Nowadays digital music distribution is common - artists can establish a partnership with the online music distributors and they will professionally promote their music. However, there’s a lot to know about digital music distribution - how does it work, what exactly it is and what do the online distributors do? What are streaming platforms? Which of them are most popular? What are differences between physical and digital music distribution, or between record companies and internet platforms? All the answers you can find right here on this page.
What is digital music distribution?
What is digital music distribution?Music distribution is the process of distributing music to music stores or via the Internet via streaming platforms such as TIDAL, Deezer, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and Amazon Music, as well as via social networks such as Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, as well as SoundCloud and Bandcamp platforms, which allow artists to create a website and upload their music themselves, without the participation of distributors. Music distribution also includes physical distribution, such as selling vinyl in record stores or services such as monetization services offered by YouTube.
Digital distribution of music is facilitated by the services of other companies, such as CD Baby, AWAL, Ditto, DistroKid, Horus Music or Amuse, which are the link between creators and music platforms and help artists to make their works recognizable worldwide. The digital music distribution service offered by these companies helps guide artists through the entire music release process, which involves tracking streaming data or royalty payments. Music distributors collect all the licensing and streaming data and transfer the sound file and its metadata, such as the cover, the copyright of the work. the title of the work and the author(s) of the work, to streaming platforms. With online music distribution, an artist can upload a single song and upload it automatically to all selected digital music stores and online platforms.
Digital music distribution companies enable professionals who want to be independent and develop their careers to quickly make their music available on TikTok, Facebook or Instagram, and offer their support and automatic sharing of royalties, as well as helping to distribute music wherever the potential audience of the artist is. Digital distribution, or online distribution or ESD, a method of direct delivery of content, is the distribution or delivery of digital multimedia content, such as electronic software, audio files, video games and e-books, over the Internet. Online content delivery, which has developed in the 21st century, bypasses physical distribution methods such as on paper, VHS cassettes or optical discs. This content can be downloaded or streamed on request. Specialised networks delivering content over the Internet, providing very good performance and availability, and alternative content delivery technologies, which include peer-to-peer file sharing technologies, consolidate, create and manage content at a distance.
The term "digital distribution" also refers to the distribution of films, and more specifically to the distribution of content by means of physical digital media, as opposed to distribution on analogue media, i.e. magnetic tapes or photographic films. The direct nature of online distribution of music allows artists to spread their work and gain popularity in a short time. The artist participates in the whole publishing chain, where the publisher helps to distribute, advertise, finance, send and distribute his works, which makes for commercial success. By distributing music online, professional musicians have the opportunity to make their work available to the public at low cost and thus to potential audiences with cheaper goods.
Online distribution allows creators greater artistic freedom and profit-making, as well as the opportunity to explore new business models such as Open Music Model. Musicians do not have to release an entire album, they have the opportunity to release only one song and see if they will find their audience. The online distribution of music has significantly increased the sales and profits of artists, minimized costs and made it easier to reach a wide range of audiences around the world, who started to have easy access to selected tracks, no longer having to buy whole albums. Musicians gained greater creative freedom and the right to publish and sell their music themselves, as well as to license their music themselves without the pressure that was often associated with the obligation to fulfil their contract with the record company. Unlike traditional record labels, online music distributors do not hold the copyright associated with an artist's works, but help promote the compositions and have the right to publish and license them.
Digital distribution of music starts with the artist who, after composing a piece of music, can establish a partnership with the online music distributor. Such a distributor will professionally promote the music, enabling it to reach fans in a simple, fast and cheap way. Thanks to royalties, artists make money by streaming, downloading or buying previously shared songs by the audience.
1. Thanks to streaming platforms, which have gained considerable popularity over the last decade, listeners have unlimited access to music, both to whole albums and to individual tracks.
15 points describing how digital music distribution works
2. Online music is usually distributed in MP3 and WAV format.
3. Online music distribution allows fans to directly support their idols financially by downloading, transferring or buying music.
4. Independent musicians can use the distributors to upload their music to many popular applications, they do not have to do it themselves and are not required to have a record deal with music publishers.
Artists - after selecting the digital music distribution company that best suits their needs - can set up an account, upload compositions with metadata, select platforms and streaming stores and start distributing their music.The metadata that artists must upload with their music is all the information contained in the audio files that are used to present, label and identify the audio content. The metadata should be carefully filled in by the musicians as they are required by all streaming platforms and used to locate the music in their databases and identify specific audiences. 7. Usually, online music distributors give 100% of their sales revenue to musicians in exchange for annual and monthly fees.
8. Online music distribution enables independent artists to reach their target audience from around the world.
9. Digital music distribution allows artists to record professional music using a microphone, computer, laptop and interface.
10. All streaming platforms are increasingly popular because they provide listeners with free or low-cost access to music from around the world.
11. Distribution of music over the Internet is more environmentally friendly than physical distribution, which involved making optical discs of aluminum and polycarbonate material, among other things. 12. In 2015, online music sales exceeded physical sales.
13. In 2017, the number of paid subscribers of streaming platforms increased by 45.5% worldwide.
14. in 2018, digital music transmission accounted for 47% of all global revenues of the entire music industry.
15. Although the sale of records on physical media has been constantly decreasing for 20 years, it still accounts for approximately 30% of the total revenue from the sale of music recordings.
Thanks to digital music distribution services, independent music labels and artists from all over the world can share their work in shops and websites or on streaming music platforms.
Independent artists can choose from a wide range of digital music distribution companies, which rely heavily on online music sharing and streaming platforms. Unlike record companies, music distributors do not become owners of compositions, albums or individual tracks, but are intermediaries between musicians and online platforms that enable music distribution and reach potential audiences around the world. Such distributors are also responsible for paying royalties to musicians for downloading, transferring or buying songs by users and for administrative matters.
Who distributes digital music?
