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Distribution at it’s finest – A discussion with Cygnus Music

Posted 12/3/19 in

We live in a time where the music industry is in constant fluctuation. Trends come and go as quick as the producers that ride their waves, making it almost impossible to predict the route that dance music in the UK and worldwide is going to take. We also live in an extremely DIY era, with producers, start up labels and musical individuals of all kinds always looking for the next way to improve their product.

One thing that never changes however, is the need to get music from A to B, the ability to get your releases in front of as many people as possible and have it heard by the people you want to hear it. The need for a reliable, forward thinking and responsive distributor has never been higher, with the competition growing at every turn and technology advancing left right and centre.

This is where Cygnus Music comes into play. For those that aren’t aware, Cygnus Music is a distribution company, specializing in underground dance music from D&B to garage and bass. With years and years of experience in the game, Cygnus have gained a very well deserved reputation as one of the most reliable distributors in the UK, with their label roster constantly moving forward and achieving impressive chart positions on almost every release.

Cygnus as a distributor now represent some of the finest labels in the UK bass scene and beyond, delivering sound advice, top draw promotional opportunities, round the clock service and more.

As part of an in-depth look into the modern music industry and how it runs, we are absolutely thrilled to present and exclusive interview with the team at Cygnus Music, in which they sit down with us and explain exactly what they do and how they can help up and coming labels and producers hit the next level, a process I can personally back having worked with Cygnus on numerous releases myself.

An introduction to Cygnus: 

The Cygnus Music company was created from the ground up with one sole purpose – to provide a range of services for labels and artists that are not only transparent, but effective.

Cygnus Music is a music distribution company specialising in setting up, moving and managing digital labels, and distributing them to the biggest music stores online. We have a huge network of over 150 stores and streaming sites worldwide including Beatport, Deezer, Amazon, iTunes, JunoDownload, YouTube, Traxsource, Spotify and many more.

What’s the role of a distributor, the types of distribution and what are the most important aspects of distributing music?

Distribution can be simple, or it can be specialised. A basic distribution model often just delivers music to a few key stores and accounts back, whereas a specialist distributor often thrives in specific genres, has much higher criteria for onboarding, offers ancillary services and can inject ideas, initiatives and heaps of added value. Cygnus Music is a distributor that speciliases in Dance Music and is home to 1,100 incredible labels. As a dance music specialist we represent some of the biggest labels and artists in Bass Music, Drum & Bass, Garage, Hip Hop, House, Dubstep, Breaks, Techno and more, with around 60% of our clients based in the UK.

There are 2 distribution models we offer at Cygnus Music: 1. The traditional label set up with label name, branding, artists, contracts, accounting, promotion, sync and publishing, and 2. The self releasing artist model which is a follow on from the traditional model but where an artist has a significant enough platform to sell and reach its audience under their own scope.

We feel that the most important aspects of distributing music are customer service, integrity and honesty. We believe in putting the clients first, but also ensuring that we’re completely transparent with our customers. This means that we’ll only work on a project which we are 100% behind.

What do you think makes Cygnus stand out as a distribution platform?

We offer many in house services which other distributors don’t have available, such as our independent playlist pitching service, graphic design, mastering by Break and marketing campaigns. This gives us a better overview of how promotion and marketing can increase a label’s revenue. Other companies often neglect these links and through our in-house team we’re able to connect different parts of the process in releasing music, from PR right through to having music available on stores and streaming platforms.

Each member of staff is incredibly knowledgeable both in their specific role in the company but also through their own independent skills and interests in their own time. Every member of staff is passionate about music and enjoys contributing to the growth of our client’s projects. Some clients may not have a great deal of contact with us and just choose to use our label management tools to run their labels, whereas others prefer us to be much more involved and this is where we can add a huge amount of value. We have our own inhouse label management system built by our web development team which offers distribution, schedule management, accounting, daily sales, shop services, PPL registration and YouTube MCN onboarding. We have an office phone number and personal email addresses which ensures we are personally connected to our clients and easily contactable.

Finally, the Cygnus Music brand carries a huge amount of weight with stores and the dance music industry. Since our launch we have ensured a tight onboarding process (we typically accept 1 in 5 label applications and receive around 20 a week) meaning our clients content is never diluted with any substandard content. We fiercely protect the rights and best interests of our client’s labels which is something they may not find elsewhere, and clients benefit from exclusive access to the network we’ve spent a decade building throughout dance music.

What’s the criteria for bringing labels on board for distribution? What elements do you look for when deciding who to distribute for?

