Some would say being an artist is boring. Others would say it’s not a career, but just a mere hobby of one’s self.
However, being an artist is more than that; it takes talent, time, and passion for one to be a successful artist.
Artists tend to be indecisive when it comes to deciding for their career. Sometimes they don’t think of possible outcomes that could affect their career when they make a certain decision, and it scares them to make a big step because they’re afraid what could be the outcome.
If you’ve already come to the point that you’re looking for a company that would distribute your music, be sure you make an informed decision.
Make the best decision that you could make when deciding what company to engage with because the future of your music career also depends on the distribution company that you will be working with.
What Is Music Distribution?
Distribution in the music industry can be compared to the distribution in business. A food chain also has distribution in their business system, say for example distributing such food to a lot of people from different places through franchising.
In the music industry, distribution also works the same way. You make your music, find a distribution company that could help you release your music, and then begin to build your career.
However, distribution in this industry also depends on the level of your career in the industry. Finding a distribution company is a must when you’re an artist so that your music will turn into something they call “Digital Service Provider” or “DSP”.
Examples of famous DSPs are Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, and many more.
What Do Music Distribution Companies Do?
In a short context, distribution companies are what connects artists and musicians like you to the streaming and download platforms on the Internet.
Let’s say you heard a song from someone and wanted to hear it more often as you want. You would usually go to music platforms available online or a music app that you’ve downloaded to stream music. The distribution company’s role here is to help you get your music in the ears of your audience.
If you’re a newbie in the industry, looking for a distribution company might be a little difficult.
To find one, you must have sufficient connections to help you get on a distribution company that could help you rise in the industry.
But don’t worry, this article might be the one who can answer your questions and thoughts!
Although there are a lot of distribution companies out there that can put your music up and go, you must find the one that could help you build and mold you and your music into something more that could sell to the public.
Find a distribution company that would not only help you out in your music’s identity but a distribution company that could help you build and support all areas of your career as possible.
First, there are different types of distributors in the music industry, starting with:
- Traditional ones that mostly distribute physically your albums in shops
- Digital distributors that mostly distribute your songs to online music platforms
Traditional distribution companies often go by different genre; there are RnB distributors who only work on RnB music and projects, and then distributes it to a label, which is a higher RnB recording label.
However, when we talk about pitching physical distributors, there are only two types—the clearinghouse distributors and selective distributors.
These are the distributors that work with anyone in the industry. They are mostly in the middle between the labels and the stores.
These distributors often just take any music and add it to any label just for the sake of them adding it to their books.
They will also start the delivery once your music is starting to get orders from the public; however, they do not proactively sell your albums to stores. It will be your job to promote your album for stores to notice that your music can sell.
Here are a few advantages that you could get if you work with this type of distributor:
Connections are hard to get especially when you’re a newbie in the industry. Working with a clearinghouse distributor can give you the channel of connections that you need for your music to sell.
When this distributor can successfully sell your music, you can very easily move to another distributor.
Since this type of distributor works on a shipment basis, you will not have to deal with the distributor when you cancel an album release.
Most of these distributors have non-exclusive deals, so you can stock as many album releases as you want.
Even though this type of distributor sounds convenient, there are downsides of it as well. Here are those:
The promotion will be a lot to handle than you imagined. Think of yourself talking and negotiating all record shop in your area, local and state branches, for them to release your record. (Not convenient at all!)
This type of distributors usually has a lot of artists that they do business with, and when they send out sales to record stores, they put it all in a big list in a catalog. But since these distributors work with a lot of artists, you may get overshadowed by them.
Distributors work with labels on a shipment basis, so it will also be your job to keep track of your sales and invoices of the distributor.
On the other hand, selective distributors are those who work with you closely, like a band that works with a label.
Selective distributors often manage closely and get themselves involved with your music and album releases. They kind of work closely as your manager. They also handle promos that are offered in advance whenever you have an album release coming out soon. They also keep track of your release schedules, and help you set up a date to when you should release your album without being driven by a huge-hit album.
Here are advantages of getting a selective distributor:
- Selective distributors proactively sell your albums to record shops. You don’t need to walk in to stores and promote your own album.
- A label manager will be handling your music and album releases. You label manager will be hands-on working on your catalog and increasing your records sales.
- Deals like M&D will most likely be available
On the other hand, here are some disadvantages:
- When you get in a big distributor but get landed on a small record label, chances are you will not be prioritized because there are a lot of artists that the distributor is handling.
- Since these distributors work with you according to sales plan, having cancelled release dates and not getting promos lead you into small opportunities.
- Usually, artists that are in the industry for a long time would suggest newbies to get a selective type of distributor.
Nonetheless, if you really just want your album to be displayed in record stores, then it might be that having a clearinghouse type of distributor will easier help you through it.
How Do You Get a Traditional Music Distributor?
The music industry is a billion-dollar industry that anyone can get into. And it’s not only musicians who can make money from this industry.
Opportunities like being a distributor for music labels is one way of getting into the music business.
A lot of people confuse music distribution with license deals. A distribution deal is where you get your albums and CD’s to music shops and other platforms nationwide. Physical distributors earn a commission for each sale made while the record label behind the CD’s handles the promotions.
Meanwhile, a licensing deal involves the licensee or third-party company buying the rights to promote, produce, and distribute music in whatever method they want.
They keep all the profit they make from sales of CDs and other products.
It’s crucial for musicians to hire music distributors if they want to see their albums in shops and on online platforms.
