The Best Music Distribution Companies in 2020
(Review and Comparison Chart)

What is Music Distribution?

Today, music distribution means something radically different than it used to. Back in the days of the pre-digital music industry when radio stations, cassette tapes, CDs, and vinyl records were the only listening formats available for audiences, music distribution companies were closely linked with mainstream record labels who only championed the most marketable forms of music.

If your music was deemed worthy by a record label, you’d sign a record contract and would then be then granted access to distribution companies with the resources to put physical versions of your music in stores in your country, or if you were really successful, around the world as well.

But around the turn of the century shortly after the panic surrounding Y2k subsided, music underwent a drastic transformation, as did the companies that distributed it. Albums, cassette tapes, vinyl records, and radio stations are still around, but they’re no longer the dominant listening formats for music. For the first time in music history, creators of all budgets, fanbases, musical genres, and experience levels now have the power to put their music in front of audiences across the planet through digital music distribution companies.

Whether you’re a 50-year-old musician with a couple of Grammys under your built or a teenager who records music in your bedroom, a growing number of distribution companies are out there that can take digital forms of your music and share them online with the masses.

Physical music distribution is more or less the same that it’s always been, though there are more independent labels today than ever sharing the work of artists who never would’ve gotten the chance to reach wide audiences in the pre-digital music industry. Physical forms of music still benefit artists in their mission to connect with audiences, but not nearly as much by making music available to listeners on streaming platforms.

According to statistics published by the Recording Industry Association of America, CD sales accounted for a meager 7.1% of music industry revenue in the US in 2018 with digital formats largely accounting for the remaining billion dollars of revenue. These numbers reflect listener habits that have flocked to streaming platforms as the chief way they listen to music, and this preference isn’t likely to ever be reversed.

What does that mean for you? Whether you’re completely new to sharing music or have been at it for years, you’ll need to make your music available for audiences to listen to over digital streaming platforms in order to sustain a musical career. Vinyl records are having somewhat of a comeback, but at just 4.3% of American music industry revenue in 2018, the listening format is seen as a something of a luxury item for hardcore music fans and by no means a widely used platform for music consumption or discover.

If you want any chance of connecting with audiences and building a meaningful career in music, your work needs to be available on digital streaming platforms, which requires working with a music distributor.

music streaming

How to get your music distributed on Spotify and Apple Music (among others)?

Teaming up with a reputable music distribution company is the best way to submit digital forms of your music to the world’s most influential listening platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Amazon, TIDAL, and a host of others.

A solid music distribution company will streamline the process of not only sending your work to the massive streaming companies we’ve all heard of, but also a plethora of ones you haven’t, to give you the best chance of connecting with international audiences.

However, every music distribution company runs on different business models, pricing structures, and digital stores serviced. This means that if you’re planning on distributing your work digitally for the first time, you’ll need to do some research in order to team up with the distribution company that best fits you and your unique needs.

Luckily, this handy guide contains all the information you need to make the right decision.

music distribution

Can you distribute your music by yourself, without the help of a company?

In theory, maybe? But should you? No, not unless you’re interested in ditching your music career to launch your own distribution company, which doesn’t sound like too much fun.

There are loads of factors to consider when it comes to digital music distribution, such as the growing number of streaming platforms around the world, and the fact that each one features a different submission process. It would take an immense amount of time to contact each platform directly to submit music, and the major ones wouldn’t accept your work with going through a distribution company first.

Spotify launched a beta program where you could distribute your work directly to the platform, but as of July, 2019, the program has ended and is no longer available to artists. The bottom line is that if you’re a serious musician intent on sharing your work with as many listeners as possible, going through a distribution company is the best way to do it.

how to get music on spotify

What do music distribution companies do?

Digital music distribution companies act as intermediaries between artists and listening platforms that live online.

There’s a massive amount of non-musical procedural work that goes into listening to an artist’s work, categorizing it, and putting it on a music platform, and the role of distribution companies is to handle that work on behalf of you, the musician.

Working with a distribution company will essentially take music from your computer and give you the chance to share it with the world by making it available on platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, and others. If you’ve ever wondered how an artist got their work on a big streaming platform, a digital music distributor is almost certainly how they did it.

How does music distribution work with a company?

Again, every music distributor is radically different, so it completely depends on the individual company.

However, there are some broad similarities such as going through template forms to upload music and artwork, and fill out information about your release, and often information like what stores your music will be sent to. This step isn’t necessarily fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult.

Generally, working with a distribution company to make new music available online takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on how much music you’re uploading. Then, it usually takes another two weeks for the music to be received, vetted, and posted on various platforms. This means that waiting until the night before your official album release date to submit music through a distribution company will fail spectacularly.

It’s relatively painless to work with these companies to share your music, but you’ll need to give them time to do their jobs.

how to get on apple music

How to get a deal with a digital music distribution company?

One of the best things about the modern music industry is inclusiveness and conditions that make representation of artists working at every level possible.

Physical music distribution is a whole lot more expensive and complicated to pull off than digital distribution, which is one of the reasons it’s available to virtually anyone who wants to share music. In the old music industry, you’d have to ink a deal with a label to get your physical music sent to stores, but things don’t work like that anymore.

Most digital distributors work with musicians for a fee, whether through the form of direct yearly payments or revenue-sharing models. Ambitious new distribution companies are even sprouting up with business models that offer completely free services to artists, though it’s important to note that it’s impossible to tell if they’ll be successful over the long term and what would happen to the music they’ve distributed if they fail.

And though the majority of music distribution companies now work with all artists, some operate on an exclusive model that loops in conventional digital distribution services in with marketing resources, career consultation, and analytic tools. These companies are essentially label-distributor hybrids, and they only work with artists who’ve proven their success through large social media followings and high numbers of streams, views, and downloads over digital listening platforms. Attracting the attention of one of these companies is similar to what you’d need to do to woo a record label, but luckily you’re by no means forced to sign with companies like these in order to digitally distribute your work.

Most companies will be eager to earn your business for a fee.

audio streaming platforms

How to choose the best music distribution company?

Like we mentioned before, every distribution company is different and is aimed at meeting the diverse and ever-changing needs of artists. The music distribution company that will work best for you depends on your unique goals, resources, and identity as an artist.

Here are some practical things to consider when it comes time to decide which company to do business with:

Fee structure

When it comes to the amount of method of payments distribution companies accept, there’s a lot for artists to consider.

