November 28


CD Baby vs. Distrokid: Let’s Compare the Two Music Distributors


For independent recording artists and musicians, digital or online distribution companies have increasingly become the most reliable way to get their music to a wider audience as well as the easiest way to collect royalties from their releases. When putting out new music, they will ensure that your songs get released on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, and many more.

These companies then take account of all the earnings from the various platforms and give them directly to the musician. However, you are limited to using one distribution company at a time for each release so that you don’t end up having the same track twice on a music streaming service.

So what distribution company should you go for? Read on for a comparison of two of the most popular services today.

CD Baby

CD Baby is one of the largest digital distributors of independent music. Currently, the company represents over 100,000 songwriters, 650,000 recording artists, over 7 million tracks across multiple genres, and half a million albums. It is currently based in Portland, Oregon, with offices in London and New York City.

According to the CD Baby website, over $500 million has been paid out to independent musicians, labels, and songwriters for CD and vinyl sales, streams and download sales on digital music platforms such as Apple, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, etc., sync licensing fees, YouTube ad revenue, publishing royalty collection worldwide, and many more.

cd baby

Key features

Pro publishing administration

Publishing is one of the more foggy areas of the music industry, especially for independent artists. CD Baby offers artists their Pro Publishing Administration to ensure that they generate as much money as possible from their work.

CD Baby’s publishing collects mechanical royalties from streaming services, royalties from videos on YouTube that feature your music, performance royalties from TV, radio, live concert performances, and streaming services, and other royalty sources.

Free iTunes trending reports and detailed accounting

It is crucial to have an idea of how and when your efforts of promoting your music are paying off. With CD baby, you can keep track of every stream and sale that is made in your account. You are also given weekly trending reports from iTunes, allowing you to gauge just how effective your marketing campaign or tour is.

Get your music on a variety of platforms for one price

You will often find that music distributors charge per-retailer fees, cancellation fees, and yearly fees. CD Baby offers all its distribution services for a constant price of $9.95 per single and $29 per album.

Sync licensing

Sync licensing is what you need to get your music available for placement in TV shows, video games, videos, films, and more. CD Baby offers promotion of your music through sync licensing, a service that is included for free with both standard and pro releases.

Social media and YouTube monetization

CD Baby has combined forces with YouTube to ensure that you get to collect what you are owed by monetizing your videos on the platform. This service is included for free with both standard and pro releases. In addition to monetization on YouTube, CD Baby also ensures that your videos are also monetized on Instagram and Facebook.

Physical distribution of your music

In addition to the digital distribution of music, CD Baby also offers physical distribution. The company has partnered with Super D, Alliance Entertainment, and Amazon to ensure that your Vinyl, DVD, or CD is available to online retailers and retail stores worldwide.

cd baby logo

How does CD Baby work?

CD Baby has a wide reach with its distribution, sending music to multiple platforms and stores, including Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and many more. When you release your music, you can either send it to all of the distribution partners working with CD Baby or only the ones you choose.

You have the option to select each store where you want your music sent or you can use a list that is pre-selected by CD Baby. You can also choose to opt out of certain territories to keep your music from being distributed there. However, to do this, you have to submit a formal, written request to the CD Baby customer support.

Before releasing your music, it is important to set the date you want it to go live. When you work with CD Baby, you are required to have a minimum of 2 weeks of lead time before a release to make sure that your music makes its way to all the sites that CD Baby.

You may even need more time to ensure that you have a stable marketing and promotional campaign.

Once you upload your music, the amount of time it will take for it to go live in stores will depend on the platform where it is being distributed.

On Spotify, for instance, it usually takes a minimum of 5 business days, while on iTunes, it can take up to a week. For other music stores, it can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on the processing speed of the platform.

To promote your music, you can allow your fan base to buy your music before it is released so that they get to hear it first when it goes live. Pre-orders are exclusively available for Amazon and iTunes only.


CD Baby offers two packages:

  • CD Baby standard at a cost of $9.95 per single and $29 per album
  • CD Baby pro at a cost of $29.95 per single and $69 per album


Distrokid is an independent music distribution service that was founded in 2013 by Philip Kaplan. It gives musicians and other rights-holders the option to distribute and stream or sell their music through online retailers such as Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, iTunes, Pandora, Google Play Music, and many others.


