The best music distribution Services: DIY guide 2022

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Best music distribution Services: DIY guide

Introduction

Independent artists have never had more options for getting their music out there. Record labels are no longer the only option, and with the rise of digital streaming services like Apple Music, independent artists can now reach a global audience just like an established artist without ever leaving their bedroom. This article provides a DIY guide to music distribution, outlining the various services available and explaining the pros and cons of each.

What is music distribution?

Put simply, music distribution is the means by which artists deliver their music to consumers. Historically, musicians would amass a fanbase locally before signing with a record label who would distribute their work globally. An independent musician could book shows in London on Monday and New York on Tuesday without worrying about how they were going to get there!

In the streaming age musicians need to have a presence on multiple services. The number of outlets for distribution has exploded in recent years. These digital distributors led to over 165 million albums being released in the past year (2021). Nowadays it’s not uncommon for artists to be signed by digital aggregators like TuneCore, Distrokid or CD Baby who will distribute their work across dozens (or even hundreds) of streaming and download sites.

Artists can also distribute their own work via a music aggregator or directly from their website, leading to greater flexibility in how they get paid.

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Why distribute your music?

As far as the music industry is concerned, digital distribution offers greater exposure than traditional forms of promotion. It’s much easier to convince an A&R rep that you’re worth signing when they can hear your music on multiple platforms and see just how many plays you get in a week. Streaming services are also increasingly incorporating their own radio features into their apps, meaning that users can listen to playlists curated by experts and friends alike.

Not having your music available doesn’t only affect the number of plays you get; it also affects what consumers think about your work! The majority of people won’t even consider buying an album if they can’t stream it first, which is why CDs now come bundled with digital download codes.

These changes in the music industry have even prompted some artists to go independent, releasing their work direct-to-fan using services like BandCamp.

Bear in mind, however, that with all these new options comes additional complexity. Creating an account on every single streaming site is a real pain, especially when they all set different rates for each country. And even though more distribution options might lead to greater exposure, there is always the threat that your music will be lost in the shuffle.

The main options for music distribution

There are three main channels for digital distribution:

– music aggregators

– direct from a musician’s website

– through an artist’s own webstore or “merchandising platform”

Music aggregators

If you’re not already signed to a record label, music aggregators are your best bet. These are digital distribution companies who cover pretty much every major music service in one fell swoop. Some of the more popular ones include TuneCore, CD Baby, Distrokid and Ditto Music – but there are many more.

When you sign up to one of these music aggregators, your songs are delivered by the company directly to music services without any additional storage or delivery costs on your part. You can pick what price you set for each country, though the majority of countries are charged at around $10 per album/single uploaded. The aggregators also cover a wide variety of content types – from singles to EPs, albums and even cover songs.

In most cases there’s no need to sign up as a “publisher” or separate entity with each site you upload your music to. Your aggregator will register you as the owner for all of these sites automatically. One exception to this rule is Tunecore, who will also charge you an annual fee to cover publishing administration.

music distribution Services

Music aggregators distribute your music to a wide array of download and streaming sites through what’s called a “digital service agreement” (DSA), but there are some key differences between the services:

– Some cover all major music retailers – including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play – while others cover a smaller selection.

– Each aggregator will cover different territories: some cover most countries at once, while others just offer the US or UK markets. Make sure you check before signing up to be safe!

– A few of them offer only music downloads (such as CD Baby), but most cover streaming only.

– Most cover a wide range of territories – from Europe to South America and beyond – but others cover just the US or UK. Check before signing up!

In addition, most music aggregators also distribute your songs to a few additional websites outside of the usual retailers:

– What’s called a “radio service” – basically, a site where you can get airplay for your music. The most popular of these is Spotify’s “Artist Pages” – which lets you upload your music to be played on shuffle in their curated playlists

– A few cover music videos (such as Distrokid), but this is still very rare

Music aggregators tend to cover around 100 music retailers, but this number varies dramatically depending on the service. For example, Cover My Song covers just over 50 sites while Loudr distributes your cover song releases to over 100.