For example, some offer seemingly low or non-existent fees but later take significant portions of your streaming or download revenues through revenue sharing models. In other words, it’s cheap or free to initially distribute with these companies, but you’ll end up sharing profits with them for as long as you continue to keep your work available on streaming platforms through them. Others require initial fees that repeat yearly for as long as you keep your music available through the digital stores your music has been sent to.

Again, new companies are sprouting up that offer free services, but there are risks to consider that we’ll delve into later in this guide.

Stores serviced

If a music distribution company isn’t able to get your music up on platforms like Spotify, TIDAL, Amazon, and Apple Music, then it’s not worth working with them.

However, some companies pride themselves on distributing music to platforms that aren’t likely to benefit artists, either because they’re too small or because they’re located in places where audiences aren’t likely to discover or listen to your music. If you’re only interested in making your music available through major streaming platforms, it makes sense to work with companies who specialize in distributing to them.

Added services

A growing number of distribution companies are sweetening the deal for artists by adding in services that transcend distribution like analytic tools, marketing assets, and publishing services. Some of these added services are complementary, and others are offered for an extra fee. Distribution companies that only work with artists on an exclusive basis offer a plethora of extra services for a cut of the revenue they earn from streaming and download payouts.

Depending on your goals and industry experience, these services can be viewed as important added assets to consider, or as benefits you may not ever use or need.

Reputation and experience

It might be tempting to sign up with a new music distributor with a sleek website and flashy business model, but artists should be leery of new companies with little experience and unproven reputations.

Take the company Stem Music, for example. Stem launched onto the music industry scene with a promise “DIY” distribution that let artists share their work with major streaming companies through their platform. But in 2019, they shocked their artists with the news that they were shifting to an exclusive model, which left the vast majority of the musicians they worked with scrambling to find new distributors. Before the announcement, Stem was one of the most popular and written-about companies in the music industry, but the major change in their business model destroyed their reputation and angered many artists.

Choosing a less sexy distributor who charges conventional fees might feel less tech-savvy or progressive, but it could be better for your career in the long run.

What are the Best Music Distribution Companies?

Every music distribution company comes with its unique strengths and weaknesses, so in order to choose the best one for your unique needs, you’ll need to look into different options to find the best fit.

Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best distribution companies out there in the following section to help save you time and stress. We’ll tell you everything you need to know in order to make the best decision for what company to go with. All fees are posted in USD.

Music Distribution Comparison Chart (2020)

Credits: Chart based on an idea by @ariherstand.

tunecore

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For many modern musicians, Tunecore checks off enough requisite boxes to make it their preferred distributor for years. Founded in 2005, you’re likely to come across companies with flashier websites and business models than this Brooklyn-based distributor, but few measure up when it comes to Tunecore’s reputation in the industry for reliability and relatively uncomplicated services. Tunecore also gives artists access to other features like YouTube and Facebook monetization and artist services like mastering, promotion, and even direct advances.

Tunecore runs off of a subscription-based fee structure that lets artists keep 100% of their profits. You’ll pay an upfront fee to get your music sent to digital stores and a yearly renewal fee after that the company says goes towards “covering the maintenance of your music in the stores.” This might sound like just another way to squeeze money out of artists, but Tunecore makes the point that digital music stores are constantly changing, and that these fees help to ensure the artist’s work they represent remains compliant. Some artists criticize Tunecore for not keeping up with the modern music industry by innovating, but again, it doesn’t sell itself as being sleek or in league with the myriad of distribution startups that are cropping up in the industry. The company represents many artists with big success stories, such as the Undercover Dream Lovers.

Here’s a rundown of Tunecore’s current fees:

Albums: $29.99 initially and $49.99 each following year.

Singles: $9.99 per year.

Ringtones: $9.99 per year

Pros

     Uncomplicated digital distribution

     Easy-to-understand fee structure (no surprises)

     All major stores served as ones in niche markets

     One of the best reputations in the industry

Cons

     Upfront fees might be high for some musicians

     Though Tunecore’s services are uncomplicated, their platform isn’t exactly user-friendly, and music can take a long time to upload.

     Slow customer service

The Rundown:

Price  4/5

Distribution Features  5/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  15/20

Who is it recommended for?

With relatively high upfront costs, Tunecore is perfect for artists capable of racking up loads of views, streams, and downloads who want to work with a reputable distributor without sharing hard-earned revenues.

landr distribution

->> Start Distributing your Music for FREE with Landr!

LANDR is a Canadian cloud-based company that specializes in mastering services. So when the company announced that they were adding free distribution services included with monthly mastering memberships, the company joined the growing roster of companies adding in distribution services to sweeten the deal for musicians. At first glance, what LANDR offers customers is a pretty stellar deal. For as low as $4 per month, musicians get unlimited music distribution alongside a limited offering of their mastering services.

However, LANDR is still new to the distribution game (they started offering distribution services in 2017), and, similar to Amuse, it’s not clear what would happen to an artist’s songs, streaming and download stats if they decide to throw in the towel or end their distribution offerings. But while Amuse still feels quite risky to work with for serious artists, LANDR boasts a client base of more than 1 million musicians and producers, so that strong showing reflects industry trust and confidence in the company. LANDR distributes to Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora and “everywhere else that matters.”

Typical complaints of LANDR’s distribution offerings include the stuff you’d expect and can be summed up as viewing those offerings as second-rate services since mastering is clearly the company’s main jam. But with very low prices and no royalty sharing agreements to adhere to, LANDR will be a solid option for many serious musicians.

Here’s a brief rundown of LANDR’s current fees:

$4 per month grants musicians access to unlimited music distribution.

At the Pro subscription level, $25 a month includes unlimited music distribution and uninhibited access to all of LANDR’s mastering services.

Pros:

  • Affordable distribution that lets you keep 100% of your royalties
  • Ideal if you’re already using LANDR’s mastering services
  • All major platforms included

Cons:

  • Still new to the industry with a price that may feel too good to be true to some musicians
  • Customer service and platform features leave something to be desired
  • Specializes in mastering, not distribution

The Rundown:

Price 5/5

Distribution Features 2/5

Additional Features 4/5

Support & Ease of Use 2/5

Final Score 13/20

Who is it recommended for?

Musicians who already use LANDR’s mastering services or just anyone looking for a great price for music distribution will love this company’s services, though they’re still new to the game.

Distrokid

Distrokid offers a much different distribution experience than Tunecore, and sells itself as being that company’s hipper, more affordable rival. Founded in 2013, Distrokid sends music to over 150 stores and streaming services, and prides itself on the ability to distribute music to digital stores 10-20x faster than its rivals for a fraction of the cost.

