Music Distribution: Our Symphonic Distribution Review – The Honest Truth is…
Symphonic is a company that is continually evolving and making huge strides to help artists further their music careers outside of just distribution.
Although they recently switched to a submission only company they are definitely worth your consideration.
Symphonic Distribution Review – What You'll Learn
- Why Symphonic might help you earn more money than CD Baby or TuneCore
- How you can use Symphonic’s features to market and promote your next release
- How Symphonic can help you make money from your music in places you wouldn’t expect
- How Symphonic can help protect your music from online piracy
Symphonic Distribution Summary
- No annual fee
- Distributes to 200+ outlets, including Beatport and other less-common outlets
- Automatically adds new outlets for free
- Preorders are available for multiple stores, including iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play
- Offer exclusive pre-releases
- YouTube & SoundCloud monetization available
- Able to distribute ringtones and STEMS
- Free ISRC & UPC codes
- Topple Track anti-piracy service
- $10 to release a compilation album
- Music video distribution available
- 15% Commission
- Not everyone can distribute with Symphonic as they are a submission based company
- Artist payouts are only once per month
- $50 payment threshold
- No payment splitting
If you’ve made it here you’ve probably already decided to independently release your own music. However, a big question still remains: “How am I going to distribute it?” There are so many companies that offer to distribute your music online for you, all with their own features and services.
What do I really need from a distribution company? Which ones are the best at what they do? And which company will give me the best price for my money?
Here at Music With Flavor, we’re working hard to answer these questions for you. With our reviews, we break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of each distribution company on the market. We then help you decide which one is the best fit for you.
Today we’ll be looking at Symphonic, a digital distribution company that has been around for over 10 years. Though not as well-known as competitors like CD Baby and TuneCore, they still have a lot to offer – perhaps even more than the bigger companies out there!
In the following sections we’ll dive deep into all the details about Symphonic – how much they cost, where they can send your music, etc – and walk you through deciding whether or not this company is for you.
Let’s get started!
Who Is Symphonic For?
As you will soon see, we have taken in a ton of information about Symphonic, but if you are in a hurry here is the condensed and to the point info you may need to make a decision:
Symphonic charges you a $25 fee to sign up for their service, a fee you only ever have to pay once. Then they charge you per release, starting at $10.99 for 1-5 tracks.
There are no annual fees to pay and Symphonic doesn’t take any commissions on your revenue, so really the only expense is up-front! However, this initial cost can be quite expensive. Let’s take a look:
If you are new to Symphonic and want to release a 12-song album, you’re going to have to pay $25 to sign up + $29.99 to release your album. That’s $49.99 – pretty stiff, even if it’s only a one-time expense!
In consequence, if you have enough money up-front and want to save long-term, Symphonic is a good choice. Even though the initial cost is more expensive than some other distribution companies, you’ll more than make that up with no annual fees and 0% commission taken.
*Update – April 14th, 2019:
In recent news, Symphonic has changed their business model ditching the “pay for distribution” approach that the majority of companies take and switching to a submission only company.
While this move may ignite some mixed feelings, it is a strong pivot that will see the company work closer with select artists who they feel will generate some traction and that the company can truly help to further their careers.
Founder and CEO, Jorge Brea says:
Be selective — We want to ensure that we can work with artists, labels, and managers that we feel we can truly help, that are talented, and that are dedicated to doing what it takes to be successful in this industry.
Seek to distribute and promote the best Latino, Hip-Hop/R&B, Electronic, and more.
Continue to invest in creating incredible technology to give you as much transparency, ease of use, and personal touch as possible.
Hire the best music industry executives and managers to ensure that you are supported by a truly incredible team.
We are the team that you can work with consistently, get feedback and advice from, and not have to pay any per-release, monthly, and/or annual fees. Distribution isn’t going to get you anywhere without a great team to help you grow, market, pitch and promote.”
With that said Symphonic also offers many noteworthy features not commonly available with other distribution companies. These include preorders for a variety of stores, SoundCloud monetization, and music video distribution. With the new hands on approach it could be said that their willingness to exhaust resources and help artists even more than before will have increased as well.
Once you're accepted onto Symphonic's new platform, your partnership will see them providing you with more than just distribution. You will be working closely with their team with options for a comprehensive suite of label services including digital marketing, publishing administration, sync licensing, neighbouring rights collections, advertising campaigns, physical distribution, graphic and video design, and much more.
Furthermore, Symphonic's marketing and client team pitches your music to playlist curators and influencers across all of the major digital service providers, crafting a strategy to develop your brand and the music you are releasing.