Musicians can use the services of one company of their choice that best suits their vision, capabilities and expectations, or test the services of different distributors to have a comparison and see which model works best for them.Theoretically, each artist can upload his or her own songs directly to the streaming platform, but most of these platforms prefer to work with professional digital music distributors rather than directly with creators to avoid the problems of transferring payouts or custom metadata that may not fit the requirements of the platform.
Music distributor sact as guides to help independent artists distribute and upload their works worldwide through music platforms and online stores.
Digital music distributors have a clear financial model that allows artists to choose whether they want to work with a company that requires them to pay monthly or annual fees, or one that will charge a percentage of their song sales revenue.
What digital music distributors do?
Distributing music through online distributors is much less complicated and costly than physical distribution, which required a contract with the musician before the records could be physically sent to stationary stores.
Digital music distribution companies provide the artists they work with, they collaborate withcare, consultation, analytical tools, promotions, and other services necessary for success and wise career guidance.
The choice of the right digital music distributor also depends on the level and popularity of the artist. If musicians want their music to turn into a DSP, or Digital Service Provider, they should find a distribution company that will professionally take care of their music career.
Online music distributors do not claim the rights to the music they distribute, and the artist does not have to be contractually bound or worried about losing the rights to his or her work.
Musicians have the right to work with multiple companies, but they can only use one distributor to release one song, there is no possibility to send the same song to different companies.
Each distributor of digital music has unique features that may be more or less important to a particular musician, so it is worthwhile to look closely at all companies. Some digital music distributors charge musicians an annual fee based on the number of songs they release, while others charge a one-off fee for the music they upload at pre-set rates (for albums, singles and EPs).
Distributors also place a digital fingerprint (ISRC) on each music file, which allows the author to track the song, and is also used for licence fees and credits. One ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is needed for each song, while the universal code, UPC, which is a barcode on the back of a product that should even have digital products, makes it possible to buy a given music album. Distributors can pay out royalties to artists on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis.
Artists who want to earn money from publishing their works online and receive regular remuneration should subscribe to the Performing Rights Organization (PRO). Musicians can register in person or ask their distributors to do so, who will also take care of the registration with SoundScan (sales tracking system), SiriusXM or Pandora (they pay royalties for the results to the musicians), as well as SoundExchange, which allows royalties to be downloaded (50% for performers and 50% for the owner of the sound recording, unless the artist decides to keep the copyright, then he or she collects the royalties as performer and owner of the recording).
Digital music distributors charge musicians 20% to 30% commission for collecting royalties from SoundExchange.
Some digital music distributors automatically post their music on sites such as SoundCloud and YouTube to collect advertising revenue.
Independent musicians can take the time to do all the administrative tasks associated with releasing their music on their own, but if they want to work with professional distributors, they have to take into account that not all companies offer this type of service for free, some of them charge between 5% and 30% commission.
Many streaming platforms, such as iTunes, established in 2002, and Spotify, established in 2006, do not allow artists to upload their music directly; they can only do so through approved digital music distributors.
Most digital music distribution companies deliver music uploaded by musicians to the most popular streaming sites (some distributors take 24 hours to deliver their music files and others up to 4 weeks to deliver).
Napster, thanks to peer-to-peer technology, allowed subscribers to share audio files directly, allowing users to download music free of charge, and this led to copyright infringement.
In 2003, Apple created the iTunes Store, which allowed consumers to legally buy albums and individual songs online.
Today, listeners prefer to access music on streaming platforms rather than buying physical discs or downloading songs from iTunes, which has dramatically changed the way music is distributed by record companies, independent companies and musicians, but there are countries, such as Japan, where physical CD sales still dominate.
Universal, Warner and Sony are the 3 main music companies with which various distributors are associated. Many digital music distribution companies operate as wholly owned subsidiaries of larger corporations and represent large record companies. There are also companies that meet the needs of independent record companies and artists, but are still owned by major music companies such as Sony RED or ADA, which is owned by Warner.
Before submitting music files, every creator should be convinced that the songs will sound equally good in all playback systems and that they are on a high artistic and technical level. Musicians can benefit from the help of mastering engineers who will improve their work by using professional processing tools such as compressors, equalizers and sound limiters. Mastering engineers bring out the nuances of the sound, unify the sound of all songs and adapt them to existing standards using digital technology and analogue devices.
Digital music distributors will also take care of the PR strategy and promotion of the whole creation, so it is important that the independent artist regularly releases new songs, which increases the chances of adding songs to the playlist and building a fan base. Professional companies can distribute music to hundreds of online music stores, such as: Spotify, Google Play, iTunes, Deezer, Shazam, Beatport, Tidal, Apple Music, Pandora or Amazon, so that the artist has a chance to shine (in 2019 alone, it was noted that 40 thousand new songs appear daily through online music distributors).
With the development of digital technology, the emergence of streaming platforms and the move of the world of music to the Internet, a number of online music distribution companies have emerged, offering independent musicians comprehensive services ranging from administration, consultation, through mastering, to promotion and PR strategy. Artists no longer have to sign contracts with record companies to make their music popular and accessible to listeners around the world. Distributors automatically upload songs to hundreds of online music stores and streaming services and offer physical releases, marketing tools and statistics. Below is a list and characteristics of the most popular digital music distributors:
The most popular distributors of digital music
1. CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) - this company was founded by Derek Sivers in 1998 in New York City and was one of the first to enable DIY musicians to release music on vinyl or CDs and physically deliver it to stores around the world, and now also distributes digital music to online stores and streaming services. Artists who want to start working with CD Baby have to pay $9.95 per single and $29 for the whole album plus 9% commission.
