Best Music Distribution Services for Independent Artists
Distribution services help get artist’s music into stores to sell their music. The distribution also earns you money each time your track is streamed. Sounds great right? Today I will review some of the best music distribution services for independent artists so you can make the best decision for you and your career in music!
I reviewed five music distribution services and found CD Baby to be the best overall music distribution service for independent artists.
Artists and bands rely on music distributors to push their music into well-known online stores such as Amazon, Spotify, Tiktok, and more. An artists’ time is important and limited, which is why I took the guesswork out of determining who the best music distribution service is.
Still, when it came to deciding on the best distribution services, we wanted to cover all of the bases, including best overall, best for cover artists, and best for streaming royalties. Factors for determining the categories came into play, such as costs, inclusivity, and exposure.
If you want to start building your fanbase yourself, read our guide on how to promote your music.
Keep reading on to find out what the best music distribution services are!
Top Music Distribution Services
In 2011, for the first time, digital sales surpassed that of physical sales in the music industry. Since then, digital music distribution has been in the public eye to establish connections between the artist’s new record and their prospective fans.
While music used to be solely distributed physically in stores, digital distribution is the quickest way to reach a majority of people quickly. A good distribution company will bring in new listeners while helping you get paid for your music.
Best Overall – CD Baby
When looking for our top choice, CD Baby hit all the targets, including user-friendliness, no annual fees, and being paid out weekly 100% in loyalties. Companies that had over several years of experience, excellent customer ratings, and affordable pricing were all weighed heavily when choosing.
For musicians, bands, and labels looking to get their music widely known, CD Baby is the best overall choice.
Founded in 1998 by musician Derek Sivers, CD Baby is often referred to as the anti-label. CD Baby’s chief executive, Tracy Maddux, sums this company up best: “We’re the anti-label… we’ve been doing this longer than anyone else, and with five million tracks in our catalog, we’re a lot bigger than anyone else.”
One of the best music distribution services out there, CD Baby is an online store where fans find new music. CD baby is home to more than 300,000 recording artists and has a music library of over 400,000 albums and 3 million tracks. Once an artist signs with this music distribution service, their music is available to the public via iTunes in a couple of days.
Some other standout features include: being able to purchase albums via digital and physical form, an option that allows you to find music based on mood, and very knowledgeable staff.
- No recurring annual costs – yearly fees are eliminated as there is a one-time fee per release. Unlike other distribution sites, your music stays on the platform indefinitely without having to pay annual fees.
- Multiple ways to attract new listeners – there are a few different ways that CD Baby helps to ensure a steady stream of fans. CD Baby has implemented a “sounds like” category that allows you to find music based on the bands and songs you already listen to and can recommend music based on a mood.
- Free promotional services – CD Baby will also promote your songs for free, seeking out companies interested in licensing your song for commercials, movies, tv shows, and more.
- Individual prices – if releasing a song, you must pay $9.95 for each piece and $50 if releasing an album. CD Baby charges a 15% commission, meaning that the more your music is streamed, the more CD Baby earns from you.
- Limited licensing of cover songs – those looking to release a cover can only do it per piece, not per album. It costs $14.99 per single, which adds up if looking to cover a few songs.
- Additional barcode charges – while most independent music distribution services provide free UPC barcodes to track your songs, CD Baby charges $5 for a single and $20 for an album.
- Releasing a standard single = $9.95
- Releasing a pro single = $29.95
- Releasing a standard album = $29
- Releasing a pro album – $69
Best for Streaming Royalties – Tunecore
Tunecore is one of the best music distribution companies that have been on the market for almost as long as CD Baby. This music distribution site is perfect for those seeking out enough streaming royalties to cover the annual fees.
You can keep 100% of your profits as Tunecore does not take a cut of your sales, and you get airplay in more than 150 online stores and streaming services spanning more than 100 countries. You can also pinpoint where your music is receiving the most streams so you can effectively increase your marketing, publicity, and sales for that area.
With Tunecore, you gain access to their admin publishing service, which is basically like an insurance plan for your assets and one of their best features.
All of your sales are closely watched over by Tunecore to ensure that you keep every cent when selling your music online. You collect 100% in royalties each time someone plays your music.
