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Best Music Distribution Services 2020

Introduction

Streaming services have completely changed the way people consume music, it is estimated that over 80% of music is now streamed instead of purchased, with Spotify as one of the heaviest hitters. To get your music onto these platforms, artists require a digital music distributor to submit music to streaming services and music stores on their behalf. This has been made easier with the digital shift, as record labels used to be the only way to sell and distribute music, acting as gatekeepers to the industry. Yet most labels have failed to keep up with the quickly-evolving music industry, thus becoming somewhat ineffective. They previously secured deals with distribution companies who would then deliver physical products to stores which in the end comes out of their pocket. 

Although traditional labels are supposed to help their artists create their music, distribute to all the major platforms and stores, and develop and increase a substantial income from their music; many have not delivered, leading to the rise of the independent artist. It’s now easier than ever for independent artists to get their music on streaming platforms, thanks to companies like DistroKid and Ditto. Reports have revealed that an average of over 40,000 songs were released each day in 2019!

Becoming a successful artist requires not only talent, but the patients, planning, and passion to do what it takes to get there. We understand that as an artist, you have enough to worry about while managing your social media channels and actually creating and perfecting your music. So, we have compiled a list of the best digital music distribution services, also known as music aggregators, to help you make an informed decision without having to do all of the research yourself. 

To further make the pros and cons easier to digest, we have included a table so you can clearly see the differences, but if you want to learn more about each distributor, just scroll down to read our more-detailed descriptions. Though they all achieve a similar result, features and pricing can vary quite a bit between the different companies. It’s important to note that the best digital music aggregator will vary on a few factors for different artists, and only you can decide what is the best fit for you.