But the task of finding one is easier said than done. This guide should provide you with insights on what to look for in a distributor:
Do Your Research!
Musicians will have to do their due diligence in researching the best distributors for them, as opposed to sending out their demo tapes to random distributors.
You have to treat this as similar to finding the right record label for your music. This means that the distributor you want to work with will meet your needs and will provide you with what you want.
Make The Sales Pitch
Now that you’ve identified potential distributors, it’s time to send in your music package.
But before you can send in your package, you have to start making calls to these distributors and make the sales pitch.
Here’s what your sales pitch should contain:
- Specific information about your band
- The music package you’re about to send
- Record labels you’re associated with
Note that your sales pitch should be convincing enough that they give you a shot at working with you. Remember, a distributor can just say NO if they don’t find a good enough reason.
Create Your Package
And no, this is not limited to your demo tape. In fact, your entire demo is the entire album, or at the very least, the demo already has several musical releases.
This is what your package should contain to entice distributors to look at you:
- Radio playlists, if your album has been featured on the radio
- Press clippings of your music releases
- Planned tour dates and gigs
- Your detailed business plans for the band and label such as upcoming releases, etc.
- Lastly, the music
Think of it as a distributors way of getting their very first impression of you as a musician.
Sign The Contract
When the distributor likes what you’ve presented, then all that’s left is to iron out the specifics.
From here, you’ll want to figure out these details and how you can work these with your distributor:
- How many of each release do you want the distributor to start with?
- How the distributor can re-order or restock
- Who pays for manufacturing?
- Who handles the promotions?
- The distributors’ price cut
- Distributors’ retail price
- How you will be paid, when to get paid, and how often you’ll be paid
- Distributor control over marking your albums “on sale” or “discounted”
This list is not the end all, be all of specifics. It’s still about personal circumstances that will determine what needs to be covered in the deal as well as what you want out of the distributor. If you have doubts about the contract, you can always get it reviewed by your legal counsel to make sure you’re protected and that your best interests are looked after.
Should You Pay For Distribution?
It’s no secret that these music distribution companies will charge for their business and services. As a musician, you have to treat your venture more as a business than a product of passion.
Legitimate distribution companies may provide certain levels of service, such as X number of albums to Y number of stores, and other features.
But should you take them up on their offer? Here are some downsides to committing to paying for distribution:
- Music distribution can cost a lot of money, and something to consider here is that they may take up your profits as well. If you’re just starting out, then you might want to go with a distributor that offers less or takes away less. However, you are paying for their services so you have to be ready to spend a few extra dollars to make money in the process.
- You’re paying to get your music into record shops, and that’s just half the battle. You have to promote it well enough to move them out of the shelves and into your fans. If you an independent artist or label, you’re still going to spend money on promotions. When your budget is tight, you may want to balance distribution and promotions. What good is your distribution if people don’t know about it, am I right?
- Speaking of lack of promotion, getting a poor track record with sales can hurt you in the long run. If your album doesn’t sell and just sits while its competitors are being bought out, then the record stores might take fewer of your future records or some might even refuse to restock all together. This is why you’ll have to work with a distribution service that can help you with promotions.
When you’re just looking for someone to help put your album in shops, there are distribution services that will gladly work with those who’re without labels for free.
These services will help make your products available, but they will not actively sell your album so they can’t guarantee it will be on these shelves.
This might sound less appealing, considering you’re still starting up. This is where you have to consider diverting your resources to promotions.
Unless you have promotions in place to get sales up, then there’s just no point to even get your album in the shelves.
What about Online Music Distributors?
Why can’t unsigned artists get their music on platforms like iTunes and Spotify directly?
Well, that’s because these platforms’ consumers are not the musicians, but the people using them. They don’t want to spend a lot of money on customer service and the developmental processes of dealing directly with musicians.
This is where online distributors come in.
Rather than have you doing all the work yourself, distributors take care of the business side of things for you.
This means that they get in touch with record labels, secure deals, and even physical production (CD’s, DVD’s, etc…)
Music distribution companies do charge you for their services. They may offer to provide a certain level of service — such as getting X number of albums in Y number of stores — and may offer you access to a particular record store. But should you ever take them up on their offer?
This kind of business structure for a music distribution company is perfectly legal, but it is akin to the model who pays to get on an agent’s books. These companies can get your music into stores, but there are a few reasons why you should think carefully before committing.
Why Would You Even Consider Digital Distribution?
1. People Are Listening To Music Online
Ever wonder why CD’s and Vinyl sales are slowly decreasing? It’s because people are listening to music on streaming services.
Musicians can’t fight this. Streaming services such as Spotify grow in popularity and more artists are finding their way to using these platforms to promote their music and reach out to their fans.
Streaming services will only get better in the next few years and should continue to lower the barrier of entry for aspiring musicians.
2. It Beats Piracy
Streaming services provide people with a cheap or free alternative to access music, allowing musicians to get their music out without it getting stolen.
When a musician earns via a streaming service, they earn more than what they could if their music was pirated.
A subscription-based model gives consumers enough leeway to enjoy good quality music for less than the price of an album.
3. Easier Distribution
Ever since iTunes was introduced in 2002, the music industry was changed. Major record labels no longer have a firm grasp on distribution and curating their top 40 music.
Distribution has become more accessible thanks to these streaming services because artists are now relying on producing content for digital upload as opposed to producing actual physical copies for record labels.
Because it’s easy for them to upload their content, their fans now have easier access to their music as a result.
4. Streaming Services Are Getting People To Pay For Music Again!
Thanks to these streaming services, people are now paying for music again.
