Guest post by Marci Meth

The prominent French intellectual property attorney looked me straight in the eye and told me it would be impossible. I liked the idea of trying to do the impossible, so when I walked out of her office, I decided I would try to create my own record label and produce its first album.

I did go down quite a few rabbit holes while producing The Wild Song, but the quest for digital distribution proved sheer madness.

In terms of digital distribution for an “indie artist,” the main options are TuneCore and CDBaby. There are actually many others, and if you are interested in a complete list, you can consult Ari Herstand’s comparative digital distribution chart here.

I decided to work with TuneCore because TuneCore is one of the rare distributors that will deliver a digital booklet to iTunes. My friend Patrick Guérin and I spent months translating all of Britten’s songs and Yeats’ poetry on the album into French for the booklet, and Sanni Sorma also spent months designing it. I couldn’t let all of that work go to waste. TuneCore it was.

One of the first things TuneCore asks you to do is put your album in a category. I scanned the categories, but I couldn’t find “classical.” That’s odd, I thought. I did a Google search and found out TuneCore does not distribute classical music. I couldn’t believe it. One of the two biggest digital distributors won’t deliver a classical album to iTunes or any other digital platform. I knew there were very few classical artists who produced and distributed their own work, but I was shocked to learn why. The system doesn’t allow it.

I had to find a solution, so I studied the other album categories. The Wild Song alternates between Britten’s folksong arrangements, poetry by Yeats recited by Simon Russell Beale, and electronic music by the Oscar-winning composer Mychael Danna. It didn’t fit into any of their proposed categories. Since 90% of the album is either spoken or sung, I decided upon “vocal.” That seemed like the best compromise.

I uploaded all of the “metadata” for the album into TuneCore’s system. This includes the music itself, which must be uploaded in a specified compressed format, but also includes information about the music and performers on each track. I spent an entire day doing it. When all of the data was uploaded, TuneCore asks you to select the platforms where the album will be distributed. I clicked on iTunes and after a week of waiting, The Wild Song was approved for distribution to iTunes and was set for pre-order. What a relief, I thought.

I also wanted the album to be distributed to Amazon Digital Download, but I learned that when TuneCore delivers an album to Amazon Music, the album is automatically included in Amazon’s streaming service. I didn’t want the album on any streaming service (more about that here:, so that meant I couldn’t use TuneCore to distribute the album to Amazon. I needed another distributor…

CD Baby, on the other hand, will deliver an album to Amazon Digital Download without sending it to Amazon’s streaming service. They will also distribute a “classical” album. Fabulous, I thought. I will send The Wild Song to Amazon via CD Baby. I uploaded all of the metadata to CD Baby’s site (another two days of work—CD Baby’s system is much slower than TuneCore’s…) and chose Amazon Digital Download as the only platform for delivery. Thus began the conversation with the Cheshire Cat of digital distributors.

“We cannot deliver your album to Amazon in the Classical category,” they told me. “You cannot have a lyricist on a classical album.”

“Why not?” I said. “Mozart had a lyricist.” I persisted: “The physical album is already on Amazon in the classical category. I have a physical distributor.”

“Physical distribution is different,” said CD Baby. “They don’t have the same data restrictions. Change the genre of your album to folk and resubmit it for distribution. That will solve the problem.”

The Wild Song is not a folk album, but I could see I wasn’t going to get anywhere in this land of illusion by arguing for logic. I changed the genre to folk and resubmitted the album to the CD Baby inspection team. It was refused.

“You will have to change the cover art on your album if you want it to be accepted in the folk genre,” they said. Your name must be bigger than Benjamin Britten’s and Mychael Danna’s.”

I laughed. “I’m sorry. That’s impossible,” I said. “That would be like making my name bigger than Mozart’s on an album cover. It shows a lack of respect for the composers.”

After spending a total of about five hours on the phone with CD Baby over the course of several conversations, a very kind man named Colson began to lobby the powers that be at CD Baby on my behalf. Colson convinced the distribution committee to accept The Wild Song in the classical genre and allow me to keep the original cover art. They required that I list WB Yeats as a composer on the tracks with his poetry.

“I will do that because you are asking me to do so,” I said. “But please know that WB Yeats was a great Irish poet and not a composer.”

A few days later, thanks to Colson, the album was sent to Amazon as a digital download in the classical category. CD Baby clarified that they would never be able to send The Wild Song to any other digital platform in the future. The exception that was made was uniquely for Amazon.

The current digital distribution system was designed for the needs of indie pop musicians. The metadata for classical music requires more specific formatting and the system we have now cannot accommodate it. There are new streaming sites for classical music which obviously have systems that can accommodate the metadata classical music requires. However, independent classical musicians need a distributor which can deliver our metadata to these platforms. When will we have a digital distributor for independent classical musicians?

Alice is waiting for it.


GetAttachmentThumbnailMarci Meth, soprano & creative, producer of The Wild Song

Music by Benjamin Britten & Mychael Danna, poetry by WB Yeats. Marci Meth (soprano), Anna Tilbrook (piano), Simon Russell Beale (reader)


The Wild Song is available here:

For more information about metadata and classical music:

Review of The Wild Song



Download the free Sheet Music Direct App from iTunes

Many of us are lucky enough to own an iPad, and these devices are increasingly being used by musicians instead carrying around lots of heavy books of music. There is a great new free app from Sheet Music Direct which gives you access to thousands of scores of classical, jazz and pop music.

