Level Music: Distribution For Unsigned Indies Launched By WMG
On May 11 Music Business Worldwide spotted the quiet introduction of Warner Music Group's Level Music platform for unsigned artists. First reactions focused on curiosity about who is running it and its representations about charges versus free. Radar Scope LTD is listed as its parent, which is run by WMG executives out of New York and London. As for charges, the platform plans an 8 percent standard fee to recoup costs and it clarified that it is waiving this for artists signing up during the platform's beta.
So what does this new platform do? Most obviously, Level releases participating artists' music on the major streaming and digital radio services. It services the rights it needs to use uploaded works for online distribution and promotion but maintains that artists get to "keep 100 percent of [their] rights and royalties, with no contracts."
The range of artist services indies need is wide, so the expectation is that Level Music will be refining its package and quality of support, at least so that word-of-mouth makes it competitive with Universal Music Group's Spinnup. The big comparison with CD Baby, Distrokid, Ditto, and Tunecore is that Level is free for now. Level also says it will be bringing promotional tools from digital music marketing company Linkfire and making these available.
— Level (@level) May 12, 2018
For some indie artists, Level is a solid proposition that will enable them to distribute and maintain creative control of their content. Level's beta site is loaded with helpful About and Support explainers, further spelling out what it promises artists, for example providing helpful analytics.
Some believe the value of a platform like this to a major label is less that the next big star will walk through its door but rather the analytics it can gather about the state of indie art, community and promotions online that can potentially serve as a fountain of data for digital insights.
The rule of thumb for internet platforms these days is that if a deal seems really good, for free, it is probably because your personal information is valuable to the designers. There used to be speculation and experiments that every major label should have its own musical bullpen where emerging artists could incubate.
It seems a benefit, so best wishes to this quietly launched music community in beta, and to its artists and the fans that they reach through it.