a dime.  Level Music vows to let artists have complete ownership over their works with “no upfront charges or fees.”  They’ll keep 100% of their rights, royalties, and earnings.

Of course, indie artists will have to make a few concessions.  They’ll have to accept Level Music’s Terms of Use prior to using it.  Reading through it, you’ll find several interesting facts.

First, the service is owned by Radar Music, Ltd, a UK company.  Checking on Companies House, the UK’s registrar of companies, Music Business Worldwide found that senior Warner US and UK executives serve as the company’s directors.  Level Music clearly represents WMG’s efforts to attract indie artists.  Like UMG’s Spinnup, the major label seeks to find the next big star.

Second, for each submission, artists grant Radar Music and their affiliates (basically, WMG) a worldwide royalty-free, fully paid-up license.  Radar Music – and subsequently WMG – can reproduce, transmit, perform, and display works without “additional consideration” to artists.  They can also edit, modify, adapt, and create derivative works from posted submissions within the site and on affiliates’ services and products.  In addition, Radar Music can use artists’ names and photographs for any promotional purpose, as well as exercise all trademark, publicity, and proprietary rights with regard to each submission.

Of course, these are just standard, contractual obligations, right?

Testing out Level Music’s claims, I signed up for the service.  Prior to posting their works, artists will have to download a mandatory contract.  In it, Level Music vows anew to allow artists to keep 100% of income from their music.  Except, they won’t really get 100%.  Level Music automatically subtracts an 8% commission fee along with applicable taxes.

The site’s Terms of Use overtly states multiple times that the platform remains in beta.  As such, Level Music will continue to update the service’s functionality, along with key changes in its contract with artists.  Speaking with MBW, a source stated,

“Level is currently in beta so nothing is set in stone, and we are experimenting with different functionalities and features.”

With no direct marketing from WMG, the site could change its business model in the future.  Like Tunecore and UMG’s Spinnup, Level Music could charge an annual fee.  Or, like CD Baby, it may end up charging artists for an uploaded song and album.  That is, if the platform chooses not to conform to earning 8% in commissions for all digital income earned on Level Music.

You can sign-up for Level Music here.

 


Featured image by Level Music

16 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “for each submission, artists grant Radar Music and their affiliates (basically, WMG) a worldwide royalty-free, fully paid-up license. Radar Music – and subsequently WMG – can reproduce, transmit, perform, and display works without “additional consideration” to artists. They can also edit, modify, adapt, and create derivative works from posted submissions within the site and on affiliates’ services and products. In addition, Radar Music can use artists’ names and photographs for any promotional purpose, as well as exercise all trademark, publicity, and proprietary rights with regard to each submission.”

    lol

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “can create derivative works”

      Holy sh*t.

      Level Music is so sleazy I’m actually impressed.

      Reply
      • Nelson

        It’s a grift so bold – take ur IP and w/ ur permission use any part of any where in the world including ur own image and call it free.

        #TheMajorsSuck

        Reply
    • In the Know

      So basically they will be allowed to do what ever they want with your music, with very little or no payments to the music artist.

      Reply
    • Danny

      Isn’t that right just to allow them to distribute, display artwork, provide sample streams?

      Reply
  2. Michael

    Not free.

    They take 8%. It’s in the fine-print.

    WMG thinks artists are idiots and can be tricked into signing away 8% in the guise of “free.” Maybe they’re right—as evidenced by this article’s headline in DMN.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Yeah the terms are a bit misleading but their support team directed me to this in the terms. I guess there’s a layman summary for each section and seems like the 8% is waived during the beta period. They’re probably getting slammed with these questions maybe they should just update their terms lol.

      From the support team email I got:

      If you look in Summary for section 2 of distro terms it reads as: “during the beta period for Level, we do agree to waive the 8% distribution fee in connection with payments to users who are and have registered as individual musicians and artists (and bands) who are not working with a record label. While we may modify this beta period waiver in the future, we’ll let you know before we do.”

      Reply
    • Stella

      Reading through the terms, the 8% fee is waived during the beta so it’s free during the period.

      Reply
      • Lane

        > Reading through the terms, the 8% fee is waived

        If you read further in the fine print, it says every artist gives up *mandatory* 8%. Even during the beta period. It mentions they may “waive” this fee during the beta period, but will un-waive it any time “in our sole discretion.”

        WMG knows nobody will read the fine print (ex: Stella and others in the DMN comments who missed it). They know nobody will read the “notification,” which will likely be more fine print on their website. And Level knows that once your music is in their system, the switching costs (losing stats, etc.) lock you in. It’s a pain in the neck to switch out.

        Obviously WMG is trying to mislead artists. That’s a given but I don’t think anyone is surprised. But will it land WMG in hot water? Time will tell.

        https://beta.levelmusic.com/distribution-terms

        Reply
      • James

        Obviously WMG is trying to mislead artists. I don’t think anyone is disputing that.

        But the question is, will it work?

        > Reading through the terms, the 8% fee is waived

        If you read further in the fine print, it says every artist gives up *mandatory* 8%. Even during the beta period. It mentions they may “waive” this fee during the beta period, but will un-waive it any time “in our sole discretion.”

        WMG knows nobody will read the fine print (like Stella and others in the DMN comments who missed it).

        They know nobody will read the “notification,” which will likely be more fine print on their website.

        They know that once your music is in their system, the switching costs (losing stats, etc) lock you in. It’s a pain in the neck to switch out.

        Crazytown.

        https://beta.levelmusic.com/distribution-terms

        Reply
      • James

        Sorry — I didn’t mean to post that 4 times. The site gave me an error each time I hit “submit” and then seems they worked after all.

        Anyway – yeah. Read the fine print people! 🙂

        Reply
    • jon b

      So if you are signed to the label, you get roughly 15%-20% (master royalties) and if you are not signed to the label, you get 92%?

      Reply
  3. Lest it be overlooked...

    In other news, as for the record label signed artists, it appears that a fat check is in the mail not only from two of the major record labels (thus far), but also from all of the independent labels as Merlin has reportedly sold its entire stake in Spotify today for “significantly higher than $100m” as reported by MBW.

    https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/merlin-cashed-in-its-entire-stake-in-spotify-following-sony-and-warner-sell-offs/

    As for Sony Music and The Orchard, my favorite part of the promise made to their artists and distributed labels is that they would share “any net gain” realized from the sale. Can you say, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams?” Read the article, lol.

    https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/heres-exactly-how-many-shares-the-major-labels-and-merlin-bought-in-spotify-and-what-we-think-those-stakes-are-worth-now/

    Reply
  4. Danjel Medovic

    Well,
    That’s great.
    Except for one thing,
    FreshTunes already took the idea like 4 years ago.
    I am already on them, I have to be honest looks like they are in the top 3 distros.
    Plus free distro + 100% earnings.
    Warner is too late on the independent train.

    Reply
  5. Blobbo

    Why do include the link if it’s clear they are total shysters? THe modern music industry needs to remove ALL the middlemen pieces of MBA garbage who need to go work in the regular world they were born for. They need to be REMOVED from the circuit between artists, music producers, and audiences. The music press needs to be on the side of REAL artists, not the manufactured garbage sold constantly by the MBA shysters. Otherwise, that press is bankrupt, and will be called as such.

    Reply

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