Is it your biggest dream to see your music on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music? And do you dream about making a living from your music? Well, the first step – getting your music on a streaming service – has never been easier. Keep reading if you want to know how!

Digital Distributors

Twenty years ago, you would need a contract with a record label to release your music. Releasing music was only possible for the most successful and popular artists. Today, the world of music distribution has changed drastically with streaming platforms now constituting the vast majority of the music economy. Thanks to the digital distributors, which are companies (online platforms) that distribute music for private musicians like us, music distribution is now accessible to anyone.

The production of music has also become much more accessible. Today, anyone can record and produce music of professional quality from their laptop. It has led to the rise of the new term Do-It-Yourself (DIY)-musicians. Musicians who compose, produce, and release music themselves.

Below is a list of three popular distributors, who vary in pricing structure and services. Among these three, there should be one that fits any type of musician – whether you are dreaming big or just create music as a hobby. It’s common for all of them that you can submit your tracks and get them on several streaming services with just a few clicks.

CDbaby is one of the biggest players in the DIY-musician market and maybe also the one who delivers the most comprehensive services. With CDBaby you get:

What you get
  • +150 streaming platforms.
  • Indefinite distribution (no annual fee).
  • 9% royalty cut.
  • PRO Registration. (What is a PRO?)
  • Licensing opportunites (CDBaby licensing).
  • Sync Licensing (Youtube/Facebook/IG).
Pricing
  • Single (Standard): $9.95
  • Single (Pro): $29.95
  • Album (Standard): $29
  • Single (Pro): $69

With up to $69 to release an album, CDBaby is not the cheapest service you’ll find. According to CDBaby, what you get extra for ‘Pro’ distribution is “Worldwide publishing royalty collection”, “Direct song registration with global royalty collection societies”, and “Performing Rights Organization affiliation”. Whether or not it’s profitable to pay $69 for this is hard to determine, but if you want your music to be distributed as widely as possible, CDBaby Pro distribution is the way to go!

As the only distributor on this list, CDBaby takes a cut of 9% on your earnings. Bear that in mind, when you go through the pricing schemes of the different distributors.

Founded in 2013, Distrokid is a newer company in the market of self-distribution. Distrokid offers a bit more ‘narrow’ service, focusing solely on getting music on streaming services fast and affordably. Therefore, they don’t offer PRO registration and there’s no licensing platform. They offer easy cover song licensing making their platform ideal for cover song artists.

What you get
  • +150 streaming platforms.
  • 100% royalties paid out (no cuts)
  • Easy cover song licensing.
  • Sync Licensing (Youtube/Facebook/IG).
Pricing
  • $19.95/year - unlimited releases.
  • +$29.00 per release for indefinite distribution (!)

The big difference compared to CDBaby is that Distrokid is subscription-based. It’s worth noting, that your music only stay released as long as you keep paying $19.95/year, unless you pay an additional fee per release of $29.00 to make it stay released indefinitely. If you are planning to pay that fee for all releases, you are probably better off using CDBaby who charges $9.95 per single with no recurring annual fee. But as always, it’s not so easy to determine, because Distrokid gives you 100% of your royalties, which is more than CDBaby’s 91%.

The distribution program from TuneCore is comparable to CDBaby. They also offer PRO registration and make sure that your music is on almost any possible platform. What differentiates TuneCore from the two others is their different price model, which is highly relevant to take a closer look at.

What you get
  • +150 streaming platforms.
  • 100% royalties paid out (no cuts)
  • PRO registration.
  • Licensing opportunities.
  • Easy cover song licensing.
  • Sync Licensing (Youtube/Facebook/IG).
Pricing
  • Single: $9.99/year (per release)
  • Album: $49.99/year (per release) - $29.99 1st Year.

Note that TuneCore charges per release per year. So as you keep increasing your portfolio of releases, your annual fee for using TuneCore keeps increasing. It can add up pretty fast making their service much more expensive than others.

However, while TuneCore offers roughly the same services as CDBaby, they also offer a 0% royalty cut (compared to CDbaby’s 9%) and they also have easier cover song licensing. The additional 9% in royalties is worth it if your earnings are sufficiently high. It’s good to dream of success, but truth is, that this will likely be a bad deal for most DIY musicians.

What is a PRO?

A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) is a national organization that collects royalties for music used in public, such as on radio, in stores, restaurants, etc. It’s a very good idea to register your work with your national PRO to make sure you are paid any royalties owed to you. Find the PRO in your country on this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_rights_organisation#Organisations

Promoting your music

Just submitting your music for the streaming platforms is rarely enough to gain an audience, and thus, any noticeable streaming royalties. Below I discuss some ways to promote your music.

Create your Artist Profiles

Most of the popular streaming services offer backend artist profiles. These are dashboards for artists to get insights into the traffic on their music. Through your Spotify for Artist dashboard you can submit new releases for playlist consideration which, if approved, is a great way to reach a large audience. On your artist dashboard you may also find other promotion tools to use.

Playlisting

You can also reach playlists in other ways. Because it has become so popular to chase playlists to reach audiences, several platforms have risen to help musicians get on playlists.

Some of these platforms include Soundcamps.com and Submithub.com. On these platforms, you can search for playlists that correspond well with your music, and apply for consideration. You can be pretty sure to be placed on some playlists, but can never be sure how many followers and active listeners these playlists have. But if you can just reach 50-100 new listeners it’s a great start!

Check your distributors promotion tools

All the distributors mentioned in this articles have either partnered with promotion companies or have their own promotion tools. No matter what distributor you are using, be sure to check out which promotion tools you distributor has to offer.

A simple start in a competitive market

This article can be summarized in a few words. Releasing your music is simple – reaching an audience is not. But it’s just about working for it and keep believing, then I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you see a good revenue stream coming in from your music! Thanks for reading this article, and please post your comments and thoughts below!

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About Jacob's Piano

I am Jacob Ladegaard also known as Jacob's Piano. I am a pianist and composer located in Copenhagen, Denmark. On this site I invite you in to my musical world. You can purchase sheet music or MIDI files for my original work or find the help you are looking for in my blog posts.

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