Record labels were once the gatekeepers of the entire music industry. They previously did the legwork and secured deals with distribution companies who would then deliver physical music to stores.
As business practices have changed over the years and music has been primarily consumed digitally, it’s become easier for labels to get off the ground. It’s also become easier for savvy independent artists to get their music out on streaming services.
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?
Pricing | £19 – £299 Annually | RLIAB – £99 – £399 OTF
Although DITTO has worked with some of the most established artists of today (such as Ed Sheeran, You Me At Six and Sam Smith), they’ve 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. As well as helping labels get a helping hand setting up with their RLIAB service. This is why they remain one of the top independent distributors to this day.
Their RLIAB (Record Label In A Box) package comes in three different 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 offer 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 OTF + 9% of sales
Another one of the most talked-about distributors in the indie community is CD Baby.
What makes them stand out is that they’re proactive at helping artists tap into all revenue streams. They do this through services such as publishing administration, CD & vinyl distribution. Thanks to a recent partnership between Music Gateway & CD Baby, they now offer sync for film & TV placement.
What also makes them more lucrative than other platforms is their one time fees per release with no recurring annual costs. This makes it easier for indie artists to get their songs registered with royalty-collecting societies via the platform.
Their pricing models are set up so that you can either choose to release a single on their standard tier of $9.95, or opt-in for full monetization at $29.95.
Also, offering additional services such as publishing admin, sync & even advance payments for more established artists is hugely popular.
Pricing | $9.99 – $49.99
Their user interface is easy to navigate or 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, 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 mention later).
Tunecore also charges clients yearly, so you’ll 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. Recurring at $49.99 for the year after.
Pricing | $19.99 – $79.99 Annually
Distrokid is 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 go viral and have their music used in fan-generated videos worldwide. This makes them a great distributor for those wanting to keep up with trends and stay on the pulse of pop culture.
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’re splitting with producers, featured artists or investors.
Also, Distrokid creates a Hyperfollow page for your listeners to pre-save your music on Spotify, which is a great bonus!
Any collaborators have to sign up for a paid subscription to the platform at $10 a year in order to get paid.
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 their 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.
Pricing | Free
This company has been something of a mystery since they popped up in 2017. This is due to the fact 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.
The newest addition to Amuse is its “Fast Forward” feature. This predicts how well songs are likely to perform based on their current steaming activity. It also offers artists 6 months’ worth of predicted royalties in exchange for a 20% fee. This is great for artists who want to spend money on further marketing or a new music video for example.
Pricing | £25 – £65 OTF or £20 annually
One of the most underrated distributors around is artist and label services company Horus Music services. They have previously won the prestigious Queens Award for Enterprise Of International Trade.
Based in Leicester, UK, the company consists of a team of industry professionals who work alongside their artists and labels to meet their needs and keep things running smoothly.
Their artist and relations team are always on hand to assist. Plus, turnaround times for emails or any distribution-related issues are fast.
Despite their current lack of notable artists, they make it to number 2 on our list due to the fact they’re 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 on their website, ranging from marketing campaigns to chart registration & Midem representation. For artists looking to release a lot of content on a regular basis, they now offer a new unlimited distribution package at £20 P.A.
For further established labels, a CMT (Custom Music Tools) account is available upon request. This provides labels with unlimited releases for 20% revenue and advanced software to track royalties, 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’re looking for a bit more than just distribution, Horus offer label services (click to find out more!)
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 trusted 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.
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’re starting out as an artist or label and want to get the ball rolling with your first few single? Or want a team to provide guidance throughout your release? Either way, you’ll want to ensure that you are with the right partner.
Whether you’re considering switching from your current distributor or are looking for your first, we hope that you’ve enjoyed this article.
If you would like to promote your music then get in touch. You career is important to us and we’d love to work together with you to see how we can help it grow!
My brother and I are looking to release two new singles for the first time and would like advise chosen the right music distributor.
Please contact us at your earliest opportunity.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Hey Adrian, Thanks for commenting! This article tells you all about some of the best distribution services which should make your choice a little easier 🙂