Best Digital Music Distribution Services 2020 Pros & Cons

Distribution ServiceProsConsPrice (USD)
DistrokidAffordable yearly subscription for unlimited uploads
Keep all your revenue from streams
One of Spotify's preferred distributor
Access to 150+ outlets
Access to Pre-save links
Great customer service
Fast distribution time
One of first non-major distributors to work with TikTok
Great tools for YouTube & Vevo
Automatic royalty splits
Can get mechanical licenses for commercially released covers
Easy to use platform
Analytics aren't as good as others
Charges $0.99 for every track you want on Shazam
Doesn’t have publishing partners that help collect your royalties
YouTube monetization not available for everyone
10% commission on YouTube revenue if eligible
$19.99/year
DittoAffordable yearly subscription for unlimited uploads
Keep all your revenue from streams
Access to 200+ outlets
Stores can be added without paying extra
Lowest price
Great analytics
Access to Pre-save links
A chance to get on Ditto's popular playlists
Offers the potential to start a record label
Not as fast distribution time
Email replies can sometimes be slow
Only supports original videos, doesn't support cover videos
Some hidden fees
$19/year
CD BabyOffers both physical and digital distribution
Offers marketing tools for free
One time fee to release music
No annual fees
CD Baby members get discounts on useful tools like BandZoogle & HearNow
Publishing admin help collect all your royalties
One of Spotify’s preferred distributors
Best analytics
Weekly payments
Been around the longest
Pricey compared to the other options
Take 15% commission of your royalties
Doesn’t offer total monetization unless you purchase pro
Doesn’t support payment splitting
$9.95 (single)
$29 (album)
+ 9% commission
TunecoreKeep all of your revenue streams
Offers both physical and digital distribution with wide network 150+ outlets
Publishing admin services track down all your royalties
User-friendly
Revenue advances if eligible
Songwriter services help collect songwriter royalties
Efficient customer support team
Multiple payment options
Offers mixing and mastering for $10
One of the oldest distributors with proven track record
Pricey compared to other options
Annual fees for each release can add up
No marketing support for new artists
Extra fees if you miss an outlet on your first purchase and want to add it in later
Charge extra for publishing services
$9.99 (single)/year
$29.99 (album)/year
AWALFree if you get accepted
Can get you in playlists
Helps a lot with marketing
Great analytics
Can get you on Spotify playlists
Ties to a label
Take 15% commission
Invite only
You have to apply
Better chance if referred by an artist or one of their A&R’s
15% commission if accepted
LANDRFree if you're already a member
Automated mastering for streaming
Keep all royalties
Can help get your music on playlists
Release covers
Access to library of samples
Publishing admin aren't available so you don't collect all royalties
Pricing difficult to understand
Can be better to get professional mastering services
$4/month (basic)
$9/month (advanced)
$25/month (pro)
AmuseFree distribution
Keep all of your revenue streams
Been around for a long time
Offers 50/50 label deal if your music does well
Offers projected royalties as an advance for a fee
Get your music on playlists
Submit music through their app only
Slow customer service
No desktop version
Free
ReverbNationGreat for bands
Great marketing tools
Good to build social presence
Great social media integration
Ability to get on TV
Access to email marketing tools
Can get scouted for live gigs
One of the oldest distro companies
Not as great for electronic producers (can still use)
Doesn’t offer publishing admin if not pro
Fairly expensive if you just need distro without extra features
Lacks some premium features
$12.95/month (basic)
$19.95/month (premium)
Record UnionVery easy to navigate platform
Pre-release features
Quick distribution
Connections with major industry players like Sony Music
Great A&R network
Discounts on third-party services
Educational resources for artists
No social media integration
Complex pricing structure
Heavy cut of royalties
Limited payment options
No effective marketing or promo tools
$7 (single)/year
$10 (EP)/year
$13 (album)/year
+ 15% commission
United Masters User-friendly & easy to navigate
No upfront fees
Great mobile app
Social media integration
distributes to all majo outlets
Artists keep masters
Responsive customer support
Masterlinks, which are deep links for music streaming platforms
Effective analytics tools
Free customizable artist website
First right of refusal in contracts10% commission
SpinnupKeep all of your revenue streams
Focused on the essentials
Excellent promotional services
Free bar codes
Discounts to third-party services
Educational resources
Direct connection with Universal Music Group
Only distributes to 45 stores
No automated pre-release tools
No licensing or publishing offers
Revenue split not supported
No YouTube or Soundcloud monetization
No commercial cover licensing
$9.99 (single)/year
$19.99 (EP)/year
$39.99 (album)/year
STEMFree if you get accepted
Great analytics
Get a direct rep if you get accepted
Low commission if accepted
Invite only
Not open to public
5% commission
SymphonicAccess to mailing list software
Access to powerful marketing tools
Done for you playlist pitching and consideration
Great customer service
Both physical & digital distribution
Publishing admin that collects your royalties
Music video distribution
Have to be accepted
High commission
30% commission
Fresh TunesCompletely free distribution
Offers industry professional feedback for your music
Haven't been around for as long as othersFree

Best Digital Music Distribution Services 2020 Explained:

Distrokid Logo

Distrokid

One of the most popular distribution companies with a good reputation, DistroKid offers unlimited uploads for just $19.99 a year without taking any commissions. This mean you can upload as much as you want to distribute to over 150 platforms with some great features. With pre-save links you share to your fans, this allows them to save your album early so it’s instantly added to their libraries as soon as it drops, essentially pre-orders in the digital era of music. This is vital to an independently released album’s success and can dramatically increase streams, especially within the first hour, which is great for the algorithm. 

Though the analytics are not as strong as Ditto’s, one can get around this by using those in  Spotify for artists. DistroKid is also one of the first non-major distributors to work with TikTok. This gives artists the opportunity to go viral and have their music organically promoted through fan videos internationally, making DistroKid a great option if you want to stay on trend and up to date with pop culture. They also make it easy to get mechanical licenses for commercially released cover songs. Automatic royalty splits allow revenue to be easily and automatically split between unlimited collaborators. 

There are no sign-up fees, and the process is simple to get started. They offer unique Spotify and iTunes features such as cover photos, lyrics, verification check marks, etc. There is no payment threshold, but also no admin publishing services to help you get your royalties. The base plan has limited marketing, promotion, and playlist plugging options, but DistroKid is still a solid online music distribution company for many artists. 

Ditto Logo

Ditto

Ditto allows you to keep all of your revenue streams while offering powerful analytics to help you determine and define your audience and fans. With music video distribution, exclusive features like pre-release tools and pre-release links you can share with fans, and access to over 200 outlets, it’s a great option at $19 a year for unlimited uploads. Though they have been involved in some controversy in the past few years, they have helped many successful artists along the way. 

