Review: 10 of the best digital music distributors
Getting your music released is no longer a matter of finding the right record label that is willing to sign your music based on a demo. A multitude of digital distributors, aggregators and DIY music distribution companies are available, just a few clicks away. What is the best music distribution service? Let’s see if we can answer that question.
Record labels (like the Universal Music Group) have, without any doubt, an added value. Counselling and guiding artists, career planning, A&R management and not to mention all the doors they can open on sync- & multimedia portals. But what if you can’t find the right record label? Or labels simply do not appreciate your music as much as you do? Then learning about the best digital distributors is your next step.
What is a digital distributor?
As mentioned in our blog “The importance of digital music distribution”, a distributor is a company providing an online platform, which artists and record labels can use to upload their releases to DSPs like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, YouTube and Beatport. Most music distribution services are also connected to royalty accounting software, completing the supply chain for digital sales of music.
What key services are important in digital distribution?
There are dozens of good digital distributors around the world, all specializing in certain aspects of the market. Some of the key services include the speed of delivery (to DSPs), the % of royalties and/or the costs they charge for using their services, the number of portals you can deliver to and, of course, marketing opportunities and accounting.
Not all distributors have the same business model. Some of them charge per release, others charge a percentage of the royalties accumulated and some a mixture of these two. In some rare cases, some distributors don’t charge anything.
Besides offering marketing products, Kwettr is a full-service distributor for all genres of music. Kwettr started as part of a record label and later on, evolved into a marketing platform and distributor. All experience and expertise in releasing music for over 25 years were used to create a scope of services unparalleled.
Services include social media support and delivery to large DSPs such as Amazon Music, Spotify and Apple Music. Kwettr allows unlimited releases for a record label or independent artist. With fast delivery to any streaming platform, the digital distribution side of Kwettr provides a high service level.
On the marketing side of the business, Kwettr proved itself by winning the Accenture Innovation Awards and being runner-up of the Buma Meets Tech Award. Kwettr was also voted amongst the top 30 most innovative companies in The Netherlands.
Marketing services hailed by competitors and peers, innovative and tailor-made for all sorts of customers. Kwettr offers a smart link-building platform like Linkfire, a so-called unlock tool to spark traffic on social media and mail campaigns.
Apart from these two aspects, it is the personal attention which sets Kwettr apart from its competitors. Let’s compare Kwettr to some of the biggest names in the digital music distribution industry:
Yes, that’s right, SoundCloud is a music distribution company. It’s not its core service, but nonetheless, they have managed to secure a distribution feed to Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
All artists who wish to upload their music to the streaming service of SoundCloud can subsequently also release it on those DSPs. The downside however is that they only the music distribution service to a small group of (streaming) DSPs and have little to no experience in the field.
Besides SoundCloud, TikTok also has launched its own music distribution platform, a trend which might develop further in the future. Digital distribution, done by a social media giant.
One of the oldest music distribution companies around, a household name, TuneCore. Well known for its business model: annual fee per single/album. Sounds like a straight-up deal, with easy, fast deliveries. But do they really charge 0% commission? Yes! Wait, no, they actually charge a 20% commission on YouTube monetization. YouTube music makes up for a big part of the royalties these days. And, to top it all off, if you don’t pay your bills in time, Tunecore is one of the few music distribution services that will take your music offline.
In case you have a lot of fresh tunes, it’s not a scalable way to release a lot of music as you pay per release.
CDBaby has years of experience and is one of the most famous music distribution companies. Besides their well-known name and reputation, they are also one of the few who offer physical distribution.
There is a downside, though. CD Baby is expensive, money is charged for using barcodes and they charge a stunning 30% commission on YouTube monetization.
Besides CD Baby there is another well-known name, DistroKid. No commission, and no payment threshold. On the other hand, they charge a yearly fee for YouTube monetization and a fee per single or album release. Their reporting and analytics are also pretty basic. It is a go-to when your release strategy is focused on quantity over quality.
Famous for its extensive marketing opportunities, no annual fees and the option to distribute music videos. On the other hand, Symphonic‘s distribution fee is one of the highest around and complaints about their customer service are widespread.
Ditto Music does not charge a distribution fee or commission, they charge a fixed price per month. On top of that an extra 10% commission on YouTube monetization. Customer service is also not of the highest quality.
Landr specializes in mastering services, distribution is an extra service. They do not charge a commission on distribution but their pricing structure is very confusing, to say the least. Monthly and yearly fees. Outstanding mastering product though.
An innovative platform and very upfront business model, Amuse charges 0% distribution fee. A ‘what you see is what you get’ platform. The downside is that they haven’t been around for long and it is questionable if this business model will still be around in the future, it still has to prove itself. It lacks long-lasting relationships with DSPs, it does not offer pre-orders and it is only accessible through a mobile app. There is little personal attention for customers, it merely is a channel to get your music online.
FreshTunes is an entirely free music distribution, including deliveries to Chinese platforms. They offer the music industry professional feedback, but they haven’t been around for a long time and don’t have as much experience compared to the other 9.
Their business model is based on earning interest on royalties they keep, before paying royalties to artists.
Other distributors worth mentioning are Horus Music, Label Engine and Music Gateway. All have been around for a long time and are definitely worth checking out.
When searching for the best digital music distribution companies it is important to investigate all terms and conditions, services and pricing structures. There are many different business models and pricing structures, which makes it impossible to point out an absolute ‘go-to’ music distributor for everyone. Each independent musician or record label has their own needs, and finding the perfect match takes time and dedication.
Self-service platforms are trending and easily accessible, but be sure to read the fine print before onboarding to prevent disappointments and disputes on terms and conditions.
Kwettr offers digital music distribution with only 15% distribution fee on royalties, an easy-to-use platform and excellent customer support. Kwettr is also at the forefront of fighting piracy and protecting music from copyright infringement, we also deliver to fingerprinting services such as ACRCloud. YouTube channel whitelisting and monetization are included, as monthly statements and timely payouts. Account managers help you schedule releases and make the most out of any promotional campaign, for any medium.