How $40m-backed Symphonic Distribution plans to be a ‘true alternative’ to traditional labels

Jorge Brea

Independent distribution is a competitive sector of the music industry.

With several distro services operating globally, all of which promise to get artists’ music uploaded to major streaming platforms, how, in such an active market, does a company stand out from the rest of the field?

In a bid to differentiate itself, Symphonic Distribution has opened up what it says are detailed TikTok analytics to DIY artists as part of its new $19.99 per-year ‘Starter Plan’, which also includes unlimited releases. 

“There are many providers of DIY distribution, but when we looked closer, we found that the offerings at the intro pricing levels are very limited,” claims Jorge Brea, founder & CEO of Florida-headquartered Symphonic.

“Even the basics that artists might need in year one of their career, like TikTok Analytics or free payee accounts for splits, are often not provided,” Brea adds. “Indie artists need all the help they can get. I know because I was a new indie artist back in 2006 and I still produce music today.”

Symphonic says that access to TikTok analytics was previously reserved for a “select group” of established independent artists, managers and labels, who the company works with on a percentage-based model via its Partner Plan.

These ‘Partner’ artists also get access to dedicated client managers, bespoke DSP marketing and pitching, personalized sync licensing pitches, and the ability to have unlimited primary artists under one account.

Brea explains that “since TikTok is such an important platform for music discovery, which then boosts streaming consumption on other platforms, it was important for [Symphonic] to give insights as to what was driving that streaming growth”.

The launch of Symphonic’s new ‘Starter Plan’ comes three months after the company acquired Nashville-based marketing agency and third-party playlisting service, Streaming Promotions. 

In addition to TikTok analytics, Symphonic’s new plan for DIY artists includes playlist position tracking, which lets artists and managers see which playlists picked their songs up. It also shows the position of the songs on playlists and alerts them every time a song’s position changes.

The launch also comes just 11 months after Symphonic raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding led by NewSpring and Ballast Point Ventures. (Ballast, also HQ’d in Florida, previously led a $4 million round of funding into Symphonic in 2017.)

Commenting on his predictions for the DIY artist sector, and Symphonic’s positioning in the space, Brea tells MBW that “it will continue to grow, but will also become harder for artists to break through, given the volume of creators and content”.

“It is our aim to help create tools and resources that make the journey of an artist easier, clearer and more rewarding financially.”

Jorge Brea, Symphonic 

He adds: “It is our aim to help create tools and resources that make the journey of an artist easier, clearer and more rewarding financially. 

“We also partner with other companies that offer services to indie artists we believe in. The goal is that an artist doesn’t need to consider a major label deal.”

Here, Brea tells us about challenges in the distribution space, how Symphonic is trying to differentiate itself, and how his platform’s new Starter Plan “ups the ante for DIY around the world”…

What differentiates Symphonic’s new Starter Plan service from other offerings in the market?

Symphonic has always strived to do things differently. We like to build unique products, forge strong relationships with our clients, and give our clients choices when working with us. Symphonic Starter was created because we had so much demand from new artists wanting to work with us that we felt it was right to create a plan that can extend the benefits of our platform to a wider audience. 

Starter is different because we’re offering more at this price point. For $19.99 per year, we’re giving artists a lot of value without additional fees and upsells. Included in the offering, we’re giving artists unique analytics that nobody provides, the ability to split royalties to unlimited contributors, for free, and the choice of where you want your music distributed and when you want it to be live. Most importantly though, through our platform and our client team, we provide an education for those starting out in the music industry, which is very valuable and unique to Symphonic.

Why did you decide to open your TikTok analytics technology up to new artists, having previously only offered it to select clients?

We felt that the tech our team built was game-changing and that everyone should be able to benefit from it. With our technology, clients get visibility into how many creations (not only views) their catalog has generated, giving real-time insights into where to invest marketing time and dollars. We believe this makes our TikTok Analytics the market leader.

How does Symphonic feel that it is positioned in the market currently and how do you want to be positioned in the market in years to come?

We have spent years building up a great technology platform and services offering, and we know we provide a great value to these established, sophisticated indie labels and artists. That’s the cornerstone of what we do. However, since we have a robust platform and large DSP network, we thought it would make sense to open it up more publicly to creators who are beginning in their careers, but do it in a way that is true to Symphonic. That means delivering a superior value and client experience in terms of features, education and support. We think we have a very compelling offering.

Tell us about your SplitShare technology – what is it and how does it work?

SplitShare is our feature that enables a client to pay a share of their revenue stream to collaborators. You can invite unlimited collaborators onto our platform, free of charge. Some of our competitors charge for this feature, and then some also charge the payees or collaborators as well. In addition, we’re launching a recoupments component to this feature as well, bringing more control over payments for our clients and payees. What is also unique about our offering compared to others is that we also give the payee analytics so they can see in real time how they are doing on TikTok, streaming platforms, etc. Furthermore, if a payee is receiving revenue from multiple sources, they can choose whether to consolidate it into one account or have it go into separate accounts.

Symphonic announced in January that it had raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding – Tell us about the significance of this funding round, in terms of what it means for how the company and the distribution space are perceived by the investment community?

The funding round was significant as it meant that we had a great new partner (NewSpring Capital) see the same growth potential and operating success that our Series A investor (Ballast Point Ventures) saw several years ago. It also means that as an independent, we can continue investing in our technology platform and our team, and continue providing independent artists and labels with a true alternative to the major label system, and an upgraded offering for the DIY space.

I heard from a lot of people in the industry, from competitors, and from other entrepreneurs, after the announcement of the fundraising. We’ve been in business since the mid-2000s, built our own infrastructure, hired a great team of employees, have been financially stable, organized, transparent, and now very much a proven business. The investment community looks at these qualities, and we’re happy that investors see that the hard work we put in is meaningful for the ecosystem. 

Are you planning to raise more?

We’re in a great financial position, and now we’re very focused on executing on our plan. 

Symphonic acquired Nashville-based Streaming Promotions earlier this year. What made the company an attractive acquisition target?

We’ve built a really strong Client Marketing team led by Michael Burrows in Nashville, with employees throughout the world, that collaborates closely with editorial teams at the DSPs.  Meanwhile, Streaming Promotions had developed close relationships with an impressive network of independent playlisters. This additional reach gives our clients more options to customize marketing campaigns, and we have seen really great results already. We’re excited for the future product development that will come from this acquisition. 

What are the biggest challenges in the music distribution landscape at present?

I think there are many businesses bolting on distribution that simply don’t do it well. They see what is happening in the market with us and our competitors and they want a piece of the action. But of course, it’s not as easy as it seems from the outside. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep all of the releases, royalties and analytics flowing accurately, and there are lots of opportunities for technology innovation. Providing a great experience for all stakeholders while being at the intersection of a many-to-many relationship between clients and DSPs is something that requires a great understanding of the industry and a solid in-house technology platform over which you have full control.

We now know that over 100,000 tracks are being uploaded to music streaming services every day. What are your thoughts on the significance of that stat?

When I saw that statistic I wasn’t surprised. I think the creator economy is very robust and growing, which is part of it. I also think there could be a quality versus quantity issue. What moves the industry forward is high-quality independent music. That’s what we’re focused on supporting and promoting.  Music Business Worldwide

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