Updated: Jul 3, 2021
You may know that if you want to publish your songs on stores like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, etc., you either have to use a distribution service or get signed by a record label. In the independent music industry, the first one is the only option available. So today, we're going to check out and compare different popular music distribution services available to individual artists in 2021! If you want to know more about music distribution, you can check out this blog post here.
Here is a brief list of the distributors that we're going to compare:
Note: The information here is for informational purposes only. Do your own research before selecting a Distributor.
Distrokid is one of the most popular distribution services among independent artists. It is the preferred choice for many artists because of its lightning-fast distribution! It's cheap and its distribution service is fast as you can get your songs out within 24-48 hours. The basic plan starts at just $19.99. That's the only thing I like about Distrokid.
But, there are some things that I don't like. For example, if you don't pay your yearly subscription, your songs will be taken down. Also, you have to pay extra if you want to use features like custom label name, custom release date, etc. These features are not available in the basic plan. If you're on the basic musician plan, your release will go live immediately after uploading, so you get no time for marketing.
There is one more problem, the release does not go live on all stores at the same time. If there is not enough gap between the upload date and the release date (which can be only done with the Music Plus plan), the release may get delivered to different stores, not at the same time. So, you also have to look after that (some stores might even take weeks).
Also, you have to pay for some services like YouTube Content ID for every song individually as these services are not included in any plan.
In conclusion, Distrokid is great for someone just starting out, but its basic musician plan may not be the best option for professionals. Also, paying individually for services like content id is not a viable option for most musicians.
Pricing: $19.99/Year for 1 Artist, $35.99/Year for 2 Artists
Pros: Cheap price, faster releases.
Cons: You have to pay extra for services like YouTub Content ID, etc. The Musician Plan does not include a custom release date and a custom label name.
Amuse is a free (and paid) distribution service. It is famous for its free plan and no royalty cut. Previously, it allowed unlimited releases for free with a 0% royalty cut. That's what made it famous. Right now, you can upload 12 releases per year for free with a 0% royalty cut. If you want to upload more music, then there are two plans: Boost and Pro. The Boost costs $24.99 while the Pro costs $59.99.
Amuse's free plan is great, especially for new musicians in the industry who are not going to release more than 12 releases per year as you're not restricted with the type of release. You can release 12 albums per year or 12 singles or a mix of both - the choice is yours.
The con of the free plan: Amuse has a 4 week review time for the free plan. So, you have to upload the release at least a month before the desired release date. And, you cannot upload songs to Instagram Music, Tik Tok, etc. Content ID is not available with the free plan.
The pro of the free plan: You get enough time for marketing your track, especially pitching your track to Spotify editorial playlists which is almost impossible with Distrokid's basic plan. Also, you get access to almost all music stores.
About the Boost and the Pro plan: The Boost plan is intended for intermediate artists who want to release many songs and want to reach more stores like Instagram, Tik Tok, etc. while the Pro plan is intended for professionals with teams and those who want to manage multiple artists.
In conclusion, Amuse is a great option for almost every type of musician. If you're just starting out, go for the free plan. The paid plans might seem quite expensive compared to Distrokid, however, that's not true. Amuse doesn't have any hidden charges like Distrokid. You only have to pay once! That's why it's technically cheaper than Distrokid.
Pros: Free plan is great for every artist. You don't have to continue with the paid subscription to keep the songs live.
Cons: Long review time with the Free plan.
3. CD Baby
CD Baby is one of the most popular distributors in the independent music industry. It has great customer support. The thing that makes it stand out is its publishing deal (which you've to pay extra for). It administers your publishing royalties too (which many distributors don't do). Also, it pitches songs to top music supervisors around the world.
This may seem awesome, but the truth is something else.
CD Baby charges for individual songs instead of a yearly plan. It's definitely great for those musicians who want to release a single or an album probably once a year but not for those who want to release multiple singles/albums every year. It just becomes too expensive for new artists, especially if you're going for the "full monetization" plan which costs $29.95 for a single and $69 for an album.
Talking about publishing royalties, it's very easy to collect them by registering yourself with a PRO like BMI (BMI is free to join). If you want someone to help you manage and collect publishing royalties, you can hire an administrative agent like Songtrust, etc. I wouldn't advise you to use CD baby just for the publishing royalties.
Also, you have to pay extra for UPC!!!
In conclusion, CD Baby is great for those who want to release a few singles/albums. If you intend to release more songs, I would recommend you to go with a cheaper option like Amuse or Distrokid.
Pricing: $9.99/$29.99 per single, $29/$69 per album
Pros: Huge number of stores available. One-time fees per submission.
Cons: It's very expensive. CD Baby doesn't even provide a UPC for free!
Tunecore is another famous music distributor available in the market. Its pricing and offers are very similar to CD Baby. The major difference is YouTube Content ID. With CD Baby, you get YouTube Content ID for no extra cost while with Tunecore, you have to pay a one-time registration fee of $10 for YouTube Content ID.
Another difference is Music Publishing Administration. Unlike CD Baby, Tunecore doesn't charge extra money for every release of music publishing administration. Instead, you have to pay a one-time fee of $75 for this.
However, Tunecore's pricing is very aggressive. You have to pay every year for every release to keep them live in stores. If you don't pay, they will be removed from the stores.
What's our advice? We think that Tunecore is great for those who are either well-established and wants help in publishing administration or those who want to release very few songs once or twice a year. (Honestly, free distributors are better if you are not interested in publishing administration and some extra stores like Instagram Music, etc.)