Direct from a musician’s website

The other option is to upload your music from your own website. This route is becoming more and more popular among indie musicians, especially cover artists – as it allows them to keep control of their work. Many people feel a lot safer releasing cover songs direct-to-fan this way, because you can cover so much more ground than with an aggregator.

The main advantage of uploading direct is that cover artists have much more control over how their cover songs are sold. They can tweak the price of their cover song downloads, adjust territories and release music videos – all without having to go through a third party.

Another advantage of uploading directly is that you get 24/7 access to your sales data. This can be very important when it comes to cover songs, because cover artists want to know which cover version of a song is doing best! You can also change prices whenever you like through your own website.

If you want to get your music on iTunes or Amazon, it’s still best to cover this through an aggregator – as the process is much simpler. They cover all the legal bases that you would usually cover yourself, but one big advantage of using them is that they offer much better support for video streaming sites like YouTube and Vevo.

The drawback to uploading music direct from your site is that there are fewer distribution options, and there are no cover song services at all. It’s not usually possible to cover most music retailers, cover songs or music videos with your own website – even if you pay for them directly.

While it might seem like the best of both worlds, uploading direct is only really an option for digital cover artists who want complete control over their releases.

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Can you distribute your music yourself?

Many musicians wonder whether they can distribute their music themselves instead of going through a service. Of course, this is certainly possible – you can – but the question is whether it’s worth the time and effort?

For a DIY distribution, you’ll need to go through each retailer’s application process individually. For most music distributors, you’ll need to set up an account and provide some ID before they can distribute your songs. You’ll also need to cover all of the legal bases yourself: this may be a bit daunting if you’re not used to business!

You also lose out on most of their customer service – which is one of the biggest benefits of using a music aggregator. It’s also not usually possible to distribute your songs directly to most streaming sites through your own site, meaning that you’d have to upload them separately anyway.

How to choose a music distribution service?

If cover songs and music videos are important to you, look for a service that covers them. If you’re hoping to cover global music retailers, don’t just focus on cover sites – include the countries in your search and look at their store coverage too.

If music videos are important to you, check to see if the site offers music video hosting. If music retailers are important, check their store coverage.

Also look at the number of territories that each music aggregator covers. Make sure you know what these are before signing up!

Free distribution

Most music aggregator services are not free, but there are a few out there. If you’re planning to release music as an indie artist and don’t make music full-time (or at all), it might be worth trying one of the less expensive options – such as Loudr or amuse.

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Online stores serviced

Music aggregators are basically just middlemen – for a fee, they list your music on online stores. If you already have an existing distribution set up (i.e. you’ve got 100 releases with Distrokid) then it’s usually possible to transfer this over to another distributor (for free or for a small fee).

If you’re planning to release more than one album through an aggregator, it might be worth signing up for a subscription service like Distrokid. They offer better rates and (for some services) the ability to list music videos and cover songs. However, there are still lots of great distributors that don’t work on subscriptions – so you do have other options.

The biggest online music retailers are iTunes, Amazon music, Google Play and 7Digital. These are usually the most useful services for musicians, because they have the best coverage. They are also usually considered to have the highest sound quality.

Streaming services

The most popular music streaming services are Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music. They are mostly important when it comes to promoting your music and getting plays and followers, so they are probably best considered after you’ve already got your music on iTunes and Amazon. Streaming royalties are often much lower than download royalties, so streaming income is usually not a replacement for selling music in most artists’ cases.

Extra services

Does the music aggregator provide extra services? If so, what are they and do you think you’ll use them? For example, if you’re hoping to get on TV or film soundtracks then Loudr is a good choice because it distributes to CueSongs – which has close ties with many soundtrack supervisors.

If you expect to get a lot of airplay, you should look for a distributor that distributes to radio stations and music supervisors.

If you’re planning on releasing lots of cover songs or karaoke versions then Distrokid is probably the best choice – it’s the only service that offers unlimited releases with unlimited variations.

