The road to being a professional musician can be rough. It’s so hard to be a signed music artist nowadays, and get your music to be heard by the most people possible. But happily, even if you didn’t sign with a label yet, there are many ways to get your music on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes (digital distribution), and today with Top Music Arts, on that is where we’re going to focus.
Before we start, it would be better to clear out this is an impartial article, and these are not sponsored reviews for any of the companies we’re going to talk about. Our research was based more on customers and our own opinions and experiences. Always trying to help you all understand how things work and giving you the tools you need to make your own conclusions.
After all the music distribution industry is in charge of making easier the distribution process. Helping you get to your audience.
Streaming platforms never want to deal with you, but with distributors or aggregators instead, so you will need to set up your own label (even a small one) or sign up with an aggregator or digital distribution platform.
This companies sign deals with record labels or artists which then gives them the right to sell their music to shops and streaming. A distributor can only sell to those that have an account with them. They’re basically in the middle between the artist or the record label and the store.
Some digital distributors accept as a member to any artist who wants to create an account. Those are the Subscription/Fee-Based Services. You only have to pay a set fee and your music appears in the different Digital Service Providers, like Spotify, Apple Music and more, having the possibility of keeping all of the profits and royalties got from sales and streams.
Other companies are more exclusive with the musicians they approve. Those are the Commission Services type, where instead of keeping 100% of the gains, you exchange part of the sales for different levels of global distribution and marketing, placement and designing tools, very helpful by the way, customer support, apps and more.
In the other hand, artists need to know, according to their specific needs, which distribution company they are going to subscribe.
Here is a list of 5 different companies and the different kind of plans and services:
An acceptable tool for solo musicians, bands, DJs, performers, producers, YouTube musicians and more.
Distrokid was developed by Philip J. Kaplan, and launched in 2013, in NY, USA.
It allows musicians and other right-holders, with a yearly membership, the chance to distribute and sell or stream their music through online retailers like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Tidal, Deezer, etc.
They were the first distributor to offer an unlimited distribution for a fixed annual fee. Now is one of the top 20 music distributors worldwide for total units sold and/or streamed.
|Enjoy 100% of your royalties, paid every month||No additional marketing help for artists|
|Unlimited songs for one yearly price||Shazam release isn´t free|
|Single page, easy signup||Very basic reports and analytics|
|Instagram Story Music inclusion||A lot of additional fees not exposed in advance or in the frequently asked questions|
|Distribute cover songs legally||Bad payment system|
|Can send lyrics to Apple Music and iTunes||Bad customer service (bots)|
|Get paid when other people use your music on YouTube||Not authorized extra charges|
|Can upload as many songs as you wish for 1 year|
Also, and a very positive thing to say, is that Spotify acquired a small percentage of the company, so, that means they want to see it growing and succeeding. Distrokid is a very data focused company and very easy to use, so, that’s an extra, but has lots or resentment from clients about bots answering preset emails, that not solve real problems, extra unjustified charges, and a very poor payment system.
Founded by brothers Matt and Lee Parsons in the UK, this company, created from musicians for musicians wants to give unsigned artists the chance of release and promote their tracks, taking the control of their own carriers for only 19 bucks per year, and being able to submit all the music they want during the subscription. Has other fees options too, and sometimes not too clear.
|Unlimited music: you can upload as many songs you wish for one year||No marketing help for artists|
|No commission: keep 100% of your rights and royalties||Lots of hidden fees|
|Very good revenue and analytics reports||Bad customer service and complaints from different customers|
|Request payments direct to your bank account|
|Your music protected 100%|
Your copyrights protected, they submit digital fingerprinting with every release to protect your music from further distribution and copyright infringement. It’s great because they protect your music, and there´s a lot of people who don´t know how to do it. But, on the other side, has lots of complaints from customers related to support tickets, an almost non-existent customer service, dates of release and lack of notifications when there´s a mistake with tracks.