Pricing: $9.99/Single/Year, $49.99/Album/Year
Pros: Extra services like Music publishing, etc.
Cons: Ridiculously expensive as you have to pay every year for every release.
5. Ditto Music
Ditto Music is another popular choice among independent musicians. Its pricing is very similar to Distrokid. It starts at $19 per year only. You can release unlimited songs at that price.
It is famous for the extra services that almost no other independent distributors offer like Vevo channel management, registration for charts, etc. However, you have to pay for these services. You might see that they offer many services but many of those are not available in any of the plans. You have to pay separately for them after making an account.
If we ignore these paid services, Ditto music is very similar to Distrokid. There is almost no difference in pricing.
In conclusion, Ditto Music is a great Distrokid alternative that you can try.
Note: There are many services that Ditto Music which are not included in the plans. Make sure to check their support section before joining.
Pros: One of the cheapest options available.
Cons: Some services that they claim to provide like VEVO distribution is not included in any plan. You have to pay extra for that.
You probably might have heard about Landr. Landr is famous for its multiple services. It provides AI mastering, distribution, plugin subscriptions, and samples packs. Of course, not for the same price. You've to pay separately for everything and there is no combo plan for everything.
Talking about distribution, Landr has three plans: Lite, Complete and Unlimited. The lite plan is just like CD Baby and Tunecore's basic plan starting at $9 for a single release, $29 for an album. Also, Landr charges a 15% commission on royalties in this plan. The details of other plans can be found here.
Overall, Landr is a great service. However, the price seems too high as compared to other distributors.
Pricing: $9/Single, $29/Album,
Pros: Guaranteed 2 Day release
Cons: 15% royalty cut
AWAL is a little different from other distributors on this list. It is a free service. However, the entry is restricted. You have to submit your portfolio to them for review. If they like your music, you might be selected to become a part of AWAL.
Overall, it's a great service. It is totally free and if you're on their AWAL+ or AWAL Recordings plan, you will also get funding for your songs, just like a record deal. However, a major difference between a record label and AWAL is that you will always own rights to your song.
If you think that your trajectory is good then you should definitely check out AWAL.
Royalties: Depends on Plan
Pros: It's Free!
Cons: Restricted entry
8. Record Union
Record union is similar to Distrokid. It's also the preferred distribution partner of Spotify and Apple Music.
The pricing is very straightforward. You only have to pay $1.99/month for unlimited releases for a single artist. There are other plans like the pay-per-release plans but we won't be reviewing those here.
It's just a normal distribution service. No fancy stuff and that's what we like about it.
The only con is that the details on their help and support page are very outdated. The details regarding the current unlimited plan are nowhere to be found and no details regarding services like YouTube content ID, UPC/ISRC registration, etc. Do your own research before choosing a distributor.
Overall, it's a great distribution service and a great alternative to Distrokid and Amuse. Definitely recommended for every type of artist.
Pros: Cheap pricing, Spotify preferred distributor.
Cons: Outdated support page raises many questions.
9. Horus Music
Horus Music is another popular music distributor available for independent musicians.
Its pricing is similar to Distrokid. It cost $20 per year for unlimited releases. However, according to Horus Music, "Unlimited" means 24 singles a year, 7 EPs a year, or 4 Albums a year. Yes, they want their users to follow a "Fair Usage" policy. If you want to upload more than that, their team will contact you once you reach the threshold.
If you do not prefer an annual subscription, you also have the option to pay per release. However, we're not gonna talk about that here as they're quite expensive compared to alternatives like CD Baby and Tunecore.
They also provide other services like video distribution to the VEVO channel, Music Mastering, etc. But, you have to pay extra for that! So, do your own research for more details.
Overall, it's a great service if we just consider the basic distribution plan.
Pros: One of the cheapest options available.
Cons: You can only release 24 Singles/7 EPs/5 Albums.
RouteNote is another free music distributor available in the market. It has two plans: Free and Premium.
However, RouteNote takes a 15% royalty cut on the free plan. So, if you're planning to go with RouteNote, get ready to pay 15% of your royalties.
Apart from that, the free plan is amazing. You get access to all stores. There is no difference in the number of stores between both the plans.
Now, let's talk about the premium plan. In short, it's not great. It's probably one of the most overpriced services available in the market. You have to pay per release and a yearly subscription fee to keep your release up.
In conclusion, the free plan is great for everyone (you're willing to give up 15% of your royalties). On the other hand, the premium plan is not that great as there are other alternatives available.
Pricing: Free or $10/Single, $20 per EP, $30 per Album, $45 per Extended Album + $9.99 Annual Subscription.
Royalties: 85% on the free plan, 100% on the Premium plan
Pros: Free plan is great for beginners
Cons: The Premium plan is overpriced.
Overall, after comparing pricing and features, Amuse's $24.99 plan and Ditto Music's $19 plan seem to be the most affordable and reasonable. With Amuse and Ditto Music, you don't have to pay anything extra for features like YouTube Content ID, UPC/ISRC generation, etc.
Distrokid's Musician+ plan is a great competitor here as you can release for 2 artists instead of one. However, you still have to pay extra for services like YouTube Content ID, Shazam, etc. for every song with Distrokid.
If you're interested in paying per release, Landr is a great option. CD Baby is quite expensive as you have to pay extra for the UPC of every track. Tunecore is also defeated here as its pricing is ridiculously expensive compared to both CD Baby and Landr.
Talking about free distribution services, Amuse still comes at the top because of its 0% royalty cut plan. If you prefer releasing in more stores and want features like content ID, Routenote's free plan might work for you. However, you have to give up 15% of your royalty share.