Digital music distributors

The list below is not exhaustive, but it includes most of the major digital distribution services for both established and for artists just starting or relatively early into their music career. There are many other aggregators and distributors out there – so make sure you do your research! Each service from this list is suitable for independent musicians and indie artists – however, some are more indie-friendly than others.

Choose a streaming service that has the features you need and cover all your target markets.

Streaming services often have limited international support – so consider this when choosing one. Some services charge an annual fee for distribution, which gives you access to more features and options. Services that charge an annual fee often have better royalty rates and more support for artists.

TL:DR If you’re releasing music to streaming platforms only, Distrokid is probably the best choice. It’s cheapest if you release three songs or more. And its who I use. If you’re like me and you release music every week then you will find Distrokid the cheapest music distribution company. I use them because they are fast to get songs live online, inexpensive, and have a lot of great extras.

Tunecore

TL:DR TuneCore is fantastic for artists that want to keep 100% of their royalties and negotiate their own deals

Founded: 2006

Reputation: Good

The main thing to know about TuneCore is that it’s the service responsible for getting Taylor Swift removed from Spotify (for which she took a lot of flak). This happened back in 2014, and since then TuneCore have been pretty quiet about their streaming relationships.

Pricing tiers

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  • Unlimited Releases to Social Platforms
  • Every release includes YouTube Content ID
  • All tracks are added to the music library of each social app
  • Make money from your music and keep 80%
  • Get fan feedback before adding to digital stores

Supported online stores :

Apple Music, Amazon music, Spotify, Deezer, Youtube music, Instagram, TikTok and 150+ more

Additional fees for removing from store: NO

Unique feature: Fan Feedback (before distributing)

Distrokid

TL:DR Distrokid is suitable for artists that want to keep 100% of their song royalties but without managing the distribution themselves.

Founded: 2011

Reputation: Good

Distrokid is a popular service with great control over how your music appears in online stores. They reply quickly to communication and offer easy configuration for album artwork and song previews. More importantly, they allow you to get your music into more streaming services than any other distributor (including Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon music).

Pricing tiers

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  • Automatic splits
  • Instant music video generators
  • Spotify pre-save pages – great to notify your fan base of new release
  • Cover song clearance
  • Big playlists for DistroKid artists
  • Synchronized lyrics on Instagram
  • TikTok and Twitch support

Supported online stores:

Apple Music, Amazon music, Spotify, Deezer, Youtube music, iTunes (countries & territories) and 150+ more

Additional fees for removing from store: NO

Unique feature: Video Generator

I use Distrokid myself. If you would like a 7% discount and support this blog, you can use the following link: Distrokid

Amuse

TL:DR Amuse is suitable for artists that want low costs, simplicity and transparency.

Founded: 2013

Reputation: Good

Amuse is a relatively new service with a focus on distribution to stores and streaming services. They offer transparency and service in their artist accounts and do not require exclusivity for any of your releases. You can also get your music onto iTunes without paying an Apple Music subscription.

Pricing tiers

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Flat-rate service with no extra fees or contracts

Distribution to 150+ streaming services worldwide

Keep 100% of earnings from all Amuse Services for Life!

Digital Store Distribution – Distribute Unlimited Releases Worldwide to Stores Including: iTunes, Amazon MP3, Spotify, and More!

Tool to sync lyrics and music on Instagram

Supported online stores:

Apple Music, Beatport Pro (upload & release), Deezer Elite (upload & release), Google Play, iTunes (countries & territories) and 150+ more

Additional fees for removing from store: NO

Unique feature: Flat-rate service

Ditto Music

TL:DR Ditto Music is suitable for DIY artists that want a simple solution.

Founded: 2008

Reputation: Good

Ditto Music offer a simple service that is great for independent artists. They are used to dealing with unsigned artists and provide clear communication to their customers. You can upload your songs straight from your DAW or through the web browser. If you want to be quick and simple, Ditto Music is a good option.

