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Are You Choosing The Best Digital Distributor To Get Your Music On Digital and Streaming Services?

by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan
05/08/2016

File Under: Releasing and Selling Your Albums

One of the most important choices you'll make about distributing your music is which distributor you'll use. Because iTunes, Amazon, or streaming services such as Spotify won't deal directly with musicians, you need to use a middleman to get your music out there to your fans.

But each middleman service you can choose will take different percentages and have different fees. Because the digital distributor you choose will affect the amount of money you make, it's well worth your time to evaluate each potential partners since you'll be in business with them for a long time.

As you evaluate your options, keep in mind the terms and conditions of most of the major services. Some services have one or more of these fees:

  • Outlets: Each service has a different mix of digital stores they can get your music distributed through. Although all of them include the most popular sites like iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, there are hundreds of places your music can be distributed to for sale or performances such as jukebox services, other streaming services, and more.
  • Initiation fees: These include set up fees that are usually charged by the album or track you're releasing.
  • Maintenance fees: These fees are charged to keep your music in the digital stores. Often it's a yearly fee so if you stop paying the fee each year, your music will be taken down and will no longer be available for sale.
  • Administrative Fees: These fees are a percentage of the sale or a flat fee that's taken out as their cut. 

With these key terms in mind, here's a brief evaluation of some of the more popular digital distributors:

  • CDBaby: Charges an initiation fee but no maintenance fees. It does charge an ongoing administrative fee for each sale. They also have a large set of outlets for your music.
  • Tunecore: Charges both an initiation and maintenance fee per album or track. However, it doesn't charge any administrative fees which means you keep all of the income from each sale.
  • Distrokid: Charges a single annual maintenance fee. This allows you to distribute an unlimited amount of music within the year. There are no initiation fees for adding releases or albums. They do offer extra services such as testing to ensure your music file will work with the various services.
  • Routenote: Routenote gives you a choice of whether to be charged a maintenance fee with no administrative fees afterwards or to be charged an administrative fee with no maintenance fees. In other words, you can choose a model like Distrokid or CDBaby. Plus, they let you switch between the two options. 

Note that just because a service charges a fee, that doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad option. You need to evaluate each one based on what you want out of your income and sales and what you think you can achieve. For example, the ones with an initiation fee might not charge a maintenance fee. And even services that charge both a maintenance and initiation fee might not charge an administrative fee, which means that you can keep all of the proceeds from your sales.

As you can see, there's a wide array of choices when it comes to digital distributors that you might partner with, as the above services are just examples. There's also new ones appearing all of the time, but when you understand the terms and payment models, you'll be able to choose the best partner for you and what your projected sales.

#musicsales #digitaldistribution #releasingalbums


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