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DistroKid vs CD Baby: How To Choose The Right Music Distributor

By Matthew Vultaggio

February 15, 2021

When picking a music distributor, DistroKid and CD Baby are both very popular options, so how can you know which music distribution service is right for you? I’ve researched the topic and wrote about it for you.

DistroKid is better than CD Baby because, for a small annual fee, you get unlimited song uploads and get to keep 100% of your income.

CD Baby ends up costing you more because they take 9% of your income and charge per song or album. This is especially true if you plan on taking your music career seriously and release music frequently.

However, CD Baby has been around for a long time and has some really great things to offer. In particular, something that CD Baby has that DistroKid doesn’t is music publishing.

CD Baby and DistroKid have very different business models, and when looking at both more closely, you may find that CD Baby might fit your unique music release strategy better.

So, with that said, let’s dive deeper into comparing DistroKid and CD Baby so that we can find the right music distributor for you, my friend. 🙂

DistroKid vs CD Baby in 2021: Unlimited vs Pay-As-You-Go

When deciding between DistroKid and CD Baby, you are ultimately deciding if you prefer to pay an annual fee to have unlimited song and album uploads or if you prefer to pay once per song or album.

The catch with DistroKid is that you have to keep paying the annual fee to guarantee your music stays live on all the streaming services and stores.

While the catch with CD Baby is that they actually take 9% of any revenue (or Spotify royalties) that your music may make.

So if it costs you $9.95 to upload a single with CD Baby, and DistroKid pricing is $19.99 per year, does that mean if you only plan on releasing 1 single per year then CD Baby is better?

Maybe…

…but probably not.

I say this because CD Baby takes a 9% cut of what your music, while DistroKid does not take anything away from you.

To learn more about this, check out my article: Does DistroKid Take A Percentage?

If you plan on releasing 1 song for fun and aren’t really trying to make it in music or make it on Spotify, then I would definitely recommend CD Baby. It’s just cheaper and easier for that purpose.

However, releasing music consistently (once per month) with DistroKid is a key factor in how I ended up getting a song on over 7 Spotify editorial playlists and had that song rack up over 300,000 streams on Spotify.

Having unlimited song and uploads gives you the freedom you need to put out a lot of music, and not having to give away any percentages means that you get to keep as much of the money your music generates as possible.

These 2 things are definitely the main reason I would recommend DistroKid over CD Baby.

Why unlimited song uploads are so important

Back in July 2020, Spotify, and in particular their CEO, Daniel Ek, took a lot of flack for saying that “not enough” for artists to release music “every three to four years”.

Daniel also goes on to say that, “The artists today that are making it realize that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans

What he is really saying here is that you need to RELEASE. MORE. MUSIC.

Now, you can act like a boomer rock n’ roll dad dinosaur and get all heated about how Spotify doesn’t pay enough, or you can evolve with the times and adjust your music release strategy to succeed in today’s streaming economy.

But, if someone tells you who they are, believe them. And Spotify is straight-up telling you what to do to succeed.

This is exactly why I would highly recommend choosing a music distributor that allows you to upload as much music as possible.

It doesn’t even have to be DistroKid, but I really do think that it is important to have unlimited song uploads.

DistroKid: Pros & Cons

DistroKid is a digital music distributor that uploads your music, album art, and metadata to streaming services and stores like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Tidal, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, and more.

We’ll take a good look at the pros and cons of using DistroKid when compared to CD Baby.

For both the pros and cons list for DistroKid and CD Baby, I won’t include where they distribute to as neither a pro nor con because they distribute to roughly the same places and really all that matters is Spotify and Apple Music (lol).

P.S. If you do want to learn about every single place that DistroKid can get your music distributed to, learn more in my article: Where Does DistroKid Distribute To? 🙂

Also, both services allow your music to go live quite fast, upgrade your normal YouTube channel to a YouTube Official Artist Channel, and allow you to get a Spotify verified checkmark with access to the Spotify For Artists dashboard.

All of which are big pros in my books. 🙂

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the pros and cons of using DistroKid…

Pros

Here are the main benefits of using DistroKid as your music distributor when compared to CD Baby:

  • Widely available DistroKid discount to save on your first year
  • Unlimited song uploads (you don’t have to pay per song or album!)
  • You keep 100% of your Spotify royalties, Apple Music royalties, etc
  • Their customer support is pretty good once you know how to contact DistroKid

In summary, the main benefits I’d call out when comparing DistroKid to CD Baby are the unlimited song uploads and the fact that you get to keep 100% of your sweet, sweet $$$.

