Selling Your Music Online: How to pick a music distribution platform

Last week I talked about how there are 3 things you need BEFORE you get a website (check it out now). I promised I'd cover the 2nd one more in depth today: a place to sell and distribute your music.

There are tons of different platforms out there to sell and distribute your music, and they range in price and offerings. So how do you know which one to pick? 

You'll want to think about what you truly need right now, and what you might need in the future. There are a couple one stop shops that might serve all your needs.

This is not a review video nor is it focused on streaming: Today I'm covering which platforms will straight up allow you to sell your music online directly to fans.

A note on Spotify: you will NOT MAKE MONEY on Spotify. It takes so many streams for you to start bringing in money that it's just not worth it to focus on this platform as a money making strategy. However, it is important for growing your audience--just understand where that platform sits in your overall strategy: good for growth, but not a revenue stream.

CDBaby

cdbaby-graph.png

The facts: CDBaby has been around for 14 years. They have tons of resources online to help you market and promote your music (these are free, and you can check them out through DIY Musician. They also have an annual conference.

They distribute to the BIG 4: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Google Play. They can also provide the service of worldwide song registration and licensing.

How CDBaby pricing works:

They have 3 plans: standard, pro, and free. Standard and Pro are charged by the single song or the album. Digital downloads: they take 9% for paid accounts and 15% per download on the free account.

Pros to using CDBaby:

They're well established, which means they've worked out a LOT of kinks in the processes--something newer platforms might not have. It could be a one stop shop for distribution, licensing, and copyrighting. They also allow you to sell directly on your website.

Cons to using CDBaby:

They're taking a pretty big chunk out of your sales. Even if you pay for them to distribute, they're still taking AdditionAL money on top. PLUS, that's a 9% commission (if paid) or if free it's a 15% commission...ON TOP of what iTunes or the other partner is paying out. So that could leave you with practically nothing per download.

Overall, they offer some great services but I'd be concerned that you end up with no money in the end.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp cost structure breakdown

Bandcamp is a social platform and app for fans and artists. They make a big deal out of getting fans to discover new music, plus they allow you to sell merch on their platform.

How Bandcamp pricing works:

it's "free" for artists in that you don't have to pay for an account, but they take their money as a commission per download. It's 15% per digital download on top of however much PayPal takes. 

Pros to using Bandcamp: 

Really big fanbase, more popular in search than Tunecore or CDBaby, which I would hope considering they're trying to get as many people there as possible. Fans are going to likely be very familiar with this platform, whereas if you send them to CDbaby or Tunecore to download they might not be.

Cons to using Bandcamp:

They do NOT distribute outside of Bandcamp. They are their own retail store. So yes, it's popular, but you'll have to go elsewhere to get your music onto the Big 4. 

TuneCore cost breakdown

TuneCore

Tunecore is similar to CDBaby in that it distributes your music to the Big 4: (yes) iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, Amazon. You can also use them to license/copyright your music, for a separate but flat fee.

How TuneCore pricing works:

Pricing is per album or single song. NO free version. After the first year, the price/year to continue distributing the song or album goes up.

Pros to using TuneCore:

get distribution to the top 4. They also seem to be pushing YouTube music publishing. No fees on top of the digital downloads like CDBaby.

Cons to using TuneCore:

From what I can tell, you can't use their platform to sell a song or album directly on your website. (of course, you can probably get around this by embedding an iTunes link or similar). And even though the no commission sounds great, if you pay $50 for your year of distribution and barely sell any albums, you didn't really make anything. This is great at a certain about of volume.

Overall: I really like that they don't charge commission on your songs, because that shit is just going to add up. Still, you'll need to make sure you're selling enough to cover the cost of the membership.

DistroKid

DistroKid cost breakdown

This seems to be the new kid on the block, and I found it through the Bandcamp FAQ, actually! Distrokid also distributes to the Big 4.

How DistroKid pricing works:

You pay a flat fee/year (~$20) for unlimited uploads (including unlimited albums and singles). No commission on top of the commission from the other distributed platforms like iTunes. 

Pros to using DistroKid:

The reasonable flat yearly fee and unlimited uploads sounds awesome. However...

Cons to using DistroKid:

Doesn't look like DistroKid does anything in the way of copyrighting or music licensing like some of the other options.

Overall this seems like a solid but bare-bones option if you just want to distribrute to partners/streaming platforms but not license or anything else. Still, it's affordable.

And here's a comparison of "take home pay" for all four platforms:

four music distribution platforms take home pay comparison

In conclusion, these are four really viable options for you to use. It really just depends on what your specific needs are and what your ultimate strategy is. If you're just trying to build a following, Bandcamp might be your style. If you have a small but decent sized audience and want to spread the love to all the Spotifys and iTunes of the world, DistroKid might be great. And then if you're looking for a "one stop shop" that will cover all the above plus licensing and copyrighting, TuneCore is worth a look.

What's your experience with music distro platforms? Tell me in the comments!