The channels of digital distribution continue to grow and evolve. I’m not going to spend time attempting to cover the entire history of this evolution. Warp Records’ bleep.com, Boomkat’s 14tracks.com, Spotify, Bandcamp and Soundcloud are just a few of examples of digital media delivery services, all trying to get an edge to attract the producer and consumer alike. So how does an artist or label select? A few years ago I noticed that Ghostly International rolled out a subscription service, offering individuals digital releases prior to the album’s street date, along with a few special perks, all for a modest monthly fee. The founder of the label, Sam Valenti IV along with his co-conspirator Miguel Senquiz, saw the potential of this novice approach, and opened up the platform for other imprints.
“A lot of fans didn’t want to be bothered to keep up with different platforms. They were asking ‘We like what you do with Ghostly, but why can’t you just make a service that sends us stuff as it comes out, like a subscription?'”
Enter drip.fm – a service establishing a direct connection between fans and the music. Subscription to a particular label (each offering their own schedule of releases for a matched monthly fee), gives a loyal follower an opportunity to receive anything and everything from a beloved curator. As an example, FatCat Records offers artist-curated mixtapes, rarities and classic albums from the vaults (including its 130701 offshoot), plus an additional 15% off all items from its online store for a monthly $9.99 charge. Morr Music offers every new label and sublabel release (including WAV downloads), exclusive material from its artists, guest-list giveaways, with a minimum of three submissions a month for $10. And if you think about it, the price is equivalent to the cost of a regularly priced digital album! A quick glance at a catalog of growing labels reveals some of the favorites, such as Ninja Tune, Domino, Hospital, Tru Thoughts, Ubiquity Records, 50Weapons, OM Records, Planet E and many others!
So what about the actual experience? Thankfully I have a subscription to Ghostly’s drip.fm service, so I can walk you through right now. Every now and then I receive an email in my mailbox, which is extremely clean looking [pretty important these days], with a description of the latest album and a direct link to the site. When I log in, I am presented with another slick interface of the album, but most importantly a clearly visible link to stream or download the album as a FLAC, MP3 (192 or 320kbps), OGG and WAV! I can also leave a comment on the release and socially interact with other subscribers. There’s a feed of all the past updates (with a countdown to the next release), or I can just go to my Library page where all of the albums and EPs since my joined date are available for download. As a member I was also invited to a few giveaways: there were tickets to Matthew Dear‘s tour, Heathered Pearls Loyal on vinyl, and even some Ghostly stickers and pins!
“Drip fits the gap of the superfan, the serious devotee. Maybe they’d only buy one to two records a year, but now they’re actually developing a relationship and getting a whole year of label releases,” says Valenti “Ultimately, the fans should feel like they’re connecting with the labels. The label’s personality should shine through, we’re purely just the place where it happens.”
Independent labels can sign up with drip.fm for free – the service only charges when the imprint makes money, so there are zero upfront costs. I’m hoping that one day the platform may be open to other taste makers, such as yours truly, where Headphone Commute can curate a sample subscription from a variety of labels (ahem!). Meanwhile, if you’re a follower of any of the featured labels, I think it’s a no-brainer decision on your part to check out the site and join today!
Interview quotes from FastCompany article by Nathan Mattise.