2021 has come to an end and there is still a ways to go before life returns to normal. The music industry has had its fair share of paradigm shifts and revolutions but these past two years have forced us to reinvent (with a little bit of reimagining) how to promote and release our music. Online music streaming and video-focused social media are now ubiquitous and grant artists unprecedented access to millions of listeners and viewers worldwide as live music takes a step back from the lime light.
Records labels are no longer the gatekeepers to stardom and today, it's easier than ever to get your music out to the masses. Equal opportunity and access, however, doesn’t mean equal success for everyone, and the music landscape is becoming heavily saturated. In 2019 alone, 40,000 tracks were released every day and that number is increasing. Whether it be TikTok, Spotify, Apple Music, Reels or YouTube, artists are finding new platforms to stream and promote their music. The big question: how exactly can you get your music out to audiences worldwide while making sure your voice isn’t crowded out amongst the masses? Step 1. Get yourself set up with an established digital distribution service!
There are a ton available online but they're not all created equal. Here's a five we recommend to maximize your value.
1. CD Baby
The OG distribution service, CD Baby was the first to offer distribution to iTunes (you know that small platform before Apple Music?) and ranks high in popularity to this day. CD Baby starts at $9.95 USD per song and $29 per album, and while other platforms have a flat yearly fee with unlimited amount of uploads, your music will be available for sale and streaming on every major site out there.
Unique among digital music distributors, CD Baby also offers physical music distribution. In the ever saturated market, what's a better way to distinguish yourself than offering your music in a tangible format to friends and fans worldwide.
Founded in 2006, TuneCore boasts a distribution network of 150+ stores and streaming platforms in over 100 countries. The major draw with TuneCore is that artists keep 100% of their profits from sales and streams. Priced similarly to CD Baby, TuneCore is an attractive alternative that grants artists more ownership.
However, if you're short on pocket change and need a more affordable option, TuneCore also offers their brand new 'Social Platforms' option for free. Get your music out to all the major socials (including YouTube) and get feedback from fans before making the jump to digital stores. Sounds amazing but what's the catch? TuneCore keeps 20% of all profit made from these sites.
One of the most popular (if not most established) music distribution services out there, DistroKid is a subscription based distributor where you get to hold to 100% of your profits. With an unlimited amount of uploads, the $19.99 USD annual fee is a great option if you're the type of artist on a creative spree. Stop paying the annual fee, however, will result in all your music being removed.
What sets DistroKid apart from its competitors is the ability to split royalties. Whether you're looking out for your bandmates or need to compensate sessional musicians, DistroKid can automatically route any part of the earnings from any track to anyone. On top of that, the service also ensures that you receive the Spotify verified checkmark, YouTube official artist channel and an Apple Music page - everything you'll need to stroke that artist ego of yours.
Amuse is a full-fledged distribution service that moonlights as a record label (what better way to find talent than having them use your service to get their music out there!). If getting signed with a major label is how you envision your career, Amuse is probably the best option for you. But if you're looking to stick it to the man, Amuse is still a great option for independent distribution.
Amuse provides better optionality it when comes to pricing than the others. With three unique tiers, you can get started for free or go 'Pro' at $59.99 USD annually and get access to all the basics plus the opportunity to build your own label and have multiple artist profiles. The big downside, however, is the lack of a desktop version for their service - you'll have to get used to maxing out your daily allotted screen time.
If you're looking for something simple, with ease of use, and no fancy bells and whistles, Spinnup is probably right for you. With pricing starting at $9.99 USD per single and $35.99 USD per album, Spinnup is a great option for the up and coming artist looking to get their music out on the world wide web. The service also provides detailed reporting and analytics in case you're more of a numbers person, and allows artists to keep 100% of their profits.
Owned by Universal Music, artists have the added advantage of being discovered by one of the Majors if they're distributing through the service. If you're hoping to conquer festival stages and get your music featured in commercials one day, then Spinnup may be right for you.