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Best Music Distribution Companies in 2024 – Full Comparison Chart

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Ari's Take digital music distribution comparison chart

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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This is the most comprehensive and accurate digital distribution review comparison for your music on the web.

By far. I checked. Who is the best digital distributor for your music? There are quite a few to choose from:

1. DistroKid
2. TuneCore
3. Too Lost
4. LANDR
5. CD Baby
6. UnitedMasters
7. Songtradr
8. Amuse
9. Stem Music
10. RouteNote
11. ONErpm
12. Soundrop
13. Ditto Music
14. Symphonic Distribution
15. AWAL
17. Horus Music

How do you get your music on Spotify? How do you get your music on Apple Music? On Amazon Music, you know for “Hey Alexa play my band”?

How do you get your music on TikTok? On Instagram stories?

DistroKid vs. TuneCore vs. CD Baby vs. UnitedMasters vs. Amuse | Best Digital Distributor for Music

Read on…

I’m keeping this review updated and any time a company lets me know their changes or I hear from you that something has changed at one of these companies, I update the report.

So for the past few months we at Ari’s Take have been learning everything we could about these companies.

DistroKid vs. TuneCore vs. Too Lost vs. CDBaby vs. AWAL vs. Amuse vs. Ditto Music vs. FreshTunes vs. Horus Music vs. LANDR vs. ONErpm vs. RouteNote vs. Songtradr vs. Soundrop vs. SoundOn vs. Stem vs. Symphonic Distribution vs. UnitedMasters

It’s worth noting, that this comparison is for standalone music distribution services that primarily cater to independent musicians – not labels. INgrooves, The Orchard and Believe are all distributors in the space that primarily work with labels. Some work directly with artists and they take around a 20% commission for it. The Orchard and AWAL are owned by Sony and INgrooves is owned by Universal. And Believe, a French company, owns TuneCore.

Moving on.

Digital distribution companies are evolving into one-stop royalty collection shops for DIY musicians.

Eventually, you will be able to use digital distribution with one of these services and they will collect 100% of all your sound recording and composition royalties from around the world and you won’t need to worry about registering or collecting all your money elsewhere. Some of these companies are closer than others to this reality, but no one is completely there yet.

For clarity, you need a distributor to get your music into Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, TikTok, Instagram Stories, Deezer, Tidal, etc. These music distribution companies do this for you.

You can use multiple distributors for multiple releases HOWEVER you can only use 1 distributor for each release, of course.

You can’t ask Symphonic and DistroKid to distribute the same song to all the stores, then that same song would be listed in Spotify, Apple Music and everywhere else TWICE. Make sense? You have to pick one for each release, which is why it’s so important to choose the best music distribution company for your needs. 

Can you switch distributors or move a release from one distributor to another?

Yes, not only can you use multiple distributors for different releases, you can actually move a current release from one distributor to another. However, it’s a little complicated and you have to do it exactly correct to not mess up playlist inclusion or streaming numbers.  I explain how to do that here. 

+How To Switch Distributors Without Losing Stream Counts or Playlists

I also want to make SUPER clear that none of these independent music distribution companies OWN any of your rights, copyrights or music.

These are not record labels. These are not label deals. Even though some of them offer “label services” they don’t own anything. These independent music distribution companies are just providing services. You retain 100% of your rights no matter who you use. Even if they take a commission, it’s just from your revenue. No ownership. None. Capiche?

I spoke to reps at every company for this music distributors review to get a full in-depth look at each company and for the reps to explain to me their company’s best features (that I may have missed scanning their FAQ). Being a musician, I asked them questions I deemed most important for independent musicians, like how they calculate music royalties. I have distributed 50 releases to date using a few of these music distribution services.

This music distribution service review is just taking a look at companies that will get your music into digital stores and streaming services, like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, etc and NOT about stand alone, digital download, self-managed stores, like Bandcamp.

Full disclosure, I have used CD Baby, DistroKid, TuneCore, AWAL, Stem, Vydia, and Soundrop to distribute releases with my own project (and we tested a release with Amuse under a fake name).

There is no “best music distribution company” necessarily because each company has unique features that may be super important to some artists and not at all to others.

Every artist’s situation is different.

I included on the chart the categories that I deemed most important. All the digital distribution companies have extra services, and I included some of their services in their review if I thought they were great and left out some of their services if I didn’t care about them. This review is to compare distribution. It’s not a full review of these independent music distribution companies.

We are moving into an era of transparency.

What these stand-alone distributors offer that major labels and publishers do not is transparency and intelligible reports.

Well, most digital music distributors do.

And many are starting to offer payment splitting (where they will pay your collaborators directly so you don’t have to deal with that headache).

Also, the next decade will be heavily focused around Asia. For the first time in history, people in China are PAYING for music (via streaming services). This market is about to explode. That’s why I added it to the comparison chart.

NetEase is still the most important DSP in China. If music distributors don’t distribute to NetEase it’s as if they do not distribute to China (so we marked that below).

And, some distributors are moving into “label services” territory. Where, if there is some traction on your songs, they’ll notice and, as many of them put it, “throw gasoline on the fire,” where they can put some marketing money behind it, plug it at playlists, push synch opportunities and other ways to help jumpstart your career.

How do you get your music videos on VEVO, Tidal and Apple Music?

If you want to get your music videos on VEVO, Apple and Tidal (and some others), many distributors will help you with this. You do need a distributor (as of today) to get your music videos distributed. It can definitely be worth it. 

On the chart, if it’s indicated as “yes” for  “Music video distribution” that means VEVO, Apple Music and Tidal. Nearly every company that offers music video distribution will distribute to these three outlets currently. Some will offer more, but that’s not included because the others aren’t important. 

+How & Why To Get Your Music Videos on VEVO 

If you have any questions or have experience (good or bad) with these music distribution companies, please let me know in the comments below!

QUESTION: What does DSP stand for in music?

ANSWER: Digital Service Provider, which is the generic term for streaming and download platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play, Amazon Music, et al.

Join the Ari’s Take Academy course Registration, Royalties, & Release.

ONTO THE BEST MUSIC DISTRIBUTORS COMPARISON

Too Lost

Too Lost Review:

The newest distributor of prominence to the game is Too Lost. And boy have they been taking notes over the years as to what is important for an independent distributor jumping into this ever crowded space. I sat down with the CEO and co-founder, Greg Hirschhorn to get a better understanding of how it all works and got a look under the hood. 