What else is worth knowing about CD Baby:
- this company is the best one-stop-shop in the industry and offers DIY musicians a physical and online release,
- it is one of the most comprehensive distributors of digital music, which can deal with publishing, licensing, royalties as well as digital and physical releases,
- no registration fees are charged,
- the free service includes free registration and 15% commission on sales in Baby's online music store,
- the standard service includes $9.95 per single and $29 for the entire album plus 9% commission on revenue and $4 for each physical copy sale,
- the Pro service includes $29.95 per single and $69 per album plus 9% commission on revenue and $4 for each physical sale of a copy of the song, as well as 15% commission for charging royalties to the artist whose music is performed, recorded or otherwise used,
- do not charge annual fees,
- thanks to the cooperation of CD Baby with Music Gateway it is also possible to distribute television and film,
- they pay advances to popular artists,
- distribute music to over 150 streaming services,
- offer artists access to geographic and demographic data on the distribution of their music,
- they work with over 750,000 musicians from all over the world,
- offer a professional administration and monetization service,
- CD Baby does not offer split payments and further promotion to more popular musicians,
- they charge 30% commission for monetization on YouTube,
- CD Baby is the preferred distributor of digital music by Spotify,
- they charge a low commission, and musicians can receive up to 91% of their earnings,
- offer publishing royalties and listening synchronization,
- they charge a 40% commission for the sychnronization license,
- the musician has to give up Baby's CD service in writing.
What else is worth knowing about Landr:
- the monthly subscription is between $1 and $4 and the annual subscription is between $12 and $48,
- they don't take commission from musicians,
- thanks to the mastering services, all songs are professionally finished,
- offer a promotional tool and free sample packages that musicians can use,
- the musicians can only release 1 song, which gives them time to polish the whole album,
- for $4 a month, musicians have access to unlimited distribution and limited mastering services. For $25 a month, musicians have access to unlimited distribution and mastering services,
- Landr's user base includes over 1 million musicians and producers,
- the company distributes music to iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Tidal and Google Play,
- Landr is new to the market and it does not yet allow for the release of the songs on the covers.
What else is worth knowing about Horus Music:
- artists can access their CMT account, the Custom Music Tool, which allows them to create sub-profiles and profiles of musicians, provides an unlimited number of releases and advanced software for tracking royalties,
- for musicians from the UK there is no minimum payment threshold and for musicians from abroad the minimum threshold is £10,
- revenues are paid regularly, monthly (with the help of Western Union),
- royalties may be shared between co-workers and band members or between the artist and the label,
- promoting and adding songs to DSP playlists,
- offer labeling services,
- for an additional fee you can create your own channel on VEVO and sell your video on Tidal, FunonGo or iTunes,
- the team of specialists is very helpful and always answers emails quickly,
- operate on a subscription basis and allow the release of an unlimited number of works,
- they distribute music to more than 800 streaming services and 200 stores in over 100 countries, including China,
- they accept only good quality songs,
- offer a mastering service,
- they don't charge commission on revenues,
- for a royalty split guarantee unlimited distribution of digital music,
- offer physical distribution to the Amazon,
- musicians get built-in plugins for playlists,
- the artists get 100% royalty,
- Horus Music has additional fees and if the artists want to spread the music quickly, they have to pay more,
- don't help getting mechanical licenses,
- there is no integration with social networking sites,
- payment can only be made by credit card or PayPal.
What else should you know about Distrokid:
- the platform is easy to use,
- automatically back up songs in the cloud,
- they don't charge a commission,
- distribute music to all popular online music stores and streaming services,
- the musicians can wear so-called splits, thanks to which part of the royalties is directed to other people,
- enable the distribution of songs on the covers,
- distribute music to more than 150 online music shops and services,
- independent musicians can create an account and register online,
- have a clear interface,
- charge an annual membership fee of $19.99, which allows you to add an unlimited number of songs per year,
- the annual subscription is between $19.99 and $79.99,
- they work with the TikTok platform, which allows musicians to share their videos with fans from around the world,
- help to get mechanical licenses,
- artists can choose the option for $30 per release - Leave a Legacy, so they don't have to pay $20 every year to keep their work from being removed from the platform,
- the musicians receive 100% of the money they earn, 100% royalties and 100% of the rights to their work,
- Distrokid is one of the top 3 Spotify distributors,
- musicians can use features associated with iTunes and Sporify, such as lyrics, cover art, and validation,
- they create the Hyperfollow website, thanks to which listeners can save songs of a given artist on Spotify,
- access to analyses and reports,
- Distrokid does not allow the connection of a playlist,
- they don't have a publication administrator,
- in the price of the basic subscription, reports and analyses are limited,
- do not offer marketing assistance to more popular musicians,
- charge extra for additional services and features (e.g. Store Maximizer and Shazam), which are basic for other distributors and are part of the standard subscription (e.g. showing the release date of an album or a single),
- they have a lot of users, which often makes it impossible for musicians to get a quick and concrete answer, artists have to use the ticketing system and their problem is often not solved,
- associates must pay a subscription fee of $10 a year to get paid,
- they charge a commission for monetizing YouTube.
What else should you know about AWAL:
- they don't charge upfront, but a 15% commission on all revenues,
- they put music on the playlists,
- no extra charge,
- offer professional reporting and analysis tools,
- do not charge extra for placing songs on streaming platforms,
- the musicians retain 85% of their revenue,
- they only accept high quality music,
- guarantee distribution to the DSP,
- provide an advanced calculation of royalties,
- they put songs on the playlists,
- professional promotional campaign and marketing supported by professional teams,
- provide services to record companies,
- are served by companies such as Lil Peep, Madison Beer, Deadmau5, Yung Lean, Bladee, You Me At Six,
- not everyone can register on their platform, the musicians have to apply and only after acceptance can they use the services of the company,
- they don't have a publication administrator,
- often have delays in the distribution of music.
What else is worth knowing about Fresh Tunes:
- offers musicians professional consultations on the songs they upload,
- the annual subscription starts at $25,
- they are involved in promotion and marketing,
- they don't charge commissions on musicians' income,
- the artists retain 100% of the royalties and rights to their work,
- 24 hours after the music is uploaded, it will be checked and sent to streaming services such as iTunes and Spotify,
- offer pre-sale albums,
- enable a promotional campaign via Youtube or Facebook,
- offer a song review service (review of 1 song for $25),
- musicians who make a 20% surcharge will receive 6 months' royalties,
- have a lot of extra charges for various services and functions,
- the company is new to the market and has only 15 outlets,
- they don't have an administrator to help with the copyright.