- Royalty benefits – Tunecore’s admin publishing service is a service that collects your songwriter royalties, letting you keep the full amount of your streaming royalties. Plus, if you consistently show a steady streaming pattern, you can even request advances.
- Physical & digital music distribution – broaden your fanbase by digital or physical distribution for as little as $10 a track.
- Analyzes your music via their reporting platform – Tunecore’s reporting platform allows you to access vital statistics about your content, including: which albums stream the most and which singles have the most likely on Spotify. By knowing what your fans like, you can build on your repertoire by creating similar trending music and will be aware of what doesn’t work.
- Admin publishing royalties – you are locked into using Tunecore’s admin publishing service and unable to partner with another sync licensing company.
- No hand-holding for new artists – without critical services such as marketing support and playlist plugging, new artists are left to promote themselves.
- Fee for additional streaming outlets – if not added to your original purchase, Tunecore will charge extra for using streaming and distributing outlets such as iTunes and Spotify. Expect to pay $2 for each outlet or $10 per release to include all new streaming platforms.
- Albums – $29.99 for the initial year and $49.99 for each year after
- Singles – $9.99 annually
- Ringtones – $19.99 per year
Best for Cover Artists – Soundrop
Soundrop allows listeners to play their songs of choice while simultaneously providing a platform for singers, songwriters, and cover song artists to sell their music on. This distribution service used to be called Loudr, a mechanical licensing company to help you receive the proper licenses to cover a song.
Soundrop is the best music distribution service for new and/or young artists who might not be financially stable yet.
Having a partnership with CD Baby and Landr, Soundrop offers licensing for music you create or produce, as well as cover songs. The owner/producer must specify if the song is original or a cover. If it is a cover song, both you must provide the artist’s name and the name of the original song.
Soundrop charges $9.99, and you will wait approximately two weeks for processing and an additional 2-5 days for delivery to the stores.
- Split payment – Splitting payments with multiple artists are easy due to Soundrop’s payment splitting service. However, you will need to contact Soundrop each time you need to split your income.
- User-friendly – Soundrop has a basic and easy digital platform. By eliminating the bells and whistles that their opponents may offer, Soundrop can create a clear and concise platform for easy navigation.
- Provides licenses for cover songs – without adequately obtaining a license for your cover song, it will be harder for your songs to be promoted on large digital music platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify.
- A limited selection of available platforms – unlike most music distribution platforms, Soundrop has a limited number of distributors: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, and Deezer are currently the only ones.
- High commission rates – Soundrop is perfect for artists on a budget, but they have high commission rates. The upside of the more than normal 15% commission fee that you will have no distribution fees.
- Less than average customer service – Soundrop offers a clunky and non-personal way of dealing with customers’ issues by offering a FAQ section as their first source of customer service. The second and only other option for help is via email, where a response time can take a couple of days.
- No annual, delivery, or account fees
- There is a charge of $9.99 per cover song to cover the license expenses
- Soundrop keeps 15% of the revenue you earn from digital music platforms
Best for Those Interested in a 50/50 Deal – Amuse
Amuse is a brand new company from Sweden that is both a record label and distribution service for all artists. They have no distribution fees and do not take a commission since they make money from upcoming artists when they sign with the 50/50 deal.
You can upload your music at any time or place. You keep 100% of royalties and rights to your music, and if you show promising results, you could sign to their record label.
- Signing a record deal – once signed on as an artist, you receive half of the revenue coming in. If signed on to a deal, you can request an advance on royalties to help cover marketing expenses.
- No distribution fees – there are no distribution or commission fees associated.
- Free basic access – if using Amuse at its basic level, it is entirely free. This level of access allows you to upload your music to apps such as Deezer, Shazam, Napster, Google Play, and Tidal.
- No mechanical licenses for cover songs – if looking to distribute cover songs, Amuse is not the best music distribution service for you as you cannot obtain a mechanical license with them for covers.
- Does not provide admin publishing companies – one downside is that Amuse does not offer an admin publishing company to collect royalties when your song is purchased, streamed, downloaded, etc.
- One investor – currently, Amuse has only one investor, which could be dangerous if the investor decides to pull out.