Whether you buy sheet music using the iPad app or directly from Sheet Music Direct‘s website, your library will be in sync everywhere — including all your previous purchases.

You can rehearse your scores by slowing down playback, using the in-built metronome or muting other parts so you can feel like part of the band.

If you who work with singers, or want to sing along with a piece you are playing, you can transpose scores to a different key, change instrument or note size — and, of course, you can revert back to your original settings anytime.

Sheet Music Direct are media partners of the South London Concert Series

This post comes via my friend Somewhere Boy, who in turn sought inspiration from Gramophone, which poses the question “what does iTunes Shuffle reveal about your [music] collection?”. As Gramophone states, “the concept is simple: you just open up iTunes, press shuffle, and see what the first ten recordings to emerge are”.

I rarely use the “shuffle” function on my iPod or in iTunes (though I notice pianist Paul Lewis opts for the “snuffle” function when he performs), partly because it annoys me when a four-movement Schubert sonata is interrupted by, for example, a Chopin Prelude or a track by Baroque group l’Arpeggiata. What I have used quite frequently is the ‘Genius’ function in iTunes, which will compile a playlist for you based on one track (good for creating mixes for parties, long car journeys or boring gym sessions). Anyway, here goes…..I’m pressing Shuffle now. Let’s see what happens…..

Rachmaninov – Prelude in B, Op 32 No. 11 (John Lill). I learnt this a few years ago and then forgot all about it. Nice to be reminded of a piece I actually enjoyed playing. Maybe I should revive it?

Rachmaninov: Prelude in B major, Op.32, No.11

Mozart- Minuet in, D K355 (Mitsuko Uchida). Uchida playing Mozart. What more can I say?

Mozart: Minuet in D, K.355

Beethoven – Six Bagatelles, Op 126. I. Andante con moto. Beethoven’s Bagatelles always remind me of childhood piano lessons and exams, which is unfair, since many of them are really wonderful and deserve proper study.

Artur Schnabel – Bagatelles, Op. 126: No. 1 in G Major – Andante con moto

Mozart – Piano Sonata No. 11 in A, K331. 1st movement (Uchida). More beautiful, graceful Mozart….

Mitsuko Uchida – Mozart: Piano Sonata No.11 in A, K.331 “Alla Turca” – 1. Tema (Andante grazioso) con variazioni

Brahms – Clarinet Sonata in E Flat Op 120 No. 2, 3rd movement. The second movement of this sonata formed part of my Grade 6 clarinet exam, the memory of which still causes the hair to stand up on the back of my neck…. Enough said! Beautiful music, though….

Gervase De Peyer – Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E flat Op. 120 No. 2  III. Andante con moto

Enigma – Je T’aime Till My Dying Day. I have never, to my knowledge, listened to this, or indeed any of the other tracks on this album, though I do like Enigma’s first album….. Must’ve downloaded it while asleep/by mistake.

Enigma – Je T’aime Till My Dying Day

Schubert – Suleikas Zweiter Gesang, D717. I often listen to Schubert’s songs on my way to work: it makes a boring commute more pleasurable. I have two albums streamed together, Ian Bostridge’s fine Schubert collection and another by Lynda Russell (one of those budget Naxos ones). I met Ian Bostridge a few years ago, after he’d sung the part of the Evangelist in Bach’s St John Passion. I say “met”…… Tanked up on Sauvignon, I flung my programme in front of him and demanded an autograph, while declaring huskily, “Oh Ian! I just LOVE your Schubert album!!’. Poor man! He’d just sung very demanding and emotional music, only to be confronted, post-concert, by a mad fan. He was seen exiting the Barbican at high speed soon after….

Gerald Moore/Dame Janet Baker – Suleika II D717

Haydn – Piano Sonata in D Hob. 16/37 (Hamelin), 1st movement. Hamelin’s Haydn albums are wonderful: full of crisp articulation, attentive phrasing and graceful melodic lines.

Piano Sonata No. 33 in D Major, Hob.XVI:37: I: Allegro con brio

La Vie en Rose – Indien, from The Best of Claude Challe. Oh, I love Claude Challe and his Buddha Bar collections! This song is wacky and fun: Piaf meets Bollywood.

Pascal of Bollywood – La Vie En Rose – Indien

Orchestra Baobab – Nijaay. I often have this or Youssou N’Dour playing in the cabana in the garden on a hot summer’s evening (i.e. last year!)

Orchestra Baobab – Nijaay

Just for the purposes of comparison, here’s the list from iTunes on my Macbook:

ABRSM Piano Grade 1 2010-12  Menuet in F

ABRSM Specimen Aural Test – Grade 1, Test 1A (“Is it in 2-time or 3-time?”)

Carla Bruni – Quelqu’un M’a Dit

Haydn – Piano Sonata No. 47 Hob. XVI:32

Christina Pluhar & L’Arpeggiata – Ciaccona, Pt. 2

Clara Rodriguez (piano) – El Atravesado

Schubert – Ian Bostridge – Du bist die Ruh D776 (Rückert)

Ding Dong Merrily on High – played by Bella (one of my students)

Beethoven – Rondo in C major, Op. 51, No. 1

Gershwin – Prelude No. 3

Not sure what these lists say about me or my music collection, but an amusing diversion for Saturday morning. Might go and look up that Rach Prelude again now…..