AF’s Weblog

December 4, 2009

Zimbalam: I’m on iTunes!

Filed under: Music Business — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:36 am

Zimbalam Service Review

Music has not lost its inherent character ever since the times of prehistoric percussion, but recording media is becoming more and more intangible.  MP3 is gradually replacing the CD, record stores are disappearing and giving way to web shops, and search engines are now taking the place of the guy at the record store who used to tell you where to find the record you were looking for and also told you who was hot or not. Even though it’s not the case yet, soon iTunes, Napster and Amazon will surely sell more music than physical stores; and they have a great advantage over “real” shops: there’s no need for a warehouse anymore, the stock stays on a server and it can be replicated endlessly.

These developments affect the key players in the music industry and the role they have in the process of marketing an album. Until now, once the record was mixed and mastered, the artist depended on the financial support of a label to replicate a great number of copies and to dispatch them to the dealers. Both of these tasks are on their way to disappearing thanks to online music sales and service providers like Zimbalam.

Zimbalam.com is the “mass market” version of Believe Digital, a record label with its own artist roster and, at the same time, a special service provider helping traditional labels bring their catalog online. The idea behind Zimbalam is very simple: they put your songs in 20 online shops in 240 countries for a fixed rate under a non-exclusive distribution agreement. Having your demo on Napster, Amazon and iTunes is now possible for only £19.99 (two tracks) or £29.99 (three or more tracks).

One of the best surprises Zimbalam has to offer is that you get 90% of the royalties generated from the retail price, which means real money in the bank for each sale. If you sell two songs at £1.49 each, at the end of that quarter you’ll get around £2.20 from the sale. You can also claim back an additional percentage of the sale as a song-writer’s royalty through the PRS, to further increase you revenues.  Excellent royalties, absurdly low prices and a non-exclusive agreement? It seems too good to be true. That’s why we went to Believe Digital’s offices in Paris (France) to learn more about Zimbalam and to test their services. We met Denis Ladegaillerie, a skilled lawyer who has worked for Universal Music US, eMusic, MP3.com, Rollingstone.com, and is co-founder and CEO of Believe Digital.

He was very straightforward when asked about the reasons for founding Zimbalam:

ZimbalamThe record industry is like a pyramid: you’ve got lots of artists starting out their career at the bottom and a few top-selling artists at the top. The pyramidal structure reflects a decrease in the number of artists as you move from one development stage to the next according to your notoriety, and the services you need to go on to the next level. When we started Believe Digital, our digital distribution service wasn’t really at the bottom side of the pyramid (Editor’s note: Believe Digital helped record labels sell their catalogs on the web), and we developed in two different directions: on the one hand, we went to the top of the pyramid by doing the same things as a traditional record label (promotion, web, radio, and TV marketing) and, on the other hand, we expanded downward with Zimbalam. Last year, for example, we received about 50,000 demos at Believe and we signed 200 deals. From those 200 artists we signed, some of them will make it and others won’t. But it’s the same thing with the 49,800 artists we didn’t sign: we can’t really know if they will succeed due to some other reasons. For example, one of them could work for a big communications group like Publicis and manage to license a tune for a Mercedes ad campaign, or another one might know the film editor of a big TV group and get one of their tunes to be the theme song of a new TV show. So an artist we overlooked could become a success for one of these reasons.
Let’s hear what else he had to say…

Let’s start selling…

As we mentioned in the interview, Zimbalam gives you a player you can embed in your MySpace, or any other website, by copying and pasting a small HTML source code. The player is well conceived, freely customizable (particularly regarding size) and it not only provides access to online stores, but also to the artist’s bio or even to a video clip. A Facebook version is due soon and I couldn’t use it on my WordPress blog (www.nwarmusic.com) because WordPress deactivates Javascript components for security reasons. I did however manage to embed it by installing an open-source WordPress on a Free server: http://nwarmusic.free.fr/.

Still, a well-designed player and an outdated blog due to lack of time aren’t enough to become the new chanson star. Apart from the excitement of reading your name listed on iTunes when you look for it, you’ll surely understand what Denis meant when he said that Zimbalam simply provides a technical service. Even if I convinced my friends and family to buy my album, my sales figures wouldn’t rise much and I still wouldn’t be any more interesting than before when it comes to signing a record deal with a label.

To be successful I would have to improve the ranking of my website, create buzz around my music, find as many listeners as possible, and play gigs. Maybe then would Zimbalam allow me to earn some real money.

But the deal is fair enough: 20 shops for £20. I can’t wait to get my royalties at the end of the quarter. You can be sure I will show you my bank statement when I get paid. I have no way to know if I’ll be able to afford a beer with the money I earn, but I’m positive about the fact that people who promote their songs can get real benefits out of this kind of service, and maybe even more with a bit of luck…

To read the full detailed article and interview see:  Zimbalam Review

2 Comments »

  1. Have been searching for reviews on Zimbalam and so far found nothing but angry customers.
    http://news.hitsquad.com/MusicBiz/Zimbalam_Service_Review
    My main problem is that their support staff are all french and completely rude.
    I have emailed questions regarding bundling , B sides , and had pretty poor answers.
    I expect a company releasing music to know these things

    Comment by Anonymous — May 16, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  2. Zimbalam looks like a great distributor to me. I still am wondering if I should go with Zimbalam or Feiyr after reading this:
    http://www.delamar.de/musikbusiness/musik-im-internet-anbieten-und-geld-damit-verdienen-mit-feiyrcom-2323/

    Comment by halten hot — August 17, 2011 @ 9:49 am


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