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Songtrust vs DistroKid: Music Distribution, Royalties & Publishing

By Matthew Vultaggio

April 5, 2021

After writing music and releasing it through a music distributor DistroKid, you may be wondering if you also need to be signed up with Songtrust to collect all of your music publishing royalties for you. I researched the differences between Songtrust and DistroKid, and wrote about it all here for you.

Songtrust is a publishing administration company that helps artists collect publishing, mechanical, and live performance royalties. DistroKid is a music distribution company that allows artists to get their music on online stores and streaming services. Both companies get you paid, but for different aspects of music consumption, while only DistroKid can upload music.

When your music is streamed, you are owed royalties for the master recording (the actual audio file) as well as for the composition that was created (the songwriting and intellectual property that went into the creation of the final audio recording).

For a complete breakdown of who collects what money for you, what the difference between Songtrust and DistroKid are, and if you need to have accounts with both, simply keep on reading, my friend. 🙂

DistroKid vs Songtrust

DistroKid is a music distribution company that allows artists to get their music on online stores and streaming services while Songtrust is a publishing administration company that helps artists collect publishing, mechanical, and live performance royalties.

DistroKid does these things for artists:

  • Uploads your music to Spotify, Apple Music, etc.
  • Collects the master recording royalties and payments for you (ie: Spotify royalties)

Songtrust does these things for artists:

  • Collects the music publishing royalties for you (ie: performance royalties and mechanical royalties)
  • Signs up you for and allows you to easily submit your music to performance rights organizations around the world

To better understand the difference between the kind of money that each of these services collect, it is important to understand music publishing and what money is owed to you once your music is streamed.

How to collect all the money that is owed to you

Once you upload your music to Spotify (and other streaming services and online stores) using DistroKid and your music gets streamed, that play generates these royalties:

  1. Master recording royalty: broken down into a digital performance royalty and master recording revenue
  2. Publishing royalty: broken down into a performance royalty and a mechanical royalty

The master recording royalty is for audio file, where the publishing royalty is for the intellectual property (ie: the copyright) of the composition (ie: the songwriting, melody, chords, lyrics, etc).

In the example of a Spotify stream, Spotify pays the master recording royalty portion to DistroKid, who then pays you those royalties for your ownership of the recording.

In that same example, because your music was technically performed in public (ie: on the listener’s phone) and because the audio file was mechanically reproduced on the listener’s phone to play the music back, you are also owed both performance and mechanical royalties.

Spotify then pays those publishing royalty portions to a performance rights organization (which specific organization depends on where in the world your song was streamed. Songtrust handles the collection of those performance and mechanical royalties from all performance rights organizations around the world and gives that money to you.

This is where it can be particularly important to get yourself setup with Songtrust, because by just uploading your music with DistroKid, you are actually missing out on some money because DistroKid does not collect performance or mechanical royalties.

Does DistroKid handle publishing?

DistroKid is not a music publisher that offers publishing services, they are a music distributor that distributes music to online stores and streaming services. However, DistroKid is working on a publishing admin system for artists that may be available at a future date.

Instead, DistroKid only collects the money owed from your music’s sales on stores and streams from streaming services (Master recording royalties). They do not offer additional music publishing services but instead recommend Songtrust for music publishing.

  • DistroKid does not collect and payout performance royalties for the public broadcasting of your music
  • DistroKid does not collect and payout mechanical royalties for digital streams and sales that your music makes

To learn more about this, check out my article: Is DistroKid A Publisher?

Does Songtrust distribute music?

Songtrust does not distribute music to online stores and streaming services as they are only a publishing administrator that handle the collection of an artist’s music publishing rights and royalties.

Once your music is live and getting played on online stores and streaming services, Songtrust is able to help you collect all of your music publishing royalties. However, they can not get your music up on those online stores and streaming services in the first place.

Do I need Songtrust?

Songtrust is needed to make sure that an artist collects all of the music publishing royalties around the world that are owed to them. Any artist that is getting 1000s of plays per month around the world and doesn’t want to deal with setting up a publishing company or setting up accounts with every international PRO will benefit from the additional royalties that Songtrust can bring in.

With that said, if your musical project is not (yet) getting much attention or streams, it may not yet make sense to sign up for Songtrust because, although they only take a small 15% percentage of any royalties they collect, there is a $100 setup fee. Ideally, your music is being played enough for you to recoup the cost of that signup fee.

Additionally, if your music is only being streamed in your home country, it may make more sense to just sign up with a performing rights organization (PRO) in your region and have them collect your performance royalties. Local PROs usually do not take a percentage and they usually do not have a setup fee.

However, you should know that PROs only collect performance royalties so you would still be missing out on some mechanical royalties that are owed to you.

Consider joining Songtrust if:

  • Your music is being played all around the world
  • Your music is being played thousands of times per month
  • You do not want to sign up and deal with PROs all around the world
  • You do not want to (or can’t) sign a traditional publishing deal or create your own publishing company
  • You’d prefer a simple way to collect all your music publishing royalties and feel confident you aren’t leaving any money on the table

If the above sounds like you, click here to learn more about getting up and running with Songtrust.

Hold off on joining Songtrust if:

  • Your music is not currently getting very many plays per month
  • Your music is only being played in 1 or 2 countries

If the above sounds like you, I’ve put together a free course called The 6 Secrets To Spotify Success that you can check out to learn how to bump your numbers up all around the globe. 🙂

Do I need DistroKid?

A DistroKid account is needed to upload your music to online stores and streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. Alternately, being set up with any other music distributor can help you distribute and maintain your music catalog.

Because there is no Spotify direct upload anymore, Spotify relies on music distributors to act as a middleman between the artist and Spotify. This is why it is important to be set up with a music distributor like DistroKid.

My recommendation for a music distributor would be DistroKid because they offer unlimited song uploads for a small annual fee without taking a percentage of any of your earnings away.

If you would like to learn more about them, check out my big fat DistroKid review for everything you need to know about DistroKid and music distribution. With that said, because you can use any music distributor to get the job done, here are some articles that compare DistroKid to the competition:

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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