Like Tunecore, Distrokid lets you keep 100% of your revenues, but its biggest selling point is that for the low, yearly cost of $19.99, you can upload and distribute an unlimited amount of albums and songs. If that fee sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. Similar to how flight tickets often seem like great deals until you look a little closer and realize you have to pay to sit next to your group and to check luggage, Distrokid is packed with hidden fees that turn the incredible bargain it initially sells itself as into a decidedly less exciting one. But even with the extra fees, which charge you to make your music searchable through Shazam and collect royalties from YouTube, Distrokid is still a mighty good deal.

One of the biggest complaints musicians have about Distrokid is their weak analytic reports, which are reportedly almost impossible to understand for the average user. While other companies convert user data like a single’s streams and downloads into clear reports, Distrokid sends out big files of complex statistics and makes users dig deep into the information to learn basic information about the performance of their work.

Here’s a brief rundown of Distrokid’s current fees:

$19.99 per year to distribute an unlimited amount of singles and albums.

Added on fees for access to Shazam and Distrokid’s “Leave a Legacy” program, which claims to keep music on digital stores indefinitely.

 Pros

     Reliable digital music distribution for an affordable initial cost of $19.99

     Distrokid has one of the best reputations of any distribution company in the music industry

     Lets you keep 100% of your revenues, split payments, and even send lyrics to streaming platforms

     Pay once per year as opposed to every time your songs or albums need to be renewed through other annual fee structures like the one Tunecore uses

Cons

     Hidden fees to access benefits most distributors offer for free will leave some users feeling cheated

     Analytic reports are complicated to understand and hard to access

     Not friendly to musicians who are new to releasing music

The Rundown:

Price  5/5

Distribution Features  4/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  15/20

Who is it recommended for?

In a music industry filled with musicians concerned about low streaming revenues, Distrokid’s affordable fee structure will appeal to many, even if basic services aren’t included.

cd baby

Affectionately called an “anti label” by some, CD Baby is the largest online distributor of independent music in the world. In 1998, the company was founded by Derek Sivers, a musician who first created the website to sell his own music. In 2004, the company moved to Portland from New York, and pioneered early digital music distribution through companies like iTunes. Though CD Baby is the biggest indie distributor out there, a growing field of competitors is nipping at its heels in an effort to claim the title.

CD Baby offers initial fees that are similar to Tunecore’s, but with some major differences you’ll want to pay attention to. For albums, you’ll pay a one-time fee of $29, with the major catch of signing up for a revenue-sharing agreement. CD Baby takes 9% of digital revenues after initial fees are paid. If this sounds like a good or bad deal completely depends on how many streams or downloads you think your work is capable of producing. Unestablished artists without much of an audience get a great, uncomplicated price with CD Baby, but if you’re racking up real streams and downloads, that 9% starts to add up quick.

From music promotion tools to a publishing program, CD Baby gives users a solid roster of benefits that transcend distribution. But what really makes the company unique is that it ties in vinyl and CD production and duplication seamlessly into its platform. For musicians wanting to get the most out of their releases, the physical-digital blend of distribution alone will be enough of a selling point to be won over by.

Here’s a brief rundown of CD Baby’s current fees:

One time fees of $9.99 per single and $29.99 per album for a standard CD Baby subscription.

9% of digital revenues go to CD Baby, and up to 30% from those generated from companies like YouTube.

Pros

     Affordable, uncomplicated initial cost for digital distribution

     Seamless blend of digital distribution with CD and vinyl duplication and distribution

     Trusted by famous musicians and unestablished artists alike

     Loads of added benefits

Cons

     Musicians give up 9% of digital revenues

     Hidden fees associated with generating unique UPCs for singles and albums

     Won’t let you split payments with other artists

     Extra fees associated with collecting YouTube royalties

The Rundown:

Price  3/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  5/5

Support & Ease of Use  4/5

Final Score  15/20

Who is it recommended for?

CD baby is great for musicians early in their careers, but those generating lots of streams and downloads won’t like losing 9% of digital revenues to the company.

iMusician

Where companies like Tunecore, CD Baby, and Distrokid are household music industry names, iMusician is a lesser-known digital distribution company. But don’t let that stop you from checking out everything this Swiss company has to offer. iMusician gets your music on all the major streaming platforms like Deezer, Spotify, and Apple Music as well as hundreds of other places around the world.

Peruse the iMusician site, and you’ll quickly see an enticing offer to start distributing through the company for just $5. This, as you might guess, comes with lots of strings attached. At the “Starter” distribution level, the one-time prices you’ll pay are quite low, but you’ll have to fork over 30% of your digital revenues, and you’ll only be able to distribute to one store. Pay a little more per album or single, and the commission fee you’ll pay goes down to 15%, which is still far too high for many musicians to stomach. But at the next to levels of service, revenue sharing goes away and initial fees increase significantly to cover costs. However, the benefits you’ll get may be worth the cost depending on your needs. At the “Rockstar” level, simple one-time fees give you access to their digital distribution services and free benefits like label registration and express delivery.

iMusician is attempting to set itself apart by offering premium added services to musicians who sign up for their “Pro-Unlimited” tier. These services include pre-orders through iTunes, Apple Music, and Google Play, and a membership for iTunes Pro, which aims to give musicians the power to better promote their work through iTunes. At just under $500 a year, the Pro-Unlimited tier isn’t cheap, but will be worth looking into if you sell lots of music through iTunes.

Here’s a brief rundown of iMusian’s current fees:

iMusician has a complex and varied fee structure with multiple tiers. At the most affordable level, you’ll pay low one-time fees like 5$ per single, but will have to give away 30% of your revenues, and will only be able to distribute to one store.

Prices increase through higher tiers, but revenue sharing goes away as well.

Pros

     Multiple service and pricing tiers will accommodate musicians of all stripes

     Low initial fees will be attractive for those distributing for the first time

     Benefits like iTunes Pro are unique added assets

Cons

     With commission fees as high as 30%, it’s hard to imagine many musicians take iMusician’s “Starter” tier seriously

     At $500 a year, most musicians won’t see the highest tier this company has to offer as being practical or worthwhile

     Lesser-known and trusted than comparable companies

The Rundown:

Price  3/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  3/5

Support & Ease of Use  4/5

Final Score  13/20

Who is it recommended for?

Musicians who plan to sell lots of music through iTunes should check out iMusician.

ditto music

A company built to appeal to modern artist’s by talking about making the music industry fairer in their messaging, Ditto Music is another distributor that allows musicians to keep 100% of their revenues. Ditto Music was founded in 2007, and holds the Guinness World Record for distributing the first hit song from an unsigned band. Noting annoyance from musicians miffed by unexpected costs through companies like Distrokid, Ditto Music prides themselves on fee transparency.

