Wondering how exactly to make your music available to audiences worldwide? Are you trying to clarify how to get your music on Spotify, or even how to get your music on Apple Music? Enter… online music distribution services! If you are an independent artist and want to get your music on streaming services, you will need to know all about distribution services. In this article, we will take a look at what distributors do, and give you the low down on the best music distribution companies out there, so that you can make an informed decision.
In 2020, it is easier than ever to sell your music on major platforms such as Tidal, Amazon Music, Pandora, Shazam, Apple Music and not forgetting the beast that is Spotify. To do so, independent artists can use music distribution companies, who act as the middleman between artists and streaming platforms. Distribution services exist to get artist’s music out to audiences. Record labels were once the gatekeepers of the entire music industry, and previously did the legwork and secured deals with distribution companies who would then deliver physical music to stores. However, now artists can manage this all themselves using distributors.
It has been reported in 2019 that, on average, 40,000 tracks were released every day through digital distributors. So, with the floodgates opened to a world of aspiring artists and labels trying to make it big – which digital music distribution service will be the right partner for you? Who can best help you try to navigate through the noise of today’s over-saturated industry? Let’s take a look at some of our top picks.
Pricing: £19 – £299 annually | RLIAB: £99 – £399 OTF
Although Ditto has worked with some of the most established artists (Ed Sheeran, You Me At Six and Sam Smith), they have remained controversial over the past 5 years or so.
They make this list despite the number of discrepancies regarding DITTO online. This came from bad reviews, slanderous blog articles and arguments in comment threads. However, they have helped many artists pave their way alongside helping labels with their Record Label In A Box service. This is why they remain one of the top independent distributors to this day.
Their RLIAB package comes in three tiers, and offers great value to aspiring label owners. This has streamlined the process, taking care of tasks such as official business registration with the government. DITTO also offers to handle neighbouring rights set-up and label registration with PPL for royalty collection. Furthermore, they provide clients with a free domain name, contract drafting software and a dashboard to track sales, plus free distribution to 180 DSP’s.
Their lowest tier allows unlimited releases for one artist at £19 per year. However, they also have an option going up to £29 a year for 2 artists. On top of that, they have a label tier, which starts at £69 annually. This allows unlimited distribution for 5 artists which increases to £299 annually for a maximum of 40 artists.
Pricing: $9.95 – $69 per release
Another one of the most talked-about distributors in the indie community is CD Baby.
What makes them stand out is that they are proactive at helping artists tap into all revenue streams. They do this through services such as publishing administration and CD & vinyl distribution. Thanks to a recent partnership between Music Gateway & CD Baby, they now also offer sync for film & TV placement.
What also makes them more lucrative than other platforms is their one time fees per release. This means… no recurring annual costs! This makes it easier for indie artists to get their songs registered with royalty-collecting societies via the platform. CD Baby offers all of their distribution services for $9.95 per single and $29 per album. You can also upgrade a single from standard to Pro for $20, and for $40 for an album. CD Baby also takes 15% commission.
Pricing: $9.99 – $49.99
TuneCore’s user interface is easy to navigate and understand, and there isn’t a lot of information required when processing releases. For some artists, this is convenient. However, for more established artists or labels who require extensive label copy and info such as barcodes and ISRC’s, this is yet to be added to the system. Then again, the main indie distributors are aimed primarily at the aspiring bedroom artists of today. These artists want to get things moving fast with their first releases, as opposed to major distributors such as AWAL (more on that later!)
Tunecore charges artists both yearly and per release, so you will want to really consider if the costs are worth it for what you can get from the platform. Tunecore’s current pricing is $9.99 per year per single, and $29.99 per year per album for the first year. Annual fees for albums are $49.99, and $9.99 for singles, also.
Read more about Tunecore in this full Tunecore Review.
Pricing: $19.99 – $79.99 annually
DistroKid was one of the first non-major distributors to strike a deal with the hugely popular video-sharing platform TikTok. This gives all DistroKid artists the opportunity to have their music used in fan-generated videos worldwide. Other distributors have since followed suit, but it should be noted that DistroKid spearheaded this!
One of the most cost-effective options, DistroKid comes in at $19.99 per year for unlimited uploads. DistroKid do also offer multiple plans, such as Musician ($19.99 per year), Musician Plus ($35.99 per year) and Label ($79.99 per year). Also – artists get to keep 100% of their royalties!
