Music Distribution Guide: Everything a Musician Needs to Know

Music Distribution

Distribution is a crucial part of music promotion. Whether you’re a Grammy-winner releasing your 10th studio album, or you’re about to release your first single, you need distribution for your music. 

As a musician, distribution is a must to reach your prospective fans. Smart distribution promotes your visibility. It gets your music into as many ears as possible and helps you get paid for your music.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers about music distribution to get your music in front of suitable listeners and ready to be streamed and playlisted worldwide. Let’s dive in!

Music Distribution

Music distribution is the process of sharing your music among many recipients. Music distributors handle your music in a variety of ways: 

  • Physical music distribution allows you to make your vinyl and CDs available to a network of record retailers, both online and in person. 
  • Digital music distribution makes your music available to streaming services and download platforms, like Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, and more. 
  • Additional monetization services help you earn for the usage of your music on Facebook, YouTube, and TV shows, etc. 

How Digital Music Distribution Works Today?

Physical distributors are closing their doors nowadays. What if that means better substitutes for you and the music industry?

Just like traditional record stores, digital music stores, like Spotify and iTunes, receive music from digital distribution companies. But rather than transporting boxes of vinyl and CDs every week, digital distributors send digital music to the major music stores. 

What used to take months, or at least weeks of manufacturing and shipping, of course with a lot of upfront costs before, is now as fast and simple as a couple of clicks.

Why do I Need a Music Distribution Service?

You may wonder why artists can’t upload their music directly to individual streaming services preparing a release, like uploading a YouTube video or SoundCloud file!

Releasing music comes with some complications, like keeping track of royalty payouts, and streaming data. The digital music distribution service mainly mirrors your audio file and its metadata like, cover art, song title, rights holders, songwriters, etc. to various streaming services, and acts as a hub that gathers royalty and streaming data.

It means when you upload a single release, they automatically send your music to all the stores you want to deliver to at one time. Without a music distribution service, you have to send a new release to each streaming service or music store individually, which is a lot of work! A digital music distribution service also works as a channel between services like Apple Music and Spotify and your wallet.

Which are the Most Important Streaming Platforms and Music Stores?

It is important to ensure that your music is available everywhere that your prospective fans are spending time. Platforms rise and fall in popularity with some frequency. So even if you don’t see much activity on some platforms initially, be everywhere, and you won’t miss out.

  • Spotify: Spotify is a digital music, podcast, and video streaming service with both ad-supported and paid subscription options that has millions of songs from artists all over the world. 
  • Pandora: It is a great music and podcast discovery platform that provides a customized listening experience to over 75 million users. 
  • Tidal: It offers subscription-based video streaming service, podcast, and music that features high fidelity sound, curated playlists, hi-def video, and original content. 
  • Deezer: Deezer is an intuitive interactive streaming service with over 56 million songs, originating in France and now accessible in more than 170 countries. 
  • Amazon: Amazon is a music store and online streaming service with access to more than 2 million songs.
  • Apple Music: Apple Music is Apple’s powerful on-demand streaming service with more than 55 million tracks. 
  • iTunes: iTunes has been the biggest player in the music download business since its launch in 2004.
  • Facebook: Facebook allows artists to upload their music on the platform, letting fans add their music to their profile’s music feature or their stories. 
  • YouTube: YouTube offers a video sharing service where artists can publish their music videos and monetize their tracks via YouTube Content ID.

What are the Steps to Get Music Distribution Service?

So your record is ready, you’ve mixed and mastered it. Now your album is ready to be released. But you might be wondering how to get your music on Spotify, Tidal, and all other major music stores. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Find The Right Music Distribution Platform

There are piles of music distribution services out there. Keep in mind that a distributor is a new professional partnership. Select the one most favorable for you, and make sure the distributor fits your goals, your resources, and needs. 

All these platforms have their pricing. It is either:

  • a yearly fee
  • a set fee per single/album
  • a percentage (10-25%) of your record sales.

Educate yourself on all their fees, pricing plans, and terms before working with them. Some say they do not draw a cut, but there are hidden fees.  So, do your research!

Here are some of the best music distribution companies and services out there today:

  • LANDR
  • CD Baby
  • Record Union
  • Loudr
  • TuneCore
  • MondoTunes
  • Ditto Music
  • iMusician
  • Symphonic
  • Reverbnation
  • AWAL
  • The Orchard

2. Make Your Music Searchable

In traditional music distribution, musicians had to submit a one-sheet. It is a single page that contains all the information about a new release that may be helpful for labels and distributors in selling the album.

The equivalent in the digital world is metadata. It is crucial in digital distribution, and it’s how people browse for music online, especially with the genre. So when you present your music for digital distribution, add a list of metadata:

  • artist name
  • title (of single or album)
  • track titles
  • record label
  • the release date
  • composer information
  • genre
  • artist bio

Make it short, and simple. Use the most common words. Avoid using trendy hashtags or words. You want people to find your music 20 years from now!

3. Promote and Promote

Distributors only focus on marketing plans to sell your record. They don’t do your promotional work. Therefore, make sure to plan a realistic budget for your promotion, and create a powerful social media presence.

Create buzz about your music even before its release. Use shows, blogs, radio play, word-of-mouth, and any other method you can think of to get your name out there. Play a show in your studio and stream it live. Post sneak previews of your jam sessions on Facebook. Make those phone calls and send those emails. There is no hack around it!

The Bottom Line

Having a solid music distribution service will get you better visibility, better shows, and more negotiating power. It is the direct route to the ears of your future fans. Do it right!