Without paying consumers, streaming services wouldn’t have the capital and resources to continue.
Streaming services continue to work on a musician’s behalf to convert these consumers into paying consumers for their music.
The only model’s that changed here is how people pay for the streaming.
5. Analytics And Data Tracking
Musicians are now able to keep track of who their consumers are thanks to the great analytics and reporting tools provided by these streaming services.
They now have the ability to access their consumers’ minds and get valuable insight on how to make their music better for these existing consumers.
Should You Really Consider Uploading Your Songs to Spotify?
Spotify’s userbase has increased exponentially, from 36 million active users recorded in 2013 to about 191 million active users in December of 2018, even after getting attacked by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke in his controversial “anti-Spotify” tirade.
Yorke is probably one of the best lyricists of his generation, but made headlines when he told Mexican publication Sopitas that Spotify was something that “musicians needed to fight against”.
He also said that the industry’s reliance on the platform was similar to “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.”
But let’s be honest here. Streaming has propelled the growth of the music industry for three consecutive years and in 2017, Yorke’s solo content was made available on Spotify for the first time in 4 years after his tirade.
Does this mean that he’s softened up his stance on being anti-Spotify? Most likely.
But there’s one more thing that musicians do actually need to fight against, and it’s Spotify’s payment to artists.
In fact the topic is far from being over.
The music industry is still disputing over how much money Spotify is giving its performers this year, but this time, the discussion is now focused on HOW rather than HOW MUCH.
In accordance with other streaming services, Spotify pays out to music rights holders through a pro rata model, meaning that a firm pools all of the distributable income it generates each month and divides it based on track popularity.
So for example, if Drake had 5 songs pull in 2 percent of all subscriber plays in December, Drake (and the other people who own the rights to these tracks) get 2% of Spotify’s user-paid income.
This depends on who you’re asking though. Musicians in the industry are vocal about this unjust setup because it favors only the blockbuster popstars and leaving those operating in niched spaces with lesser profits.
But what musicians are proposing is that Spotify and other services adopt a more “user-centric” payment structure that favor the musicians.
So if you’re paying $9.99 for Spotify Premium and only play nothing but an artist like say Taylor Swift or Jon Hopkins, the distributable amount of that money (which is around $6.99 a month) should go to no one but the artists, as opposed to being dumped in a pot of money before distribution.
A controversial study came out of Finland in 2017 that sparked the flames of the debate even further.
Its key finding reported that Spotify’s existing system gave out 99% of the money to the top 0.4 percent of artists (using popularity as the base metrics).
They also computed the income based on the hypothetical user-centric system and got different results. Using the mentioned system, 0.4% of the artists would only received just 5.6% of the total cash.
This 4.3 percent difference, according to the study, would’ve gone to the other 99.6 percent of other artists.
The paper concluded that the financial discrepancy between the two models was significant and that the user-centric model favored the artists with fewer number of streams.
Thankfully, musicians aren’t just limited to Spotify as the number one streaming platform for their content. As we go along in the next few sections, we’ll go over the different streaming services that are way more popular and better than what Spotify has to offer.
Digital Distribution Deals: How to Choose the Best Company?
Platforms such as Spotify and iTunes don’t allow musicians to directly upload their content.
They only deal with their list of approved distributors or digital distribution aggregators.
If you’re planning to launch your album online, you’re going to want to secure a digital distribution deal through what they call a digital distribution aggregator.
Much like physical distributors, they upload your music to various outlets in exchange for a fee. They don’t own the rights to your music, but they’ll just help you distribute it.
A musician can work with multiple distributors but only one distributor can handle one release.
So what differentiates one distributor from the next?
1. How Much They Charge You
The biggest factor that can affect your decision to hire a distributor is how much they charge for their services.
There are those that charge an annual fee, which is usually broken into different tiers based on how many songs you plan to release.
Other companies may charge a one-time fee when you upload your content. Rates are different for singles as opposed to albums, and this is the best option for musicians who release projects less frequently.
Then there are those that don’t charge any fee to distribute music. They simply take a cut out of your profit. It may sound a bit off when distributors cut into your profits, but note that these distributors only get paid when you get paid.
2. How Your Music Is Distributed Online
It’s easy for distributors to tell you that they can get your album to 200 outlets, but can you actually name more than 10 places where people will actually buy or listen to your music?
I’m afraid not.
Musicians only really care about quality and not quantity, and while 200 outlets may seem like a farfetched number, the majority of distributors will get you to the major streaming services or stores.
Speed is also one contributing factor to delivery since some distributors can get your music listed in major streaming services in less than 24 hours while there are those that take more than a week.
This is where you’ll want to coordinate with your distributor to time your releases, marketing, and promotions.
3. How Paperwork Is Handled
A huge benefit of working with distributors is that they will handle the business side of things, including the necessary paperwork.
This allows you to focus on the music part of the business while they run the rest. This is great for indie and DIY artists who have a lot on their plate.
And contracts won’t be the only paperwork that they’ll deal with.
They will also help you obtain licenses to help you distribute a cover song, and even help you protect your music through copyrighting.
Distributors can also help you secure an ISRC or International Standard Recording Code, which is basically a fingerprint for your songs.
These are used to organize royalty payments and credit. You can apply for the ISRC yourself, but it’s time-consuming and hectic.
This is why distributors will do it for you.
The more paperwork that a distributor will take care of for you, the better they are to work with.