Though there are some hidden fees and customer service could be better, Ditto has some great tools for your YouTube and Vevo channel, offers immediate payments, and has a built-in playlist plugger to help give you more exposure. More stores can be added without having to pay extra, and YouTube monetization is available for select artists. Their record label service, Record Label in a Box, even offers the potential to start your own label. 

CD Baby Logo

CD Baby

While DistroKid is one of the most popular subscription based distributors, CD Baby is one of the most popular distribution companies that charge a one-time fee. Offering both physical and digital distribution,  CD Baby is one of Spotify’s preferred distributors. They distribute to over 150 streaming and download platforms, and now offer sync for film and TV placement due to a recent partnership with Music Gateway

For a one-time fee per release without any annual fees, they make it easy for indie artists to get their much on streaming sites. For extra fees, CD Baby can also produce and distribute your music on CDs or Vinyl, which not every artist may need, though it’s nice to have the option. They are a better choice if you are only planning on releasing music a few times a year. They have publishing admin services to make sure you get all of your royalties, offer weekly payouts, and have powerful analytics, such as key demographic and geographic data. Plus, they offer discounts on useful third-party tools 

Tunecore Logo

Tunecore

One of the oldest digital music distro companies with an established track record, you may have likely heard about them through their SoundCloud ads. Tunecore allows you to keep all of your revenue streams in exchange for a yearly fee per single or album and a user-friendly, stress-free way to easily get your music across all digital platforms. Not a whole lot of info is required when submitting releases, which is convenient for some, but more established artist or labels need more substantial label copy, barcodes, ISRC codes, etc. They can offer both physical and digital distribution. 

With similar features to Distrokid, Tunecore charges for each single and album, distributes to over 150 digital stores and streaming platforms, and collects your song royalties worldwide. This is a great feature especially if your music takes off internationally. They also offer revenue advances based on the previous year’s streaming numbers, allowing you to fund future releases, videos, etc without a label as an independent artist if eligible.  Their songwriter services help you collect songwriter royalties. Tunecore also has its own app, high speed connectivity to Spotify and Apple Music, pre-release features on iTunes, and YouTube monetization with a one-time fee.

However, they do lack a few things. There is no legacy program like in DistroKid and no instant verification on streaming profiles. Tunecore also charges fees for adding new outlets and doesn’t have a good playlist plugging option or strong marketing support. Still, with publishing administration services to help you get all of your royalties, efficient customer support, great analytics and reporting, and multiple payment options, this distributor may be useful to those already generating substantial streaming revenue to offset higher costs. 

AWAL

AWAL

Short for artists without a label, AWAL is a renown distribution service from Kobalt. More of a label services company than distribution alone, they have the benefits of a label connection like Amuse and provide a range of services for artists. Sort of in between a tradition label and a digital music distributor, their services vary depending on how big or successful an artist is. 

AWAL is also invite only, working with a select number of artists only. They will typically approach you through a referral from one of their clients or one of their A&R’s. You must then apply on their site to get accepted, and if you are approved, it’s free to join and distribute your music with a 15% commission. They have many perks, like A&R services, project funding, playlist promotion, and more. If you are approved you may have a far more direct relationship with them as an artist than other companies.

LANDR Logo

LANDR

Though it’s a newer distribution company, LANDR has a history as an online automated music mastering service. This is a great great all-in-one option if you are looking to get your music across all digital platforms and make sure you master follows each streaming services’ requirements. Plus, they offer free distribution to any member with a paid subscription and can help get you on Spotify playlists to increase your streaming numbers and gain new fans. 

Ensuring your master complies with each streaming service can be difficult, especially since each on has their own rules. LANDR uses artificial intelligence to make your music the right level for each and prevents you from getting penalized for a song that’s too loud. Still, it can be more beneficial to have your music professionally mastered as automated mastering is not the best option in many circumstances. 