They also make it easy to acquire mechanical licenses for those wanting to commercially release cover songs. Users also have the ability to automatically split revenue among unlimited collaborators – whether you are splitting with producers, featured artists or investors. Any collaborators have to sign up for a paid subscription to the platform at $10 a year in order to get paid. Also, Distrokid creates a Hyperfollow page for your listeners to pre-save your music on Spotify, which is a great bonus!
One of the only issues is that they have so many users, it can be hard to get answers to questions efficiently, and you have to use their ticketing system. This involves the user support team closing tickets after sending a generic reply. They don’t always understand the issue at hand and referrals to more experienced members of the team are usually reserved for the highest performing artists.
Pricing: £7.99 – £29.99 Annually
Created by Universal Music Group, Spinnup is a distribution platform service aimed at up and coming indie artists. These are artists that want to get on UMG’s radar and gain access to distribution with small processing fees and zero revenue cuts.
Designed as a way for Universal to identify new talent, this is a great option for those that have already established a following and have a lot of material to release. Spinnup is particularly helpful for material that doesn’t require an exclusive platform incentive organization, pre-order campaign set up or other additional services. If personally requested, these can be provided by the team.
In terms of pricing, Spinnup allows artists to release a single for £7.99, an EP for £14.99, or an album for £29.99 (yearly).
Learn more about Spinnup in our full Spinnup guide & review!
Amuse has been something of a mystery since they popped up in 2017. This is due to the fact that they offer free distribution with high advances to artists that want to sign to their label division.
Soon after they launched, tech guru and music industry icon Will.i.am joined the company as co-founder. He will be helping the platform grow, as well as the artist they choose to strike licensing deals with.
One of the newer additions to Amuse is its “Fast Forward” feature. This predicts how well songs are likely to perform based on their current steaming activity. Other features include royalty splits, the ability to invite your team to your profile, and the option to upgrade to Amuse Pro.
Pricing: £25 – £65 OTF or £20 annually
One of the most underrated distributors around is artist and label services company Horus Music services.
Based in Leicester, UK, the company consists of a team who work alongside artists and labels to meet their needs. As previous winners of the prestigious Queens Award for Enterprise Of International Trade, their artist and relations team are always on hand to assist. Plus, turnaround times are fast.
Despite their lack of notable artists, they rank high on our list because they are so efficient and easy to work with. Artists benefit from their direct to bank payout via their partnership with Western Union. Royalties can also easily be split with collaborators. They have a wide range of packages, ranging from marketing campaigns to chart registration & Midem representation. For artists looking to release content on a regular basis, they now offer an unlimited distribution package at £20 (annually).
For further established labels, a CMT (Custom Music Tools) account is available upon request. This provides labels with unlimited releases for 20% revenue. They also offer advanced software to track royalties and the ability to create artist profiles and sub-profiles for band members or featured artists. Royalty splits can be set among the label and artist as well as between band members and collaborators. Plus, all revenue is paid directly each month with no minimum payment threshold or need to manually cash out. As well as this, labels get their own rep to liaise with and free DSP playlist promotion. This is providing releases are added at least 6 weeks from release. If you are looking for more than just distribution, Horus also offers label services.
Pricing: 15% of sales revenue, you keep 85%
Number 1 on our list is Kobalt’s renowned AWAL Distribution. They provide a range of services for artists to suit their needs, but only work with select clients. Usually, they approach these clients themselves, or via a referral from one of their artists or A&Rs.
AWAL provides everything, including distribution to DSP’s, advanced royalty calculation, worldwide marketing handled by dedicated teams, DSP playlist campaigns, sync licensing and funding. You could say that AWAL is more of a label services company than just distribution. AWAL doesn’t charge any upfront or annual fees, and instead simply take a 15% share of revenue that they collect for you.
Their impressive roster includes the likes of Madison Beer, Bladee, Deadmau5, Yung Lean, You Me At Six and Lil Peep to name a few. Their roster continues to grow daily as their artist’s careers evolve and they sign new artists.
Maybe you are starting out as an artist or label and want to get the ball rolling with your first few singles? Or maybe you require a team to provide guidance throughout your release? Either way, you will want to ensure that you are with the right partner to upload music to streaming services. So, what is the best place to distribute music? It depends on your budget and what additional services you may need, but our top pick is AWAL music.
Whether you are considering switching from your current distributor or are looking for your first, we hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and found it helpful.
If you are looking for a platform that offers everything you need in one place, why not try Music Gateway? We can help with promoting your music, music marketing, improving your streaming presence and providing Sync opportunities. Try it out for free today by signing up or clicking the button below.
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