The Cheapest and Best Music Distribution Companies for Your Tunes
Creating great art should be every musician’s number one focus but at the end of the day, do those fantastic songs and well thought-out albums matter much if nobody hears them? You need people to actually listen and consume the music you’re making, both so it affects them and so you can make money from your creations, and the easiest way to get your art in front of as many people as possible is to work with a music distribution company. These companies place everything you’ve recorded into stores and onto streaming platforms…though there is usually a cost associated with the service.
You’ll start to see as we go through this list that when it comes to digital music distribution, the stores and streaming platforms being distributed are not what separates the competition. Essentially, every company out there (at least the ones even worth thinking about working with) can get your tunes onto Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, Napster, Tidal, and so on. What else do they offer you or what prices are attached to their services?
Here’s a rundown of seven music distribution services worth your hard-earned cash.
This company has been in the business of distributing music of all kinds for decades, which has helped it become not only one of the biggest names in the business but also one of the most trusted. CD Baby offers digital music distribution to more than 100 storefronts and streaming platforms, which is more than enough for most artists. The firm is also involved in many other aspects of spreading your music around the world and collecting monies earned, such as YouTube, syncs, publishing, and even selling CDs and vinyl, if that’s a route you still want to take in today’s primarily digital world.
With almost twenty years in the industry, it’s easy to believe CD Baby is a great option for most artists and while it might not have the most favorable prices when all companies are compared, it should be your first look when considering which firm will be lucky enough to distribute your art.
For ReverbNation, it almost seems like distribution is an afterthought. Sure, the company will put your singles and your album where they need to go for a relatively cheap price but it offers so much more and to ignore the perks that come with signing on to work with them would do you and your music a true disservice.
ReverbNation offers several different tiers, each one of which comes with different perks and, of course, different price tags. The cheapest and most basic of the options will only cost you $1 per year for singles and $9 per year for albums, which can be up to 100 songs long. There are plenty of perks accompanying even the lowest of selections and those entry-level prices should work just fine for the majority of musicians. The catch here (if you want to call it that) is those aren’t one-time fees. As mentioned, you’ll need to pay the stated sum every year you want to keep your music in stores and on streaming platforms. It’s not much money but keep the future in mind as you sign up.
DistroKid also allows you to input who earns royalties when music is bought or streamed (and what amount) and the company will split things automatically, which makes your life much, much easier.
Like CDBaby and ReverbNation, TuneCore has built its reputation over the years it has been in business and proven itself to be a great company in many respects. It will come up either toward the top of any list of music distributors. This is why I’ve decided to include it in this piece. Countless artists you’ve heard of have worked with TuneCore and it can be the best option when you get to a certain point in your career or if you need certain services…but I have to say, for many brand new acts who aren’t even making a living from their art just yet, TuneCore probably isn’t the way to go.
The prices for even the most basic distribution options are pricey when compared to the competition and it’s tough to justify shelling out so much money for music that might not take off in the way you’d like it to. Using TuneCore to distribute your full-length album will cost you about $30 for the first year and then $50 per year afterward. Singles are only $10 a year, though if you release several singles and an album during an era, it’s not difficult to see how those numbers can add up quickly.
I’m not saying TuneCore will never make sense for you and your band but at the outset of your life as a working musician, it might not be what you’re looking for just yet.
DistroKid comes with a name that evokes fun and true DIY spirit and it’s exactly what many artists need for plenty of reasons. The cost is great for upstart acts without much in the bank and the company has made it easy not only to sign up and get your music out there but to do so many other things that can help you turn your art into a full-time job.
For just $20 per year, you can upload as much music as you like, which is a pretty good deal. You might only drop a few singles or an EP in a year but the cost differential, when compared to other options, isn’t enough to worry about and in the years when you share a lot of music — an album, singles, remixes, covers, and so on — you’ll be glad you’re paying a flat rate to get all those tunes out to your fans.
DistroKid also allows you to input who earns royalties when music is bought or streamed (and what amount) and the company will split things automatically, which makes your life much, much easier. Also, the service claims it can guarantee you a Spotify check mark once you start working with them. That might not be something you need to grow your career in noticeable, quantifiable ways but it’s a nice bonus and it certainly won’t hurt you to seem more official and professional!
Symphonic Distribution has plenty going for it, though it certainly isn’t the cheapest selection on this list. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive, depending on how much music an artist wants to release but musicians can certainly get their money’s worth if they are smart about their release schedule.
Symphonic is one of the only distribution companies that actually charges a fee upfront before anything has been uploaded, which at this point seems like a pretty outdated model. Signing up with Symphonic costs $25 and then on top of this the firm charges based on how many songs are featured on a “release,” which could be a single, an EP, an album, a mixtape…whatever you want to call it. Between one and five songs will cost you $11, while a twenty song album will force you to hand over $40.
There are upsides to Symphonic (the company even created pages comparing its prices and products to others I’ve mentioned here, such as CDBaby, DistroKid, and Tunecore), but it’s still difficult to hand over that much cash, especially if you have no idea how much will be coming back in. Having said this, what you get for the money is pretty solid, so don’t count this one out.
MondoTunes also offers a full suite of resources that might be needed for a record label, such as promotion and mastering. It might cost a few dollars more than working with several companies or sticking with the absolute cheapest, but forming a relationship and having everything you need in one stop can be worth the extra cash.
Like every distribution service I’ve already mentioned in this piece, Ditto Music can get your music onto platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and over 100 others, including many international options, as Ditto isn’t based in the U.S. For just over $20 per year, your tunes will appear on those sites, which is fairly standard in every way by this point.
Ditto Music offers something special in addition to sending music to streaming services: pitching their playlists. These days, simply appearing on Spotify isn’t enough, as there are tens of millions of songs, with hundreds or possibly even thousands being uploaded every day. These days, it’s all about being featured on a playlist, and there are countless examples of artists breaking in a major, substantive way thanks to being included on a playlist.
You’ll have to work with Ditto when it comes to playlist pitching but the fact the company offers it at all shows you it understands how today’s music industry works and those working there know what it takes to succeed these days.
Every company I’ve profiled thus far focuses for the most part on individual, independent artists, which probably describes many of those people reading this. MondoTunes, on the other hand, is pitching its business to smaller record labels, which sets it apart and makes it a good option for some select musicians. If you have your own record label (which is also a good idea if you’re planning on being an indie act with a solid career), think for a while about how much music you’ll be releasing and from how many artists before you sign up for anything. Doing the math can show you — if it’s not just about you but also your labelmates — some options that once seemed perfect might not actually be a great fit.
MondoTunes doesn’t count the number of releases coming from an account when charging a yearly fee but rather the number of artists. If just one name wants to drop tons of music in a year, it’ll cost $40. Between two and four different acts doing the same thing will only run another $20, meaning the price per artist goes down significantly. Beyond that, MondoTunes also offers a full suite of resources that might be needed for a record label, such as promotion and mastering. It might cost a few dollars more than working with several companies or sticking with the absolute cheapest, but forming a relationship and having everything you need in one stop can be worth the extra cash.
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