DistroKid is one of the most popular distributors for independent musicians. Using DistroKid, artists can collect their streaming royalties – all their revenue from streams on streaming services like Spotify. But what about performance and songwriting royalties?
In this article we’re going to answer the question, is DistroKid a music publisher, what do they collect, what are music publishing services, and how do you collect all your royalties.
Is DistroKid A Music Publisher? (Quick Answer)
DistroKid is not a music publisher. DistroKid is a music distribution service that distributes your music to digital stores and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. They do not offer services where they collect publishing royalties.
“We don’t yet offer admin publishing services. However, many DistroKid artists use SongTrust for publishing admin, and we love it! We’re working on a publishing admin system for artists. But in the meanwhile, check out https://songtrust.com”
Distrokid is planning on creating a publishing team that will collect publishing royalties in the future. However, for now, it's best to sign up for a service that collects royalties for you such as BMI, ASCAP or PRS.
If you don't, you will only be able to collect your mechanical royalties, which is what Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services collect.
To ensure you make the most money out of your music, get started with a service that will collect them for you. Some distributors offer this service as part of their yearly subscription. Ditto, TuneCore and CD Baby all offer this as part of the package.
Collecting Publishing Royalties Without Distrokid – How Do You Do It?
To collect performance royalties outside of DistroKid you need to be part of a performance rights organisation (PRO). To collect mechanical royalties outside of DistroKid you need to be part of a music publishing company. There are services that collect both performance and mechanical royalties for you.
If you’re a songwriter you should definitely sign up for a PRO. This means you receive royalties on all songs you’ve written even if you’re not the one performing it. This is great if people decide to cover your song because – even if their version is more commercially successful than yours – you’ll get paid for it.
PROs often only collect royalties in the territory their based in. For example, you can sign up to PRS to collect your performance royalties in the UK and BMI for performance royalties in the USA.
PROs can be quite costly, however BMI is free if you sign up as a songwriter. PRS and MCPS on the other hand charge a one-time payment of £100 – so you should only really consider signing up to these services if you know you’re going to get a lot of listeners engaging with your music and earning you royalties.
You'll need a music publisher or to work with a publishing administrator to get your mechanical royalties outside of DistroKid.
DistroKid recommend that you use the global publishing administration Songtrust.
Songtrust is a service that collects the publisher’s share of your performance royalties and your mechanical royalties. Songtrust collects performance and mechanical royalties from about 98% of the global music publishing market.
If you use Songtrust, you have access to collection from 60+ pay sources, covering 245+ countries/territories. This means that you will still be paid a share of your performance royalties by your PRO but Songtrust also collects the music publisher share (for live perfomances and sync opportunities) from PROs and they collect mechanical royalties from streaming, online sources, radio, and physical reproductions.
Songtrust charge a $100 upfront fee and then charge a 15% administrative fee on all royalties. Songtrust also allow you to keep 100% music copyright ownership of your work. This means that, while they are great for independent artists, if you’re new and have low streaming and listener numbers it’s worth waiting before you invest in global royalty collection.
Does Distrokid Collect Your Performance Royalties?
DistroKid does not collect performance royalties on your music. They only collect the master recording royalties.
Artists are eligible to collect performance royalties every time one of their songs is played out in public. This includes radio stations, TV, live performance, and venues (such as restaurants or bars).
Performance royalties are ‘paid to songwriters and their music publisher in exchange for the right to broadcast or perform a copyrighted musical composition in a public environment’.
Your performance royalties are collected by performance rights organizations (PROs). PRS (Performing Right Society) is the biggest collection society for performance rights in the UK and in the USA it’s Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).
The streaming model of listening to music is categorised as a sort of public performance – as the music is not owned by the listener and is similar to a radio play in that respect. This means that streaming services pay performance royalties through performance rights organizations who then distribute them to songwriters and publishers.
Because digital streaming is now the most popular way to listen to music – performance royalties have become more important to artists. Especially for artists who do not perform their work e.g. songwriters, beatmakers etc.
If you aren’t signed up to a PRO outside of DistroKid, and you’re getting a high level of digital streams, then you’re probably missing out on money and you’re closed off to a valuable income source.
Can Distrokid Collect Mechanical Royalties?
DistroKid does not collect mechanical royalties. Mechanical royalties are ‘paid for the right to reproduce a composition through the process of recording, manufacturing, and distributing the work’.
An example of this is: if your record label produces a CD or vinyl with your song on it, they have to pay mechanical royalties for each copy they make.