Pricing tiers

Screenshot 2022 02 15 at 18.45.57

Distribution to 150+ online stores worldwide.

Tool to sync lyrics and music on Instagram

Supported online stores:

Apple Music, Amazon music, Spotify, Deezer, Youtube music and 150+ more

Additional fees for removing from store: NO

Unique feature: Dual release date – have a single out earlier on Ditto Music before being released everywhere else

Landr

TL:DR Landr is suitable for DIY artists that produce their own music and want a quick and simple solution.

Founded: 2012

Reputation: Good

Landr provides an automated mastering service that aims to deliver professional sounding masters to your tracks. It’s great for DIY artists that produce their own music but don’t want the hassle of mastering it themselves. They offer free mastering for one track and a discounted yearly subscription.

Pricing tiers

Screenshot 2022 02 15 at 18.47.15

Supported online stores:

Apple Music, Amazon music, iTunes (countries & territories) and 30+ more

Additional fees for removing from store: NO

Unique feature: Landr offers a free mastering for one track per customer. Also, yearly subscription is discounted.

Reverbnation

TL:DR Reverbnation is suitable for DIY artists that want a one-stop shop solution.

Reverbnation is an older platform and has found a niche in the industry. They’ve been doing things their own way since 2008 and still offer a useful DIY service for unsigned artists. Reverbnation offers tools to create visuals, schedule gigs and release music.

Pricing tiers

Screenshot 2022 02 15 at 18.47.54

Supported online stores:

Supports all major platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Deezer & more!

Unique feature: Reverbnation has tools to create visuals, schedule gigs and release music.

CD Baby

TL:DR CD Baby is suitable for DIY artists that want to sell CDs, vinyl and merch.

Founded: 1998

Reputation: Good

CD Baby has been around since 1998 and is still going strong. They offer a variety of services whether you’re looking to sell physical copies or digital copies of your music through stores like iTunes. They also offer merchandising tools so you can sell physical CDs, vinyl and merch through your own website.

Pricing tiers

Screenshot 2022 02 15 at 18.48.42

Supported online stores: Distribution to all major stores worldwide and major streaming services including Spotify & Apple Music.

Unique feature: They offer merchandising tools so you can sell physical CDs, vinyl and merchandise through your own website.

Record Union

TL:DR: Super fast service that is simple and affordable distribution service

Reputation: Good

Record Union is another good music distribution service that was founded in Sweden. They offer a simple and affordable distribution service to artists, with no hidden costs or fees. They work with all the major online stores and streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify and iTunes.

Pricing tiers

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Supported stores onlines: Distribution to all major streaming services worldwide, including Spotify & Apple Music.

Unique feature: Smart links from linkfire. Give fans easy access to your music.

Free distribution services

There are a number of free music distribution services available, which offer a range of features and options. Some of the most popular services are described below.

Social media

Many artists distribute their music for free through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This is a great way to get your music out there, but it has some limitations – you don’t have control over where your music is streamed, and you can’t earn any royalties from plays.

Conclusion

When it comes to music distribution, there are a lot of choices out there. It can be tricky to decide which service is right for you, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

– Price – Find out how much each provider charges for their services. Some are free, while others charge per track or album. What’s more, some providers offer monthly subscriptions whereas others only offer a yearly fee one-time payment.

– Whether you’re looking for free or paid distribution, make sure the service offers worldwide distribution to all major streaming services.

– Make sure the service is easy to use and has a good reputation.

– If you’re using social media to distribute your music, make sure the service includes smart links that give fans easy access to your music.

Free music distribution services are a great way to get your fresh tunes out there, but they have some limitations. If you’re looking for a free tier of service that offers more features and options, check out the other digital aggregators on this list. You’ll be able to choose from any of these reputable distributors based on what suits your needs best!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available providers – if we missed one or you want help with choosing between them based on criteria such as pricing tiers, supported stores online, reputation etc., let us know in the comments below. We’ve got fresh tunes coming right up ;)

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