First off, I have to say, I am wildly impressed with their service. Too Lost checks nearly every box you want in a DIY distributor. They have never raised any outside capital and haven’t sold any equity. Greg has grown the business from the ground up, bootstrapped. They now have over 300K artists or labels on the platform and have distributed over 7 million songs with around 150K new songs being distributed every month. And Too Lost employs around 85 people across two offices 

Some things that stand out to me for Too Lost is their fraud prevention. This is the most serious issue in the industry right now because of how much money is being siphoned off by fraudsters away from legitimate artists/labels. Whereas this is a massive issue for other DIY distributors, penalizing innocent artists in their quest to combat streaming fraud, Too Lost claims to have solved this – primarily through its ID verification system. I set up my own Too Lost account and sure enough I was asked to scan my drivers license and take a selfie. I imagine this would deter any fraudster right off the bat. When streaming fraud is now actually leading to prison time, I can’t imagine a bad actor would be down for this level of identity verification. Such a simple way to combat it. It’s curious why the other distributors haven’t taken this approach. 

Too Lost distributes directly to most of the 450 outlets and does not use intermediary distributors (who oftentimes charge fees and skim off a commission). Too Lost is a Merlin member which can help them get better deals with some of the DSPs (streaming services). (Little known fact – every distributor/label negotiates streaming rates with every DSP. Which is one reason why there’s no such thing as set streaming rates). Too Lost will negotiate directly with the DSP and also use Merlin to compare the rates and then run with the better rate. And for the nerds out there digging into the weeds, Too Lost uses AudioSalad for some of the smaller DSPs to help with the metadata and infrastructure. 

One of the coolest features that I’d never actually heard about is the ability to run a search for usage of your tracks for where they are used on social media platforms. You basically select one of your songs, it runs a search and kicks back every TikTok video, X (Twitter) post, Reddit, Peloton, Instagram post, YouTube video, etc that is using your music. That is a very cool feature which could help turn into fun collaborations and find your super fans. Too Lost does charge for this feature $1.50/song/month. He mentioned labels primarily use this feature for their best performing songs.

Too Lost also has an add-on to register your copyrights with the US Copyright Office or $100/registration. Some people have “hacked” this and registered a 100-track “album” for $100 instead of having to register each song individuals – saving them a ton of money. Going direct to the US Copyright Office, this application will get rejected because they’re very strict about what they accept  (I’ve tried), but somehow Too Lost gets around this. Hopefully these “hacked” registrations hold up in court. 

Similar to other distributors on this comparison like AWAL, Symphonic and Stem, Too Lost has a “label services” tier where they will offer an advance (up front cash), with personalized support and everything you’d expect from a label services plan (playlist pitching, marketing support, dedicated product manager, etc) for a negotiated commission. They still don’t take ownership (like a label would), just commission. This plan isn’t public, as Too Lost just offers it to artists who start to catch fire. 

Similar to Amuse and Tunecore, Too Lost offers instant advances based on historical streaming data built directly into the Dashboard. Where, simply based on your previous streaming revenue, it will calculate an amount that you could withdraw instantly – without having to negotiate or speak with anyone about it. You don’t give up any rights, it just estimates your future earnings (based on historical earnings) and you can withdraw those funds – Too Lost will then make that back plus a bit of interest over the coming months. 

They also do custom advances for artists moving over from other distributors or labels as an incentive to bring them in. Greg revealed they’ve even done an advance for one label for $50 million! 

And one of the best parts about Too Lost is they have an admin publishing service which is a partnership with BMG Publishing. And similar to TuneCore Publishing, you do not need to be a distribution client to use their admin publishing service. They charge a 15% commission for this service. However currently this is only open to select users and you have to apply for the program. 

Too Lost also distributes to many more outlets than other distributors. Including non-traditional DSPs like SoundExchange, Gracenote, Shazam, Peloton, Canva, and most of the Chinese, African, Arabic, and Korean DSPs for no additional costs. Some other distributors like DistroKid offer some of these outlets, but charge for them. However, if you have a sync deal, you may not want to opt-in to all the outlets – namely the music libraries like Canva and Pinterest. 

Too Lost makes it very easy to switch from other distributors with its bulk import feature which carries over audio files, ISRC, UPC, Lyrics, album art, etc.

Too Lost has a presave feature which will then rank your top fans and give you the full metadata on them (like emails). And then you can notify them upon new releases, merch drops, or anything else. 

Like DistroKid, Too Lost offers payment splitting with recoupment (meaning your collaborators don’t get paid until you recoup set designated costs – like recording and marketing). But Too Lost also offers limits and time limits on payment splitting. So you could offer 10% of your track revenue to a collaborator – up to $3K for the next 3 years or something like that, and it would shut off the split once they hit $3K or 3 years. 

Customer support for DIY distributors has been a point of contention for many – especially those that start you off in AI bot hell. But I tested Too Lost’s support and got a good answer from a human with a solve to my issue within 24 hours. 

And Too Lost’s insights and analytics are bar none. They have tapped into nearly every API available (and some not available – obtained through Greg’s connections) and offer very good insights. More than I’ve seen from others. Like skip rate on Spotify. And artificial stream reports. The dashboard also shows weekly and hourly engagement along with other demographic info for many DSPs. The analytics platform shows data on more DSPs than any other distributor that I’m aware of including Spotify, Apple, Deezer, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Peloton, Amazon, SoundCloud, YouTube, Pandora, and others.

Some notable artists who use Too Lost include Chief Keef, Lil Mabu, ILOVEMAKONNEN, Xavier Wulf, Josiah and the Bonnevilles, Ali Gatie, Lucifer, Joseph Tilly, YG, and Pink Sweats

All in all, Too Lost is an extremely impressive DIY distributor. I haven’t tested them out with any releases yet, but they are making waves very quickly in the space and are innovating very rapidly. I definitely recommend giving them a try!

BEST:

  • No commission. You keep 100% of your royalties.
  • Open to all
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Distributes to China
  • Credits distribution 
  • Lyric distribution
  • Reports are clear and intelligible
  • Admin publishing 
  • Use code ARISTAKE for 3 months free

WORST:

  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees
  • Admin publishing not open to all

Amuse

Amuse Review:

Amuse now offers a “Pro” version which costs $59.99/yr with many more features and now also has a desktop version of the service. But they are still app-first. Artists keep 100% of their royalties.

They also offer advances based on previous streaming royalties. It’s completely data driven and artists have received $250 – $300,000 in advances from this program. There is a commission tacked on when an advance is offered.

This Best/Worst comparison is based on their “Pro” version, not the free version.

Amuse started as an app-only music distribution service with no fees and no commission. Their long-term play was to swoop up the artists that start to catch and sign them to a 50/50 label deal by simply analyzing data. No real A&R, just data analysts. One of the founders used to study data analytics at Universal Music Group (Sweden), another came from Warner Music Group (Sweden), and their head of design used to work at Spotify. Oh, and will.i.am is a co-founder. So there’s that.

