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Music Distribution Buyer’s Guide For 2021 (& Beyond)

By Matthew Vultaggio

May 31, 2021

Picking a music distributor can be hard.

Although they all seem to provide roughly the same service, there are so many options with so many different pricing schemes, from free to pay-per-release.

This is why I put together a little buyer’s guide for you and, luckily, it is actually quite simple to find the right digital music distribution service.

The main things to consider when choosing a distributor

When choosing the best music distribution company, there are really only 2 things that matter:

  1. Having the ability to release unlimited songs
  2. Not having to pay a percentage of your music’s income

Let’s take a closer look at these below.

#1 – Unlimited Songs

Releasing music frequently is the key to tripping the Spotify algorithm and eventually landing on Spotify editorial playlists.

By consistently releasing new music, you have more opportunities to pitch to the editors, have your song saved by listeners, and have more chances to influence the algorithim.

This is why being able to release unlimited songs for a small annual fee is so important.

If you are going to be release a lot of music, you do not want to break the bank by having to pay for every single release that you upload. That quickly adds up.

#2 – Not paying a percentage

The 2nd most important thing is to make sure that you choose a company that does not steal a cut of your music’s revenue and Spotify royalties.

In general, the modern artist will avoid giving away percentages to anyone (including labels!), as ownership is key to a successful music career in 2021.

When you know how much Spotify pays per stream, you’ll know you can’t afford to give even the smallest percentage away.

Plus – when your music finally starts to build momentum, or even pop off, you’ll want to make sure you see as much, if not all, of that money.

Other things to consider when choosing a distributor

Now.. you might be wondering: what about the # of stores they can get my music in?

Don’t worry, we will get that to that in good time, my friend. 🙂

But first, there are some other things that you may want to give attention to when choosing a distributor that is a bit more important than that.

All the following things could be considered “nice to have” but they can make the difference between having a good or bad experience with your music distributor in the long run.

Be sure to at least consider these 4 things a bit when choosing the right music distributor for you:

Reputation

Because working with a music distributor as a bit like entering a relationship, you will want to make sure that the distributor you choose has a good reputation.

It is easy to overlook, but reputation is important.

Here is what you want to look for:

  • They have been around for a while (at least 1 or 2 years)
  • They have a good track-record (some notable artists uses them if possible)
  • They are generally well-liked and praised by the community

You can choose to pick a distributor with a bad reputation if you want to take the risk, but if may very well come back to bite you in the butt in the long-term.

Delivery Speed

Although you will want to try your hardest to set up your release so that they are as far in the future as possible, life has a way of getting in the way.

This is why it is always useful if your distributor can get your music sent off to streaming services and stores as quickly as possible.

1 – 3 days is ideal.

7 days is definitely acceptable.

Anything longer than that should be avoided (I’m looking at you, the distributor that has a “free” plan but takes a month to send off the music).

Custom Release Dates

It may seem pretty basic, but being able to set specific release dates for your music is a very useful feature. Unfortunately, it is not one that every distributor has.

For example, I love and recommend DistroKid, but truth be told: you need to be on their slightly more expensive “Musician Plus” plan to be able to do this (worth it.. but still).

Setting release dates is important so that you can plan the marketing and hype around your release accordingly. Whether that be through scheduled social media posts, ads, or sending off the song to playlists and press early.

Customer Service

Ideally, you will never even need to hit up customer service but it is always a plus when a company has great customer service.

I’ve definitely been there…

Imagining I won’t ever need to talk to a support agent because the service or product seems simple, only for everything to be on fire the day before my release.

Solid customer support will be able to help you when you are in trouble, that is for sure.

However, a point that is often overlooked is that the quality of a company’s customer support gives you incredibly valuable insight into that company’s culture and how they view their customers.

It’s the difference between you being one of their partners or just a dollar sign.

What to avoid when choosing a music distributor

Not to get all clickbait on you, but some of these points may surprise you.

There are a few things that you should avoid getting caught up on or paying too much attention to when choosing a music distributor.

# of streaming services and stores

Sure, there are quite a few streaming services and stores out there, but what good are they if you are going to get 0 streams from them?

What’s really important is getting your music on Spotify and Apple Music.

Sure, it might be important for some artists to get their music on Abu Dhabi’s premier streaming service, but for most artists, you will really only see the bulk of your streams come from Spotify.

Since almost every music distributor can get you on the main streaming services, I really don’t think this is a feature you should waste your time on.

Websites / Pre-Saves / Etc

These webpages are always limited and crappy. Don’t believe the hype.

Personally, I’m a big fan of building your own website since you get more control and it’s always much cheaper.

And on the topic of pre-saves….

No one (and I really mean no one) is going to jump through all those hoops to pre-save your song.

How many songs do YOU pre-save each day? Each week? Each month?

Extra promotion

As the old adage goes: if you want something right you’re going to have to do it yourself.

Spinning a wheel to get on a playlist that no one is listening to that has 1,000s of artists that aren’t even the same genre as you will get you nowhere.

It can be easy to get caught up on these things but they are really just shiny objects that should be avoided (especially the company is charging you extra for any of these things).

DistroKid pulls some of this crap too, even though they are the top music distributor that I would recommend to any artist.

Stay focused on releasing great music and releasing that great music often. That is what is most important. That is what will grow your music career.

For a look into what I did to get on over 7 Spotify editorial playlists and rack up well over 300,000 streams, I put together a free course you can check out called the 6 Secrets To Spotify Success. 🙂

DistroKid 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 DistroKid include TuneCore, CdBaby, Ditto, and Amuse.

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