For just $20 a year, Ditto lets artists release all the music they want, and the company also provides different pricing tiers aimed at indie record labels, managers, and publishers. The company also delivers solid, easy-to-read analytic reports about the performance of their songs.

But––there’s always a “but,” isn’t there?––, Ditto has a less-than-stellar reputation, and is even considered to be downright aggressive and dismissive to musicians, by some accounts. However, with the low cost of $20 a year for unlimited distribution, many musicians will probably swallow their concerns and sign up with the company anyway.

Here’s a brief rundown of Ditto Music’s current fees:

For $19.99 per year, Ditto gives access to unlimited digital distribution through their platform.

For $29 and $299 per year, the company gives labels, publishers, and managers the ability to distribute 40 artist’s worth of music through their platform.

 Pros:

     One of the most affordable and transparent distributors in the industry

     Ditto’s multiple tiers are ideal for artists working in different projects

     Ditto’s mission to empower artists is positive

     Great analytic reports

Cons:

     The drama surrounding this company has earned it a bad reputation in some circles

      Some artists have been outspoken in their disappointment with Ditto Music

 The Rundown:

Price  5/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  3/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  13/20

Who is it recommended for?

Most musicians will love how affordable Ditto Music is, but with how angered some are who’ve used the service, it appears there seems to be some risk involved with distributing through them.

routenote

RouteNote offers “totally free music distribution with no hidden costs”––unless you consider forking over 15% of your streaming and download revenues “totally free,” that is. But if sharing revenues isn’t your speed, you can choose RouteNote’s Premium payment tier, which offers pricing models similar to Tunecore’s initially, with just $10 a year after for renewal purposes. RouteNote send your music to the big music stores you need them to, and even offers artists access to and promotion on Soundcloud, a free streaming platform they’ve partnered with.

The company also has a special YouTube benefit that allows musicians to easily distribute and monetize their work through videos on the platform. RouteNote distributes to a lengthy list of music companies, which include heavy hitters down to lesser-known niche platforms. They also have a modest record label and management wing. Something that sets this company apart is its ties to music companies in Asia, a rapidly growing market that’s being ignored by most distributors.

Downsides of this company include illegible data reports and distribution speeds that can take as long as a month. But with solid customer service and non-controversial reputation, many musicians will dig RouteNote, especially if they use Soundcloud heavily to promote their work.

Here’s a rundown of RouteNote’s fees:

A standard subscription through this platform offers unlimited distribution for a 15% commission.

Their Premium tier allows musicians to collect 100% of their royalties for affordable initial fees such as $10 per single and $30 per album with a $10 yearly renewal fee after.

Pros:

     Multiple payment structures cater to musicians with unique needs.

     Prices are affordable for RouteNote’s Premium tier

     Partnerships with Soundcloud and Asian companies will broaden opportunity and reach for musicians

Cons:

     Steep 15% commission fees for RouteNote’s “free” tier

     Complex and hard-to-read data reports

     Up to a month’s wait for distribution services

The Rundown:

Price  3/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  12/20

Who is it recommended for?

Musicians building their audiences on Soundcloud and in Asia will dig this modestly priced distributor.

record union

Record Union fancies itself a savvy music distribution company capable of helping musicians succeed in the modern music industry. Compared to some of their competitors, Record Union’s speed in distributing to platforms like Spotify, TIDAL, and YouTube clocks in at an impressive 3-7 days. Stacked up against companies that take up to a month, that’s a pretty impressive feat. The company is also passionate about advocating for the health and well-being of musicians, as evidenced by their generous $30,000 donation to mental illness prevention for musicians.

Like comparable distribution companies, Record Union offers multiple tiers of services set at varying fee levels. For $25 a year, you’ll have access to all the perks this company has to offer, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover there’s a much more complex pricing structure at work here, one that gives a piece of your revenue pie to Record Union as well as the companies they distribute to.

While that arrangement won’t work for some artists, others love Record Union’s exclusive opportunities, which include radio and playlists spots and deals on services like mastering and bespoke artwork. 

Here’s a rundown of Record Union’s current fees:

Record Union offers multiple tiers of fees. On the low end of the spectrum, singles cost $7 and albums are $13 per year, but artists give up a minimum of 15% of their royalties, and potentially more to the companies their music is featured on.

At the premium level of Record Union’s services, artists pay $15 for singles and $25 for albums yearly, but only give up 7.5% of their royalties.

Pros:

     Blazing fast digital distribution

     Excellent additional features like playlist pitching and exclusive deals

     Solid reports and analytical features

     Helpful advocates for musicians

Cons:

     Complex fee structure

     Up to 15% royalty sharing and potentially more

     High yearly prices for top tiers of service

The Rundown:

Price  2/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  4/5

Final Score  13/20

Who is it recommended for?

Musicians eager for exclusive deals and spots on heavily followed Spotify playlists will like Record Union, even if they have to give up a decent chunk of their royalties to access their services.

amuse

Along with a few other companies, Amuse is pioneering the digital distribution space by offering musicians completely free music distribution. For absolutely no upfront costs, renewal fees, or royalty-sharing agreements, Amuse will deliver all the music your little heart can create and release to some of the world’s biggest music brands, like Spotify, Deezer, Shazam, and TIDAL. The company hopes to make money by getting close access to the data of its users and signing artists before anyone else has the chance to.

If there’s a sense of hesitancy rising up in your brain while you read this, that’s a sensible reaction. Companies with similar business models have already failed, and it’s not clear what will happen to Amuse’s distributed music if it fails. This means that if you rack up loads of streams and downloads through the platform, the public statistics reflecting your success could evaporate, which could damage your career. This all amounts to a great deal of risk from working with this company.

However, if you’re new to releasing music, want to put out new music under a different musical persona, or are feeling lucky, Amuse’s promise of 100% free music distribution could be worth pursuing. It’s also important to note that this company doesn’t distribute to hundreds of music stores like their competitors. They currently only work with nine, but the stores they work with are the largest in the industry.

Here’s a rundown of Amuse’s fee structure:

Completely free! If you sign a record deal with the company, they’ll work with you to negotiate unique terms moving forward.

Pros:

     Free digital distribution to the industry’s largest music platforms

     Sleek, easy-to-use app interface

     Strong data reports and analytic features

Cons:

     Experimental business model that could fail

     Only 9 platforms served

     No desktop platform, only an app

The Rundown:

Price  5/5

Distribution Features  2/5

Additional Features  2/5

Support & Ease of Use  3/5

Final Score  12/20

Who is it recommended for?