BEST:

  • No commission. You keep 100% of your royalties.
  • Open to all
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Distributes to China
  • Credits distribution 

WORST:

  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees
  • No lyrics distribution
  • Revenue reports are poor / decent

Amuse vs DistroKid

When comparing Amuse vs DistroKid, DistroKid is more popular. They distribute the most music in the world – by far. However, Amuse has a free version and DistroKid does not. DistroKid offers payment splitting with recoupment. Amuse offers payment splitting (but no recoupment – yet). Check out the chart above for a more detailed breakdown. 

Questions About Amuse

What is Amuse music distribution?

Amuse is a music distribution company that allows musicians and bands to get their music in digital service providers like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, TikTok, Deezer, and more.

Is Amuse really free?

Yes. Amuse offers a free tier, but they also offer a “Pro” version which costs $59.99/yr with many more features and now also have a desktop version of the service. Artists keep 100% of their royalties.

Who owns Amuse music distribution?

Amuse music distribution was co-founded and owned by Diego Farias, a former employee of Universal Music Group in Sweden and will.i.am.

AWAL

AWAL Review:

Artists who stream well consistently and have a strong track record may benefit from working with AWAL. AWAL tends to prioritize artists who are already gaining traction. So if you’re already doing well, you can expect the white glove treatment, otherwise you might feel a bit ‘unseen’ by this digital distribution company.

Sony Music Entertainment (SME) acquired AWAL from Kobalt Music Group in 2021. Even though Sony owns AWAL, AWAL is still operating independently. It is not a major label or anything like that. AWAL is still an independent music distribution company.

AWAL has gone through a ton of changes over the past 5 years. After getting acquired by Sony, they shed a large part of their roster to focus on the artists who were paying their bills. Because AWAL makes its money solely on commission (around 15% for most – but this fluctuates), it’s only to their benefit to bring on artists who earn well. Many artists felt burned by AWAL, because they were accepted, but couldn’t get anyone to give them the time of day. AWAL’s customer support suffered tremendously and the company pivoted. 

Full disclosure, I distributed 3 songs from my funk project with AWAL in 2018 and 2019. And although they rolled out the red carpet for us, they didn’t deliver any tangible results. No playlists. No sync. No marketing. No connections. No nothing – other than normal distribution (while keeping 15% of our royalties). But this was a long time ago (relatively speaking) and a lot has changed since. 

It’s worth noting that AWAL doesn’t offer automatic payment splitting (where they actually pay out your collaborators like some other distributors do), but AWAL offers a royalty calculation tool where it will tell you how much to pay your collaborators – you still have to send them the money though. Which is a pain. AWAL is behind on this and should add in automatic payment splitting.  

AWAL now has three tiers: 

AWAL Core
This is the the default tier for most artists. They say AWAL Core is for “Artists with a trajectory, building fans and their story in interesting ways”

AWAL+
This tier is for artists AWAL prioritizes. Gives the white glove service to. You get a dedicated account rep who you could text with if you want. You can tap into funding for marketing or videos in exchange for a higher commission. They will also pitch you for playlists and sync opportunities (for TV, film, commercials).

AWAL Recordings
Unlike a traditional record deal, AWAL doesn’t own your masters. If you “sign” with AWAL Recordings, their label services team will be at your disposal. Their worldwide marketing team, sync, playlisting, and radio teams will be working for you. You’ll also get funding – possibly in the form of an advance. These deals are customized for the artist and the commission they keep ranges, but they say “you’ll always keep the lion’s share.”

Artists with AWAL include JVKE, Laufey, Jungle, JPEGMAFIA, deadmau5, Disclosure, mxmtoon, Young the Giant, noname, and Cold War Kids.

+Lauv’s 4 Billion Streams, Top 40 Hit, Without a Label

BEST:

  • No upfront fees
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyric distribution
  • Credits distribution

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • Must be accepted to use
  • Some hidden fees
  • No payment splitting
  • Revenue reports are poor / decent

Questions About AWAL

What does AWAL stand for in music?

In music, AWAL stands for Artists Without a Label.

How do you use AWAL?

To use AWAL, submit your music to their team for review. If and when accepted, you’ll create an account and be able to begin distributing your music.

Who is signed to AWAL?

Some artists working with AWAL include Little Simz, JVKE, SBTRKT, Laufey, Jungle, JPEGMAFIA, deadmau5, Disclosure, mxmtoon, Young the Giant, noname, Bruno Major, The Beaches, Lovejoy, CMAT, Maddie Zahm, Freya Ridings, Joesef, Mudrigo, Lauren Jauregui, Tom Misch, Ben Reilly, Nick Cage, D4M $loan, Djo Blake Rose, Tom the Mail Man, The Wombats, Choszn, Nothing But Thieves, and Cold War Kids.

CD Baby

CD Baby Review:

CD Baby has been around the longest. They were the first non-label company to offer ‘open to all’ distribution to iTunes back in the day. CD Baby was founded by musician, best-selling author, guru, author of the introduction tot the first edition of  my book (!!) and all around brilliant dude, Derek Sivers. He sold the company in 2008.

CD Baby is now owned by Downtown Music Group.

I’ve used CD Baby in the past (but don’t anymore for new releases). In 2019, CD Baby (well, their parent company AVL Digital – including Soundrop, Show.co, AdRev, DashGo), got acquired by Downtown Music (which also runs Songtrust and Downtown Publishing). It’s becoming one big conglomerate. In the October 2020 update to this CD Baby review, I revealed that their analytics and payment reports were inaccurate. I had been tipped off by a couple Ari’s Take Academy students (thank you!) that their streaming numbers looked a bit peculiar for the past year. I looked at my reports, and sure enough, mine looked the same.

CD Baby’s customer support and marketing director had been cagey about what was going on and no one could get a straight answer. So, I published the update.

I sat down with the (former) president of CD Baby to understand what was going on.

Long story short, the rate that Spotify paid CD Baby per stream, was not the rate that CD Baby paid out to their artists. 

If Spotify indicated that a song earned $.007 for a stream in the US from a premium subscriber, and $.0008 for a stream in India from an ad-supported account, CD Baby didn’t pay these rates out to their artists. Instead, they combined them into their own ‘bundled’ rates and paid $.003 for both.

See, Spotify has about 800 different rates per stream. There isn’t just one ‘streaming rate.’ It’s not iTunes. 

A Spotify stream from a user in the US, paying a $9.99 subscription, will earn more than a stream from a user in the US on a family plan or using the free, ad-supported version. A Spotify stream from a user in India also pays way less than a stream from a user in the US. You can see why there are around 800 different rates per stream.