Amuse Logo

Amuse

Offering plenty of unique features that other distribution companies do not, Amuse could be a good fit for you for several reasons. It’s the only distributor that lets you keep all of your profits and distribute all of your music for free. You may be wondering how they can make money and run this as a business. Well, the bulk of their income is generated from signed artists they work with which helps fund their free distribution service. This could be a good option for you if you are looking to eventually sign to a label without the obligation to have to sign with them. 

Amuse is also the only major distributor that you can submit your music through their phone application, but there is no desktop version to submit to, which could be a plus or an inconvenience depending on your needs. Still, this could be a good way to see if your music is label material. It can be difficult for an artist to both create and market their music themselves, so partnering with a label for a share of the profits allows you to focus on the music while the label focuses on making you successful. If your music does well, they can offer a 50/50 profit split record deal, usually with an advance. 

The “Fast Forward” feature predicts how well tracks are going perform based on current streaming numbers, and this distributor can offer select artists an advance based on 6 months of projected royalties for a 20% fee. This is invaluable for artists that want to use tat to fund a new video or expand their marketing efforts.  

ReverbNation Logo

ReverbNation

One of the oldest music distributors offering many helpful features, ReverbNation is designed with a focus on bands and doesn’t take any commissions. Though it’s not as good or solo musicians or producers, they can still use it regardless. This is an all-in-one platform for indie services, offering digital distribution, marketing financial management tools, and the potential for shows.

Reverbnation is a great marketing option, and the premium membership offers two distribution packages plus useful artist tools. It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s a good way for artist just starting out to build and grow an online presence. At $19.95/mo, you get access to email marketing tools to update fans, great distribution services, useful analytics, mailing list tools, great social media integration, and more. This company also the ability to get TV placements, submit your music to labels and radio, and live gigs at major shows. A form of social media for artists, you can connect with other artists and learn from their experience and is a great option if you just want to focus on the key streaming platforms. 

However, this company is fairly expensive without some premium features, like admin publishing services to help you collect all of your royalties. ReverbNation also offers their distribution services separate from their premium membership, but it’s nothing special compared to other distributors and what they can offer. Still, it has the potential to greatly benefit artists if used in the right way for their goals.

Record Union

Record Union

Offering good online distribution through a solid, user-friendly platform with a great support team, Record Union has three distribution packages for artist and labels. They have a good connectivity speed with Spotify and iTunes, pre-release features, and have strong links with major industry leaders like Sony Music. Record Union also helps keep you informed on the latest Spotify trends which helps you know  how well you are doing on the platform. 

With a complex pricing structure, Record Union charges a yearly fee that varies depending on a couple things, such as the size of project you are releasing and how many platforms it will be released to. They offer a versatile distribution package that allows you to customize your strategy to each release. Single releases start at $7 per year, and they also take a 5% commission that can be reduced by purchasing “royalty upgrades.” With no effective promotion or marketing tools, they have limited payout options to credit cards and PayPal only.

Though lacking in other areas, this company has a solid A&R network where professionals can apply to work with artist on Record Union’s behalf. Like an affiliate, A&R’s can offer introductory deals and promo opportunities to artists they work with. A&R’s get 7.5% of artist income in exchange, which comes out of Record Union’s cut, not the artist’s share. This could be good fit for industry professionals working with multiple artists and handling their distribution.

United Masters Logo

United Masters

This online distribution company is easy to navigate with an effective mobile application and distributes your music to all major online music stores. The artist maintains full ownership of their masters while getting the benefits of effective analytics and reporting tools, a free customizable artist website, and MasterLinks. These links act similar to deep links in marketing, which redirect a website to the mobile application automatically. MasterLinks are extremely beneficial in increasing exposure as potential fans are automatically redirected to their favorite music streaming platform. Supported platforms include Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, Tidal, YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon.

However, United Masters differentiates itself with various opportunities such as sync deals with the NBA. Some artists are also actually signed under them, and as such, may be able to better take advantage of these opportunities. This makes sense as the label is more invested in those artists, so they may receive a better return on their investment. Overall, United Masters does well in promoting your music, charge no upfront fees, and take a 10% commission from the artist. 

