Geoff Kulawick Co-Executive Director, Independent Digital Licensing Agency

Geoff Kulawick Co-Executive Director, Independent Digital Licensing Agency
Former head of A&R for Virgin/EMI Music Canada, as well as former Creative Director for the publishing division of Warner/Chappell Music Canada, Geoff Kulawick is the founder and President of Linus Entertainment, a leading Canadian independent label, management and publishing company. A graduate of Fanshawe College’s Music Industry Arts program, Geoff also serves as Vice Chair of the Canadian Independent Record Producer’s Association (CIRPA), and is Co-Executive Director of the newly formed Independent Digital Licensing Agency.
How has the shift to digital distribution affected Canadian independent music?
For independents in general, digital distribution has been a fantastic opportunity. To be able to make your music available to music lovers in every corner of the world is just fantastic. It was only a few years ago, for anyone wanting to discover independent music, the number of place to do that was limited. You’d go to your neighbourhood record store and check through all the independent releases there. But the cost of manufacturing for independents and carrying that inventory and making it available was prohibitive. Now you can create a song and make it available and have it heard everywhere. Along with that there are challenges, i.e., how do you get paid? For a lot of people, the value of music has gone down as the availability has gone up. It becomes much more important for independents to get their share.

What are the circumstances that led you to consider founding the IDLA?
I run an independent label and I am also on the board at CIRPA, and it had become a regular topic of conversation amongst myself and other independent labels as to how we’re dealing with digital distribution. iTunes was becoming such an important sales channel for independent labels, but they weren’t opening a lot of independent accounts at the time. It was a mad scramble for every independent to get their artists up on iTunes because their artists wanted it and the fans wanted it. There was only one way to get in and that was to sign with one of the few aggregators that had deals already. It was a great opportunity for them, at the time, to aggregate independent content and deliver it on iTunes. But as time went on, it became increasingly an issue to get direct deals with the retailers, because of the fees taken by the aggregators out of their sales proceeds. It was the business practice of the aggregators to command [very high] content delivery fees from digital services. The services were upset that these aggregators were demanding these high content delivery fees, and the warning lights went off with independent labels that are concerned with their business practices, because these are moneys that are being paid for your independent content, but you’re not seeing a dime of it. None of it flowed through to the artists. It was going straight to the bottom lines of the aggregators who in turn reinvested in their own marketing to sign more independents. I realised that at the end of the day, it becomes self-defeating to empower the typical aggregator. The more you give them your content you’re empowering their relationship with the digital services and distancing yourself. A number of independent labels shared the same feeling, so the long story short is that 20 Canadian independent labels have gotten together, pooled our resources, invested money, to create our own digital distribution option.

What makes IDLA essential?
We’re not making money for third party aggregators. We offer every member the same deal. We have access to all the biggest retailers. Through mobile you can procure your own tones and make your music available to all the mobile carriers. You’ll be able to sell your own master tones to your fans, and the fee is only 12.5 percent, which is way less than what’s being charged by just about every aggregator. As the content owners, our interests are aligned because IDLA is owned by independents and not by a third party who’s going public on the stock exchange.

Can unsigned bands join or must they be on a label? Anyone who wants to be a member and make their music available can sign up to IDLA through the website