Amuse is a company from Sweden, founded by Andreas Ahlenius, Diego Farias, Christian Wilsson, Jimmy Brodd and Guy parry in 2015. It’s free and open for everyone, with an easy to use platform that makes you easy to be discovered by the label and receive a record deal.
This company pays for the project upfront, splitting profit 50/50 with artists, who’re not obligated to sign with Amuse if they get a record deal offer.
They have an only investor in the company, helping them with money for marketing for the artists they think they have to invest in, so they depend 100% on him. That could be dangerous because if that investor decides to call it off, the entire company fails.
|Free & open for everyone||The company folds if lose their investor|
|No commission: keep 100% of your rights and royalties||No desktop site, only the app|
|Extremely data focused||A former version of the app was better and easier|
|Unlimited music: you can upload as many songs you wish for the time you want||No license for cover songs|
|Single and album have no cost||Not a good customer service, slow response|
|Gives extras and pay for marketing for signed artists|
|Takes the risk, paying off the project upfront|
You upload your tracks and release info on your laptop, direct from the Amuse app, submitting everything via Dropbox links. You can follow your account info in real time: streams & downloads; and, as soon as the music stores pay out your royalties, you can withdraw your money, direct from the app. Seems fine and easy to use, but use to be better and easier. Every new update is more and more tiresome than old ones: now can´t see pending or approved songs, or if songs are delivered to the store and do not allow to fix covers.
AWAL is a distribution company and record label from the UK, founded in 1997 by Kevin Bacon and Jonathan Quarmby. Was acquired by Kobalt Music in December 2011, being now Kobalt’s recordings company.
This company is different, because does not accept everyone who applies, being selective, gives artists a better quality of service, more customized, depending on the client.
To be in, you have to:
- Be original and have potential
- Have an engaged fan base
- Be able to capture the attention of press, media and music blogs
- Have a manager, live agent, PR/publicist, radio or club promotions company, music publisher and a lawyer (not all required)
- Have a strong and professional website, press material, things that could show time and effort put in there
- A right marketing plan
It offers independent artists to have 100% of the rights of their master recordings.
|No fees||15% commission|
|Mobile app with analytics for Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube||Not a good customer service, slow response|
|Better customer support for top artists||Have to apply and wait to be accepted to use the platform|
|Possibility of physical distribution too||High payment to start using the platform|
|Music on Instagram story||Slow distribution|
|Kobalt´s support||No payment splitting|
LANDR offers you an automated one-click mastering service.
Has different kinds of plans, according to your needs, from $4 on, to master and sell your music. Every plan includes different promotion tools, an instant mastering, the possibility of selling your music on every streaming platform, getting statistics of where you’re playing and when you are getting paid, free samples and more.
It’s a very solid company, with more than a million clients.
|No commission: keep 100% of your rights and royalties||Can´t release a cover song|
|Chances of getting your music on playlists||Yearly and monthly fees (confusing pricing)|
|Different plans for all kind of needs||No license for cover songs|
|2 free masters per month, 2 releases and more, creating an account||Push you to try mastering services|
|Website in several languages||Not very easy to learn the platform|
|Desktop app||Not publishing administration|
|Access to lots of digital channels||No marketing support for new artists|
|Speed to stores||They offer fewer features than other distributors|
Being subscribed you can get your music on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Pandora and more, keeping 100% of your earnings yourself, and without paying any commission. Also, have great marketing tactics for you to think that the prices are very low, and you’re making a real deal, but prices are average. Additionally, if you choose the mastering options, you will always guarantee the highest quality, so, you are going to pay more money.
Summing things up
There is not a perfect company. You have to look for information and try out what you consider as the best option.
Internet is full of this info, reviews, qualifications and many subscribed to different services people experiences.
I consider that all of these companies have positive and negative things, and artists have to investigate them to satisfy their personal requirements, choosing the handiest option.
If you have any questions, comments or experiences with any of these organizations, please list them in the comments and we will try to respond to them all.