What else is worth knowing about Ditto Music:
- the annual subscription is $19,
- as part of the annual subscription, users can upload any number of works,
- they don't charge commission on their income,
- offer tools to use Vevo and YouTube,
- they work with dance and electronic platforms such as Beatport,
- thanks to the RLIAB package (Record Label in A Box) available in 3 different variants, users have the right to start their own label,
- distribute music to over 200 streaming platforms and online music stores,
- they offer distribution of digital music to Vevo, iTunes, Sporify, Shazam, Apple Music, Amazon and Google Play,
- the musicians get plugged into the playlists,
- artists receive regular and timely payments,
- they offer artists pre-releases and 100% royalties and rights to their work,
- guarantee 24-hour service and access to analytical reports,
- the annual subscription is from $19 to $299 and the RLIAB package from $99 to $399,
- they offer their users a free domain and a special contract program,
- offer free UPC and ISRC codes,
- in order to collect licence fees, they propose to register labels in a PPL,
- they are involved in the promotion and help in the further career of musicians,
- charge 10% commission on YouTube monetization, which is only available for selected musicians,
- they don't have a publishing administrator,
- Ditto Music does not support payments through PayPal,
- many artists were not satisfied with the collaboration with Ditto,
- have extra hidden charges.
What else you should know about Spinnup:
- the annual subscription costs between $7.99 and $29.99,
- operate as an independent record company and distributor of digital music,
- registration is free, but they charge a fee for each work,
- a single edition costs from $9.99,
- the musicians retain 100% of their income and rights to their work,
- Spinnup distributes music to 44 streaming services and online music stores,
- the music on the highest level is sent to A&R Universal Music Group,
- provide statistics and analyses and offer promotional tools,
- they work with stars from around the world, like Katy Perry,
- the platform is easy to use,
- do not offer monetization on YouTube,
- musicians can't make money on SoundCloud,
- do not support split payments,
- do not receive publishing and licensing offers.
What else is worth knowing about TuneCore:
- artists retain 100% of their revenue and rights to their music,
- distribute music to more than 150 online music stores and steaming platforms such as TikTok, Spotify and Apple Music,
- musicians can create an account and register online,
- they offer an administrator (admin publishing service) who deals with the royalties of songwriters (Songwriter Services),
- annual fees are $9.99 per single and $29.99 per album and $49.99 for the following year,
- have a clear interface and their platform is easy to use,
- independent musicians, who had a large number of streams in the previous year, are offered advances on future payments,
- offer artists a monetization service on Facebook and YouTube,
- provide the assistance of a mastering engineer,
- offer tools for advertising and promotion,
- they charge an annual fee of $9.99 for the bells,
- TuneCore is one of the oldest distributors of digital music with extensive experience,
- they represent many popular artists such as Undercover Dream Lovers,
- do not distribute payments to co-writers of lyrics,
- uploading music can take a long time, the upfront fees are high and customer service is quite slow.
What else should you know about iMusician:
- they offer independent musicians monetization on Facebook and YouTube and the iTunes Pro service,
- have an encrypted service available which helps to prove to artists that the works belong to them,
- customer service is fast and multilingual,
- offer artists simplified contracts,
- distribute music to over 250 streaming platforms and online music stores,
- they offer the musicians a mastering service,
- there is no sharing of payments between co-authors,
- independent artists can start working with iMusician for $5, it's a starter option to distribute music only to 1 store, and musicians have to pay 30% commission on their revenue,
- the commission drops to 15% if artists decide to pay a more expensive fee for a single or album, and on the next, higher levels of service, there is no commission, but the fees are much higher,
- The Rockstar service guarantees one-off charges that give access to express music distribution and label registration,
- Pro-Unlimited for $500 a year guarantees initial orders through Google Play, Apple Music and iTunes, as well as membership in iTunes Pro, so independent musicians can promote their music.
What else is worth knowing about Octiive:
- they have a lot of outlets around the world, also in Asia,
- distribute music to over 600 streaming platforms and online music stores,
- they charge $27.99 a year for unlimited music distribution,
- the musicians retain 100% of the rights to the piece,
- for the Pay As You Go level they charge $7.99 per single and $17.99 per album and 8% commission on revenues,
- provide artists with promotions and a mastering service,
- offer a video service,
- charge the musicians an annual subscription fee and 10% commission on revenues,
- do not offer plugins for playlists and monetization on YouTube,
- they don't have an administrative service,
- do not support mechanical licenses,
- digital music distribution takes up to 4 weeks,
- they offer many interesting features, for which you have to pay extra.
What else is worth knowing about Songtradr:
- represents over 400,000 musicians,
- an annual subscription of $19 guarantees access to analytical reports, licensing and distribution of music to multiple streaming services,
- musicians can take advantage of a free, limited option that does not offer, for example, UPC codes,
- artists can send an unlimited number of works from as little as $4.99 per month,
- they don't charge commissions on musicians' income,
- Songtradr users can take advantage of the possibility to share their earnings,
- send users SMS with notifications about current events,
- artists can choose an annual subscription for $19 or for $49,
- high licensing costs,
- they do not have a publication administrator, which makes it impossible to obtain royalties from music,
- the only payment option is PayPal,
- they charge a 15% commission for monetization on YouTube.
What else is worth knowing about ReverbNation:
- the platform was created primarily for bands,
- for $19.95 per month, they offer the distribution of 2 editions per year and access to many services, features and tools,
- provide professional revenue reports and detailed data analysis,
- they don't charge a commission,
- offer musicians the tools they need for promotion and marketing related to email, social networking, digital advertising and industry events,
- independent musicians can take advantage of the direct selling service and the basic feature package free of charge,
- the annual cost of digital distribution starts at $1 per single and $9 per album,
- offer many additional paid services,
- the ReverbNation platform can also be used by electronics manufacturers,
- artists cooperating with this platform can take advantage of the possibility to perform concerts,
- the musicians retain 100% of their revenue,
- do not offer an administrator to help release music and charge.
