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Relationships Are The New Distribution

This post was originally published on my blog over at, where I’ll be writing about how to grow and strengthen an engaged fan base using social media and great content.

Social Media superhero Chris Brogan recently wrote a post on the basics – the 4 P’s of marketing(product, price, place, and promotion) and talked about how many people don’t spend enough time on their Product, and try to make up for it in Promotion. If that doesn’t work they try competing on Price. But rarely is much time spent thinking about Place.

This got me thinking about how music is marketed, and how absolutely right he is. A lot of indie musicians tend to spend the majority of their time on Product and Promotion, with Price usually being the standard $0.99 per track. The common mistake is in thinking that Place, which is your distribution, is taken care of once you’ve gotten your music up on iTunes or Bandcamp.

I think we need to start thinking of distribution as more than just where people download or buy your music from, and maybe shuffle a few P’s around in the process.

In the digital world that most of us are now living, your distribution is actually made up of the quality of your relationships. Every fan, blogger, DJ, promoter, or any other variety of human that you come into contact with is a potential distribution point for your music. The more they like you and your music, the likelier they are to talk about and spread it on a regular basis. So what can you do to get ahead? It’s actually kind of obvious…

Build Your Own Deal

Your distribution is only as strong as the relationships you build around your music, so focus on strategically identifying and building relationships with people who’s audiences you most want to expose to your tunes.

Engage with your fans and learn what kind of content you can create around your music that really resonates with them and helps them connect with you on a deeper level. The more engaged and entertained your fans are, the more passionate they are going to be about sharing your music with their friends.

Spend some time reading the blogs that are most enthusiastic about your music, and the blogs you most want to be featured on. Is there anything you can do to help them? Offer to write some guest posts or create some exclusive content for them. Do an interview with a band they cover, and offer it as an exclusive. Stop pitching blogs on covering your music and start looking for ways to help them provide cool content to their readers.

Form partnerships and collaborate on new projects with other bands, businesses, sports teams, charities, etc. Make contact and build relationships with people and organizations you’re interested in and figure out how you can help each other out.

Be Selective

Seth Godin made a great point in a recent post: Ubiquitous distribution is overrated.

You don’t need to be everywhere, and you can’t be. Focus on building up the distribution points that will get your music and other content to the right people, not the most people. Always be growing your fanbase, but keep it exclusive enough that your most loyal fans don’t feel alienated because you put more effort into marketing to new fans than keeping them engaged and happy.

As you tend to the distribution points you build and they grow stronger, you’ll see the spread of your music slowly increase. New distribution points will develop on their own, and you’ll need to make sure that you’re always listening and ready to engage with them when they do.

This is the sort of stuff that a lot of people tend to think of as Promotion. But if you start looking at it as developing a distribution network for your music, I think it makes a whole lot more sense in the long term. It can also serve to free up all the money you’ve been wasting on advertising and promotion, and instead use it to create amazing content

What Do You Think?

Does it make sense to view your relationships with fans, other bands, bloggers, and sponsors as distribution points? Do you think these relationships deserve more attention? What are the challenges a band faces in taking this type of approach to music marketing?


Greg Bates is a 26 year old social media and digital marketing consultant from Halifax, Canada. You can find more of his writings at and follow him on Twitter at “GregBates.

Reader Comments (3)

I'm on board. I coined a phrase several years ago, "Interactions Not Transactions." It's what my entire Network or Die philosophy revolves around. My network was built by helping others. It's definitely a two way street, so drop the sales pitch, and find out (from the fans) what the fans want!

November 1 | Unregistered CommenterWicked D

You made some very good points! As you mentioned, and to me, the most important thing is GREAT product - Songs so catchy that people can't get them out of their heads. And performances that grab you and take you away... THEN you have something worthwhile that people will talk about - and spread the word...

November 1 | Unregistered CommenterProfessor Pooch

Relationships are not the new distribution - distribution has always been based on relationships. Its just that artists are the new publicity agents, since agents\PR firms\record labels don't take chances on untested artists anymore.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

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