CD Baby thought it would be helpful to simplify this and just bundle all of this together – averaging out a lot of the various rates. So instead of nearly 800 rates, CD Baby decided to pay about 40 rates. And yes, for most of 2019 – 2020, CD Baby paid artists the same amount for a US stream as an India stream – no matter the listener’s plan level.

Was this good or bad for artists looking to gain from their digital distribution? Well, it’s great if your listeners are in India because you’re getting paid much more from CD Baby than what Spotify has indicated to CD Baby those streams are worth.

But if all your listeners are in the US or New Zealand, it’s not great for you because you were getting paid way LESS from CD Baby than what Spotify indicated to CD Baby those streams are worth.

Why is this a problem? Well, artists need to know where to spend their marketing dollars.

It’s not just about ‘where am I going to tour.’ Sure, that’s a factor. But if I know I can spend $500 in ads targeting listeners in India and get $1,000 back from streaming revenue, you better believe I’m going to do that. With every other distributor, this wouldn’t work because India pays so little (from Spotify), but pays so much from CD Baby.

+How This Artist Grew To 500,000 Monthly Spotify Listeners Without Playlists

I’m using the past tense because Joel told me that CD Baby switched back to the 800 (or so) rate system so what CD Baby artists get paid now is much more accurate to what Spotify indicates they should be getting paid from their digital music distributors.

To be clear, CD Baby wasn’t keeping any extra money than their standard 9% commission. CD Baby was paying out 91% of the money – it just wasn’t paying it out to the correct artists based on what Spotify indicated those artists actually earned.

A lot has changed at CD Baby over the years. It is a massively different company now than it was even just 5 years ago. Most of the original people have left. 

A really big change is, as of August 2023, CD Baby discontinued its publishing arm “CD Baby Pro Publishing.” Previously, you could opt-in to get CD Baby (powered by Songtrust) to collect your publishing royalties for the songs you distributed with CD Baby. A big reason for this is Songtrust changed the way it operates along with new leadership. It no longer is providing an “open to all” publishing service. So it can no longer support the influx of songs from CD Baby. 

So CD Baby’s new upgrade is called “Boost” includes the following features (US only currently): 

  • Mechanical Royalty Collection (for US-only mechanicals) – where CD Baby will get your songs registered with the MLC 
  • Non-interactive digital performance royalties – where CD Baby will get your recordings registered with SoundExchange and collect the label share of your SoundExchange royalties (you still need to register and collect the performer’s share directly)
  • Sync Licensing – which is their form of a sync music library where CD Baby says you can be considered for sync opportunities. But with hundreds of thousands of artists, I wouldn’t hold your breath for this. 

Boost removes a bit of the headache of getting your songs registered with SoundExchange (which is a heavy lift – believe me) and registered with the MLC. But there are still many more places you need to get registered. 

+Learn how and where to get everything registered and collect 100% of your royalties

BEST:

  • Open to all
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees
  • No payment splitting (yet)
  • No (producer) credits distribution

+Songtrust vs. Sentric vs. CD Baby Publishing vs. TuneCore Publishing

Questions About CD Baby

What famous artists use CD Baby?

Artists that use CD Baby include Ingrid Michaelson, Aloe Blacc, Scott Orr, and Luminara.

How much does CD Baby cost?

$9.99 per single; $9.99 per album; $39.99 per release to add “CDB Boost”

How do I create a CD Baby account?

Go to CD Baby’s website, click “Get Started,” and fill out the information on the form.

DistroKid

DistroKid Review:

DistroKid was the first distributor to offer unlimited distribution for one annual fee and DK has been continuing to push innovation and challenge the industry ever since. DistroKid has since become one of the top 10 digital music distributors worldwide for total units sold/streamed. It’s sleek and simple interface is praised by artists. DistroKid boasts that it distributes over a third of all music distributed. Over 2 million artists have distributed music with DistroKid.

When I wrote my first digital distribution comparison just about 10 years ago, DistroKid was the new kid (pun intended) on the block. They (well, at the time it was just 1 dude, Philip Kaplan) had just launched and had already received praise from Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) and Jeff Price (founder of TuneCore). Neither of these founders still work at their companies – obviously they wouldn’t be heartily praising a competitor. (You’ll find many online comparisons of DistroKid vs TuneCore and DistroKid vs CD Baby.)”

And in October 2018, Spotify acquired a minority stake in DistroKid.

This just means that Spotify has a financial interest in seeing DistroKid succeed and that their partnership is a bit deeper now. DistroKid is still a totally independent music distribution company. But in 2021, Spotify sold ⅔ of that stake.

DistroKid was built and is run by Philip Kaplan. Philip (known as @pud by the Silicon Valley community) was once on the cover of Inc. and Fast Company magazines for his early 2000s blog F*cked Company. And he’s a kickass drummer.

DistroKid is very data focused with no bells and whistles. It’s sleek and simple. Just one page to distribute your song or album. Very, very simple.

I’ve gotten to know Philip well over the past few years, and he’s a great dude. There’s a lot to be said about the people and culture at a company. If your leaders are petty, thin-skinned, vindictive pricks (I’m not naming names here…) that ethos seeps into every aspect of the company and royally f*cks everything (and everyone) up. If your company is led by good, honest people then your employees (and customers) will feel that.

Philip is one of the good guys.

DistroKid was also one of the first to offer automatic payment splitting.

And recently they became the first to offer “recoupment” along with their payment splitting. So if I paid $2,000 for recording costs and want to split 20% with my collaborators, I can designate that I get paid $2,000 FIRST and after I recoup my costs, THEN my collaborators get the 20%. This has been a long time coming and much appreciated.

It’s worth noting that your collaborators that you want DistroKid to pay on your behalf either have to get their own DistroKid account (at $20/year) or you can pay for their account (at $10/year). Not a bad deal considering what accounting services cost.

I love that DistroKid gives you the ability to set your timestamp for TikTok – huge if you’re trying to go viral on there! It’s also great that they give you the ability to download your songs. So if your hard drive crashes, your WAVs are stored in their cloud (and you can download them and get them back).

Worth noting that things that are possible on other distributors, DistroKid makes impossible.

DistroKid’s customer support will say you can’t do certain things. But that just means with them. For instance, if you want to distribute a remix titled a certain way with the remix artist as a collaborator (sharing Artist credit), DistroKid will block it because it doesn’t meet their style format. Now, DistroKid will say it’s the DSP’s style format and that they will block it, but that’s not true with other music distribution companies. I’ve tested this.

