Leaf Music versus Leaf Music Distribution

In the ever-evolving Canadian music industry, artists have many options to release their music. The two offerings from Halifax-based Leaf Music are Leaf Music label releases and Leaf Music Distribution. In this essay, we will explore and compare the key differences between these two approaches, examining aspects such as master ownership, costs to the artist, advertising budgets, royalty rates, marketing campaign durations, marketing team hours budgets, press releases, playlist submissions, website presence, awards submissions, and audio mastering formats.

Master Ownership:

Under Leaf Music Label Releases, Leaf Music ULC assumes ownership of the masters, while the artist retains ownership in the case of Leaf Music Distribution. This distinction signifies an artist’s level of control over their creative output and potential long-term revenue. Artists working with Leaf Music Distribution maintain full ownership, enabling them to explore different avenues and opportunities for their music beyond the scope of the company’s involvement as the digital distributor. Practically speaking, artists who own their masters can produce physical copies of their music on CD or vinyl using any method they wish – even low-cost plastic jewel cases or home-made options without concerns for the label’s branding guidelines, timelines and production standards – which would include always using the higher quality offset printing methods for physical packaging.

Cost to Artist:

Leaf Music Label Releases typically require a minimum investment of $6,500 plus tax from the artist, while Leaf Music Distribution entails a lower cost of $2,400 plus tax. These fees include the advertising budget. The cost disparity reflects the label’s additional resources and support for marketing, distribution channels, and promotional campaigns. The lower cost of Leaf Music Distribution makes it a more financially accessible option, particularly for emerging artists seeking support and exposure.

Many label releases on the Leaf Music label are structured as a joint venture where funds to support the production, promotion and release of sound recordings are contributed jointly from Leaf Music (and their investors) and artists (and their investors.) For Canadian independent artists, there are many sources of investment for sound recordings being produced and promoted by professional teams. We’re happy to discuss these possibilities with artists over a cup of coffee. Our sound recording projects often take 18 months (or more) of planning, preparation and execution before we are ready to bring them to market.

Advertising Budget:

Leaf Music Label Releases necessitate a minimum advertising budget of $2,000 plus tax, whereas Leaf Music Distribution operates with a lower budget of $600 plus tax. The label’s advertising budget is comparatively larger, as it encompasses broader promotional efforts for all artists under the roster, which are often part of large multi-album contracts and strategies with major media and advertising partners. In contrast, artists opting for Leaf Music Distribution have more control over their advertising strategies. They may allocate their modest $600 ad credit toward one of four different album marketing initiatives: print advertising, digital advertising, social media advertising, and radio advertising.

Royalty to Artist:

Artists working with Leaf Music Label Releases receive 30% of sales after generating $1,000 in revenue, whereas Leaf Music Distribution offers a higher royalty rate of 50% of sales. This distinction reflects Leaf Music’s smaller role in our work, with artists choosing Leaf Music Distribution, allowing them to retain a larger share of their music’s digital sales revenues. In contrast, artists under Leaf Music Label Releases benefit from the label’s resources and support while receiving a slightly reduced royalty rate. For all artists, royalties are paid out every quarter.

Duration of Marketing Campaign:

Leaf Music label releases require a minimum marketing campaign duration of three months, providing a more extended period of sustained promotion and exposure. In contrast, Leaf Music Distribution operates with a marketing campaign limited to one month only. The longer campaign duration for artists under Leaf Music label allows for more comprehensive and targeted marketing strategies, building momentum in key markets and fostering gradual audience engagement. The shorter campaign of Leaf Music Distribution concentrates promotional efforts within a narrower timeframe and advertising in a single market.

Marketing Team Hours Budget:

Artists working with Leaf Music label release are allocated a minimum of 30 hours for marketing team efforts, benefiting from the expertise of our in-house professionals. Conversely, Leaf Music Distribution offers a smaller marketing team hours budget of 10 hours, reflecting the reduced involvement of the distribution model in marketing activities. This difference emphasizes the importance of independent artists taking a more hands-on approach to promoting their music. While we believe that all artists we work with benefit from the company’s industry connections and established marketing infrastructure, we can dedicate more time and resources to service label releases.

Press Release and Playlist Submissions:

Leaf Music Label Releases and Leaf Music Distribution allow artists to have press releases distributed to Leaf Music’s media list and general mailing list. This ensures that their music reaches industry professionals and a wider audience. Additionally, both options offer playlist submission services, maximizing the chances of securing placement on influential playlists curated by streaming platforms. These features contribute to the overall exposure and discoverability of artists’ music.

Website Presence:

Artists releasing on Leaf Music label have a public artist page and album page on leaf-music.ca, offering a dedicated space to showcase their work to potential listeners and industry professionals. However, Leaf Music Distribution does not provide a public product page on the Leaf Music website. Still, all releases on the label and distribution include a private landing page to help our team promote recordings. This distinction gives independent artists a digital platform to promote their music independently and directly engage with their audience.

Awards Submissions:

Leaf Music submits its work to prestigious awards such as GRAMMYs, JUNOs and ECMAs, providing industry recognition and exposure opportunities. On the other hand, Leaf Music Distribution does not offer the option for our team to submit to awards. We have found that award nominations and wins can significantly contribute to artists’ career development and credibility within the industry. We encourage our Leaf Music Distribution artists to submit their music to any awards they are eligible for.

Audio Mastering Formats:

Leaf Music Label Releases ensure that artists’ releases are available in audio mastering formats such as Dolby Atmos and Apple Digital Masters. These formats signal to listeners that their audio is high quality and provide a premium listening experience on certain streaming platforms. In contrast, Leaf Music Distribution does not offer audio mastering formats beyond the standard options: 96kHz / 24-bit stereo and 44.1kHz / 16-bit stereo. The availability of advanced audio mastering formats under Leaf Music label releases can be a significant factor for streaming platforms’ editorial decisions, including storefront placement and playlists.

Concluding Thoughts:

The decision between Leaf Music Label Releases and Leaf Music Distribution depends on many factors, including the resources available for your project, your desired level of control over the project and team, and your long-term career goals. While Leaf Music Label Releases provide a more extensive range of services, including larger advertising budgets, longer marketing campaigns, and potential awards submissions, Leaf Music Distribution offers a more accessible financial investment. It allows artists to maintain control of sound recording masters. We encourage you to consider these factors and your aspirations and circumstances when choosing the most suitable approach for releasing your music.