Digital Music Distribution: A quick artists’ guide

There’s a lot of things artists have to do if they want a successful career – craft their music, promote their work, perform, among many others. One of the most tedious things in the business is dealing with digital music distribution – worrying about how to get your song on DSPs (Digital Service Providers) like Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.

In recent years, several digital music distribution services have come up in order to cater for this need and make life easier for artists. What distributors do is pretty simple on paper: you send them an audio file of your song, they run some analyses in order to determine if there are no copyright infringements, and then they pass it on to the DSPs, who will publish it after a few days. Every time someone listens to the song, the streaming platform will collect royalties. These will be passed on to the artist through the distribution service .

Distributors clear the way of bureaucracy and help artists focus on the music. Choosing a good distribution service can help you in several ways, so it’s important to make a conscious decision. However, no distribution service is perfect – they each have their pros and cons. Some will take a fixed share of your earnings and others will charge upfront. But these alternatives look a lot like an old-fashioned music industry model, unfit for the newer times. While some services can be outright scams (snatching a huge share of the royalties or even keeping them, taking ownership rights to your songs), others can make your life a lot easier. This is why we’ll be breaking down the best distributors out there to prevent you from falling for any sketchy deals. Keep reading to find out more.

6. CD Baby

CD Baby is one of the most popular and traditional services out there. It distributes to over 150 streaming and download services with a pay per release model. This means that every time you want to upload something, you’ll have to pay upfront. The platform also supplies demographic and geographic data to its users, breaking down statistics like location, gender, etc. It also offers other services, such as merchandise and royalty collection.

Some services, such as CD Baby, charge extra for an UPC fee (USD $20). UPC (Universal Product Code) are 12 digits attributed to commercial products for identification – in this case, the track being released.

CD Baby’s catch, however, is its price – it’s almost USD $10 to distribute one single (USD $9.95)  and USD $29 for an entire album with the Standard Release. The Pro Publishing Release prices are USD $29.95 and USD $69 respectively. Even with this costly distribution fee, the platform still retains 15% of all the royalties generated from streaming services, which can amount to a big loss in an independent artists’ income.

5. Ditto

Ditto has plans that offer unlimited releases yearly – you can upload as many releases as you want in the span of the year you pay for. The digital music distribution packages look to include musicians at every stage of their career (Artist, Professional and Label), with plans starting from around USD $25 per year. Trending data, sales tracking and daily analytic reports are also made available by the platform. They distribute to over 200 stores and let the user keep 100% of the rights and royalties. Ditto also offers 24/7 artist support.

The trouble is that if you are not an avid uploader, your money may go to waste. And Ditto tends to lean on the pricier side because of the other features it offers, as its most basic plan is over USD $20. This type of model only compensates if you’re uploading much more than one release yearly.

4. OneRpm

Unlike other distributors in this list, you don’t have to pay beforehand in order to distribute with OneRpm. Instead of the payment being yearly, monthly or per release, they only take their share after you’ve earned money. This can be a great selling point for artists on a tight budget, as there will be no monetary investment prior to the actual release of the track. Besides distributing to all the major streaming services free of charge, it also offers data and statistics on how the song is doing.

However, the percentage of the royalties they take can be pretty substantial. Additionally, it distributes to fewer streaming platforms than other digital music distribution services. It caters mostly for Latin markets (where it’s most used) and does not offer Soundcloud monetization.

OneRpm does have a paid tier which promises more effectiveness. But it still keeps its 15% share of royalties even when artists pay beforehand to be distributed.

3. Distrokid

Like Ditto, Distrokid has an annual subscription fee. Its affordable pricing  has made the service incredibly popular. If you pay USD $19.99, you can upload as many singles, albums and EPs as you want. They also have a Musician Plus (USD $35.99 per year) and Label plan (USD $79.99 per year for up to five artists and USD $1,119 for up to 100 artists). Artists also keep 100% of the release’s rights and royalties.

The problem with a yearly subscription, again, is that you won’t always make good use of the money you invest. If you only send one single yearly, you’ll be paying a lot of money for just one release. It may prove economic for users who distribute multiple releases in just a year, however. But we all know that artists should not be rushed to put out music just so they don’t feel like they’re wasting money.

2. ReverbNation

ReverbNation has a free tier as well as a paid one. In the free tier, artists can offer direct selling of their releases; but digital music distribution in itself is paid. The platform claims to be not only a distributor, but also a career-maker: it offers other services such as the possibility of contacting agents and record labels, talking to fans by email, building a website for branding, and linking your social media to ReverbNation.

The downside is the same as many of previously stated platforms: subscription payments are annual, which can be a financial disadvantage. ReverbNations does, however, offer distribution of USD $1 per single and USD $9 per album in their free tier. Additionally, users have been complaining about the interface being problematic and not intuitive, as it does not explain all the features available. Some of the features – such as being introduced to music industry partners and events – are unfortunately not included in the yearly fee, and thus need to be paid separately.

1. Magroove

Magroove is a free service that delivers to over 40 streaming services and digital stores. The only share of the money they take is a yearly fee of USD $5 per release from its royalties, whether it’s an album, EP or single. If the user has not made USD $5 from the release, there’s nothing to worry about – you won’t lose any money. The platform also lets you keep 100% of the rights to your song and is free of legal attachments and paperwork. If there are no copyright infringements or issues, the release is up in no time – on Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, and many other main streaming platforms.

Other than digital music distribution, Magroove offers a customized store where artists can sell their merchandise. You can either choose one of the art templates available to buy T-shirts and other accessories, or you can upload art of your own. There is also a LinkTree feature: artists will be able to directly link all their platforms, social media and information in one single place, free of hassle.

Magroove also lets users pre-save their songs: this feature can be great for marketing, as it lets a track be saved previous to its release so when it does happen, there’s already likes by the people who pre-saved the song. Other than the USD $5 yearly fee per release from the royalty earnings, 100% of the money earned will go towards your Magroove Balance, which you can withdraw through wire transfer.

Like others on the list, Magroove also offers statistics and data so you can see just how well your releases are doing. When you distribute through Magroove, your songs also appear on social media such as Instagram, and even on the Magroove Discovery app, which provides customized music recommendations for users. “


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