- they offer artists websites under their brand names,
- do not offer a breakdown of royalties.
What else is worth knowing about Record Union:
- offer 3 distribution packages,
- the price for a single edition starts at $7,
- they charge a 15% commission on their revenue,
- the musicians who take advantage of the premium package charge 7.5% commission,
- the musicians pay every year for adding their songs to online music stores and streaming platforms,
- the company which was the first to work with Sporify and since 2009 has helped independent digital music producers to distribute music to Sporify,
- the platform is easy to use,
- offer pre-release releases,
- they work with brands such as Sony Music,
- do not work with social networking sites,
- payment can only be made with a credit card and PayPal system.
What else is worth knowing about Musicinfo:
- the annual subscription for the distribution of a song, album or EP includes promotion in social media and access to reports and analyses,
- the prices for an annual subscription start at 29 euros, the higher levels are for 59 euros, 99 euros and 249 euros,
- for promotion in social media they charge a one-off fee of 29 euros, the Pro service costs 59 euros,
- for making a video recording available, they charge a one-off fee of €49,
- any independent artist who wants to conquer the Chinese market should consider working with a partner such as Musicinfo.
What else should you know about Stem:
- they charge a 10% commission on musicians' revenues,
- through Stem, musicians can share their work with the largest streaming services in the world,
- they work only with artists who will successfully pass the recruitment process,
- the company moved to a more exclusive service model in 2019, which meant that many of their collaborating artists had to look for new distributors for their music.
What else is worth knowing about Routenote:
- musicians who choose the free option don't have to pay for registration or a monthly or annual subscription, but a 15% commission on their income,
- musicians who choose the Premium option must pay $10 for a single release, $30 for an album release and $10 per year for a subscription, but can retain 100% of their revenue,
- they distribute music to the Asian market,
- do not obtain a mechanical license,
- offer plugins for playlists,
- make payments to co-creators of music,
- provide free UPC and ISRC codes,
- provide reports on sales and streaming of works,
- RouteNote offers its users access to the RouteNoteStudio community, which helps musicians to increase their audience on YouTube,
- guarantee the musicians promotion and access to the Soundcloud platform,
- RouteNote also has a record label,
- their reports are complicated and often illegible,
- the distribution of music takes up to 4 weeks.
What else is worth knowing about The Orchard:
- offer comprehensive services for independent musicians and record companies,
- they operate in 28 countries,
- they work only with artists who will successfully pass the recruitment process,
- they distribute music to online and retail stores around the world,
- they're in charge of obtaining licenses,
- their services also include marketing, promotion and labeling services,
- offer a video monetization service,
- they also license advertising, TV programs, games and films.
What else should you know about Amuse:
- offer free services to independent musicians,
- artists can pay out two earnings as soon as online music stores or streaming platforms transfer their royalties,
- offer musicians access to track all data related to downloading, sharing and distributing their songs,
- musicians can keep 100% of their revenue,
- they also distribute music to such Internet portals as Instagram, TikTok or Facebook,
- support popular artists in their further careers,
- musicians who are Amuse Pro users have the right to choose the release date of their music for 14 days ahead, the so-called Fast Lane Release,
- musicians who are Amuse Free users have the right to choose the release date of their music for 28 days ahead,
- royalties are paid up to 3 months after the end of the streaming,
- earnings over $10 can be paid out using the app,
- offer a Fast Forward service, which predicts the future fate of the tracks based on their current popularity.
What else should you know about Soundrop:
- they help musicians get music licenses,
- do not charge musicians for distributing their own original songs,
- allow sharing of payments between co-authors (RevSplitter),
- the platform is easy to use,
- they charge a 15% commission for streaming,
- they distribute music to such platforms as Amazon, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play and Spotify,
- do not offer the service of an administrator who would charge royalties,
- they're distributing covers,
- prices start at $9.99 per song,
- users get paid out when their balance reaches a minimum of $20,
- offer a free marketing tools package Show.co.
What else is worth knowing about ONErpm:
- offer services such as Marketing, Business Intelligence, Rights Mgmt& Publishing and Video Network,
- they also deal with direct sales and cover licensing,
- they don't charge upfront, just a 15% commission,
- independent musicians retain 100% of the rights to their work,
- may distribute music under a Creative Commons license,
- provide very good reports, analyses and statistics,
- are involved in copyright management,
- offer video production (music videos),
- allow for the distribution of payments among co-creators,
- offer promotion in social media and business interviews,
- a good choice for musicians who want to enter the Latin American market,
- provide platyslist plug-ins for musicians,
- they do not have an administrator to help the musicians collect royalties,
- do not help artists to obtain mechanical licenses,
- do not distribute music in Asia,
- ONErpm retains 15% royalty for sound, 30% for ringtones and Youtube and 50% for specialised video.
What else is worth knowing about Symphonic:
- they don't take commissions from artists,
- they charge $25 for registration,
- the one-off fees depend on the number of works released: 1-5 works cost: $10.99; 1-10 works cost: $19.99; 1-15 works cost: $29.99,
- serve over 50,000 musicians,
- they're collecting royalties,
- they also cooperate with music labels,
- offer a monetization service,
- offer free promotional tools,
- provide detailed statistics and revenue reports,
- for $95 they distribute videos to many streaming platforms,
- they work only with artists who will successfully pass the recruitment process.
What else should you know about EmuBands:
- they charge members a one-time fee only, no commission or annual subscription,
- a one-off release fee is €32.50 (1 to 2 songs), €44.95 (3 to 5 songs) and €64.95 (6 to 20 songs) for the album,
- the artists retain 100% of their income,
- are primarily focused on the distribution of digital music,
- offer mastering services and professional consultations,
- provide statistics, analyses and charts,
- they cooperate with such artists as Julia Stone and Angus,
- all users get instant access to Spotify,
- offer tools for video distribution,
- they don't have a publishing manager,
- do not split payments.