DistroKid also refused to re-distribute a song that was distributed (incorrectly) by an artist who accidentally listed the artists incorrectly (put their collaborator as “feat.” without listing them as a fellow artist – which would link to their profile on Spotify and would show up on both artists’ profiles). They said it just wasn’t possible. But in the end this artist was able to get the song distributed how they wanted it with LANDR.

Philip has setup DistroKid to be as automated as possible. Which can really streamline the company’s workflow, but can be a major headache for when artists need hands-on (non-robotic) attention – like the use cases from above.

They also now offer SMS marketing tools. Like “text ARTIST NAME to this number to be notified when I come to your town.” With SMS marketing becoming more popular and more important than email marketing (with MUCH higher open rates), DistroKid is ahead on this front now too.

DistroKid offers music video distribution (for a fee).

BEST:

  • No commission. You keep 100% of your royalties.
  • Open to all
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Credits distribution

WORST:

  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees
  • Revenue reports are poor / decent

DistroKid vs TuneCore

They carry similar upfront and hidden fees, but DistroKid is outshined by TuneCore in the revenue reports department.

DistroKid vs CD Baby

DistroKid vs CD Baby highlights the ‘WORST’ list of CD Baby coming in with commission payments, no payment splitting, no credits or lyrics distribution, among others. Check out the end of our DistroKid review below for the short ‘WORST’ list of this digital distribution company.

Questions About DistroKid

Is DistroKid better than TuneCore?

It depends on what you’re looking for. DistroKid offers payment splitting, whereas TuneCore does not. TuneCore also charges per release/per year, and DistroKid charges $19.99/year for unlimited releases (and Ari’s Take readers get a 10% discount!). But TuneCore doesn’t tack on a bunch of additional fees like DistroKid does.

Tunecore’s royalty reports are AMAZING – DistroKid has a lot to work on in that department. Here’s how I like to break it down: if you’re releasing A TON of music, DistroKid’s $20/year, unlimited releases is quite attractive. If you’re only releasing an album a year or so – Tunecore may be for you. But check out the chart for a more detailed breakdown.

Does TuneCore pay more than DistroKid?

With our data, yes, we’ve found that TuneCore typically does pay slightly more than DistroKid for streaming revenue. Read our report for a more detailed breakdown. 

+How Much Each Distributor Pays For Spotify and Apple Music

Is there something better than DistroKid?

It depends. Digital distribution companies, like DistroKid, vary a lot. Each one offers different and specific features that may or may not appeal to certain musicians. 

How long does DistroKid take to upload?

DistroKid can upload your music to Spotify in 2-7 business days and Apple Music in 1-7 business days.

Ditto Music

Ditto Music Review:

Ok, deep breath. A lot has changed since I posted my first digital distribution comparison article nearly 10 years ago. I’ve been threatened with lawsuits (twice), companies have ‘pivoted’ and gotten out of the music distributors business. Companies have been acquired (Believe bought TuneCore, Downtown bought CD Baby) and others have gone under.

Ditto Music is one of the companies that threatened to sue me. Well, the co-CEO Lee Parsons did, for asking a question about royalty collection.

Ditto Music is run by co-founders, co-CEOs, co-brothers, Lee and Matt Parsons. It started in the UK and was who Ed Sheeran first used to distribute his self-released music back before his record deal. Remember what I said about the culture and ethos of a company? Well, I’m sorry to say that Lee and Matt have some of the worst reputations in the space. They consistently berate their customers (publicly on message boards) and get into Twitter battles. They have very thin skin and cannot take criticism well. This is all personal, yes, but this attitude seeps into every aspect of their company – including customer service.

I have gotten more complaints from readers about Ditto than any other digital music distributors on the list. 

By far. Complaints about missed payments. Complaints that the customer service is great ONLY UNTIL you pay them money, then customer service is non-existent. Metadata errors and mislabeling/misordering of songs on the album with it taking months to get it fixed. Removals taking months. If at all.

And worst of all, complaints that Ditto rips down releases and doesn’t pay their artists. This is a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

All in all, even though Ditto has a great marketing department (for the company – not their artists) and even though they have rapidly expanded to two countries with multiple offices and even though there are very good people who work there, I cannot recommend them in this Ditto Music review.

Needless to say, this is the only company that I am confidently putting into the ‘do not work with them’ category.

BEST:

  • No commission. You keep 100% of your royalties
  • Open to all
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees
  • No payment splitting
  • No songwriter / producer credits distribution

Questions About Ditto Music

Is Ditto better than DistroKid?

No. Ditto Music’s reputation and lack of customer service has placed them in the ‘do not work with’ category.

Who uses Ditto Music?

Artists who have used Ditto Music in the past include Ed Sheeran, Chance The Rapper, Sam Smith, Izzy Bizu, and Dave.

How does Ditto Music work?

By uploading your music to Ditto Music you’ll be able to distribute your music to digital service providers like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal, and more.

How much does Ditto cost?

£19/year for unlimited releases and 1 artist; £29/year for unlimited releases and 2 artists

Horus Music

Horus Music Review:

Horus Music is a smaller distributor based in the UK. They’ve flown under the radar a bit, but they are a standalone, open to all, DIY indie distributor. They operate a similar model as DistroKid, Tunecore where you can keep 100% of royalties, but there are various fees. 

Similar to Symphonic Distribution, they have a more hands-on “label services” tier, where if accepted, you get access to their more exclusive tools like playlist pitching, royalty advances, marketing services, a dedicated account manager, and other opportunities. 

You can distribute music videos to VEVO, Apple and TIDAL – for a hefty fee which is not listed anywhere in their FAQ – which is why I’ve listed they have some hidden fees considering other distributors allow you to distribute music videos at no cost. 

Like how ONErpm has cornered the Latin American market (which is covered below in the ONErpm review), Horus is starting to corner the Asian market. They have seen success in India and Korea and are expanding into China. They have a lot of mechanisms in place to help with marketing and promotion (for a fee).

BEST:

  • No commission. You keep 100% of your royalties. 
  • Open to all
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Credits distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees

Questions About Horus Music

Is Horus Music good?

There are many great features with Horus. Artists keep 100% of their royalties. Horus is open to all artists and their revenue reports are clear and intelligible.

Is Horus Music free?

No. Horus Music only offers paid plans starting at £20 per year to distribute your music to digital service providers like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

What stores does Horus Music distribute to?

Horus Music distributes to most DSPs like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, TikTok, Instagram, TIDAL and more.

LANDR

LANDR Review:

Landr has come a long way from its roots in instant mastering. They still have an exceptional on-demand mastering service, but have since expanded into not only distribution, but they have a samples library, a collaboration tool to interact with other producers and artists on Landr. 