4. How Royalty Collection Is Handled
Now, it’s obvious that you’ll want to sign up with a PRO or Performing Rights Organization to collect the majority of your royalties.
But there are other people who can help you collect your payments as well.
SoundScan is a sales tracking system that helps you measure the number of records sold at a physical location, but they’re not that accurate.
There are 14,000 stores reporting their sales each week, and stores aren’t the only ones that use the system.
Record labels, distributors, booking agents, managers, and promoters are all subscribed to SoundScan. This is where they gather data for curate the Billboard’s Charts each week.
if you’re a serious musician, you’ll have to sign up with SoundScan, or you can ask the distributor to do it for you. Some will charge a small fee for it while others do it for free.
You can also check out non-interactive services such as SiriusXM or Pandora that pays out performance royalties.
50% goes to the owner of the sound recording while 50% goes to the performing artists. But collecting these royalties will require you to register your content with a service called SoundExchange.
Independent musicians usually keep their master rights, meaning they collect royalties as the sound recording copyright owner and as the performing artist.
There are also distributors that can collect royalties from SoundExchange as well. A few of them will collect from the royalties, charging anywhere between 10 and 30 percent of the royalties.
Your choice of the distributor should depend on how much they are getting out of your royalties and how they’re securing your payments. The more avenues for payment they secure while charging less, then all the better.
5. How Your Money Is Handled
If you’ve found a distributor that meets your administrative and budget needs, then the next thing you should consider is their payment structure.
There are companies that pay you as soon as your music is purchased, while there are those that hold on to your payment until you hit their “threshold”. These can be as low as $10 to as high as $50.
Then there are companies that pay out weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly.
If you’re relying on your royalties for the bills, which is something that I don’t recommend, then you might want to consider a company that pays frequently with lower thresholds.
What’s the Best Music Distribution Service?
You probably know the answer to this already.
It depends on your needs, your wants, and your expectations out of the distribution service to begin with.
If you want to go with trusted distribution names such as CD Baby and TuneCore, then you need to know that they’re not going to be cheap.
Other popular options came into the fray later on in 2013 when Distrokid showed up and became the most popular independent digital alternative, and LANDR started only in 2017 as an automated online mastering service.
If you want tracks to be remastered then LANDR would be your go-to distributor.
Another company that’s making headlines is Amuse.io, considered as the world’s first mobile record company. Amuse.io is an app-only service that provides 100% free distribution. They don’t charge fees and you keep 100% of the royalties.
And there’s just a whole lot of distributors that can provide you with what you need.
Top Online Music Distribution Channels – All You Need To Know
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the lucky few who ended up to be a signed music artist. But even if you’re not yet signed, you can still get your content on these streaming services.
Distribution services will offer that and will help you take care of the business side of things.
And here are some of the best ones that should be able to meet your needs.
One of the most popular music distribution service providers, TuneCore have been around for over a decade. They’ve a large list of budding as well as established musicians as their subscribers. Having used the platform personally, I’ve got high regards for their services.
The only issue that I faced with them was that sometimes a song from another musician with a similar name would erroneously get added to my account. It’s a small issue that can be resolved, just like Distrokid have done.
TuneCore however tops the list among its competitors in many important departments. Features like publishing administration and potentially the best analytical reports, it has continued to attract new artists. With a unique feature for monetizing YouTube videos, TuneCore beats the crowd and makes the task easier than ever.
One of the most criticized points for the music distribution platform is that it’s heavy on the pocket. You’ve to pay an annual fee to maintain each of your releases, which entails that the more releases you have, the more you pay every year. This may be a real discouraging thing for an upcoming artist who wants to minimize his recurring expenses.
TuneCore has tons of experience and loads of superior features, which make it a solid platform. It’ll be interesting to see whether the distribution agency can adapt to the changing times. With new and smaller competitors offering some great features at minimal or no recurring charges, TuneCore may have to review its policies to survive in the industry.
- It has its own social App.
- You get to keep all your earnings as it doesn’t charge any commissions.
- It has a wide network of over 150 outlets.
- It offers high speed connectivity to Spotify and Apple Music.
- With a one-time fee, you get access to its unique YouTube monetizing feature.
- You get to have your music pre-release on iTunes.
- It offers you free ISRC and UPC codes.
- You can change your scores without re-uploading.
- TuneCore has Publishing Administration services.
- Its analytical reports and reviews are among the best.
- Its Monday to Friday customer support is efficient and supportive.
- It has multiple payment options like PayaPal, Mail, Direct Deposit etc.
- You can use its Revenue Advances Program, if you meet the eligibility criteria.
- They also don’t take commissions but they are slightly more expensive at an initial $30 on your first year and $50 on your succeeding years.
- It doesn’t have any SoundExchange collection.
- It charges a 20% commission on YouTube.
- Annual fees for each song that you upload.
- It doesn’t have instant verification on streaming profiles.
- Tunecore charges fees for adding new outlets.
- It doesn’t have any Legacy Program like some other platforms like Distrokid.
- It lacks in playlist plugging, strong marketing support etc.
- It tries to sell added nonessential features to you when you’re uploading.
CD Baby is an independent musician’s best friend, and they’re one of the first ever distribution service to let DIY musicians release their content on streaming services all from one place.
Thus CD Baby, created by Derek Sivers, is one of most highly subscribed online music distribution platforms because of its great track record in providing excellent services to the musicians. It has set high standards in the distribution industry. However, with an exponential rise in smaller and specialized companies offering more pocket-friendly services, it’s facing new challenges.
