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How To Distribute Music Independently (Full Guide)

Distribution Services

Useful Distribution Articles:

  1. What is Music Distribution?
  2. How To Distribute Music
  3. How Do Streaming Royalties Work?
  4. Streaming Royalty Calculator

As an artist, you’ll want to get your music on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as to online stores like iTunes etc. but… how do you actually distribute music? After releasing multiple tracks over our 8 years of music production experience, we’re going to share exactly how to do just that in an easy step-by-step format. So, by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to distribute music, which platforms to use, and more.

How To Distribute Music (Quick TL;DR Answer)

To distribute music to major streaming platforms and stores you need to do the following:

  1. A distributor that suits you. Distrokid is recommended for independent artists and people starting out.
  2. An artist profile on Spotify, Apple Music etc. (usually set up by the distributor you choose)
  3. A professionally mixed and mastered song that meets streaming standard guidelines
  4. 3000 x 3000 non-blurry artwork for streaming services
  5. Your music in the correct format for upload (depends on distributor)
  6. To fill in all the correct details such as name, genre, composer etc.
  7. Wait 5-7 days for your music to be released to stores

Which Distributor Should I Use?

It depends on your needs as an artist, and every artist is completely different. However, when it comes to distribution services, the most loved and often recommended by artists in the music industry is Distrokid for their quick distribution times, good customer service, and low fees.

Distrokid offers all the things you need to get started, 0% royalties commission, playlisting opportunities, pre-save links, art generators, and even free, unlimited mastering to ensure your tracks meet streaming loudness guidelines.

However, Distrokid is not for everyone, and many artists may choose to use other popular services.

Here is a quick overview of the best music distribution services for independent artists:

  1. Distrokid
  2. Ditto
  3. Routenote (free distribution service)
  4. SoundCloud for Artists
  5. TuneCore
https://www.whippedcreamsounds.com/best-music-distribution/
Learn more about music distribution services here

To learn more about the benefits of these distribution services, please check out our complete guide to choosing the right distribution service. Here you’ll find all the Pros, Cons, costs, and everything you need to know about choosing a music distribution service.

What About Physical Distribution?

To distribute your music physically you need a physical distributor such as:

  1. CD Baby
  2. Symphonic Music 
  3. Horus Music

CD Baby is generally considered the best for physical music distribution because they have a long-standing record of customers and have been operating for over a decade. 

Physical distributors will generally have links with record labels and retail stores and should be able to help you properly distribute your music through the right channels. However, physical distribution can be expensive and is not the best option for artists starting out or artists with a small fanbase.

Different physical distribution companies in the music industry will offer different services. 

For instance:

  • The all-in-one package – physical distribution with print to vinyl, CD, or whatever format you like, retail marketing, storage units, and release to physical stores.
  • Direct distribution – a service where you can order, CDs, LPs etc. for a cost and directly sell them to your fans for a profit

You can use either of these plans, each with its own risks. We personally think, if you don’t have a fanbase, it’s much wiser to distribute digitally, build a fanbase, and then, later on, sell special limited edition physical copies to super fans who are willing to pay.

The Importance of Setting A Release Date & Plan

In order to maximize the amount of exposure you get, you should have a proper marketing plan in place, and you should always set release dates at least 3 weeks in advance.

Why?

Because by doing this, it allows time for promotion up until the day of your release. You can schedule social media posts (TikTok, Facebook, Insta etc.) and generally build hype around your tracks, getting pre-saves and guaranteed listens on the day your track drops.

Alongside this, you can reach out to blogs, YouTube music channels and submit your music for playlisting on Spotify, SoundCloud for artists, or get into playlists using your Distributor/reaching out to people who own them.

Doing this will massively increase your chance of success. Of course, the pre-requisite is that your music has to be good enough to be accepted into record labels’ playlists etc.

How To Effectively Promote Your Album/Music

One tactic we personally used to gather over 20.5k plays on a SoundCloud release and 9k on Spotify was SoundCloud repost chains, reaching out to labels by email, and reaching out to playlist owners. 

I know this isn’t a lot, but this was done with DIY methods that are completely free and completely organic.

One of the most useful parts of this technique is to reach out to Spotify playlist owners. To do this, go onto Spotify and find some artists that make music that is fairly similar to yours, and have a lower amount of plays.

You can then scroll down to the “Discovered On” section and see the exact playlists they’ve been included in.

finding spotify playlists how to distribute music

Usually, if you click through to these playlists, you’ll see an Instagram handle, Twitter handle, or a website. You generally want to avoid the ones with a website as they usually charge money.

Then, create a message template that you personalize and send to these playlist owners. Make sure it’s personal and meaningful, not just “saw your playlist I think I have a good track for it” – this will rarely get any form of response.

message example for playlists
This is a message I sent that got accepted to a decent-sized playlist

Repeat this process up until your release. I generally like to stick to 3-5 emails per day. Doing this for a couple of weeks will definitely secure you some playlists which will boost your release heavily.

DIY Music Marketing – Start Generating Success As An Independent Artist
Learn more about DIY marketing here

You can repeat this with blogs, YouTube channels etc. the ideas are endless.

How Can I Distribute My Music For Free?

Free Music Distribution Services For Musicians & Producers
Learn more about free music distribution services here

There are many free online distribution services that work just as well, if not better than many of the paid services. Usually, these are offered as “free”, but instead will take a commission of your streaming royalties.

Again, each distribution platform has its own benefits and drawbacks, so you need to research carefully when choosing one for your digital music distribution.

Free services will commonly only offer digital distribution. This is due to the cost incurred with physical distribution.

You can distribute music for free using these music distribution companies:

  1. Routenote (the best free music distribution)
  2. Amuse (great for artists with followings)
  3. Soundrop (great for cover licensing)
  4. Boost collective
  5. Indiefy

We have personally used Routenote and can vouch for their service. They are a very quick distributor (4-7 days time), with a lot of great benefits compared to the other available platforms. However, it’s difficult to license cover songs using Routenote, so if you’re a cover musician, Soundrop will be better for you.

With other distributors you’ll eventually have to upgrade and pay a yearly fee, oftentimes costing more than just outright paying for Distrokid, Ditto, or TuneCore right out of the gate. They also don’t have anywhere near the same features and benefits the paid platforms do. However, for new artists, free distribution can be a great way to test whether making and releasing music is for them.

How To Make Sure You’re Collecting All Your Royalties

Streaming Royalties & Pay Outs For Every Platform
Learn more about streaming royalties here

When you are distributing online to digital streaming services, you’re missing out on a portion of the revenue if you’re not collecting your publishing royalties. Now, some distributors offer this as an extra service, for a more expensive monthly fee (like Ditto), however, it’s best to just go to the source and sign up with a Publishing Rights Organisation (PRO).

By signing up for one of these, you will not only collect royalties from online streams, but you will get royalties every time your song is played in a shop, on radio, in a nightclub etc. etc.

As per the copyright act, 9.1 cents or 1.75 cents is paid per minute of playing a record either physically or digitally.

This can be a large chunk of money for a lot of artists and can be very worth signing up to an organisation to collect them.

Organizations such as:

  • ASCAP
  • PRS
  • BMI

These will charge a one-time or yearly fee membership, but it’s worth the cost, because you get a lot of benefits with that membership beyond the royalty collection too.

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