Included for free are the following:
- An artist profile
- Customer support and 28-day release of music
- Keep 100% royalties
- Royalty split with 15% charge
There is also a package you can purchase for $59.99 a year, which includes:
- Royalty split without fees
- Custom label name and release date
- Releases your music to social media outlets such as Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram
- 24-hour customer support and a 14-day release of music
Best for Latin American Artists – ONErpm
Once only eligible in Brazil, ONErpm has since expanded its publishing operations globally. They have created over 100,000 deals with artists, labels, and video creators.
ONErpm now operates as one of the world’s largest music distributors with 800 million subscribers and 9 billion plays a month. While their primary focus is on the Latin American Market, they distribute to fewer music stores than the average company. However, they do distribute to major stores such as Shazam, iTunes, and Spotify.
ONErpm distributes your music for free to make a commission on your royalties. Their in-depth analytical report can help you grow and be successful.
- Additional services – you can collect publishing royalties through ONErpm, which makes it a considerable benefit. This works by using their content ID tracker to ensure you receive royalties owed to you from online platforms and streams.
- Creates a fanbase – within 24 hours, your music can be distributed after uploading. You choose which streaming platform you would like your music on, and you can streamline it to play to your main listeners.
- No upfront charges – no upfront registration fees or distribution fees allow you to control your music distribution for free.
- Customer service – ONErpm has a mediocre customer service rating due to its poor response time.
- Royalties – ONErpm deducts 15% for royalties generated from audio, 30% from ringtones and YouTube, and 50% for specialty videos.
- DIY – you must be a self-motivated artist who can take care of your distribution.
- Free distribution services
- No upfront fees
- They earn a 15% commission on streaming royalties via their service
- ONErpm takes a 30% commission on all YouTube royalties
Best for Customization – Stem
Run by CEO and co-founder Milana Rabkin, Stem is one of the leading music distributors that is woman-run. She explains, “All other services exist to service the labels or service distributors, and no one’s created financial tools that are artist-first. That’s our sweet spot.”
In 2019, Stem released several of their artists who did not meet expectations but was able to raise their commission rates to make more money. To keep things intimate to give their clients the attention they need, Stem is invite-only.
With a low commission rate of 5% and no upfront charges, this means more streaming royalties for you. Stem focuses on its artists and gives them the control they need and deserve over their music. They feature a high playlist plugging success rate, and each client receives a project manager.
Stem also has an excellent payment splitting procedure that helps keep things convenient. All parties must approve the splits before they are distributed. Payment splitting has its ups and downs, but Stem helps make it more convenient.
- More control and creativity for artists – setting Stem apart from others is their dedication to foster a creative environment. They make it possible for artists and labels to distribute their music while staying independent, managing contracts, sharing data, and more.
- Their finance and people operations team – Stem has its team to make sure their customers are paid in time for their work without any questions asked.
- Professional support – Stem’s client team comes from big-name companies, including Apple Music, CAA, and Universal Group.
- Private invite-only – currently withdrawn from the public, the only way to get access to Stem’s site is via invitation after applying.
- A small network of distribution reach – limited exposure with only 12 stores and platforms available.
- Payment threshold – Steam has a payment threshold of only $50, meaning you have to match at least that amount to receive payment for your streaming revenue.
- 15% of commission is deducted from revenue
- You are required to pay a deposit of $50 in case you do not meet the threshold amount
- No upfront annual fees
What to Look for When Picking a Music Distribution Service
Searching for a music distribution service may be overwhelming, but knowing what to look for helps relieve the stress.
When taking your musical career to the next level, you will want to focus on the stats when it comes to selling your music. This service provides an easy way for you to understand your data and see who your target audience is based on location, age, and gender.
By knowing who your fans are, you can find out where and how to publicize and market your music.
Especially when first starting, the fees of an independent music distribution service will make or break your relationship with them. Certain vital factors to look for include:
- Royalty fee cuts, including monthly or yearly fees.
- One-off fees compared to recurring fees
- Watch out for hidden fees, and make sure you have a clear outline of what you must pay.
What Is the Best Music Distribution Service?
The best music distribution service is the kind that has years of experience but can still adapt to new musical trends.
Being known as the anti-label, CD Baby has launched artistic talents such as the National, Bon Iver, Macklemore, and Sarah Bareilles. Their professionalism has earned them quite a reputation as well as their reliability as a distribution service.