CD Baby has arguably the best set of features and a solid platform to meet most of the requirements of independent musicians. Although, it doesn’t offer some of the more specialized features like payment splitting, the platform does have most of the key features that are important for an effective online distribution company.
With CD Baby, you’ve to pay only once to have your music online. These upfront costs are also competitive. However, in addition to the one-time initial payment, you also end up paying commissions on the earnings that you make on your music. The company also charges extra fees on sync listening, publishing royalties and YouTube monetization.
To summarize, you should go for CD Baby if you’re looking for a comprehensive music distributor who will take care of all your distribution needs like licensing, publishing etc. Whereas, if you’re a budding musician trying to save on money, then you should weigh your options.
However, if you’re only aiming to have an initial foothold and are not earning a lot, then CD Baby’s commissions won’t hurt you. It’s listed as one of the preferred distributors by Spotify, which speaks volumes about its potential.
- It offers free sync licensing services with Standard and Pro releases.
- There are multiple physical distribution options available.
- You get comprehensive admin publishing services.
- It gives weekly payouts with just $10.0 as threshold.
- It offers extensive learning resources.
- The commissions are low and the musician can keep 91% of the earnings.
- Not a bad deal at all considering what you’re getting out of them.
- The initial submission fee is high.
- They charge at $5 per single, or $20 per album, and then a 9% commission
- It offers cover song licensing only for singles.
- You can’t do payment splitting.
- No free bar-codes.
- YouTube commissions of 30% are very high.
- It has a high sync licensing commission of 40%.
- You’ve to manually request for territory opt-out.
iMusician appears like a small startup when you look at it from outside. However, a closer look will make you realize that it has a strong back-support from its highly motivated and qualified team.
iMusician is a good choice for an artist who’s looking to get his/her music distributed to a larger number of stores. It has some good features like iTunes Pro, YouTube monetization with their sync options etc.
Personally, as an artist I don’t like the fee structure of iMusician as you’ve to pay more if you want to earn more. The issue is that an artist doesn’t benefit from paying lesser fee, if he/she has to give away higher commissions or vice-versa. Either way, the company takes its share leaving very little for the artist. Although iMusician isn’t the only site following such principle, it’s an important consideration from an artist’s perspective.
iMusician is a solidly built platform and has got good features that are useful for online music distribution. It’s not very well publicized, which is why not many people know about it. However, the company lacks in many other important features that few other companies offer.
In my opinion, it’s got some really good features, but there are few other companies that offer an even better package of features.
- It has a dedicated and very supportive customer care.
- You get YouTube monetization services.
- It has a large chain of over 250 distribution outlets.
- There are sync opportunities available.
- You get access to iTunes Pro.
- It offers you mastering options.
- Admin publishing service is now available
- Payment model is quite taxing.
- It even charges you for faster delivery of your releases.
- You can’t split payments.
It’s one of the best and cheapest music distribution options for upcoming as well as established musicians. With only a one time annual payment, you can upload tons of music. It doesn’t charge any commissions on your royalties, which makes it an ideal choice for the prolific music creators.
They’ve got a few unique features, which no other music distributor in the market offers. However, you’ll have to pay extra to use most of these features. One such feature enables you to ensure that your music goes to the right account, which saves lot of time and energy for the musician and the company.
The simple yet solid and user friendly design of Distrokid is perhaps its biggest plus point. It’s this simplicity that makes it easy for those of you who’re not very good in handling technology. The uncomplicated interface and strong background allow you a hassle-free user experience.
With these positives, Distrokid also have a few drawbacks like hidden costs that they charge for some added features. You’ll have to pay even for some basic features that are standard with most of the other distributors.
The seemingly cheap option that offers you unlimited uploads for a meagre annual fee of $19.99, turns out to be far more expensive. You’ve to pay for some basic yet pivotal features like the one that shows your release date. Offering services at a small upfront annual fee and charging the subscribers for even the most fundamental features is a smart business strategy, but the artist may sometimes feel like cheated. However, having the freedom to upload unlimited music with a small annual fee is definitely a big benefit.
Spotify has identified the future potential of the company and have become stakeholders in the company. The platform is also among the top 3 distributors of Spotify. This is an adequate reason to not only make its competitors nervous, but also for the musicians to consider Distrokid seriously.
- You get to upload as much as you want for a very affordable annual fee.
- They don’t take away commissions from your music, so you get 100% of all the profits
- Artists can split their payments.
- There’s no fees for signing up.
- They’ve a fairly simple sign-up procedure.
- You get done unique features related to Spotify and iTunes like cover photos, lyrics, verification check mark etc.
- Flexible payment methods available.
- You are notified on mail when your song is uploaded and goes live.
- Your songs are online forever through their ‘Leave a Legacy’ program.
- Lyrics can be added to various online music stores like iTunes, Apple Music etc.
- You can easily upload your songs on the cloud.
- There’s no payment threshold.
- The simple platform is one is the easiest ones to use.
- You can sell your songs on 150+ outlets.
- Features like Shazam and Store Maximizer, which are available for free with other platforms are charged.
- You’ll keep getting prompts to buy expensive plans.
- YouTube monetization is commission based in addition to the annual subscription.
- It doesn’t offer admin publishing.
- They don’t really do much marketing and promotions, and playlist plugging options
- The analytics and reports are very rudimentary in the base plan.
Another platform similar to Distrokid, Ditto charges an annual fee of $19 and you can upload as many songs as you like.
There are no commission fees associated, but they provide more decent revenue and analytics reports than Distrokid and they’re cheaper by a dollar.