The rapid development of technology has led to the music business moving to the Internet, and services and streaming platform sare constantly evolving, introducing new services, features and innovations to meet the needs and requirements of independent artists. Streaming is not only about sharing music on streaming services, but also about promotion, mastering and many other services and features available to musicians to help them reach as many fans as possible around the world. Any digital music distributor should make sure to place their subscribers' music on a sufficient number of popular streaming platforms, as these platforms prefer to work with professional distribution companies rather than directly with musicians.
What are streaming platforms?
The most popular streaming platforms and online music stores1. iTunes - is a program for playing audio and video files, which was produced by Apple in 2001.
2. Spotify - is a streaming platform, which was founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. The company initiated the concept of interactive streaming, the consumer decides to listen for free or pay a subscription fee. Subscribing to the free level means accessing any music on the Spotify platform, but from time to time ads are displayed, while in the paid subscription model users have access to the entire Spotify library without ads.
Spotify pays the musicians about USD 0.00397 for displaying a song (they have about 87 million subscribers and about 191 million active users per month).3. Napster - is an application that is used to search, download and buy MP3 files. It was invented in 1999 by Shawn Finning and Sean Parker.
Napster pays musicians about 0.019 USD for displaying a song (they have about 5 million users).
4. Apple Music - is a music streaming service, which was created in 2015 and its author is Apple Inc.
Apple Music pays about $0.00783 USD to the musicians for displaying the song.
5. TIDAL - streaming service, which was founded in 2016 by Swedish-Norwegian group Aspiro.
TIDAL pays the musicians about 0.01284 USD for displaying the song.
6. Deezer - music streaming service, which was founded in 2007 in France, the founder is Daniel Marhely, and the owner of Blogmusik SAS.
Deezer pays the musicians about 0.00624 USD for displaying the song (they have about 16 million users).
7. Pandora - is a streaming platform, which was created in the United States, at the beginning it was a non-interactive Internet radio station with specially prepared playlists performed using algorithms.
Pandora, in the Premium package, pays the musicians about 0.00133 USD for displaying a song (they have about 81 users and 6.8 million paid subscribers).8. Amazon Music - is an online music store and streaming platform. Amazon Music was established in 2007 in the United States and is owned by Amazon.com.
Amazon Music pays about $0.00402 to the musicians for displaying a song.
9. Google Play Music - this is a streaming platform, which was originally known as Music Beta in the United States in 2011.
Google Play Music pays musicians about $0.00676 USD to view the song.
10. YouTube - is a free website created in 2005 in San Mateo (California, USA), which allows to post videos. The founders are Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen.
YouTube pays its subscribers about $0.00074 to view the video.11. TikTok - is a mobile web application created in 2016 by the Chinese company ByteDance, which enables posting short films and music videos.
12. Bandcamp - is a streaming platform and online music store created in the United States in 2008. The co-founder of Bandcamp is Ethan Diamond.
13. SoundCloud - an online music portal for posting your own songs, which was founded by Forss in 2007 in Stockholm, Sweden.
14. SoundClick - is a music service established in the United States in 1997 by the twin brothers TanjuCanli and TolgarCanli.
15. Vevo - an internet service, which was created in New York, USA in 2009. It is owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Enterainment, Abu Dhabi Media Company and Google. At the beginning he published only videos from EMI, Universal Music Group and Sony Music, but after some time he also started working with independent music labels.
16.Shazam - an application used to identify a given song, performer and title on the basis of sound, which was created in the UK.
17. Beatport - it is an online music store created in 2004 in Denver (Colorado, USA). Its founder is Jonas Tempel and the parent organization LiveStyle.
18. JunoDownload - it is an online music store.
19. Chartbreaker - it is an online music service.
20. Facebook - created in 2004 in the United States (Cambridge, Massachusetts), an online social networking site that also allows you to share your music. The founders of Facebook are Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and Andrew McCollum.
Facebook, which also owns the Instagram platform, has introduced a feature that captures copyrighted music content appearing in user posts and then pays a license fee to the copyright holders.21. Instagram - a photographic website created in 2010, which also allows you to share your own music. It is owned by Facebook and created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
22. Twitter - a social networking site created in 2006 and founded by Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams and Biz Stone.
Over the past 10 years, online platforms that offer streaming have become very popular with both independent musicians and listeners because they offer affordable, fast and unlimited access to music, singles and albums, from all over the world, and enable artists to gain popularity by reaching millions of potential fans with their work.
Physical vs. digital distribution of musicThe physical distribution of music consists in the physical sale of records to music shops, i.e. distributors act as intermediaries between artists and record companies and music shops. Music distribution companies sign contracts with artists or record companies that give them the right to sell their music. Similarly, there are digital music distribution companies which, as technology develops, have started to conquer the music market, but the whole process takes place online and instead of selling albums to a physical store, they distribute music in digital format by sending it to streaming services and online music stores. Distributors must ensure that royalties for music downloaded by users of streaming platforms are returned to songwriters.
In the age of the ubiquitous Internet, many independent musicians prefer to use the services of digital music distributors rather than record companies to promote and distribute their work. In 2017 alone, revenues from digital music accounted for more than half the revenues of the entire music business, and the number of paid subscribers to streaming services increased by almost 50% worldwide.Music artists and distributors no longer have to sign contracts with record companies that have the infrastructure and the appropriate distribution resources to market music records and then promote and encourage consumers to buy them. Artists are also no longer restricted to selling their music physically, e.g. on CDs, to stationary music shops. Today, independent musicians can work with professional companies that distribute digital music to hundreds of platforms and websites and offer artists many tools and services such as mastering, marketing or access to analysis and statistics and, most importantly, distribute music worldwide.
Since the Internet revolution in the 1990s, digital technology has allowed content to flow between computers without a physical medium. And although large record companies still have an extensive network of distribution resources, it is much easier for independent musicians or music bands to gain popularity and fans by sharing their music online. Until 2001, the music industry was based on physical distribution, and today digital media has dominated and revolutionised the entire music industry.
