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4 Digital Distribution Outlets Compared

Updated: Nov 9, 2020



So you’ve got new music ready for release, but aren’t sure what to do next. You’ve heard about digital distribution services, your friends all recommend different ones, and the internet can sometimes be a black hole of confusion for things like this. Well I’m here to tell you that they all generally do the same thing, get your music out to the masses, but it’s the how that is what differs from company to company. Some services will be better for your specific needs than others, but they will all help facilitate putting your music in the places it needs to be right now. Here are my top 4 digital distribution outlets compared:

1. DistroKid


PROS:

  • Price – Distrokid is very affordable with your first upload offered for free, and then a straight $19.99 annual fee for unlimited single/album uploads.

  • Usability – Boasting a super user-friendly interface, even the least tech-savvy of musicians can figure out how to release their own music themselves.

  • Cool-Factor – Distrokid really “speaks the language” of the current climate of young musicians. Text is often written in a down-to-earth, human way, and can even be funny at times! They accomplish the same things as their competitors while allowing the user to feel understood, simplifying the sometimes-intimidating portal to music distribution.

  • USP – Distrokid is the first online music distribution service that allows you to easily divide up ownership percentages for songs so the rest of your collaborative team can receive their own royalty payouts. They also seem to be “first to market” with getting music on the newest and trendiest places like TikTok, Instagram Stories, etc.

CONS:

  • Customer Service – It’s no easy feat to get in touch with a customer service rep for Distrokid, so you’ve got to make sure your ducks are in a row and everything has been input correctly the first time, or you may have some issues later on.

  • Troubleshooting – If you end up having some element of your album upload come up as an error, you’ll have to restart the entire process again from the beginning. There is no way to “spot edit” any distribution that has failed for one reason or another (like a copyright flagging after upload for example).

  • Auto-Renewal – Your account will be automatically renewed at whatever the current rates are. For me personally, I got an unexpected fat fee on my credit card bill when my label account renewed at a much higher rate than I had bought in at during the previous year. So whatever special rates or discounts you signed up with do not carry over, cannot be applied later on, and you cannot (as of now) ever downgrade your account type without having to delete your entire Distrokid existence and start over.

OVERALL REVIEW: With no setup fee and a very straightforward and fair pricing structure overall, Distrokid is my top choice for artists concerned solely about digital distribution being easy, affordable, and fast to all the most commonly used music resources.


2. CDBaby


PROS:

  • Reliability – Little to no technical issues and a super organized dashboard help users to keep track of their uploads and where their music is being streamed and purchased.

  • Reputation – CDBaby has been around a long time and has a great reputation in the music industry. They care about musicians and were one of the first to market to help solve the indie artist distribution conundrum.

  • USP – CDBaby has sync/publishing licensing built in to track plays on sites like YouTube, which is a nice benefit and one less thing artists have to worry about! Also being they are the old-school resource for artists needing CD duplications to sell their music, you can still use CDBaby to sell your CDs and vinyl in over 15,000 record stores including big-box retailers like Barnes and Noble and Target.

CONS:

  • Price – There is a signup fee and CDBaby retains 9% of your earnings from digital distribution royalties and downloads, and $4 from every CD and vinyl record you sell through them. Prices have also been continuously rising over the years, which may make this platform unsustainable for artists with tighter budgets.

  • Time-Consuming Distribution – With a distribution checklist a mile long, you’ll need to budget at least an hour to get through the musi