With great tools for YouTube and Vevo channel, Ditto Music is a perfect option for you if you’re keen on utilizing these platforms. They’ve a very nominal upfront fee and don’t cut any commissions from your revenue making Ditto Music a natural choice for those budding as well as established artists who’re looking to save money.
Their unique ‘Record Label in A Box’ feature, which allows you to start your own label sets them apart from other competitors. Ditto Music have a strong and close connection with Electronic/Dance music platforms like Beatport. If you’re into that genre of music, then Ditto is clearly the best choice for you.
Ditto Music however have suffered from some negative backlash from the online music distribution community. Their customer service is not quite up-to the mark.
However, the platform scores very high on almost all other counts and have grown into being Industry favorites with their forward thinking approach.
- They don’t take any commissions on your revenue.
- You get access to over 200 outlets.
- For a minimal fee of $19.00, you can upload unlimited songs.
- More stores can be added without any extra payments.
- Payments are immediate.
- You get an inbuilt playlist plugger.
- They provide label chart services.
- You get hourly trending reports from Spotify and iTunes.
- They also offer Vevo distribution.
- You get exclusive features like pre-release.
- YouTube monetization is available only for some selected artists.
- YouTube monetization is charged at 10% commission.
- They don’t give instant verification on streaming profiles.
- Admin publishing is not available.
- They’ve got some hidden fees.
- There have been some complaints against the customer care services.
- They don’t support payments through PayPal.
They’ve got one of the largest number of outlets all over the world, covering even Asia. This ensures that your music will get the maximum exposure with MondoTunes.
With a strong platform, you get some really cool features that come with additional payments. These features can really help you give the required push to your career, but most of these are quite expensive.
They offer an unlimited distribution of music at an annual fee and also cut 10% of your earnings. Although the additional features are useful, the cost of these are high and you’ll not find them much beneficial, if you’re looking to cut down expenditure.
It’s understood that they’re changing their name to Octiive and also undergoing a few drastic changes that are likely to be more supportive and helpful for the musicians.
Details of these changes are being sought from the company and the same shall be updated as soon as we get them.
- They’ve got a very strong and wide distribution network.
- You get to release unlimited songs with an annual payment.
- Their promotional and marketing services are among the best in the business.
- They offer good customer support.
- They charge 10% commission on your revenue in addition to the annual fee.
- Playlist plugging is not available.
- Connection speed to stores is quite slow.
- YouTube monetization and Admin publishing are not available.
- They don’t handle mechanical licenses for cover songs.
- Reports and analytics offered by them are not great.
Songtradr is originally a sync licensing site, that also has a substantial share of distribution stores.
It’s one of the cheapest music distribution platforms and you can upload unlimited music at just $4.99 per month.
While you get access to over 200 outlets, they don’t charge any commissions on your revenue. However, there’s a 15% commission on YouTube monetizing of music. It’s not a comprehensive online music distribution site as licensing of cover songs is not available.
They don’t have an inbuilt Admin publishing and hence you can’t get royalties from your music.
Songtradr is a great choice for those of you who are looking for licensing and sync deals. You get to distribute your music to stores and also submit your music for placement on the same site.
Although their distribution features are only basic at best, the licensing options that you get are too good to let go. It’s a good choice for you, if you want to get your music on TV or in movies.
- They’re almost unbelievably cheap and manage multiple artists.
- You get to upload unlimited music at a very nominal periodic price.
- YouTube monetizing of your music is provided at only 15% commissions.
- You can submit your music for inclusion in TV shows and movies.
- They allow payment splitting.
- You get text notifications of the latest developments.
- Cover song licensing service is not inbuilt.
- They don’t provide pre-order services.
- Admin publishing is not possible.
- PayPal is the only payment option.
This is a very straightforward and simple platform that offers comprehensive promotional features.
Their links with big names like Universal are very strong and hence if you need big-time break in getting your music under such labels, they’re a great option. They focus only on the basic and most important features that an independent artist may require. This makes them an ideal choice for those musicians who’re on the lookout for the elementary features only.
With limited features on offer, Spinnup isn’t an ideal choice for you, if you want a comprehensive distribution company with an exhaustive list of features.
They’ve no feature to assist you in collection of royalties from radio airplay, or sync licensing. YouTube or SoundCloud monetization, which are available with almost all online music distributors is also missing from their list. Another important thing to be noted is that neither do they provide song cover licensing, nor do you get the automatic pre-order facility.
Therefore, it’s clear that the platform is good for the independent artists who need their music to be promoted to music labels. However, it’s not a perfect choice for the musicians who need their own brand licensing and cover generation.
Your needs should therefore be clearly outlined before signing up for the site. While they may not be providing the extra features available with their competitors, they excel in the services that they have.
- They provide best promotional services for your music.
- You don’t have to pay any commissions on your revenue.
- They offer free bar-codes.
- You get discounts to access many other services on other websites.
- They’ve got very good collection of educational articles to help you grow as an independent artist.
- You’ve to follow the rudimentary manual process for pre-orders.
- There are only 44 sites on which your music is distributed.
- They don’t have any inbuilt cover song licensing service.
- You don’t get SoundCloud or YouTube monetization.
- They’ve a very limited analytics.
- You don’t get any licensing or publishing offers.
- Payment splitting is not supported.
Songcast has been around for some time now and hence have a large number of artists on their subscription list.
Their new improved version offers far better services than their earlier avatar. Their list of features looks great from the outside, but when inspected deeply, it’s not impressive in comparison with other companies.