Previously, Symphonic’s payout system left little to be desired. However with the recent developments it would seem as though you will have more leverage and negotiation opportunities when it comes to outlining your terms and conditions. They used to only pay once-a-month – if you meet the $50 minimum threshold – and they didn't offer any option for payment splitting.
Therefore, at the end of the day, it really just comes down to what YOU need. Now that the initial expenses have been eliminated, Symphonic’s many benefits definitely shine through if you're able to get past their submission process.
*Update – April 14th, 2019:
How To Get Accepted Into The New Symphonic Submission Model
We want to be inspired. All genres are accepted during the application and distribution process, but, we want it to be awesome, unique, cool, and innovative.
A Strong and Consistent Brand
You’ve got a strong and original visual brand across all of your social channels, websites, and cover art. We look at your main website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and SoundCloud.
Fan Engagement & Audience Strategy
You or your artists are active across social media and DSPs and have an engaged, active, and growing audience. We look for # of followers, growth statistics, and the general health of an artist’s community.
Traction on Digital Service Providers
You have strong and growing monthly listeners on Spotify and Apple Music. You’re killing it on SoundCloud or YouTube.
Fees & Commissions
Nobody wants to pay too much to release their music to the world. After all, you’re hoping to make some money off of it, right?!
With that in mind, we’re going to start things off by looking at the cost of distributing your music with Symphonic. Their pricing system is unique and, like most other things, it comes with its own pros and cons. We’ll help you understand how it works and determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you.
Before you can release any music with Symphonic you have to sign-up. Symphonic used to charge a one time expense of $25 just to join but have since gotten rid of this initial charge.
While this was not a very expensive fee, to our knowledge, Symphonic was the only distribution company to charge a sign-up fee. Luckily for you as the artist you don't have to worry about this any more.
*Update – April 14th, 2019
Commissions & Distribution Fees
Originally, Symphonic would charge you a fee based on the number of tracks you intended to release. Not only did they remove their sign up fees but they also went ahead and got rid of their distribution fees as well.
This simple and straightforward approach to remove pricing makes Symphonic quite competitive compared to other distribution companies on the market.
One downside to their new pricing structure is that they now charge a 15% commission on your music revenue which they did not do before.
We don’t think this should be a deal-breaker for you, but this is certainly something to keep in mind.
This is similar to competitor CD Baby, for example. However the difference is that not only will CD Baby make you pay to initially release your music, they’ll also take a 9% commission off what you make on that music. This is, of course, in addition to the cuts taken by iTunes, Spotify, and any other platforms your fans are using to get your music. By the time everyone has taken their share of the pie there will be little left for you indeed.
Additional Stores & Takedown Costs
The digital music industry is changing all the time and you never know when and where the next iTunes or Spotify will pop up. Consequently, it makes sense for you as an artist to keep up to date with new platforms as they appear and make your music available there.
At the same time, keeping up with this task yourself and manually adding new platforms can be quite the chore. For this reason, Symphonic offers to automatically add the new stores for you. What’s more, this service is free of charge!
You’d think this would be a default feature of all distribution companies, but unfortunately that is not the case. For example, competitor DistroKid makes you pay $7.95 per release for them to automatically add new stores. If you don’t want to pay you have to stay up to date with the newly added stores yourself and add them manually. A real drag if you ask us!
If for some reason you decide you no longer want your music available online, Symphonic will do this for you free of charge. That’s right – there are no takedown costs.
Outlets & Release Options
One of Symphonic’s strongest qualities is the wide reach of online stores and platforms that they distribute to: over 200! This includes typical platforms like iTunes and Spotify, but also some other, more-specialized platforms. Let’s look at an example:
What if you’re an electronic or hip-hop producer? With Symphonic you can distribute your music to Beatport, Juno, and Traxsource, all specialized stores targeting your particular genre of music.
If you need help knowing which platforms to send your music to and which ones to leave out, Symphonic offers a special feature to assist you. In the uploading process you have several pre-made lists of different sets of stores you can send your music to. All you have to do is simply select whichever set works best for you!
You can, of course, also just send your music to all stores or manually select each store you want one-by-one.
Speed To Stores
In general, Symphonic sends your music to the platforms within 3 business days. Here’s how they explain it:
“We generally approve all releases within 24-48 business hours, not including holidays or weekends, and then it can take up to 24 hours to batch and deliver. Once delivered it can take up to 10 days for the individual DSP [platform] to process the content, which is out of our control.”
Because of the possibility of delays, they recommend at least a 2-week lead time, if not 3-4 weeks.