Mechanical royalties are also paid on streaming services. If a listener chooses to listen to your song then both mechanical royalties and performance royalties are being earned however if your song is being streamed on a non-interactive platform (notably Pandora) then you’re only eligible to collect performance royalties.
Mechanical royalties are collected by a music publishing company. In the UK the main collection society for mechanical royalty collection is the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) – which is essentially the mechanical twin of PRS. If you’re in the US, 100% of US mechanical royalties from streams goes to the newly formed MLC (Mechanical Licencing Collective).
Which Royalties Do Distrokid Collect?
DistroKid pays reproduction royalties from the master recording of a song. These are the royalties that are collected from streams and sales on digital music stores or streaming services.
Reproduction royalties are generated every time a master is used. So each stream – on a service like Apple Music – is a repetition of the master and DistroKid collects the money earned. DistroKid shares 100% of royalties with their artists and with DistroKid you keep all of your reproduction royalties.
Distrokid can also collect your streaming royalties from YouTube and SoundCloud too.
If you're an established artist, then you should be signed up to an organisation that collects your other royalties, such as performance and songwriting royalties. Distrokid will not collect these for you and they can amount to quite a lot of money.
What Music Distributors Collect Publishing Royalties For Me?
DistroKid does not collect any publishing royalties however other music distribution services do. CD Baby have a publishing service called CD Baby Pro Publishing, TuneCore have a publishing arm called TuneCore Publishing, and Ditto also offer Ditto Music Publishing.
With all these services you have to release the song using the distributor in order to access the mechanical and performance royalties – unlike Songtrust.
CD Baby Pro Publishing
CD Baby Pro Publishing offers:
- All mechanical royalties from streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
- All international mechanical royalties from online stores like iTunes.
- All performance royalties from DSPs (like Spotify), radio, TV, live concert performances, and more.
- Global YouTube publishing royalties for any video on YouTube that contains your music.
- Hundreds of other sources of songwriting and publishing royalties from
around the world.
CD Baby’s music distribution model charges per release – $9.95/single and $29/album – and this is increased – $29.95/single and $69/album – when publishing services are included. They also charge 15% on all royalties collected.
CD Baby Pro Publishing uses the publishing admin system Songtrust which means you get the same publishing services they offer but as part of your CD Baby account. But, as I mentioned, you only get royalties from songs you released with CD Baby – so it’s very useful if you have done that already but fairly unnecessary if you release music with DistroKid.
TuneCore work with thousands of organisations to collect your global royalties. They work in a similar way to CD Baby Pro Publishing but their administration is done by a UK based publishing administration called Sentric.
With TuneCore Publishing you collect:
- Global Mechanical Royalties
- Global Performance Royalties
- Global Micro-Sync Royalties – Every video with music created on Tik Tok or uploaded to YouTube generates both a performance and mechanical reproduction royalty
- Global Print Royalties – Anywhere your music or lyrics are printed, royalties are generated
TuneCore charges $75 per writer to cover setup and administrative costs and they also retain a 15% commission from the royalties that they collect on your behalf.
This works out a bit cheaper than Songtrust but again relies on the fact that you’re already paying TuneCore for distribution. It is also better than CD Baby’s per release model if you’re releasing a lot of music. It mainly depends on your needs and output as an independent artist.
Ditto Music Publishing
Ditto also offer global publishing administration like TuneCore and CD Baby, and like the other distributors you can only claim publishing royalties for works released through Ditto.
Ditto offer publishing at $39/year and with a 10% commission on all royalties collected. This is an interesting price model as Ditto Music offer the lowest commission on collecting royalties of all the publishing administrator I have looked at. The low yearly fee is good if you’re short for cash but it will obviously become more expensive than the other publishers we’ve looked at if you keep your music up for a long time.
If you’re getting big streaming numbers and listener engagement then you should definitely sign up for a PRO and a music publishing administrator. You could be missing out on a lot of royalties which will go uncollected if you’re only using a distributor.
You can’t use DistroKid to collect publishing royalties however it is still our favourite distributor and we would definitely recommend using Songtrust to collect your royalties globally.
It is a shame that DistroKid does not have a publishing service because it makes publishing much more simple. If you are distributing your music with TuneCore and then using them to collect your publishing royalties – it makes the system much simpler and its easier to keep track of all your works and money.
It’s up to you and where you are in your music career to decide where to distribute/publish your music. But, while everything in this article can be a real head ache to understand and consider, it is getting much easier for independent musicians to take control of their work and get the money that’s owed to them.
Joe is an Indie artist/producer based in Brighton.