Although they excel in the features that they provide, the fee that they charge for such limited features is on the higher side.
My personal interaction with their support team on a couple of occasions has been fairly satisfactory. Although the situation wasn’t pleasant, but their customer support was really understanding and helpful. If you’re considering to sign in, you must understand how your fans and other music lovers would react.
It’s important to be realistic in knowing whether someone would come to Songcast rather than going to iTunes or Spotify to listen to the music. In my personal opinion, Songcast has to put in more concentrated effort in the more important features which help an artist in his/her growth.
- They offer SoundCloud monetization.
- You get direct access to SoundCloud distribution.
- There’s no commission on your earnings.
- They’ve a good strong customer support.
- There’s no provision to set up pre-orders.
- You don’t get to select a release date for your music.
- They don’t support payment splitting.
- Apart from an annual fee to keep your music online, there’s a fee to remove it too.
- They don’t obtain mechanical licenses for cover songs.
Based in UK, the company has a strong and solid platform with tons of features. However, most of these features are high in cost and may not be useful for all artists.
Although the company looks tempting with lots of specialized features, you must carry out your financial planning and check if you’ll be able to get any benefit from them before signing up. They’ve recently changed their subscription to only an annual fee, which is positive step.
However, even without any commission charges, the platform seems a bit expensive due to the high-end features on offer.
- Strong distribution features covering videos too.
- There’s no commission on your earnings.
- You get Mastering options.
- Distribution covers over 200 stores including China.
- They offer registration to UK charts.
- Their marketing services are strong and effective.
- You get inbuilt playlist pluggers.
- The fees are high.
- They’ve additional hidden fees in their terms and conditions.
- Payment is only through Western Union.
- You end up paying extra if you need faster delivery of music.
- They don’t offer any support for obtaining mechanical licenses.
Like CD Baby, Reverbnation is one of the oldest services here. They’re focused mostly on bands, but electronics producers use their platform as well.
Reverbnation has loads of great music distribution features, which make it an automatic choice for many musicians. What sets them apart from the competition is their ability to bring great show offers and similar opportunities for the artists.
They offer a decent package for musicians at $20 a month, which gives you access to their distribution, mailing list for promotions, and other opportunities.
It’s a total package including distribution, marketing, financial management tools along with offers for shows.
If you’re looking for a platform only for distribution purpose, then Reverbnation may not be an ideal choice for you. The distribution models are not that great and a lot costlier than their competitors. It’s one of the oldest platforms around and arguably has the largest list of features on offer.
It has the potential to be extremely beneficial to artists, if used correctly and intelligently. Despite having so much to offer, the biggest weakness of Reverbnation is that most of their features rely heavily on the amount of listeners’ traffic that they can get.
With fans preferring to go to the more flamboyant competitors like iTunes and Spotify, Reverbnation will find it difficult to attract fresh artists.
- You get to keep 100% of your earnings.
- Options to submit auditions for radio and labels etc.
- You can connect with other artists and learn from their experiences.
- They integrate very well with social media.
- Fee is quite high without premium features.
- They don’t have admin publishing.
If you’re only looking for a platform with good online distribution, Record Union is a good choice.
They may not have a long list of features, but they’ve a solid platform that’s fairly easy to use with a superb support team.
They don’t have a very big list of distribution channels and are likely to face lot of challenge coping up in the industry. Their packages allow you to select distribution channels. Hence, you can save on money by opting to distribute your music to channels of your choice.
Their payment structure is flexible in the sense that if you want to reduce the commission percentage, you’ve to take the premium (more expensive) plan.
You are charged 15% of your earnings in the regular plan, which reduces to 7.5% in case you take the premium plan. This means that the artist ends up paying a good part of his/her revenue either way.
- It’s perhaps the easiest platforms to operate, even if you don’t have any prior experience of distribution sites.
- They feed you with latest Spotify trends, which helps you to know how you’re fairing on that platform.
- Pre-release feature is available.
- Their speed of connectivity with Spotify and iTunes is very good.
- They cover most of the major platforms and you can reach the best of them at a reduced fee.
- As a member, you get discounts on third-party services.
- They’ve strong links with famous brands like Sony Music and hence you get good exposure and great career options.
- The sales report is generated quarterly, which is quite a long period for budding artists.
- They charge heavy commissions.
- The platform doesn’t support any integration with social media networks.
- They have very limited payment modes, which include only PayPal and Credit Cards.
- You don’t get any effective promotional tools with this company.
- Payout is generally delayed.
With a decent list of useful features and a user-friendly platform that’s fairly easy to handle, this Glasgow based company boast of having worked with a few prominent artists like Angus and Julia Stone. It’s a fine choice, if you’re looking for a platform only for distribution needs.
However, you need to have adequate funds in order to be able to take maximum advantage from the platform.
They’ve a flat fee system, in which you pay a one-time fee for each of your releases. This entails that there are no recurring annual charges. While this looks a lucrative option, the $40.00 payment for a single song might not fit into the budget of most of the aspiring artists.
The fee increases to $85.00 for the release of an album. Although the initial payments are high, the good thing is that there are neither any annual charges nor any commissions on your revenues.
- Artists get the freedom to get and offer pre-orders.
- As a member of EmuBands, you get instant access to Spotify.
- They offer you worldwide chart registration.
- You don’t pay any commissions on your earnings.
- They also have tools for effective and easy video distribution.
- The one-time fee is very high.
- There’s no option for payment splitting.
- They don’t offer Admin publishing.
