Digital music aggregators make distributing your music as painless as possible. Companies like DistroKid, TuneCore, and CD Baby provide artists the opportunity to get their music on major platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon, and more. In short, they make your music available and pay you anytime someone listens to it.
The ‘big 3’ of digital distribution include DistroKid, TuneCore, and CD Baby. At face value they all offer similar services, so it can be tough to decide which is the ‘correct’ route. We’ll have a look at each!
Founded in 2013, DistroKid is the youngest of the major digital aggregators. In a short time it’s also established itself as one of the most popular options amongst artists.
For just $19.99 a year, DistroKid offers unlimited uploads for distribution. After uploading, they’ll keep track of and collect your earnings, paying them back at 100% (minus bank fees/applicable taxes). They work with a dizzyingly long list of online music platforms, and you can choose to upload to any or all of them.
Here’s an abbreviated list of the most widely known companies DistroKid can publish your music to:
- Apple Music
- Instagram & Facebook
- TikTok & Resso
- YouTube Music
- Soundtrack by Twitch
- Pandora – For more info, click HERE.
Another great thing about digital aggregators is that they allow you to credit multiple songwriters/producers/featured artists/etc. and determine everyone’s split. Those people will need to be DistroKid subscribers themselves, but the company does all of the math behind the scenes to make sure everyone gets paid appropriately.
While the cost and unlimited upload service is very attractive, it’s important to note that DistroKid does not offer any sort of publishing admin; they don’t collect any money outside of mechanical royalties (streams and purchased downloads only). In theory, you could be missing out on a big chunk of the pie by only cashing in on your stream/sales royalties.
Still, for the average independent artist looking to get their music in the right places, DistroKid is easily the best there is. If that’s not enough, here’s a glowing endorsement from a competitor:
“This is why [digital aggregators] exist – to get the artist access and more money from the use of their music while allowing them to keep their copyrights…God bless Philip Kaplan, founder of DistroKid, for understanding the right way to build a music company. As the Founders of TuneCore, Peter Wells and I can state with no hesitation this is simply the best model for artists to distribute their music, keep their rights and get paid.” — Jeff Price, co-founder of TuneCore
The Brooklyn-based TuneCore got a lot of media attention when they debuted in 2005. Frank Black, frontman of Pixies, was the company’s first customer, and Nine Inch Nails used TuneCore to deliver Ghosts I—IV to Amazon Music in 2008. In the United States, TuneCore represents approximately 10% of the 20 million songs on iTunes, and makes up around 4% of all digital music sales.
As far as pricing, TuneCore is quite a bit different than DistroKid. Rather than a yearly subscription with unlimited uploads, TuneCore starts at $29.99 per album and $9.99 per single, with the album price increasing to $49.99 after the first year. They also offer pre-purchasable credits at a discounted rate, where you can pay for 5 albums up front, for example. Like DistroKid, artists keep 100% of their royalties.
TuneCore really stands out in the additional services they offer independent artists and songwriters. For a $75 one-time fee and a 15-20% commission, TuneCore users get full access to publishing administration. With publishing, TuneCore collects not only mechanical royalties for streams and unit sales, but direct licensing royalties for sync, master use, YouTube, and print. The team also works to pitch TuneCore songs for placement in TV, commercials, and films as well!
CD Baby Review
CD Baby was established in 1998. Like TuneCore, they charge a one-time fee per release; no annual fees. Rather than artists retaining 100% of their royalties, CD Baby keeps 9% of your digital distribution revenue.
CD Baby Pro offers publishing administration services similar to TuneCore as well. That’s truly what sets those two apart from DistroKid; despite having higher prices, the opportunity for revenue is greater with a company working to leave no money on the table. Specifically unique to CD Baby is the ability to produces physical CDs through them, too!
Signing up with CD Baby will also:
- Affiliate you as a songwriter with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) in the US (ASCAP, BMI) and Canada (SOCAN); administer your existing P.R.O. affiliation; or guide you to your country’s P.R.O. membership application.
- Register your songs with royalty collection societies around the world.
- Collect all the performance royalties you’re owed worldwide.
- Collect all your worldwide mechanical royalties for streams and international downloads (which Performing Rights Organizations do NOT collect).
Conclusion: DistroKid, TuneCore, and CD Baby
Each of the most popular digital aggregators and distribution services—DistroKid, TuneCore, and CD Baby—provides a quick and easy way to upload your music to literally hundreds of online stores and streaming services, including all of the major ones like Spotify and Apple Music.
DistroKid is a popular choice for ease-of-use and price effectiveness with limited features, while, at an additional fee, TuneCore and CD Baby provide a complete distribution and publishing experience for the independent artist. Finally, in the event you’d want to produce physical copies of your work, CD Baby would be the way to go.