Landr also now has a SoundBetter-esque marketplace where you can offer your creative services (or hire someone to help you with your project). You’ll see professionals offering services ranging from mixing to graphic design, animation to drumming. And everything in between. Including music reviews, bio writing, and release strategy.

Landr is more of a one stop shop for bedroom producer/musicians. It’s the new hub to make your music and get it out to the world. It has two main tiers: Studio and Studio Pro which include access to the sample library, unlimited mastering and distribution and access to some educational lessons. 

I poked my head into some of their educational content. It seems they have simply just whitelabeled an unknown online music education hub. The lessons are low quality, dry and dated. Landr really missed the mark on their education offering here. 

+Ari’s Take Academy: Registration Royalties & Release, Advanced Sync Strategies, Streaming and Instagram Growth

I reviewed their mastering service a bit in my book.

They have a successful digital distribution arm of their company now and in writing this LANDR Distribution review, I’ve heard great things.

BEST:

  • Open to all
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Payment splitting
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible
  • No commission on some plans

WORST:

  • Takes commission on some plans
  • Some upfront fees

Questions About LANDR

Is LANDR good for distribution?

Yes. I have heard great things about LANDR’s music distribution services.

Where does LANDR distribute to?

LANDR distributes to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, Shazam, TikTok, Pandora, and 150+ more DSPs.

How much does LANDR charge for distribution?

LANDR’s distribution costs range from $9 to $149 per year for distribution.

Is LANDR free for distribution?

No. LANDR only offers paid plans for distribution.

OneRPM

ONErpm Review:

ONErpm operates as a DIY artist distributor and full on record label concurrently. Meaning, like the other ‘open to all’ music distributors, any artist can distribute their music with ONErpm, but they also have a full-fledged record label. And a hybrid of the two. 20% of their revenue comes from the DIY community (‘unsigned’ artists) and 80% of their revenue is from the label services side of their business.

If you do get ‘signed’ to them, they can start layering on services which will increase their commission from 15% up to 30% or even 50% if you get the full ‘label services’ package. Worth noting that major record deals are typically 85/15 in the label’s favor. Most indie deals are 50/50. So this is structured like that.

ONErpm is very advanced with their YouTube monetization and have their own “Multi-channel Network” (MCN). If you get accepted into that you will get much more favorable monetization rates and direct ad deals and can earn quite a bit from your YouTube. The channels in their main MCN are currently getting over 300 million views a day (and they have about 20 other MCNs in the ONErpm universe – 7,000 channels globally).

ONErpm launched in 2010 by Emmanuel Zunz without any investor money. ONErpm has never taken investment money. And the company has now grown to nearly 300 employees in offices all over world including Argentina, Columbia, Mexico, Spain, Russia, Peru, Nigeria, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, NYC, and 4 offices in Brazil. With Emmanuel still at the helm.

Emmanuel recently stepped me through his backend CMS on how the label-side workflow functions. Everything from playlist pitching, marketing, PR, YouTube MCN, and so forth.

Even though Emmanuel is American, ONErpm is very globally focused – namely in emerging markets. Known to their artists as one of the best music distribution companies, and business is booming.

BEST:

  • Open to all
  • No upfront fees
  • No hidden fees
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Credits distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Takes commission

Questions About ONErpm

How much does ONErpm cost?

ONErpm is free to distribute your music with, but they take a 15% commission on your royalties.

Is ONErpm good?

Yes. ONErpm is a good digital music distributor.

Is ONErpm free?

Yes. You can distribute your music for free with ONErpm, but they will take a 15% commission on your royalties.

What artists use ONErpm?

Metric, Tame Impala, Ozomotli, Erasmo Carlos, and Leoni. They have more than 520,000 artist accounts.

RouteNote

RouteNote Review:

RouteNote offers great music distribution services for beginners because the platform is simple. Some RouteNote artists are earning a living from music distribution to China alone.

RouteNote has been around since 2008 and has held steady even though it hasn’t made the giant waves of the CD Babys, TuneCores and DistroKids of the space. It has a solid team of 70 in the office (most are actually in working bands) with 60 developers in India. The founder/CEO Steven Finch is originally from Australia and moved to London to run a recording studio.

RouteNote was one of the first music distribution companies to partner with SoundCloud. They have a small record label and management services. RouteNote moderates the data and if they see songs that are starting to catch they will target tastemakers and playlist editors. “Artists don’t typically know that they are being pushed,” Steve told me.

RouteNote is one of the first distributors to reach all of the Chinese outlets in addition to India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia (with 193 total countries). They boast that they cover “95% of the world’s music market” and are “constantly partnering with extra stores.” Steve predicted that in “5-10 years (the Asian market) is going to be crazy.” They have gotten in on the front end of it all.

He said currently some artists are currently earning a living from the revenue just based from China and that the younger generation is very strong in China.

Steve told me that “mobile phones changed everything” in India and China. It’s driving the youth who might be in very rural areas who before would not have the opportunity to find, consume (and pay for) music.             

BEST:

  • Open to all
  • No hidden fees
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible
  • No credits distribution

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • Some upfront fees
  • No lyrics distribution

Questions About RouteNote

Is RouteNote really free?

Yes. RouteNote offers free music distribution services (for a 15% commission), but they also offer paid tiers for added features.

Is RouteNote better than TuneCore?

RouteNote offers more distribution to services in countries like India and China than TuneCore. RouteNote also has artists living off of their income from China alone.

How long does RouteNote take to approve?

We recommend uploading your music to RouteNote at least 4 weeks prior to your release, but they can get your music onto Spotify and Apple Music within 1-5 days.

Is RouteNote a publisher?

While RouteNote’s main business is distribution of masters, RouteNote does offer in-house admin publishing services as an opt-in service.

Songtradr

Songtradr Distribution Review:

Songtradr is one of the newest music distribution companies. They have in house sync agents and a robust music library searching system. They have been growing rapidly and regularly get syncs for their artists. They launched their digital distribution arm in June 2018. To support artists during the nightmare that was 2020, they offered free distribution with 0% commission through the end of 2020.

Songtradr was started by Paul and Victoria Wiltshire (they’re married). They are both musicians with a lot of experience in the sync space. Songtradr started as a sync licensing service.

It’s kind of like a sync licensing company meets a music library. 

Songtradr uses 3rd party music distributors out of Europe for the actual distribution. Because of this, they have to deal with currency conversion. I got a look at some music royalties distribution reports from August of 2019 and their Spotify payments were nearly half what other distributors receive. They have said they have remedied this (only after I pointed this out). That’s the issue with companies who get into distribution after the fact – pretty steep learning curve. I’ve seen updated royalty reports and it seems they have worked out this issue for since the latest update to this Songtradr review.