Record companies vs. Internet platformsIn addition to leading record labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, EMI Group (a business group entirely bought by the Vivendi SA conglomerate in 2006), many streaming platforms and digital music distribution companies have been established over the last 20 years, such as:
- iGroove - a company which, apart from distributing digital music, also offers services in the field of publishing strategy, promotion, marketing and professional consulting.
- Vydia - a company that offers independent musicians and record companies the right technology, infrastructure, supply chain and copyright management.
- Believe - is an independent music company that deals with labels and offers Smart Distribution services.
- FUGA - is a service and technology company that has a special platform offering digital supply chain and marketing tools.
- Alpha Pup - is a company that offers distribution to many countries and a professional system of royalty accounting, access to data analysis as well as automatic placement of copies of songs in the cloud.
- InnerCat Music Group - is a company offering digital distribution, marketing, art and label services, optimization and management of YouTube channels, downloading related rights, catalog monetization and metadata publishing services.
- Soulspasm - is an agency offering services to record companies, bands and independent musicians.
- National Digital Aggregator (AKA Iricom) - is a distributor of digital music offering a full range of services in the field of monetization, promotion and analysis of music content.
- Absolute Label Services - is a music distribution company that cooperates directly with artists, managers and record companies, and offers artists assistance in developing their publishing strategy.
- Uniqueopia GmbH - is a music company that provides artists and music labels with a distribution platform offering a comprehensive set of features to manage catalogues and deliver music to Spotify among others.
- Danmark this company distributes digital music.
- Label Engine - is a global music distributor with a comprehensive suite of free labeling features and tools that offers music distribution to Spotify and YouTube and many other steaming platforms around the world.
- Redeye - is a digital music distributor established in 1996, which cooperates with many famous musicians and record companies.
- ZEBRALUTION - it is a company established in 2004, which offers comprehensive services from distribution, through labels to professional promotion for DSP, cooperating with musicians, music companies and audiobook publishers. ZEBRALUTION includes Spotify platform, zebra-audio.net. podcast network and EMS.
- Ampsuite - is a company that provides software for record companies, also deals with royalties, promotion, management, analysis, licenses, has a download shop and creates videos on YouTube.
- EMS - is a company that offers the highest quality digital logistics solutions that power the entire technical side of the media distribution business.
- IDOL Tech Services - is an independent digital music distributor established in 2006, which enables international distribution companies to handle all digital operations. IDOL, combined with API, handles complex operations and large catalogues.
- Proton - is a company that distributes electronic music.
- Kontor New Media - is a company that distributes digital music, audiobooks, radio plays, music videos, TV series and feature films and is also MCN YouTube certified. Kontor has a modern database offering CMS and extensive streaming analytics, services from coding and delivery of content, through sales promotion and marketing, to accurate settlement of license fees.
- GoodToGo - is a distribution service provider for independent brands in German-speaking countries established in 2008 (GoodToGo combines two German brands: Rough Trade Distribution and Groove Attack).
- AudioSalad - is a platform designed for record companies, artists and copyright owners, which offers tools to promote and manage content and metadata.
- What is the distribution of music? Music distribution is the process of making music available to the public on all digital and physical media. Music is distributed to stationary stores or online music platforms.
- What is digital music distribution? Distribution of digital music is the process of distributing works that are in digital format, e.g. MP3 or WAV, to streaming services and online music stores by distributors,
- What do digital music distributors do? Digital music distribution companies send songs of artists that are in digital format, e.g. MP3 or WAV, to streaming services and online music stores, and then deal with royalties, copyrights, promotion, mastering and licensing.
- What is mastering and what do mastering engineers do? Mastering is the final process of making music production, during which mastering engineers, having previously processed the sound into digital or analogue, bring out all the nuances and try to standardize and adapt the sound of all songs using processing tools such as compressors, equalizers and sound limiters. Most digital music distribution companies offer a mastering service to their subscribers.
- Do I need to work with a digital music distributor? Currently almost all streaming platforms prefer to work with companies that professionally distribute digital music rather than directly with the musicians themselves, so independent musicians should work with digital music distributors.
- What is a Record Label? A Record Label is a music publishing house, i.e. an organization of the music industry that deals with the recording, production, promotion and distribution of audio and video recordings and the publication of books about music and notes.
- What are pop-up stores? Pop-up shops are places for short-term sales, e.g. at music festivals or fairs, where independent musicians can increase the physical sales of their albums, gain publicity, win fans and promote their work.
- What are metadata? Metadata is all information embedded in audio files such as song title, covers, album title, label, genre, copyright holders, song numbers and songwriters that is required and used in all streaming services and platforms. Carefully described and filled metadata allows potential audiences to add to their music more quickly and easily, leading to increased streaming and revenue.
- What is a DSP? DSP, or Digital Service Provider, is a streaming platform for transmitting, distributing, playing and buying digital music.
- What is peer-to-peer file sharing? Peer-to-peer, or person-to-person (P2P), is a computer network communication model that provides all hosts with the same privileges, unlike the client-server model. Content delivery platforms create and consolidate content at a distance, acting as hosted content management systems.
- What are codes: UPC, EAN, ISRC? ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is an International Standard Recording Code, which is a digital fingerprint that allows you to track a song. For each song you need 1 ISRC code, which the musician can apply for on his or her own through a website or through a digital music distributor, these codes are used for credits and royalties. UPC (Universal Product Code) and EAN (European Article Number) codes are universal barcodes on the back of the product used to track sales, such codes also have digital products, they allow the sale of albums and most digital music distributors include them free of charge.
- What does a songwriter do? A songwriter is a person who composes music and writes lyrics, who, depending on the way he uses his work, receives synchronous, mechanical or performance royalties.
- What does a publisher do? A publisher is the person or company responsible for ensuring that the copyright holders receive payment for the use of their music. It is also responsible for issuing and monitoring licences for the use of music and collecting licence fees (publishing royalties are shared between songwriters and publishers).