At Cygnus Music we don’t just take on any label. We have an application process where we ask every label or artist starting with us to outline their plans for promotion and marketing. Each label must also provide us with examples of their forthcoming music, planned or estimated social reach and from this information we’re able to quickly gauge how well prepared the label is to release music in the current climate.

This approach brings so much value to the company but also massively benefits our clients and what can be achieved with their content. Making sure the content we deliver to stores is never substandard yields a much stronger relationship between us and the stores. Stores trust us to deliver good products and this creates a knock-on effect that benefits all our clients. We’re then given more featured content, have more content in playlists, have increased promotional opportunities and faster response times when store updates are made.

With so many new labels launching every day, we want to make sure a new label or artist project is in the best possible position to start. Should we feel that a label is not ready or in the best position to launch, we will always provide feedback as to the reasons why and encourage them to reapply at a later date.

Our key criteria when assessing a labels application is as follows:

  • Finished quality of the audio submitted
  • Reach or potential reach of their brand
  • Reach or potential reach of artists on the label
  • Marketing plans proposed or in place

It’s imperative especially for a newcomer label to be fully aware of the current market and how best they can take advantage of this to promote their releases. If a label shows a clear understanding of how social media and marketing can help promote a release, it proves they’re dedicated in backing the music which they’re releasing, as well as fully invested in the contemporary scene and their brand.

 What are your top three suggestions for a label looking to release music?

  1. Go as BIG as you can! The biggest trick to having a successful release is to call upon the biggest artists you can possibly work with. Do whatever you can to work with the highest profile artist within or even outside your reach. The artist’s entire fan base and following will momentarily look at and listen to your label, discovering what it’s about, whilst potentially following and supporting what it does. If you are already an established artist then setting up your own ‘label’ or self releasing project is extremely straightforward using our label management tools.
  2. Promote, Market & Pitch: It’s really important that you fully understand the necessity of social media, press and online streaming in today’s contemporary market. Many labels employ a PR company to help promote their music. These people have built specialized relationships which are invaluable to any marketing campaign and can get your music out to the right audiences. Knowing how this ties into social media, as well as understanding the different types of media landscapes, can greatly benefit your release. Traditional media is also changing; more labels are focusing on getting artists into particular playlists and we can confirm that in doing so, you can maximise your revenue through the exposure given on popular playlists. This can be done through pitching directly to Spotify through an artist portal or distribution representative, or by contacting particular playlist curators, much like PR companies do with print and online publications.
  3. Understand your revenue streams: Knowledge is key and by analyising your revenue streams you can understand how best to promote your label moving forward. You may find that you have a strong following in a certain territory (such as the UK or US) and this may mean that you want to concentrate marketing in that area, or even concentrate on tour dates there. Alternatively, you may also see markets which you feel could be stronger and can look to understand how you can improve your targeting.

What are two of the most stand-out releases you’ve worked on?

It’s incredibly difficult to pin it down to two as we are closely involved with so many of our clients, however a selection of some stand-out releases have been:

Benga’s single ‘Psychosis’, launched off the back of his Illuminate Music record label. Not only did it receive support from many tastemaking publications such as DJ Mag and UKF, but it was also picked up by mainstream press such as the BBC, who followed the story which focused on his continuing battle with mental health. This gave an extra dimension to our work, as it’s always important to remember that with music you’re dealing with people’s stories too and this is something which can often be overlooked.

Macky Gee’s ‘Moments’ LP was another stand out success. Cygnus ran both the distribution, Spotify campaign, and Press marketing for the LP, which in turn helped the album earn the number one spot on the iTunes dance charts, 2.5 millions streams on Spotify and reach number two on Apple Music. Through utilising different types of media coverage, including Facebook live streams and third party press partners, ‘Moments’ was an album which became difficult to get away from!

How do you plan on building Cygnus over the next twelve months? Are there any key areas that you’re currently focusing on?

We’re currently looking to expand our playlist pitching services across Spotify and Apple Music, as well as focusing on more influencer based marketing avenues, primarily through different social media platforms.

We’ve also had increased interest in both our distribution and marketing services over the past twelve months; this has given us wider scope in terms of the features we’ve been able to secure for our clients across music stores, streaming platforms and different press avenues. Although it means that the process of bringing labels on board has become more selective – with strong marketing plans and good music, we’ve proven time and time again that success is easily achievable in the current market.

If you are keen to check out what specific services Cygnus could offer your label or project, be sure to check out their website: HERE

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Words: KXVU


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