Amuse is a company with free services that best serve unproven but ambitious artists who have an appetite for risk.

Reverbnation

Launched in 2006, ReverbNation aims to be a one-stop-shop for independent musicians. While some of the companies we’re profiling here mainly specialize in music distribution, that’s just one of the many services ReverbNation offers musicians, which range from music promotion to press kit creation to branded websites. Why go with ReverbNation? Because rather than paying ala carte for music services scattered across the web, you can get it all done in one place for $20 a month.

It’s not a sexy deal by any means, but it’s one that will win over lots of musicians who want to manage the administrative side of their careers in one place. But similar to how it’s not possible to bank, get an eye exam, and eat lunch all within one giant Walmart store, some musicians are convinced since ReverbNation has its hands in so many pies, they’re not particularly great at any one thing.

But complaints aside, what ReverbNation does is unique, and plenty of musicians get loads of value and important opportunities from distributing through their platform. Higher tiers of membership give musicians access to distribution through the world’s largest music brands, and perks like show and festival submissions.

Here’s a brief rundown of ReverbNation’s current fees:

ReverbNation offers multiple service tiers of distribution services for as low as $9 an album with a yearly renewal fee. However, the amount of stores you can send music to through this package is significantly limited.

At $20 a month, the Premium membership gives musicians access to two “distribution packages” per year, access to the industry’s best music platforms and many more, and a myriad of other services like a personalized website, show opportunities, and more.

Pros:

     Multiple payment tiers will cater to musicians of all budgets

     No royalty splitting

     Loads of added benefits like show opportunities and great analytics

     All of your music administrative needs in one place

Cons:

     The company’s focus is scattered

     Distribution platform can sometimes be difficult to navigate

     Pricing models work best for Premium subscriber

The Rundown:

Price  3/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  12/20

Who is it recommended for?

ReverbNation’s all-in-one platform is designed for busy musicians who want all of the administrative aspects of their career in one place.

 

awal

AWAL is trying its damndest to be a hip, modern version of a record label. Things like funding, show opportunities, marketing assets, and playlisting services are all perks artists get in addition to digital distribution through AWAL––if they’re deemed worthy, that is. AWAL’s A&R team looks at metrics like social media engagement, number of streams, and the quality of an artist’s work to consider signing them. This means that if your project isn’t experiencing meaningful momentum, applying to AWAL will probably be a waste of time.

But if you happen to be in the upper echelon of artists that’s racking up the plays, views, follows, and likes, AWAL might be worth looking into. AWAL offers physical distribution in some cases, solid analytical reports, and playlist plugging features to keep your momentum buzzing. What does it cost? AWAL typically signs artists on a 15% revenue-sharing deal. The company offers meaningful career help to artists, but at a cost many will consider to be steep and inflexible.

Here’s a brief rundown of AWAL’s current fees:

According to their website, the company offers a standard 15% royalty split deal.

Pros:

     Loads of added benefits similar to what conventional labels offer

     Integrated playlist plugging, radio campaigns, and physical distribution offered with some deals

Cons:

     Only works with artists they sign

     15% royalty split

The Rundown:

Price 2/5

Distribution Features  5/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  4/5

Final Score  15/20

Spinnup

Based in Sweden, Spinnup is a digital distributor that promises painless music distribution services to independent musicians. The company works with all of the industry’s major streaming platforms “and many more.” Spinnup offers a middle-of-the-pack pricing structure in comparison to its rivals, but it does set itself apart a bit in the way it presents its prices and services with transparency, something other distributors struggle with or don’t do intentionally.

For $39.99 per year, full-length albums are distributed through Spinnup to all the large streaming platforms in addition to those you’ve most likely never heard of. In addition to distribution, Spinnup also offers some additional perks that will pique the interest of musicians. A partner of Universal Music, the company claims that they send all the music they distribute to that label’s A&R reps, and they’ve got plenty of artist success stories to prove it. Other benefits include insanely fast 24-hour distribution, solid analytical offerings, and personalized artist profiles that feature lyrics, artwork, and more. Not a bad little distributor, I must say.

Here’s a brief rundown of Spinnup’s current fees:

Singles: $9.99 per year.

EPs: $19.99 per year.

Albums: $39.99 per year.

Pros:

     Fair, transparent pricing with no royalty sharing

     Powerful added benefits like a direct connection to Universal Music

     Great analytic reports and artist profile features

Cons:

     Lesser-known than its competitors

     Yearly fees to deal with

     Doesn’t distribute to as many stores as its rivals

The Rundown:

Price 3/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  5/5

Support & Ease of Use  4/5

Final Score  15/20

symphonic distribution

With a roster of over 50,000 artists, Symphonic brings 13 years of experience to the distribution space. But like other companies embracing experimental business models, Symphonic now offers artists label services, royalty collection offerings, promotional assets, and multiple tiers of service aimed at record labels and publishers, not just independent artists. Something unique the company offers is music video distribution, which sends music videos to multiple platforms for $95.

So, how does Symphonic stack up when it comes to digital distribution? Similar to AWAL, it’s hard to know unless your project is considered promising enough to sign. Currently, AWAL only works with artists who apply and are accepted. But while AWAL is sort of a black box, we do know that all artists cough up 15% of their earnings to the company in order to work with them. This means that if you’re a superstar making $1 million a year, $150,000 of your earnings get recouped by Symphonic.

What might make Symphonic a bad bet for promising musicians is that splitting royalties at a rate that high doesn’t make sense if you’re already successful enough to be accepted through the platform. In other words, if you’re already bringing in lots of attention, why split your earnings with a company who doesn’t offer much more than the other guys?

Here’s a brief rundown of Symphonic’s current fees:

15% royalty split for digital distribution.

Pros:

     Career-enhancing benefits like music monetization, marketing services, and more

     50,000 artists are currently on their roster, and they have a good reputation

Cons:

     Only artists who get accepted through the application process can work with Symphonic

     Mandatory 15% royalty splitting agreement for digital distribution

The Rundown:

Price 2/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  3/5

Support & Ease of Use  3/5

Final Score  11/20

songcast

Compared to the website of other digital distributors, Songcast’s website looks markedly less professional and serious. It also doesn’t help that if you Google “Songcast company,” the first sites to come up are review-based, giving the impression that the company has wronged some of its users over the years since forming in 2006. Many reviews appear to be fake, and begrudged users who give the company 1-star ratings even talk about being offered $120 to take their bad review down.