When compared to competing companies, Symphonic does not have the quickest distribution time. Therefore, if you’re trying to release a last-minute project, Symphonic is probably not the best choice for you. At the same time though, you ideally should be giving yourself a lead-time of several weeks anyway, so it’s kind of a moot point in our opinion. More on that next…
We think that everyone should agree that setting a release date for your music is a massively important step that can’t be skipped over. Without picking out a release date in the future – a date with plenty of time to promote your release – you won’t be able to build up any anticipation at all.
For this reason, Symphonic offers the ability for you to set the release date for your music free of charge! This stands in contrast to competitor DistroKid, where you have to upgrade to a more expensive plan for this feature.
Symphonic recommends allowing at least a 2-week lead time for your release date (though as mentioned above, more time than that is better!).
Symphonic also offers the ability for an “exclusive release” which will help you to hype up your music even more. Let’s look at this more closely:
What if you could make your release available on just one platform only before it then becomes available on all platforms? That would certainly build up some interest, right? The Exclusive Release feature from Symphonic allows you to do just that!
Another way you can build excitement for your release is through a preorder. Fans can pay for the release in advance and then be the very first ones to receive it when it goes live.
Symphonic includes this preorder feature for free, unlike some competitors. It is available for several different stores including iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
If you decide to make a preorder available on Amazon, you’re given the option to enable audio previews too. What this means is that fans can listen to samples of each track before they pay for the preorder.
Also, if you use the preorder on iTunes, you can opt-in to their “instant gratification” feature. This allows fans that pay for the preorder to immediately download a couple tracks (determined by you) even though the full album is not released yet. A really great incentive, that’s for sure!
While not a standard distribution platform, YouTube offers extensive opportunities for artists to make extra money on their music. If someone uses your music in their video, wouldn’t you like the ad revenue that’s being generated from that video? Well that is possible with YouTube monetization!
YouTube monetization is free to sign-up for at Symphonic, they just take a 30% commission off the revenue that is earned. Once you sign up, Symphonic will work to locate any videos using your music and make sure you get the ad revenue from them. This ad revenue is paid out quarterly.
They also help to protect your music by ensuring that no one else can monetize it but you.
In a similar way to YouTube, there are now opportunities for artists to make money from SoundCloud! SoundCloud monetization works from audio ads associated with your songs posted on SoundCloud. There are no sign-up fees and you earn 70% of the royalties which are paid out quarterly.
This is a standout feature from Symphonic as it is not available from many other distribution companies!
We think that it goes without saying that everyone is interested in earning extra money from their music. So what about collecting extra royalties then? Royalties from when your music is performed or when your music is played on radio or TV?
To bring you this service, Symphonic has actually partnered with their competitor TuneCore. The sign-up cost is a one-time fee of $75. After that they take a 10% commission of the publisher’s share. The rest of the publisher’s share and the full writer’s share gets paid to you!
Not only does Symphonic offer publishing admin for collecting royalties, they also offer SoundExchange Collection! This service works to help collect royalties paid for the playback of sound recordings on Internet radio, in physical venues, and other places. A 30% commission is taken by Symphonic and the rest is paid to you.
Keep in mind though that this service is a little specialized and is not marketed to the average client. Rather, Symphonic typically only offers SoundExchange Collection to independent labels and other, similar clients. However, if that describes you, this is yet one more tool at your disposal in making sure you get every penny you’re owed!
Do you think you have the next big radio hit? Want to make sure those plays are counted on Billboard’s music charts? If so, SoundScan registration is a necessity for you!
SoundScan is a special system that helps keep track of sales across the USA and Canada. It is available from Symphonic for a fee of $10 per album or $2.99 per song.
This is a feature that is rather unique to Symphonic as it is not offered by any of its main competitors (CD Baby, Tunecore, and DistroKid).
Marketing & Promo
Symphonic's list of features continue to add up. They provide their own marketing and promotional services to help you further market your releases and increase engagement around you and your brand.
They provide Branding and Design Services consisting of:
Symphonic also offers a list of Marketing services which include the following:
Lastly they are able to provide promotional services related to radio:
An important part of distributing music to sell is obtaining the appropriate UPC and ISRC codes. Fortunately for you, Symphonic includes this service for free! You can get the codes you need through a simple generator online when you upload your music to release.
Cover Song Licensing
Do you want to record a cover song but need help with getting the correct licenses and paying out the appropriate royalties? No worries! It is a simple process with Symphonic due to their partnership with Easy Song Licensing.
Licensing a cover song will cost you just $14.99, plus the royalties that will be deducted as your song is downloaded and streamed. The process for this licensing takes 1-2 business days. An easy solution for what would otherwise be a real headache of a job!
There’s nothing worse than working hard and putting countless hours into your music only to discover that it’s been uploaded to a piracy website. Not only does it affect the sales of your music, it makes it possible for others to then steal the music and use it as their own!