- What is a PRO organisation? The PRO Organization, or Performing Rights Organization, collects royalties for public performance of music and passes them on to the authors or publishers, as well as monitors the performance and public playback of recorded songs. Other organizations that deal with copyright and royalty collection in the United States are: BMI, SESAC, ASCAP.
- Which licenses can I use to download songs online for free? The licenses that allow us to download songs online for free are:
- RF - Royalty Free, i.e. free of royalties, you pay a one-time subscription and have the right to use the work. The songs can also be made available as samples completely free of charge,
- CC - Creative Commons, a set of terms and conditions under which not all rights are reserved and the author of the work retains the copyright, but can decide which rights are attached to his compositions and allow him to distribute, copy, create derivative works and download the work for non-commercial or commercial purposes (according to the 4 CC license terms).
- Where can I legally download music for content creation? You can legally download music for content creation from online music banks such as the Internet: Free Music Archive, Magnatune, CC Mixter, Bensound, Incompetech, AudioBlocks, Freeplay Music, BeatPick, YouTube Audio Library, Jamendo Music.
- What are the royalties for music? There are 4 types of royalties in the music industry:
- mechanical royalties are mechanical licensing fees for the physical or digital reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works, e.g. record companies pay mechanical royalties to the authors of works whenever they play their music, copyright holders can also collect mechanical royalties from distributors of digital music,
- royalties for the public performance of works are royalties collected and passed on to the copyright holders for each public transmission, playback, performance or recording of their works,
- printing royalties are royalties on musical works covered by copyright that have been transcribed, copied and distributed,
- synchronization royalties are royalties downloaded and transferred to copyright holders for the use of copyrighted works in advertising, video games, films, television, videos or online streaming, the synchronization license does not include video playback e.g. on YouTube. Use of copyrighted music in audiovisual projects requires a master use or sync license.
- What is the ICON Collective? The ICON Collective is a music production school in Los Angeles, USA (classes also take place online) that teaches technical skills.
- What is One Sheet? One Sheet is a document that provides an overview of the pages given to record labels and music distribution companies that represent an artist or a band before an album is released. The document must contain such information as:
- release date,
- point of sale,
- price, part number, label,
- contact details,
- advertising photography,
- a short biography,
- name of the artist or band,
- the route details.
- What is SoundScan? SoundScan is an online song tracking system for artists to register, either directly or through digital music distributors who want to make money from their music online.
- What does UMG stand for? UMG is a record label of Universal Music Group, formerly MCA, or Music Entertainment Group, founded in 1934 in the United States of America, and is one of four major record companies: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, EMI Group.
- What is the Fast Forward function? The Fast Forward function, offered by Amuse, a digital music distributor, is to predict how well songs will sell based on their current position.
- What is a CMT account for? CMT, or Custom Music Tools, is an advanced software for musicians that provides access to license fee tracking and unlimited release labels (for 20% of revenue).
- What is Royalties Allocation? Royalties Allocation, which is a distribution of royalties belonging to the copyright owner.
- Who are the sub-distributors? Subdistributors are intermediaries between retailers and large distributors. Sub-distributors are for example:
- rack-jobbers, who are the owners of a record sales department, e.g., in a multi-branch shop,
- single-stop shops, which sell e.g. CDs from many different distributors.
- What is the royalty payment model? A royalty is a payment that is made, for example, by the licensee to the copyright owner of the content. This payment, the terms of which are set out in the license agreement, enables continuous use of the content. Royalties are usually agreed as a percentage of revenue derived from the use of the original recordings or as a fixed price for the work.
- Which companies distribute digital music to Asia? There are several distributors who focus on the Asian market, allowing independent musicians to sell songs in India, in stores such as Saavn, Gaana and Wink. Some large companies are also streaming in China, such as QQ Music by Tencent, Qianqian Music (Baidu Music), Kugou Music and Kuwo Music, for example:
- Horus Music distributes music in Asia,
- Ok Listen in India,
- MusicDiffusion in Thailand, Japan and China,
- Digita Tunes in India,
- Music Info in China,
- RouteNote in India and China.
- In what format is digital music most commonly distributed? Digital music is most commonly distributed in MP3 and WAV format.
- What are the exclusive copyrights? Copyright grants 6 exclusive rights to control the use and distribution of copyrighted works for which the owners of the rights have exclusive rights:
- the copyright holder can transfer the rights or part of the rights using one of two methods: the transfer methods are licensing and assignment. The transfer must be in writing and signed by the rightholder or an authorised agent,
- public performance of a copyrighted work, e.g. by streaming music, music videos, television programmes, radio, etc,
- public broadcasting of a copyrighted work. For example, releasing the work through a music distributor, downloading in digital form or through a record company,
- the right to reproduce and make copies of the original work, e.g. by downloading digital music and physical formats such as vinyl or CD,
- the right to prepare derivative works based on the original work, e.g. a new original product that contains aspects of an existing work,
- the right to make copyright-protected works available to the public, e.g. live concerts or live performances in a public place,
- public playback of a copyrighted work. Public display means showing others a visual copy of the work, e.g. music sheets or photos of the music.
- What is the royalty distribution for music? Royalties for music are divided between:
- of publishers,
- record companies,
- digital music distributors,
- mechanical rights agencies,
- PRO organisations,
- of performers,
- mechanical rights agencies,
- SYNC agencies.
- What is the distribution of copyright and licensing? Every song hasmaster rights and compositional rights. Copyright on musical compositions includes music and any lyrics that relate to the reproduction and distribution of the original recording.The difference between a licence and royalties is that the main licence gives the music user permission to use the intellectual property belonging to someone else, and royalties are payments generated by the use of that intellectual property. Musicians grant the publishing company exclusive rights to use their recordings in exchange for royalties, and music publishers may release the recording or issue rights to a record company or mechanical rights agency. Musicians may also transfer the copyright in the sound recordings to the record company, allowing the record company to distribute, license and reproduce the recording in exchange for royalties. All parties involved in the production receive a certain percentage of royalties, and the amounts of royalties are often negotiated in advance and then determined in a legally binding agreement.