Instead of trying to win over users with bonus features, Songcast offers seemingly inexpensive distribution services that start as little as $19.99 for an album with a monthly fee added. How much is that fee? For the first month, the fee is $1.99, and Songcast’s website doesn’t specify how much it is after, making this already suspect digital distributor even more suspect. The company doesn’t take royalties though, so that’s a bit of a bright spot to be found here. But between a lack of transparency in pricing, negative reviews, an archaic website, and no added benefits, Songcast ranks as one of the lowest distributors you could trust your music with.

Here’s a brief rundown of Songcast’s current fees:

Albums: $19.99 with unknown setup and monthly fees starting at $1.99 per month.

Singles: $9.99 with unknown setup and monthly fees starting at $1.99 per month.

Pros:

     Distributes to major streaming platforms

     Keep 100% of your royalties

Cons:

     Negative reputation

     Unknown fees

     No added benefits

The Rundown:

Price 2/5

Distribution Features  2/5

Additional Features  1/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  7/20

onerpm

Based in Nashville, ONErmp was founded in 2010 and offers distribution, direct-to-fan sales, and the promise to enhance music careers through technology like easy-to-understand analytical reports and video distribution. If you make Latin music, word on the street is that there’s no better company to distribute with, especially if Brazil is home to many of your fans.

ONErpm is another one of those companies that offers “free” digital distribution for the low low price of a 15% royalty split, meaning that it’s not free at all, of course. But annoyances aside, ONErpm’s video integration expertise, marketing assets, and social media promotional offerings make it a company worth looking into. ONErpm employees their own playlist pitchers and the company also curates some heavily followed playlists, giving artists a leg up to get the most mileage out of their new releases.

However, the company has shifted its strategy to trying to reach independent artists to largely catering to labels, managers, and video makers in recent years, which has left some musicians feeling left out in the cold.

Here’s a brief rundown of ONErpm’s current fees:

A flat 15% royalty sharing agreement for unlimited digital distribution.

Pros:

     The best distributor for Latin music, especially in Brazil

     Powerful added benefits like playlist pitching, advertisements, and more

     Great data and analytics

     No yearly or monthly fees to contend with

Cons

     15% royalty fee

     Now more geared less towards indie artists

The Rundown:

Price 2/5

Distribution Features  4/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  12/20

Songtradr

Digital distribution is just one part of Songtradr’s music platform, which largely centers around giving musicians access licensing opportunities. Formed in 2014, this company represents over 400,000 artists and provides yet another new and unproven business model than those of conventional distributors. For $19 per year, you’ll get unlimited music distribution and loads of benefits like access to licensing opportunities and detailed analytic reports. There’s even a completely free tier that, you guessed it, isn’t completely free because it doesn’t include distribution necessities like UPC codes.

For many artists eager to open up as many streams of revenue as they can, Songtradr’s licensing platform will be a massive sell. Essentially, this company is trying to put your manager or synch agent out of a job my automating the licensing industry and nabbing 20% of the money you make through placements in the process. Is it a good deal? $50 a year for unlimited distribution certainly is, but 20% is an awful lot of money to part with simply for licensing music through a platform. Inevitably, whether you think Songtradr is worth it or not depends on the unique factors surrounding your career. 400,000 musicians can be wrong, but that’s an impressive showing.

Here’s a brief rundown of Songtradr’s fees:

Distribution packages start at no cost, but with no benefits and extremely limited distribution.

$19 and $49 yearly packages deliver unlimited distribution, licensing opportunities, and more benefits for Pro subscribers.

Pros:

     Even without the licensing aspect, Songtradr’s fees are great

     400,000 users strong

     Direct access to licensing opportunities

     Strong analytic reports

Cons:

     Focused more on licensing than distribution

     Steep fees for licensing placements

     Negative reputation in some groups of artists

The Rundown:

Price 4/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  13/20

Horus music

Established way back in 2006, Horus Music has loads of distribution experience under its belt, but for the uninitiated it might not  look like its size and influence is anywhere near that of its rivals that were launched around the same time. But look into this company, and you’ll soon see that they’re an international player with offices in the UK and India, and an international reach.

This company distributes to over 200 stores in more than 100 countries, serving behemoth streaming platforms and small fish alike. Horus Music offers unlimited digital distribution for either a royalty split or a yearly fee, which is great for artists with different needs. They also deliver unique packages with special marketing, charting, and mixing/mastering assets to further sweeten the deal. Horus Music even offers physical distribution to Amazon, a unique asset that many musicians will be won over by. For $24.99 a year, Horus Music gives artists unlimited digital distribution, playlist pitching services, and access to Asian markets, a unique asset that’s becoming more and more important.

Here’s a brief rundown of Horus Music’s current fees:

Either $24.99 yearly or no upfront costs with 20% commission for unlimited distribution.

Pros:

     Multiple and affordable pricing options

     Loads of great added benefits like playlist pitching

     Access to Asian markets

Cons:

     Not easy to take music down

     Submission-based (Not all music makes it through their quality control)

The Rundown:

Price 4/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  13/20

octiive

Named after the famous musical interval, Octiive delivers music to an astounding 600 digital platforms. Who knew there were even that many music platforms out there? All the big, expected players are distributed to here, and the company offers other services for musicians like promotion, mastering, and video distribution. For $27.99 a year, you’ll get unlimited distribution, but those extra services will cost you extra. Artists keep 100% of their royalties through that plan, but give up 8% through the “Pay As You Go” tier, which is $17.99 per album. This pricing model is clearly trying to loop artists into their yearly package, as well as their other services.

Formerly known as MondoTunes, some musicians take issue with different parts of this company, such as their habit of distributing to many stores with hardly any followings. But Octiive’s reach is massive and global, and will be a decent well-rounded option for musicians trying to get their work out to as many markets as possible.

Here’s a brief rundown of Octiive’s current fees:

$27.99 per year for unlimited distribution.

$7.99 per single and $17.99 per album with 8% royalty split.

Pros:

     600 stores served globally

     Multiple and affordable pricing tiers

Cons:

     Slow distribution times (3-4 weeks)

     Mixed bag as far as reviews and reputation goes 

     All extra features cost more

The Rundown:

Price 4/5

Distribution Features  3/5

Additional Features  1/5

Support & Ease of Use  3/5

Final Score  11/20

Soundrop

Similar to other companies profiled in this guide, Google “Soundrop Company,” and you’re likely to encounter a startling amount of negative reviews posted by independent musicians. Multiple reviews accuse the company of stealing, and one even urges other musicians to join in on a class-action lawsuit. So, we’re not off to a good start with this one! But let’s press on and talk about what Soundrop has to offer. This company sets itself apart by pitching cover song distribution and services that pay collaborators automatically.