Symphonic works to stop this with an anti-piracy service they call Topple Track. It costs $7.99 per release per month and you can sign up as soon as you’ve submitted your release to Symphonic.
Once you’ve signed up Symphonic will work to locate any instances of your music being uploaded illegally and make sure it is removed. According to their website they have a 99% removal rate, with 90% of those removals happening within 24 hours.
Analytics & Reporting
Keeping track of the success of your music online is essential as you build your music career. The data you gather from sales and streaming statistics can be invaluable in learning about who is listening to your music.
To that end, Symphonic offers daily, monthly, and quarterly sales reports and analytics.
When it comes to giving your music that radio-quality edge, mastering is the unequivocal answer. It’s the important final step of production before you send your music off to the distributor… or maybe you can just hire the distributor to master your music for you?
Enter Symphonic’s comprehensive mastering services. With a price as low as $20 per song, Symphonic will master your music to make sure it sounds the best it possibly can. Symphonic’s mastering engineer has experience in all types of music: Electronic, Hip Hop, Rock, Acoustic and more.
Let’s say you’ve already put out several releases with Symphonic… What do you do if you want to follow up those releases with a compilation album? Normally you would have to start from scratch reassembling those tracks to put together a new album. However, Symphonic offers a streamlined service to help you with this task!
Not only does this tool simplify the process, it’s also more cost-effective because the compilation album only costs $10! More than likely this is a much better deal than paying for a traditional release.
Ringtones & Other Formats
If you’re looking to distribute your music as ringtones, Symphonic has you covered! They also give you the ability to release your music using the STEM audio format from Native Instruments, a feature useful for producers and electronic musicians.
Music Video Distribution
Why limit yourself to just distributing music when you can also distribute your music videos?!
This service from Symphonic helps your music video get far beyond YouTube, including such platforms as Vevo and iTunes. It even gives you your own artist channel on Vevo!
This distribution costs a flat, one-time fee of $95.
The time has come and you’re finally making money off your music online – hallelujah! How does Symphonic take care of paying you that hard-earned money? Well let’s take a look now!
Symphonic pays their artists on a monthly basis, assuming you meet the minimum threshold (see below). While not a terrible paycheck schedule, this is much less frequent than competitors such as CD Baby and TuneCore, who pay weekly.
In consequence, if you are depending on a frequent paycheck of your music revenue, Symphonic may not be your best choice.
Before Symphonic will release payment to you, you need to have at least $50 of revenue in your account. This is what is called the payment threshold.
While $50 is a very modest amount for a threshold, this is once again a shortcoming for Symphonic. If you consider competitors such as CD Baby and TuneCore, you’ll see that they have no threshold at all – you simply get paid whatever is in your account.
With 21st-century technology it’s becoming increasingly easier and easier to split up revenue earned from music online. Do you need to pay your songwriter or collaborator a portion of the royalties from your music? Why not just set up automatic payments from your paycheck instead of having to pay out manually?
This is a feature that has been introduced by many distribution companies, most notably DistroKid. Unfortunately, at the current time Symphonic does not offer payment splitting. With luck maybe they will add it soon, but for right now it simply doesn’t exist.
What if we told you that you could get an advance payment for anticipated revenue? Sounds like a pretty great setup, right?
Well this is available with Symphonic’s Royalty Advances feature! You simply apply to Symphonic asking for an advance and they will review your case, considering how much they can send you depending on the anticipated revenue.
The catch is that this feature is only available to labels, artists, and managers currently earning $5,000 or more in annual revenue. If you make less than that, it’s simply unavailable. Better luck next time!
Social Media Integration
To help you build interest online and grow your fan base, Symphonic has an app called Symphonic Social. This app provides you with special tools that connect with social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Included in this app are an assortment of useful features, such as post scheduling and analytical tools.
Ease Of Use
Symphonic uses a straightforward, industry-standard process for uploading your music which is very easy to use. Working through step-by-step, you enter in all the details about your release and upload the artwork along with the audio files. This can be completed in a matter of minutes!
If, for some reason, you have any issues, Symphonic has put together a very comprehensive user guide that outlines each of the steps in detail. https://symphonicdistribution.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/214957903-Full-Upload-Guide-Every-Field-Explained-
For customer service, Symphonic can be reached by email or telephone. If you email them, you can expect an answer in 1 business day or less.
Though not as well-known as some other companies, Symphonic is one of the best options out there for distributing your music online. They offer competitive prices that help you, as the artist, maximize the earnings from your music. They also have an extensive feature-set that rivals, if not surpasses, their competitors.