Key features

Store Maximizer

As a musician, it is important to stay up to date with how your music is distributed to the different streaming services and online stores, especially with new distribution channels coming onto the scene. The Store Maximizer is a feature in Distrokid that delivers your music to new online streaming services and online stores as they partner with Distrokid. This service comes at a cost of $7.95.

Collect ad revenue that is generated by videos on YouTube

With the YouTube Money feature, you can collect the ad revenue that is generated by videos on YouTube that make use of your music.

If your music is being used anywhere on the platform, Distrokid will detect it and pay you the ad revenue that it generates instead of whoever uploaded the video. This service comes at $4.95 per year, plus Distrokid takes 20% on all the revenue generated.

Distrokid vault

The Distrokid vault feature allows you to store your music on Distrokid servers. This way, you get to save and download your music as you please in case you can’t access your work on your computer storage or for any other reason.

Get your lyrics and artist image on iTunes

Distrokid allows you to upload the lyrics to your music as well as a cover photo to your profile at no additional cost. This allows your fans to interact with your material on a more personal level.

Leave a Legacy

Leave a Legacy is a feature that allows for your music to continue to be available on Distrokid even when you are unable to keep up with the annual fees. When you pay a one-time fee of $49 for an album and $29 for a single, your music will be available to fans forever.

Cover song licenses

If you have any cover songs recorded, Distrokid can help you release them. The company does this by filing your cover licenses on your behalf and submitting payments to the rights holders for you. This service will cost you $12 a year, plus the royalties will be deducted from your earnings.


How does Distrokid work?

Distrokid works with over 150 stores, which means that you can upload and release your music on any of these platforms. According to the website, it usually takes anywhere from one to seven business days for your music to get distributed to Spotify and iTunes.

As previously mentioned, having a specific release date is crucial in building up the anticipation of your fans, Unfortunately, if you choose the “Musician” plan, you don’t have the option to set a custom release date as it is a feature that is available to those on the “Musician Plus” plan.

If you want your music to be available for preorder before it is officially released, Distrokid allows for this option on iTunes, but this only available for those who are on the “Musician Plus” plan.


There are three pricing tiers to choose from on Distrokid:

  • Musician. This plan costs $19.99 a year and is limited for use by one artist or band.
  • Musician Plus. This plan will set you back $35 a year and is available for use by 2 artists and/or bands.
  • Label. This plan costs $79.99 a year and lets you manage anywhere from 5-100 artists and/or bands.
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Pros of CD Baby over Distrokid

  • With CD Baby, there are no yearly costs – when you make the one-time payment, you can continue to use the service. On the other hand, Distrokid requires that you pay a yearly fee for all plans.
  • CD Baby offers beneficial features such as sync licensing and YouTube monetization for free, while Distrokid requires that you pay for many of their features, including YouTube monetization, every year in addition to paying for your plan.
  • In addition to the digital distribution of your music, CD Baby also offers several physical distribution options, while Distrokid does not offer any physical distribution.

Pros of Distrokid over CD Baby

  • Distrokid does not take a commission on you’re the earnings you make from selling your music. CD Baby, on the other hand, takes 9% of an artist’s earnings.
  • Distrokid does not have any payment threshold that restricts when you can withdraw the money you make which is ideal. With CD Baby, payments are sent out to artists weekly, plus you have to meet the minimum threshold of $10 to receive payment.
  • Distrokid offers payment splitting, which means that you can split your earnings automatically amongst your collaborators who are members of Distrokid as well. CD Baby does not have this feature, so you have to distribute shared earnings manually.


Both CD Baby and Distrokid are revolutionary music distributors with their unique strengths. In terms of pricing, CD Baby may be the better option especially since you don’t have to pay for the features as they are inclusive in the one-time payment.

On the other hand, even if you stop making the yearly payments on Distrokid, your music will still be available online, which is a unique feature. To make a decision, weigh out what each company has to offer to determine what suits you best.

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