Spinnup Logo

Spinnup

This straightforward platform focuses on the essential things an indie artist may need while offering some great promotional features. Spinnup may not be ideal if you are looking for a more comprehensive digital distribution company with a lot of features. They only distribute to 45 stores, offer limited analytics, and have no automated pre-order tools, leaving you to a more tedious manual process instead. They also lack revenue splits, ways to help you collect radio airplay or sync royalties, commercial song cover licensing, and YouTube and Soundcloud monetization, a feature available from most online music distributors.

Even so, the services they do offer are exceptional. Created by Universal Music Group for rising indie artists and to find new talent, Spinnup is a great option for artists that want to get their music in front of labels. For artists that would like to work with UMG, they can gain access to effective distribution with small processing fees while maintaining 100% of their revenue streams. They also offer free bar-codes, discounts to other useful third-party services, and plenty of educational resources and articles to help you grow as an indie artist. This is ideal for artist that already have a substantial following and large catalogue of work to be released, as well as releases that don’t need pre-order campaigns, exclusive platform incentive organization, etc. If needed, these services can be provided upon request. 

Stem Logo

Stem

Stem is an invite-only music distribution company and a recent competitor to the industry. They offer a very affordable option to release your music independently, only charging 5% commission without any upfront fees. If you do get approved, you will get access to a direct representative to help you grow your fan base and create more buzz around your brand.

Symphonic Logo

Symphonic

More of a music marketing option than distribution alone, Symphonic offers some great extras in their packages to get you more plays and provide knowledge to help you better navigate the industry. 

With this company, you get access to some powerful marketing tools, such as email list software. They also offer music video distribution services to get your content on platforms such as VEVO, TIDAL, and more. By working with them, you have to opportunity to be submitted into playlists with done-for-you playlist pitching services. You get publishing admin to help collect your royalties and the benefit of effective customer service.

However, you have to be accepted to be able to work with Symphonic, and they charge a higher commission than most at 30% of your profits. Since they offer packages in both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries, this could be a great distribution option to try as a Spanish artist. 

Fresh Tunes Logo

Fresh Tunes

A newer company, Fresh Tunes offers absolutely free online music distribution. There are no fees or commissions to release your music on all platforms. Fresh Tunes also offers distribution to Chinese streaming platforms, so you can reach an international market. They make their money by offering feedback on your music from industry experts. 

Conclusion

Music distribution has a lot of moving parts, and a legitimate distributor will ensure the artist’s needs and expectations are met. The distributor’s role is to ensure the business side is taken care of and get the artist’s music on streaming platform or on shelves. They are also responsible for making sure everything goes through the right channels.

Still, distribution companies have certain limitations as well, so artists may work alongside other professionals to handle other parts of their business. To increase the buzz for their projects, artists may need to work with marketers, publicists, and event coordinators to help with marketing and promotions.

As technology rapidly advances, streaming platforms and services continue to adjust accordingly to accommodate an artist’s needs. With physical product distribution being on the downturn, more expensive, and less likely to get as many sales, it can affect an artist’s potential to sell their work in the future at the same store. Instead, artists are gravitating towards digital distribution, as for a small fee, they can get their music on top streaming services to reach potential fans and listeners. 

Is there really a “Best” Digital Music Distributor in 2020?

There is no one-size-fits-all, and with so many options and features, each one has its own pros and cons different from the rest. So, one distribution company isn’t necessarily better than the rest. Which distributor is best for you comes down to your specific needs and goals as an artist. This list covers the industry leaders, but the best one for you is ultimately your decision. 

Our intention is to help give you what you need to make an informed decision on what makes each platform unique and which distributor is the best for you. Most digital distribution companies will help get your music out to your listeners, but it’s important to know the differences and how each can benefit your career in the long run before making a choice. 

Maybe you’re just getting started as an artist or a label and want to get things rolling on your first releases? Or you want a team to help guide your release? Either way, making sure you are with the right partner is key. 

Whether you are looking for your first distributor or considering switching from your current one, we hope you have enjoyed this article. If you found this article helpful and know of anyone who could benefit from it, be sure to share it with your friends. Check out the rest of the Seneca Endeavors Blog for more music industry tips and guides with more content published weekly. As always, feel free to email us with any questions you may have, and we’d be happy to help.

Want to know the differences between types of record label deals? Take a look at our previous article, Types of Record Deals

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