Introduction to Music distribution

5 min read
Music Distribution

What every artist should know about the distribution of music ?

There are dozens of distributors and making a choice has become increasingly difficult. But before going straight into the subject, let's take a look at what a music distributor is and what it's all about.

Music distribution, a quick definition.

Before the Internet age, if you wanted to sell your music, it was necessary to be on a physical medium: vinyl, cassette or CD and then distribute them in many stores at the local and international level, this was the job of distributor.

Nowadays with internet, streaming, Youtube and Itunes, it is no longer necessary to have your music on a CD to sell it, you can use a "digital distributor" who will generally take care of:

  • Generate the metadata of your release (the essential information and generate an ISRC code).
  • Encode your music to be compatible with the needs of different sales and streaming platforms.
  • Distribute in tens or hundreds of sales platforms like Itunes or Google play but also streaming platforms.
  • Collect your royalties and distribute them to you.
  • Help to be playlisted and push you forward on digital platforms.

To summarize, the business of the distributor is:

"Distribute your music to as many online platforms as they can and recover your royalties."

Do I need a distributor?

The answer is yes and no.
Yes, because you can't add music to the platforms yourself, and even if you did, it would take a lot of time. Then, as an artist, managing the streaming and sales reports of each platform is extremely complex.
Your distributor deals with this and it is in their interests that you get the maximum royalties because they take (often) a share.

However, the answer can also be no, because if you work with a record label, they are already managing the relationship with the distributor and in this case you do not have to worry about it.

I want to distribute my music without a label?

If you want to distribute your music here is the list of major distributors.

How to choose your distributor ?

There are more and more distributors and the choice is therefore complicated. Spoiler: There is no better distributor, they all have specificities and different business models.

DistributorsRegister / ApplySubscriptionPrice per singlePrice per albumCommision on Streaming and SalesSinceAdvantagesFamous ArtistsHeadquarter
AwalApply 00015%1997Slick interface and 30 day rolling termLauv, Madison Beer, Little Simz, deadmau5United Kingdom
Believe DigitalApply 000Around 30% 2005Good support and can pitch the release to platforms, better pay by play on Spotify FKJ, Parcels, France
CD BabyRegister 0$9 to $34$29 to $490%1998CD and Vinyl possibility and Publishing option USA
DistroKidRegister$19,99 / year000%2013Unlimited release and good marketing toolsLudacris, Megan Devies, Dweezil ZappaUSA
Ditto MusicRegister€19 / year000%2005 Ed Sheeran, Dodie Clark, Sam Smith,United Kingdom
LandrRegisterBy release or unlimited at $48 / year $1 / month 0%2014Online Mastering optionA$AP ANT, Luke Rathborne, PrimeCanada
OctiiveRegisterBy release or Unlimited for $ 27.99 / year 7.99 / year17.99 / year0% - 8%2011First single for freeChaka Khan, Chief Keef, Master P, Kaya JonesUSA
Record UnionRegister0$7-15 / year$13 - 25 / year7,5 - 15%2008Exclusive opportunities for artists and A&R program Sweden
Reverb NationRegister$9.95 to 19,99 per year $1 / year$9 / year0%2006Many marketing tools for Artists USA
TunecoreRegister0€ 9,99 / year€49,99 / year0%2005Publishing optionM. Maggie, Devvon Terrel, The Undercover Dream LoversUSA

What can we conclude?

There are two types of distributors, those open to everyone and those who make a selection (Awal and Believe Digital). The last two have a reputation for being more engaged in promoting artists and we can see that they don't charge anything but take a major commission on royalties.

On the other hand, we can see a real difference with distributors like DistroKid, Ditto, Tunecore or Record Union who charge a fee per release per year or a subscription.

There is not necessarily a better choice, it's up to you to judge but a tip that can be important is the location of the distributor. Indeed, if you are a French artist the choice of Believe Digital who headquarter in France can certainly help you.

To conclude, the cheapest ones are:

  • DistroKid
  • Ditto

Those with the best support and the best help to speed up the artists carreers are:

  • Awal
  • Believe Digital
  • Record Union

I hope you liked this article, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.