Cover songs are clearly having a moment in pop culture, and Soundrop aims to clear up the confusion about how artists can get paid for the covers they record and distribute. Only Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, and Deezer, are distributed to, but the company has a special partnership with YouTube Music as well. How much does it cost? You’ll have to Google that information, because the company doesn’t post their fees in a transparent way, and it’s tucked away deep into their website. “In most cases” cover songs cost $9.99 per track, and then artists give up 15% of any revenues the songs generate. This, the website points out, is after platforms like iTunes take their share of the money earned as well. Asking artists to trust a service that’s built on an ambiguous is clearly contributing to Soundrop’s bad reputation.

Here’s a brief rundown of Soundrop’s current fees:

$9.99 per cover song “in most cases” and a 15% royalty split.

Pros:

     Specializes in cover songs and splitting payments

Cons:

     Bad reputation, many angry customers

     Ambiguous pricing structure

     Dismissive customer service

     Only distributes to a small amount of stores

     15% royalty split

The Rundown:

Price 2/5

Distribution Features  2/5

Additional Features  3/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  9/20

freshtunes

Freshtunes is another new and unproven distributor ushering in promises of completely free services. This Dubai-based company lets you distribute music for free and keep 100% of your revenues. However, similar to Amuse, it’s not clear what will happen to your music if this company folds or changes its business model, and some artists are already expressing suspicion and anger with the platform.

But with free distribution and services that aim to get music sent the industry’s largest platforms within 24 hours, many musicians will see Freshtunes as a risk worth taking. Something unique the company offers is expert advice from music experts. For $25 per song, experts will take a listen and give you detailed feedback. The company also distributes to China, but musicians will have to pay extra for access to that market. All in all, some interesting assets here, but Freshtunes will need to do a lot more to earn trust from musicians and set themselves apart in a meaningful way.

Here’s a rundown of Freshtunes’ current fees:

Free unlimited distribution to 15 digital outlets with no royalty splitting.

Distribution to Chinese markets for an extra unspecified fee.

Pros:

     Free, unlimited distribution

     Access to Chinese markets

     Expert advice through the platform 

Cons:

     Bad reputation

     New, risky business model

     Only 15 stores served

The Rundown:

Price 5/5

Distribution Features  2/5

Additional Features  2/5

Support & Ease of Use  2/5

Final Score  11/20

emubands

Emubands brings 15 years of experience to the distribution space and offers artists non-exclusive distribution for one-time fees without royalty-sharing agreements. Compared to companies like Tunecore that demand yearly renewal fees, Emubands’ convenient one-time fee structure and years of experience make it a company to be reckoned with. With a one-time fee of $84.95 for an album, prices for this company initially look expensive until you do the math. Royalty sharing pricing models can cost artists thousands over time if their music performs well, and yearly renewal fees quickly add up over time. This means that prices look high for this company initially, but are actually a more than fair deal.

In addition to distribution, Emubands offers some extra perks like instant verification Spotify’s artist platform (that’s not much of a perk though, let’s be honest), chart registration, preorders, mastering, and digital booklet creation. These are decent benefits, but it’s clear this company’s main gig is distribution, which is enough to win over many serious artists.

Here’s a brief rundown of Emubands’ current fees:

All packages are one-time fees:

Single: $42.50

EP: $59.95

Album: $84.95

Pros:

     One-time fees

     Main focus is distribution

     15 years of experience

Cons:

     High upfront costs

     Underwhelming extra benefits

The Rundown:

Price 4/5

Distribution Features  4/5

Additional Features  2/5

Support & Ease of Use  3/5

Final Score  13/20

Level-Music

Launched by Warner Music Group in 2018, Level Music’s sleek offerings and unproven track record will scare off some musicians, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. Like some of its rivals, Level Music offers both free and paid tiers of service, and it’s clear the free tier’s extremely limited 2-track maximum is designed to get artists in the door and interested in the $20 per year package one. But I have to say, this company’s Premium package is worth looking into for one very important reason.

Level Music lets you keep 100% of your earnings and transfer your existing catalog over to their platform. Many artists stick with less-than-ideal distributors because they want to preserve their public streaming counts. For just $20 a year, this company lets you bring your old music over, as long as it’s under 200 tracks. Level Music also offers benefits like editorial consideration, fast distribution, and unique landing pages for each of your songs. If Level Music can deliver everything it says it can, it’s bound to become a major disrupter in the industry in the coming years.

Here’s a brief rundown of Level Music’s current fees:

Distribute 1-2 songs for free.

$20 per year for 200 songs distributed and loads of benefits.

Pros:

     Affordable music distribution

     Great added benefits

     Catalog transfer services

     No royalty splitting

Cons

     No track record

     200-track limit

     Yearly fee

The Rundown:

Price 4/5

Distribution Features  4/5

Additional Features  4/5

Support & Ease of Use  3/5

Final Score  15/20

Q&A : Frequently Asked Questions about Music Distribution and Distributors

Free or Paid?

Free is an exciting offer whether it comes to pizza or music distribution. However, just because something is free doesn’t make it reliable or worth trusting.

New business models for digital distribution are coming out every day it seems, and inevitably, some are bound to succeed while others will fail. When deciding what company to work with, it’s crucial for you to think about the distributor’s health and sustainability, and what would happen to your music if the company folded.

Remember MySpace? During a server migration, the company accidentally deleted 12 years of music. And yes, that was a social media platform, but it’s an example of what happens when companies we trust fail. Free music distribution should be scrutinized because there’s value and importance in sharing music, so if a company sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Distributors vs Aggregators: Does it make a difference?

Yes and no.

All of the companies profiled in this guide take music and distribute it. What sets companies apart are things like their industry connections, fees, stores served, and added benefits.

Some companies only specialize in distribution, while others (aggregators) aim to offer distribution alongside a host of other services. Who you decide to work with ultimately depends on your unique goals and experiences as an artist. Some musicians and labels rest easy knowing their work is being represented by a bona fide distributor, while others opt for the convenience and benefits of working with a company that provides lots of services.

But if you want to know the truth, none of the companies profiled here claim to only distribute music. Each and every one flaunts different added benefits and selling points. We recommend doing the research and finding what truly works best for you.

How quickly will my music show up on platforms after working with digital distributors?

The time between uploading music with a distributor and seeing your music appear on digital music platforms varies greatly from company to company.

Some distributors take up to a month to get music sent out, approved, and posted, while others offer added services that achieve this in just 48 hours. As a rule of thumb, the more time you can give yourself as a musician to get music sent out and promoted, the better.