+How Much Each Distributor Pays For Spotify and Apple Music

BEST: 

  • Open to all
  • No hidden fees
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • Some upfront fees
  • No lyrics distribution
  • No credits distribution

Questions About Songtradr

Is Songtradr legit?

Yes. Songtradr’s services, like music distribution and sync licensing, are legit.

Is Songtradr really free?

Yes. However, Songtradr does take a 10% commission on their free plan.

How much does Songtradr cost?

Songtradr offers a free tier for their music distribution services with a 10% commission. Otherwise, their fees fluctuate based on the number of artists. See the chart for a more detailed breakdown.

How do you earn money on Songtradr?

Songtradr allows musicians to distribute their music to digital service providers like Apple Music and Spotify. Once distributed, Songtradr will collect the royalties and pay them out to the rights holders. Songtradr also specializes in sync licensing and many artists have had success getting their music placed with Songtradr. 

Soundrop

Soundrop Review:

Soundrop caters to a very specific artist and is a great platform for music distribution when looking at the big picture. Soundrop is meant for artists who primarily play cover songs. It’s only $0.99 to distribute a cover (cheapest of anyone out there).

You should go check out their Twitter account. It’s hilarious. The best in the biz. Beyond goofy. It’s completely unprofessional, and I f*cking love it for that.

It’s run by the head of Soundrop, Pony. Soundrop was created when CD Baby took over Loudr’s distribution service back in 2017 when Loudr got out of distribution (and then was acquired by Spotify).

With streamlined cover distribution and payment splitting with no additional fees, it’s solid if you distribute covers regularly and need to split up payments. It’s meant for collaborators. Like Stem, it had payment splitting from the very start and is focused around getting everyone paid their appropriate music royalties (so you don’t have to deal with handling paying your collaborators).

Their reports, however, leave much to be desired. They basically just give you an excel sheet and say “good luck!”

Soundrop is technically located in the CD Baby building, but the services are completely separate and Pony mentioned that he doesn’t really talk to the CD Baby people very much.

Soundrop isn’t meant to compete with the other services (like their sister CD Baby). It’s meant to simplify distribution for a very specific kind of creator.

BEST:

  • Open to all
  • No upfront fees
  • No hidden fees
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Credits distribution

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • No lyrics distribution
  • Revenue reports are poor / decent

Questions About Soundrop

Is Soundrop free?

Soundrop now charges $0.99/track to distribute originals and cover songs. And Soundrop takes a 15% commission on royalties.

What happened to Soundrop?

In 2017, Soundrop was created when CD Baby acquired Loudr’s distribution service. Loudr was acquired by Spotify in 2018 and dissolved their public facing operations. 

Is Soundrop legit?

Yes. Soundrop is a legit music distribution service provider.

Stem

Stem Review:

Stem is a big music distribution services contender. They boast a very high playlist plugging success rate and every client gets a dedicated project manager. Stem has the best payment splitting infrastructure built right into their reports. They had payment splitting from the get-go and everyone else in the space has been playing catch up. Stem is invite-only (submission based) which allows the team to give personal attention to their clients.

Stem is run by CEO and co-founder Milana Rabkin. It is worth pointing out that this is one of the ONLY music distributors run by a woman.

Stem is investment backed – meaning that their business model hasn’t been profitable until recently. In 2019 when they realized that more artists did not mean better business (just more money spent with customer support and tech), they pivoted. They booted a significant number of artists who did not meet their earnings threshold and upped their commission from 5% to 10%.

With its remaining clients, Stem has a good reputation so this was probably a good move in the end (even though it left many artists out in the cold).

What’s really interesting with how Stem runs payment splitting is: all parties must approve splits before music royalties are distributed. This can be a blessing and a curse. You know nothing is getting distributed until everyone agrees on splits, but at the same time, if this hasn’t been agreed upon well in advance some people could hold out demanding a higher cut. This is why you should work with split sheets from the get-go!

BEST:

  • No upfront fees
  • Payment splitting
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible
  • Distributes to China
  • Credits distribution

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • Must be accepted to use
  • Some hidden fees

Questions About Stem Music

How much does Stem music distribution cost?

Stem’s services are free to use, but they take a 10% commission on your royalties.

What is Stem distribution best for?

Stem has a great payment splitting infrastructure built right into their reports (however they do not offer recoupment as of now – like DistorKid does. Stem also has a very hands-on approach and actively pitches their releases to DSPs like Spotify, Apple, Amazon and Pandora for placement. 

Who owns Stem distribution?

Milana Rabkin is the co-founder and CEO of Stem.

Symphonic Distribution

Symphonic Review:

Symphonic has positioned itself as one of the strong indie music distribution services. Symphonic built its strong reputation by being selective – only accepting established artists and labels in a commission model. Every artist was vetted and artists were “signed” who they believe in.

Symphonic now has two plans. The “Partner” plan which is more hands-on where the artist or label gets access to all of their premier services like playlist plugging, PR and advances (fees may apply for some of these services), and the “Starter” plan which any artist no matter their level can join into. This plan charges $19.99/year for unlimited releases and 0% commission. The artists on the “Starter” plan however do not get access to many of the “Partner” services. However split payments come included with this plan – which is huge! Meaning, if your producer is owed 20% of all your master royalties, you can add them in and Symphonic will cut them a check directly for free. Other distributors charge to add split payments.

Symphonic has offices in New York, Nashville, Tampa, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Canada and elsewhere which is definitely helpful to get some facetime if you’re in the area.

Symphonic has integrated TikTok and YouTube analytics and has royalty collection with SoundExchange and other worldwide neighboring rights organizations along with physical distribution.

Symphonic has created a niche in the Latin music market and are actively positioning themselves as the best music distribution service for urban, electronic and Latin artists (Nick used to specialize in hip hop and electronic music when he worked at Caroline Distribution). Not to say they won’t work with others, they are just specializing in these genres. Many of their clients make beats, and Beatport is a major partner for Symphonic. Many music distribution companies won’t touch Beatport (their reputation for payments is iffy), but Symphonic is all-in.

BEST:

  • No hidden fees
  • Open to all
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Payment splitting
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Credits distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Takes commission (on some deals)
  • Some upfront fees

Questions About Symphonic

Is Symphonic free?

It depends. Symphonic now has two plans “Partner” and “Starter”. Symphonic Partner is free, but they take a flexible commission (starting at 15% and changing depending on your needs). Symphonic Starter is $19.99 per year, unlimited releases per a primary artist.

Does Symphonic distribute to Beatport?

Yes. Symphonic distributes to Beatport and many other digital service providers.

