What To Do With Your Song Next – Part 5 - Digital Distribution

What To Do With Your Song Next – Part 5 - Digital Distribution

This post is for anyone who wants to release music on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Music, TIDAL, etc.

You’ve gone from song idea, to written song, to recorded song, to receiving and applying feedback, to fully mixed and mastered record. What’s next? Time to release your music to the world! (Once your metadata is in order, but that’ll be another blog post).

This has probably been the most asked question of me these last few years: How do I get my song onto Spotify, Apple Music, etc.? And not only that, but which company is the best to work with? Here are some things to consider.

The last few years have seen numerous companies begin offering services to independent artists and labels to distribute music on all streaming services, for a fee. There are a variety of videos and posts on this subject, and my favorite and the most comprehensive comparison of these services is by Ari’s Take (link at the bottom of this blog post). On this post, I will share my experience, things you should consider when choosing a distributor, and who I’d recommend.

It is important to note that at this moment in time, you are not able to send your music directly to streaming services. You need a digital distributor. Two that I have worked with are CD Baby and TuneCore. Distributing your music through a digital distribution service does not mean you are “signed” to the distributor.

However, keep in mind you can only release a song or album through one distributor. You can’t distribute one song through multiple distributors. You can release a separate song or album through another distributor, and I actually encourage you to try two or three different services until you are comfortable and confident that you have find the appropriate ongoing partner for you.

What to consider:

  • Price and Commission – Remember, this is a service that the company is providing you. If using CD Baby, you pay one-time, your music remains available forever. For TuneCore, you must pay an annual cost to keep your music available (so if you don’t pay the annual cost, your music will no longer be available). Also, each distributor takes a piece of what your music earns. Understand what the percentage is, and if you find it worth it, at least try a distributor out for one song.
  • Ease of Use – Is it easy to enter all information needed, upload music, upload artwork, or is it complicated? Like any service, one wants something that is clear and easy to use. Thankfully both CD Baby and TuneCore take you step by step through the process.
  • How many streaming services they distribute to? – Music is global. Your song, once released, can be played in India while you are sleeping. That is, so long as the digital distributor sends your music to those streaming services. And more and more streaming services are being created all over the world. Be sure that the distributor you use sends your music to as many streaming services as possible, and that they will add your music to any new streaming services as they arise. CD Baby does an excellent job of this. There are some distributors that make you pay to add additional streaming services for your music to be sent to.
  • Additional services (marketing/promotional tools, royalty collection, etc.) – Traditional, when one has signed a record deal, the record company takes care of most all marketing, promotion, and artist payout (from what artist earns via streaming). However, independent artists ARE considered the label when self-releasing music. Thus, digital distributors have begun offering a multitude of services (for a fee) that are helpful to artists in the form of: marketing/promotional tools, royalties collection services (artist/label royalties earned from streaming), publishing administration (ensuring songs are appropriately registered, collecting royalties earned for songwriter/publisher), and more. I highly recommend reviewing all services offered by a digital distributor, even if you are not initially going to utilize a specific service. This is because if you have a song that begins getting a lot of plays/a lot of attention, you may want to utilize some services you initially didn’t need.
  • Are they responsive to you? – For me, this is extremely important. With thousands of new songs being released every day, all over the world, it’s important to find a distributor who won’t treat you like a number. If a company says they’ll get back to you within a certain time frame, hold them to that, or else they are not the right partner.
  • What metadata do they deliver to the digital streaming services? – This one is going to be more and more important over time, and I’d say is especially important now (and I'm going to write a few posts dedicated to the importance of metadata). Remember looking at CD booklets and being able to find out who wrote the song, mixed the song, played bass, etc.? Well now independent artists are lucky if they can get who produced and wrote the song to show up in the credits in streaming services. And, in the future, with the growth of smart speakers, music searches will continue to evolve where a music fan will be asking Alexa, “Can you play me music where Greg Phillinganes plays keyboards?” Well, if your distributor does not allow you to input who played keyboards on your song, this won’t come up. I believe all distributors need to a do a better job with collecting and supplying this information to the distributors.

As mentioned above, there are many digital distributors, and if you’d like to go more in-depth with comparing them, visit Ari’s Take.

At this point in time, I really enjoy my working relationship with CD Baby. I've distributed most of my music through them. I like the additional services they offer, and the fact that I only have to pay once to distribute a song, or album, with no recurring annual fee. They have always been very responsive and clear when I have any questions. When there is a new music streaming service, CD Baby ensures music is distributed to them as well (no additional fee). I think they need to grow as far as collecting more metadata, but I would highly recommend them.

I hope this helps you what to consider when choosing a digital distributor. If you have questions, or comments, please reach out to me.

- Jared@TheSongScope.com