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Thanks to a free and open market, the music industry has a lot of music distributors to choose from. And thanks to a free and open market, this is freaking annoying. There are so many digital distribution outlets — and they each offer slightly different things.
So how do you choose?
Good question. Here are four of the best I’ve come across out there, and I’ll show you why these stand out from the rest.
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CD Baby is the oldest sibling of this group. They were the first non-label to offer music distribution to everyone.
Plus, they have a bunch of extra offerings, like publishing admin services, sync licensing opportunities, automatic song registration with “dozens of agencies worldwide,” and YouTube Content ID monetization. They’ve also got a great partnership with our friends at Bandzoogle for web hosting specifically catered to musicians.
Distributing an album costs $29 while distributing a Pro album (which comes with extra features) costs $69. You also have to pay $20 for UPC, which you need in order to release music. And then they’ll take 9% commission on your streaming royalties.
So the total cost can add up for sure, but keep in mind you’re getting extra services for that cost, including legendary customer service. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for distribution and royalty collection, CD Baby is a solid choice.
Although it’s much younger than CD Baby, DistroKid is a rising talent in this game. In fact, the founder of CD Baby, Derek Sivers, praised DistroKid. “This is amazing,” he said. “I’ll be sending everyone I know to DistroKid now.”
They offer quick, easy, and affordable distribution. They charge one annual fee of $19.99 for an unlimited number of releases. And you keep 100% of your royalties. As for additional services, they obtain cover song licenses for you, and they collect payments when someone uses your song in a YouTube video.
But one of the most convenient features is called “Leave a Legacy.” You can pay a one-time payment of $30 per release to guarantee it stays on streaming platforms forever. They say that “even if you die,” that release will stay on the platform. If you’re an indie musician on a small budget, DistroKid is a good option.
On the topic of cover songs, if you’ll be releasing lots of them, Soundrop is the distributor for you. Although even if you’re not, this is still a good choice.
Soundrop obtains cover song licenses for you ($9.99 per song), they offer payment splitting for collaborators, and they do not charge any distribution fee. They do take 15% commission on royalties, which is one of the highest in the business. But if you have little to no budget and want an easy way to release covers or originals, Soundrop is worth a shot.
Amuse is unique in that they have no distribution fees and they don’t take any commission. There’s no catch either. How can they do this?
Technically, they’re a record label, although if you release music through them, they don’t own your songs at all.
Here’s how it works: They offer distribution to everyone, then use their analytics to see what artists are getting a lot of streams. Then they offer select artists a 50/50 record deal. By making money off their signed artists, they’re able to offer free music distribution to anyone and give you 100% of your streaming royalties.
So if you have no budget, Amuse is one of the best options. Plus, you could end up getting a sweet 50/50 deal.
Every artist is different, and your needs are unique to you. So choosing a music distributor that works for you is all about finding one that offers what you need specifically. Good luck!
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