Updated: Sep 27, 2019
The time is now. You put your blood, sweat and tears into recording your songs and they sound incredible. JUST LIKE YOU IMAGINED
Now the big question comes up, how can I let the rest of the world listen to them?
No problem. This is the best time to be an unsigned artist, in this day and age there’s no need to be signed to a label to release your music and the best part of it is that you control every step of the way.
So Many Choices, So Little Time
There are many ways to release your music as an independent artist, with careful planning and working smart you can have your songs on every online store, streaming service and also monetize your videos.
These are the Top 5 Digital Distribution Platforms, they cater to all kinds of unsigned bands and artists but they also have some differences between them and those nuances might be the deal breaker for you and your band.
1- CD Baby
Founded in 1998, CDBaby is the largest online distribution platform for independent musicians.
They offer the following services: online distribution; YouTube monetization; CD sales, manufacturing and distribution; vinyl sales; cover song licensing and sync licensing for TV, film and games.
With plans starting at $9.95 per single and $29.95 per album with no annual fees, here’s the big difference from other platforms that use a subscription model.
Keep in mind that they take 9% of your downloads and streaming income (after streaming services and online stores commissions have been paid) and $4 of your vinyl sale price, this is still a much better deal that you’d get signing to a record label.
2 - DistroKid
Since March of 2013, DistroKid is the new kid on the block, pun intended, and they’re stealing all the attention. They have a subscription based system and they pay 100% of royalties monthly to all their artists.
The cost is $19.99 a year for unlimited albums and singles uploads and they claim they’ll get your music in stores 10-20x faster than the competition but the caveat is that you need to renew your membership every year or your music will be removed from the online stores unless you signed up for their Leave Legacy plan at $29 per single and $49 per album.
They offer distribution in online stores and streaming services; YouTube monetization; cover song distribution; unlimited backups; instant Spotify verification check mark and much more.
3 - TuneCore
Launched in 2005, Tunecore was the first platform to pay 100% of royalties for an annual subscription. Things to keep in mind before signing with Tunecore is that they take a 20% YouTube commission and they don’t offer a legacy program so your music will be removed
if you don’t renew your membership.
They offer worldwide music distribution; comprehensive sales data and social media marketing; songwriter services, music publishing administration and vinyl pressing.
The pricing is $29.99 the first year and $49.99 each following year for albums, $9.99 per year for singles and $19.99 per year for ringtones.
4 - RouteNote
Routenote started in 2007 and is the first platform to offer a Free plan in which they take a 15% commission and a Premium plan in which you keep 100% of your royalties.
With RouteNote Free you get online distribution in online stores and streaming services; tech support and you can change of payment plan anytime. According to their site your music will be online within days after uploading it.
RouteNote Premium works best if you already have an established fan base, the cost is a yearly fee of $9.99 plus $10 per single, $20 per EP, $30 per album and $45 per extended album (19 tracks and over)
They also offer freeISRC and UPC codes; monthly reports and, if you’re willing to pay a 15% commission, you can get your own online store with a unique URL where you control your prices and release dates.
5 - Ditto
Ditto’s first artist was released on December 25 2005 and since then they’ve been offering unlimited distribution for a single fee per year. They have 3 categories: Artist at $12/year for 1 single artist, Professional at $19/year for 2 artists which also includes compilation releases and their highest tier called Label at $45/year for up to 5 artists, it also includes compilation releases and priority tech support.
They offer the same services to all their plans: distribution to all major stores, access to sales boosting tools, 24/7 artist support, you also keep 100% of your royalties and get included on playlists across the biggest streaming services, sales reports and free ISRC and UPC codes.
Everybody Has A Good Fit
As you can see, there are plenty of options to release your music today, from simple and free plans to more sophisticated and complex release campaigns that include social media marketing and PR campaigns.
Is up to you and your bandmates to decide which platform is the right one for your next release but one thing holds true today, the era of Gatekeepers is long gone.
You can make music and put it out for the world to enjoy it.
Uri Gelman is a Producer/Mixing Engineer at VooDoo Doll Productions in San Fernando, CA
When he's not in the studio recording a rock band he's jamming at a dive bar somewhere in Los Angeles.