We’re not anywhere near the stage of being able to finish a song and get it distributed to major platforms instantaneously, and that’s because human beings are usually needed to listen and vet the material distributing it. Today, most artists can be on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon, but that doesn’t mean everyone. If your music happens to overly offensive or not listenable, there’s a chance it won’t make it through the distribution process. This shouldn’t worry you if you’re in the 99th percentile of artists that can easily get work posted on major platforms, but the whole process still takes time.

By giving yourself lots of time, you’ll be able to let the distributors do their jobs, and will leave plenty of opportunities to promote your music before it’s officially released.

digital music platforms

Do I need a label to distribute my music?

No, but working with a label still brings massive benefits to artists working in an unprecedented time of saturation in the music industry.

A few of the companies we profiled here offer physical distribution packages, and that’s something a label can certainly help with. But even more important than that is a label’s connections and methods for getting their artists featured on radio stations and editorially curated playlists. Built-in promotion mechanisms are sometimes offered to artists through conventional distributors, but their reach and effectiveness pales in comparison to those of well-funded record labels. You don’t need a record label, but going it alone through distributor will make far less of an impact than being signed would.

However, we should mention that plenty of artists are making great work and finding success through these distributors. And what’s even more exciting is that by pairing up with companies who don’t require royalty sharing, artists can now bring in money from digital streams and downloads without giving up their hard-earned money. That’s a completely new thing happening in the industry, and it’s a huge plus for independent artists.

What if I need to change details about my songs after their already distributed?

Every company approaches this topic with a different method, but in most cases, the best and only option is to take down songs completely and re-distribute them with the correct details.

Distributors and music platforms have smooth methods for getting music from an artist out to audiences, and that’s about it. Adding in changes after something’s been posted like album and song titles or featured artists is a major headache for both music platforms and distribution companies. This means that before you release music, you need to be absolutely sure the details surrounding your work are accurate.

Taking down music and re-distributing it is a nightmare because you’ll not only most likely have to pay money to get it done, but will also lose out on public streaming and download information and will have to start all over again. Do what you can to get the information you submit correct the first time, because, in most cases, distributors have no real obligation to help you fix your mistakes.

What happens if I don’t pay my monthly or yearly renewal fees?

If you lapse on paying your fees, your music, and all the public streaming and download information attached to it, will be taken down.

Recurring fees might be annoying to deal with, but when you work with companies that require them and you accept their terms of service, it’s unavoidable. Some companies are beginning to explore services that let artists transfer their music and public statistical information for a fee, but catalog transfers are new and unproven, so proceed with caution and pay your fees if you want to keep your music available online.

If pesky recurring fees aren’t your thing, then you should look into distributors who only require one-time fees like Emubands.

spotify release

Can I transfer my releases from one distributor to another?

Yes, but in almost every case, you’ll lose your public streaming and download counts.

Distributors with yearly renewal fees want it this way to keep their customers paying year after year. Why this is important is because streaming data is essentially the new music chart in the industry. A fan clicking on a new artist’s profile will be more inclined to listen if the data shows that other people are fans. This all puts musicians in a limited, rough position.

However, this is bound to change because of companies like Level Music. Level Music offers a “Catalog Transfer” benefit that preserves an artist’s streaming data. If this Warner Music Group-backed company succeeds, it will change the entire industry and most likely make distribution more affordable in the process.

Can I use different digital distributors for different releases?

Yes, nothing is keeping you from doing that. However, there are complications to consider such as payments, streaming data numbers, and duplicate tracks.

Companies like ReverbNation are trying to make running a music business easier for musicians by grouping multiple services in one place. Posting different music through multiple distributors will cause problems that you can predict and ones you can’t conceive of ahead of time.

However, if you’re not happy with a distributor, don’t keep patronizing them. There are many great companies in this space who are trustworthy and eager to earn your business. You might lose data making the switch, but it’s not worth it to trust your music with a company you don’t like.

Can I use more than one digital distributor for a release?

In theory, yes, but this will lead to complications like duplicate tracks.

An instance where this might be a good thing is by working with a specific company that has reach into a market that most don’t, but even then it could be a bad idea because this is an industry that’s constantly evolving and changing.

To get the best idea of whether this is a good or bad idea for you, we recommend reaching out the customer service agents of the companies you’re interested in working with. Every company is different, so there’s no way to know without asking. But don’t be surprised if someone says it’s a good idea, and doing so ends up in a complicated, frustrating disaster.

How much can I expect to earn from music streaming websites?

Every pricing and payment model is different when it comes to distributors. The biggest thing to consider here is whether a company runs on a royalty-sharing model or not.

For example, if you pull in $1,000 a month from streaming revenues, a 15% royalty sharing agreement means you’ll have to give away $150 of that money. Other companies operate on monthly, yearly, or one-time fees and let you keep all your revenues. But past a distributor’s pricing model, the thing to pay attention to here is what digital platforms pay musicians, and unfortunately, that’s a whole other complex mess. As of the fall of 2019, Spotify pays out an average of .0044 cents per stream. This means you’d need to rack up 366,000 streams each month to earn what’s considered to be the minimum wage in the US ($1,472). YouTube by far pays the lowest at .0007 cents, and Napster pays the highest at .0190 cents.

It should be noted that these numbers are constantly changing, but regardless, to make a living in today’s music industry, you’ll need to generate an astounding amount of attention and momentum. If you work with publishers, labels, or managers, you’ll need to split your profits in the same way you would through a distributor’s royalty-sharing agreement.

how much earn music streaming

How and when do I get paid with a distributor?

Payment details completely depend on the distributor. Some pay monthly, but others only pay artists once or twice a year.

A common complaint from artists is when a distributor won’t pay out until the artist has reached a certain dollar amount, so that’s something to know before you commit to a company. Third-party payment services like PayPal are almost always used to facilitate payments, though some offer direct deposit payments. Because physical checks are seen as risky and costly, virtually all distributors now pay artists online.

Conclusion

On the surface, it might look like the main function of all distributors is the same, but there are unique strengths, weaknesses, and benefits to each. Independent music is more popular than it’s ever been, and these companies are rising to the challenge of meeting the diverse and evolving needs of artists.

This means that if you’re releasing music for the first time or have been curious to check out another distributor after years of working with one, researching distributors and thinking about your needs, goals, and budget is a good idea. If you’ve read this guide, you already know that there are great, reputable companies out there that are worth looking into, and others that aren’t.

Sadly, many artists simply don’t know their options, and end up getting into bad, frustrating, or costly distribution experiences. By being informed and taking an active role in this part of your career, you’ll be able to make a choice that benefits your music and wallet the most.