How much does Symphonic distribution cost?

Symphonic has two plans “Partner” and “Starter”. Symphonic Partner is free, but they take a flexible commission (starting at 15% and changing depending on your needs). Symphonic Starter is $19.99 per year, unlimited releases per a primary artist.

TuneCore

TuneCore Review:

Welp! It finally happened. TuneCore changed their model after 16 years to compete with DistroKid. DistroKid has taken most of the marketshare and TuneCore has had enough apparently. As of June 7th, 2022, TuneCore now offers an annual subscription service ranging from $14.99/yr – $49.99/yr for unlimited releases. All plans still allow you to keep 100% of your royalties from DSPs. (Tunecore keeps 20% of revenue from social platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram)

+Full Tunecore in-depth Review

TuneCore’s analytics and sales reports are some of the best in the biz. They offer the ability to carve out territories which can be helpful if you have a territory specific record deal (like a Brazil-only record deal offer, or something like that).

So, TuneCore has been around almost as long as CD Baby and you’ll often see TuneCore vs CD Baby comparisons. It originally set itself apart from CD Baby initially because it offered 0% commission (you receive 100% of your royalties), but makes its revenue by charging an annual subscription fee.

TuneCore was acquired by Believe Digital a couple years back. After the long-time CEO Scott Ackerman stepped down in May of 2020, the vibe and energy of the company dramatically shifted from the detached, cold, corporate environment where everything needed to be run through a PR firm, to where it is now – where it has returned to its artist-friendly, indie focused ethos.

TuneCore has a publishing arm (powered by Sentric). I have a full review on their publishing service here.

+Songtrust vs. Sentric vs. CD Baby Publishing vs. TuneCore Publishing

TuneCore offers revenue advances based on past streaming royalties

I do have to give a shoutout for their revenue advances feature which IS super innovative – where if your past releases have generated consistent revenue, TuneCore will advance you the money for future releases so you can have more of a budget up front for production and marketing. That alone sets TuneCore at the top when you compare distribution companies.

BEST:

  • No commission. You keep 100% of your royalties 
  • Open to all
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok (20% commission)
  • Payment splitting
  • Lyrics distribution
  • Credits distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Some upfront fees
  • Some hidden fees

TuneCore vs DistroKid

TuneCore specifically priced their new model to undercut DistroKid’s fees. DistroKid notoriously charges lots of add-on fees which quickly add up. Like the basic feature of setting a release date in the future you can’t get for DistroKid’s baseline plan. You can with TuneCore’s. From my quick napkin math, it seems TuneCore will be cheaper for the “Breakout Artist” and the “Professional” plans. DistroKid and TuneCore both offer payment splitting now.

+READ: Tunecore is Coming for DistroKid: Full Review

TuneCore vs CD Baby

Comparing TuneCore vs CD Baby on the other hand – TuneCore takes the cake with CD Baby missing out by taking commission, not giving proper credits and lyrics distribution, among a few others. Although both TuneCore and CD Baby don’t offer payment splitting. TuneCore passes through 100% of your royalties (on the higher tier plans) whereas CD Baby keeps 9% – passing through 91% of your royalties. They both have admin publishing services directly built into their services. 

+Songtrust vs. Sentric vs. Tunecore Publishing vs. CD Baby Pro Publishing 

Questions About TuneCore

How much does TuneCore really cost?

“Rising Artist” plan = $14.99/year with a 0% commission for unlimited releases

“Breakout Artist” plan = $29.99/year with 0% commission for unlimited releases

“Professional” plan = $49.99/year with 0% commission for unlimited releases

Why is TuneCore so expensive?

TuneCore has been around since 2005 and are one of the most well-known distributors in the space. Their high price tag can be justified by their 0% commission, distribution to China, and some of the best revenue reports of any distributor.

Does TuneCore own your music?

No. TuneCore does not own your music if you’re using their music distribution services.

Is TuneCore better than DistroKid?

It depends. TuneCore now offers payment splitting and their revenue reports are much better than DistroKid’s. TuneCore is also currently far cheaper than DistroKid across the board. 

Tunecore’s royalty reports are AMAZING – DistroKid has a lot to work on in that department. 

UnitedMasters

UnitedMasters Review:

United Masters are big in the hip hop space. Some of the best things about this music distribution company is the no hidden fees, their revenue reports are clear, and they distribute to China and TikTok. Non flattering qualities include that they take commission from their artists, they have upfront fees, and they don’t distribute lyrics.

UnitedMasters has been making waves the past couple years. They just surpassed 1,500,000 artists and have become a major player in the space. UnitedMasters was founded by industry big wig Steve Stoute. Worth noting, UnitedMasters (UM) is one of the ONLY music distributors with a black CEO. UM is another investment backed company – which got around $70 million from investors like Alphabet Inc and 21st Century Fox.

UM is positioning itself as a label services company to compete with Stem, AWAL, Symphonic, The Orchard, InGrooves, and Believe. They offer advances to some artists (with different revenue sharing models), brand partnerships, and a more hands-on approach (if you’re a priority artist).

They boast that their sync licensing division is strong at that they have direct deals with NBA 2K20. UM regularly run contests for artists to submit music. Winners of these contests get flown out to NYC for various promotional opportunities.

They have struck sync deals with Hulu, Bose, JBL, and NFL.

UnitedMasters has focused on hip hop from the beginning and that’s where their focus remains. Like AWAL, Symphonic and Amuse, UM will “throw gasoline on the fire” if something starts to bubble up. They have the ability (and the money) to help artists pop. But you have to get your song going first on your own before getting backed by this independent music distribution company.

BEST: 

  • Open to all
  • No hidden fees
  • Distributes to China
  • Distributes to TikTok
  • Payment splitting
  • Credits distribution
  • Revenue reports are clear and intelligible

WORST:

  • Takes commission
  • Some upfront fees
  • No lyrics distribution

Questions About UnitedMasters

What artists use UnitedMasters?

NLE Choppa, Lil Tecca, Tobe Nwigwe, Lil XXEL, and many more.

Do Youngboy own UnitedMasters?

No. UnitedMasters is owned by Translation Enterprises. Steve Stoute is the CEO.

Is UnitedMasters a record label?

No. UnitedMasters provides music distribution services for independent artists while retaining 0% ownership. 

Which music distribution companies come out on top?

There is no “best” or “worst” distributor. You have to look at your own, personal situation and own, personal career to figure out what is best for you. There is no one way to make it in the New Music Business. And there is no one best music distribution company.

If you have any questions, comments or experiences with any of these companies please list them in the comments.

Join the Ari’s Take Academy course Registration, Royalties, & Release.

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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