Written for Fans for Bands.
Distribution is the wired cousin at the wedding. The quiet one who never used to show up but now you have had a bit of bubbly and realize that actually, he’s an ‘alright fella’ after all.
Back in the day distribution was handled by your label. If you got a sniff at the Holy Grail that was “getting singed” then you never had to learn or care about how your vinyl and compact discs ended up in HMV. Now the artists have control. We hold the power and we decide how, where and when our music becomes available to the world.
However, too much power can be overwhelming, and I would be amazed if there are any musicians on this planet that picked up and instrument, not with dreams to tour the world, or one day hear their songs sang back to them, but rather because they really want to find the optimum commission rate for a digital distribution service…. Sex, Drugs & Algorithms, baby.
If you are publishing your music yourself, you do need to look at what services are right for you and what you want to achieve. It can be a ball ache, so do the research now and set yourself up for stress-free releases.
Kycker: The new kid on the Block
These new scallywags offer a free service and in their words “we take a small 20% cut of the income, so in short, we don’t earn money until you do. Kycker has over 800 online platforms in its distribution network, which is more than any other distribution platform!”
They also offer contacts with industry partners, such as Gigmit, SongKick, MusicGlue, Pirate Studios, Music Support, Hootsuite and festival partners such as Sound City or Long Division. Whilst this new platform are still working out their kinks, they offer a low-risk service with the intensive to make you as successful as possible.
CDBaby: Reliable and they know it
First noticeable future is the easy to use dashboard which is really handy to keep a record of where your music is being streamed and purchased. They also have Sync/Publishing licensing built in to track plays on YouTube which is convenient. At what price does this convince come at? Well, there is a set-up fee and they keep roughly 9% of some of your earnings, their prices do seem to be increasing too as it used to be less than $10 to upload a song or under $30 for an album but now its $12.95 and $49…. Take that how you will.
DistroKid: Reasonable and built for musicians
Fandalism’s spin-off service gives you your first upload free and then a straight $19.99 yearly fee for unlimited uploads. With no set-up fee, they are pretty reasonable if you are going to be doing a lot of releases. They are also the first distributor in the world that can automatically split payments among collaborators. So, if you’re a DJ or electronic producer who collaborates a lot, or in a band where everyone wants their royalties directly, DistroKid is a safe bet to avoid the headaches of splitting up your money.
BONUS POINT: check out an article by the founder of DistroKid, Phillip Kaplan’s, called “How To Tell If Your Music Distributor Is Ripping You Off.” It will give you a lot to think about before choosing your distributor.
TuneCore: Pricey but you get the extras
Very similar to CDBaby, they have a huge distribution network with all the sites you’d want to be on. Plus, they can monitor royalties, offer sync/publishing on sites like Youtube which is handy and encourages you to pitch for those sync opportunities too. There is a set-up fee of $75. Singles cost $9.99 per single (first year) and albums are $29.99 (first year).
Symphonic Distribution: Costs differ per release, but they offer more
Symphonic have a slightly different approach to pricing compared to the others. It costs $25 to start, followed by other fees based on the number of tracks you plan to distribute. 1-5 tracks are $10.99, 1-10 tracks are $19.99 and so on. They give a bit of a reduction the more tracks you upload.
Whilst offering the same features as these other distributors, they are the only service besides CDBaby that offers physical distribution. That means if you want your work printed with artwork in order to sell online and at shows, you can keep everything in-house.
They also offer other unique services such as video distribution, piracy protection, a promo mailing service and a few more features related to Beatport. A lot of bang for your buck!
Ditto Music: Affordable for frequent releases
Ditto music offers a few payment options. You can pay $79 to get unlimited distribution for a year or you can distribute by the single for $9.If you follow something like a single release per month strategy for a year, $79 is pretty reasonable.
They have 24-7 phone support which is an amazing feature. That means if you are having a midnight meltdown because you forgot to add your credits to your release, or uploaded the wrong artwork, there is somebody there to listen to you, frantically sobbing and calm you down.
Spinnup: Bridging the gap between unsigned and majors.
Spinnup is a bit different as they have modified the distribution process. They can “push” their release to a “scout” for feedback. Spinnup also has a relationship with Universal Music. These scouts have regular meetings with the Universal A & R department.
The pricing is pretty competitive. They offer yearly packages at $9.99, $19.99 and $39.99. Bigger the package, the more songs you can release. If you are looking to get some feedback and possibly attract some major label attention, Spinnup is offering something a little different.
SongCast: Fair prices & you keep your royalties.
Offer a monthly and yearly distribution plan with a one-time set-up fee. They also have free UPC and ISRC codes and you get to keep 100% of your royalties. There is a monthly fee $5.99 and a set-up fee of $9.99 for singles and $19.99 for albums are $19.99. This is pretty straightforward, pay regularly and keep your earnings.
Landr: Convenient and two free submissions
Yep, those mastering folks! After the master your material, they can distribute your song too. They add your track to all the top streaming services (Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora, etc).
You own 100% of the rights and your first two submissions are free! If you use Landr for mastering already, you would save a few steps in the release process and who doesn’t love that?
AWAL: No Fees, No hoodlums
AWAL (Artists Without a Label) might be for you if you’re trying to get your music on Spotify playlists. They don’t take any fees for making your music available for streaming but charge a 15% commission (15% of everything you earn goes to AWAL). Also, they offer one of the best analytics report tools of all, pretty tempting if you a musician who loves to analyze all that sweet, sweet data.
However, you do have to be accepted to join and you can’t just sign up. Not great if you’re some of the musical ‘riff raff’’…