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DIY Digital Music Distribution: A guide for independent musicians – Score Short Reads

DIY Digital Music Distribution: A guide for independent musicians – Score Short Reads

With physical sales of records declining with the acceleration of technology in the music industry, distributing music has never been easier. Gone are the days when artists had to depend on record labels and their manufacturing and distribution (M&D) deal to release their music on streaming services. Digital distribution of music has become accessible and a lot of independent artists are making it big in the industry by DIY-ing their way into fame. 

If you are an independent musician, you would love to know that the well-known American hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper became the first-ever musician to win a Grammy in 2017 without selling any physical copies of his music. The future of music is digital, and here’s a guide for independent musicians to the world of music distribution:

How to choose a music distribution platform 

You should choose a platform that would be able to accommodate your music vision and is the best bet for your career plans. All these platforms let you keep the rights to your music. There are a lot of paid and free services to choose from and these are some factors you should consider before choosing a platform:

  • Whether you want 100% royalties from your music
  • How many streaming services you would like your music to be distributed to 
  • How much you can spend on a single/album release
  • What your marketing/promotion plans are for your music 

When you have an answer for all the four factors you need to see what services/plans serve your best interest. 

Paid platforms like Distro Kid, CD Baby, Tune Core provide these services:

  • Distribution of your music to over 150 stores
  • You will receive 100% royalties on your music
  • Approval and release time is way less than free services (3 days to a week)
  • You can customise your release date
  • You get a Hyperfollow Link ie. links to all the streaming platforms on one landing page.
  • Pre-save link for your music
  • Verified Spotify and Apple Music for artists 

These services either have per year charges ( $19.99/year for Distrokid) with an opportunity to release unlimited music or per song charges ($9.99/single for CD Baby). They also have additional costs for getting a Youtube Content ID ( $5/song on Distrokid), which is recommended for established artists. 

Free platforms like Novecore, Routecore, Symphonic provide these services:

  • Distribution of your music to 15-38 stores
  • You will receive 85% royalties on your music 
  • Approval and release may take up to weeks (28 days)

These free platforms are equally trusted but they don’t provide customer service or as many services as the paid options. Some platforms like Novecore and Amuse also have freemium models where a musician can upgrade their plan from free to pro after paying a certain fee. ($5/month for Novecore)

For artists who are not technologically well-versed, Amuse has an easy to use mobile application where music can be distributed for free. 

How to upload your releases to these platforms 

Music distribution services are primarily responsible for keeping a check on your streaming data and royalty payouts. For them to upload your music on streaming services they ask you for some details along with your audio file (mp3 or wav)  which are called the metadata of your music. 

The metadata includes:

  • Name of the artist(s)
  • Title (of album or single)
  • Release date of your music
  • Songwriters/Contributors 
  • Genre
  • Composer information
  • Artist bio 

You should always search for tags and keywords people use in their metadata to get more reach for their music. You will also be asked to select the platforms you want your music to be distributed to. Make sure you choose as many platforms as possible especially Indian services like JioSaavn and Hungama because their userbase is dense and there is not a lot of competition from foreign artists which is not the case for platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. 

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