Cons

Here are the main disadvantages of using DistroKid as your music distributor when compared to CD Baby:

  • You need to upgrade to the Musician Plus plan to be able to set custom release dates
  • Have to keep paying the annual fee to keep your music up on the streaming services and stores
  • Currently, there is no DistroKid app available (that is changing though)
  • I honestly think that the dashboard and stats area kinda looks like poop 💩

In summary, the main annoyances I would call out when compared to CD Baby are the need to upgrade to Plus and the fact that you need to keep paying the annual fee for your music to stay up.

CD Baby: Pros & Cons

CD Baby is a music distributor that uploads your music, album art, and metadata to streaming services and stores like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora Radio, and 150+ other streaming services.

In the past, CD Baby used to offer a retail store to sell you physical CDs as well but have recently shut down that part of their offering. CD Baby now focuses on digital music distribution and music publishing are their core services.

Now let’s dive into the pros and cons of using CD Baby when compared to DistroKid

Pros

Here are the main benefits of using CD Baby as your music distributor when compared to DistroKid:

  • After paying once, your music stays live on streaming services and stores forever
  • There is no annual fee that you need to pay
  • CD Baby is able to take care of music publishing for you (for an additional fee, but still)

In summary, the main benefits of using CD Baby are the fact that your music stays up forever after paying and that they offer music publishing.

Cons

Here are the main disadvantages of using CD Baby as your music distributor when compared to DistroKid:

  • CD Baby takes 9% of any income your music generates
  • You have to pay a setup fee per song or album

In summary, the biggest disadvantage of using CD Baby when compared to DistroKid is that they take a cut of your money and that they end up being very costly if you plan on releasing a lot of music.

Is CD Baby Better Than DistroKid?

DistroKid is better than CD Baby because, for a small annual fee, you get unlimited song uploads and get to keep 100% of your income with DistroKid. CD Baby ends up costing you more because they take 9% of your income and charge per song or album.

CD Baby is a great choice if you plan on releasing very little music and don’t play on seeing a lot of streams or sales for that music.

This way you just pay once to get your music up and don’t mind giving them 9% of your earnings because you aren’t earning that much, to begin with.

However, if you want to see Spotify success and really take your music career seriously…

The unlimited song uploads and no commissions business model that DistroKid provides is what I would recommend.

CD Baby Alternatives

Although my top suggestion for a music distributor is definitely DistroKid, I’ve gone ahead and compared DK to other popular services in case you are in the market for a new digital distributor or are simply just curious.

Popular alternatives to a music distribution service like CD Baby or DistroKid include TuneCore, Ditto, and Amuse.

If you would like to see how DistroKid compares to these services, more closely check out these articles:

Or, if you would like a more detailed look into what DistroKid has to offer, you can check out my big fat DistroKid review. 🙂

P.S. If you also want to learn about music publishing and make sure that you are not leaving any money on the table with your music distribution setup, I’d recommend checking out these 2 articles:

Some of my favorite music marketing tools

Thank you for reading this article, my friend, and I hope you found it helpful as you build your own successful career in music. 🙂

Here is a list of my favorite and most recommended tools and resources that I’ve personally used to get my music streamed over 4,000,000 times on Spotify as an artist.

Any of the paid services or tools listed here are most likely affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a small commission.

But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I personally use, love, and recommend to anyone – including my own friends and family.

Music Distribution

To get your music on Spotify on all the other streaming services, I use DistroKid because you get unlimited song uploads for a low annual price.

If you want to learn more about DistroKid and music distribution, check out the in-depth DistroKid review that I’ve put together.

Or, if you want to get started with DistroKid right now, you can save on your first year with the DistroKid discount.

Music Publishing Royalties Collection

For collecting all of the publishing, mechanical, and live performance royalties owed to me whenever my music gets streamed or played, my go-to is Songtrust.

Songtrust is a publishing administration company which means that in addition to collecting all of those royalties for me, they do it on a global level.

To learn if Songtrust is right for you, I’d recommend checking out this article on Songtrust vs BMI.

And if you want to get started with Songtrust right now, I’d recommend learning about the Songtrust discount code so that you can get the best price. 🙂

Website & Smart Links

I’m personally not a big fan of the link-in-bio and smart links for music pages like ToneDen and Hyppeddit.

Instead, I prefer having a full-blown WordPress website that allows me to have a full website in addition to unlimited music links.

For getting started with this, I really like Bluehost because it is the cheapest and a theme called Thrive Themes because it is the most flexible and easiest to use.

I’ve actually created a free Smart Links Course that you can take to learn how to get set up and start getting more streams with custom smart links (I’ve even included the templates I am using!).

Want more tools and resources for your music career?

If you’d like to see even more of my favorite marketing tools and resources for musicians and music artists, I’ve created an even larger list on this page: Best Marketing Tools & Resources For Musicians (& Music Artists).

P.S. There are even some free tools and resources included on that page as well! 🙂

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