On Which Streaming Platforms Should Your Music be Available?
There’s more to streaming than just putting your music up on Spotify.
Thanks to third-party websites, information about the best streaming services has been curated and this list should give you an idea on what streaming service is best for you.
Note that the list provided is based on their per-play rate, so musicians should be able to compute just how many times their music needs to be played in order to earn a US monthly income of $1,472 (based on latest census).
Here are your top-paying streaming services this year.
Top Music Streaming Services Where your Music Should Be Today
Napster – $0.019 Per Play
Napster is the king of streaming payouts, but at great cost.
Based on two sources – David Crosby and Information is Beautiful – Napster paid out at $0.01682 per stream earlier but now has gone up to $0.019 on average.
A musician would need about 77,474 total plays to earn a payout of $1,472.
Napster also remains to be the most profitable streaming service despite losing $7 per user at 5 million subscribers.
TIDAL – $0.01284 Per Play
Jay-Z’s own streaming service, TIDAL, has the second-highest payout at $0.01284 per play despite being surrounded by controversies this year.
An artist streaming on TIDAL would need 117,660 total plays to get $1,472.
The streaming services loses about $6.67 per user and reported an annual loss of $28 million.
Apple Music – $0.00783 Per Play
Apple Music has always been known to pay better than rival streaming service, Spotify.
In 2017, Apple Music paid out $0.0064 per play, but this year they pay out at $0.00783 per play.
Musicians would need 200,272 plays to earn the US monthly minimum wage.
No information about how much Apple is losing each year because they are notorious for keeping an eye out for their user metrics.
Google Play Music – $0.00676 Per Play
Google Play Music, or GPM, continues to survive amidst YouTube Music’s failure.
The search engine giant won’t be closing their streaming platform anytime soon.
Earlier this year, GPM increased their rate from $0.0059 to $0.00611 per play, and then just recently, increased it again to $0.00676.
A total of 217,752 plays is needed to react the monthly minimum wage.
Much like Apple, Google takes its user metrics seriously, so no information is available on how much the platform loses each year per user.
Deezer – $0.00624 Per Play
French-based streaming service Deezer recently launched in the US a few years ago.
Last year, they recorded $0.0056 in per play rate and topped GPM based on payouts.
This year, they’re just behind GPM at $0.0064 per play, and musicians needing about 230,000 total plays to earn a minimum wage income.
According to Information Is Beautiful, Deezer loses $27 million per year at $1.69 per user with 16 million users.
Spotify – $0.00397 Per Play
Spotify has always ranked as the one of the worst streaming services in terms of payouts, but they are continuously increasing their rates.
Last year, they paid out $0.0038 per play and increased it to $0.00397 per play this year.
Zoe Keating, award-winning cellist and composer, reported earning $0.00543 per play on average just for this year.
It’s safe to say that Spotify does adjust their rates, depending on the artist.
Based on average rates, musicians need 336,842 total plays to earn $1,472.
Spotify reportedly lost $584 million this year alone, at $2.68 per user with almost 191 million monthly active users and 87 million paid subscribers.
Amazon Music – $0.00402 Per Play
According to the Trichordist, Amazon paid indie artists $0.0074 per play earlier this year but dropped it to about $0.00402.
Musicians now have to have 366,169 total plays to earn $1,472.
Much like Apple and GPM, Amazon is very secretive about their user metrics.
Pandora – $0.00133 on Pandora Premium
In September 2018, SiriuxXM purchased Pandora Media in an effort to salvage the digital radio service.
Just like Spotify, Pandora has been notorious for low payouts. Earlier this year, they increased their per play rate to $0.00134 from $0.0011 last year.
Musicians now need a whopping 1,106,767 total plays to earn the monthly income of $1,472.
Pandora loses $250 million each year at $3.09 per user.
Currently, they have 81 million users and 6.8 million paid users.
YouTube – $0.00074 Per Play
YouTube was always known to be a not-so-friendly platform to artists due to its terribly low payouts.
In 2017, the video platform paid out at $.0006 per play. Earlier this year, they increased it to $0.00074.
But just recently, they decreased it to $0.00069 so now musicians have to generate 2,133,333 total plays on YouTube to earn the monthly minimum wage.
The platform reportedly loses $174 million annually at about $0.17 per user.
In closing, music distribution has a lot of moving parts involved. A legitimate music distributor will always make sure that the musician’s needs are taken care of and their expectations are met.
It is the distributor’s job to take care of the business side of things in terms of getting the musicians’ products on the shelves or on the streaming platforms.
It is also their job to make sure that these are done properly through the correct channels.
Of course, musicians need to understand that distributors also have certain limitations, so musicians may need to work alongside other professionals to work on the other aspects of the business.
For marketing and promotions, musicians may need to work with publicists, marketers, and even event coordinators to get the word out for their products.
Due to the rapid rise in technology, streaming services and platforms continue to innovate to accommodate a musician’s growing needs.
And one of them being the need to reach out to their consumers.
Physical product distribution can be quite taxing and inexpensive, and having little to no sales at all may affect any musician’s potential to sell their future products to the same store.
This is why a lot of them are choosing to go with digital distribution instead. For a minimum fee, musicians can get their music on the top streaming services to help them reach out to their fans and potential customers.
But unfortunately, not all distribution services and streaming platforms are made equal so a musician will have to do their due diligence in researching the best ones that will meet their expectations.
Hopefully, this article should give any aspiring musician out there the push they need on why they need to hire a distributor and how to work with one.