Top 5 Digital Distribution Platforms in 2021
Published on: May 16, 2021
Digital music aggregators make distributing your music both possible and potentially profitable. Companies such as Landr, DistroKid, CD Baby, TuneCore, and AWAL provide artists the opportunity to get their music distributed on major platforms. These include Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, iTunes, Tidal, Amazon, and more. In other words, digital music aggregators make your music available so that you can get paid anytime someone listens to your music.
On the surface, the five digital music aggregators listed above seemingly provide the same general services - but when you dig a little deeper there are some key differences. We’ll take an in-depth look at each one to help you determine which may be right for you.
Founded in 2013, DistroKid has established a reputation for being one of the most popular digital music aggregators. With a yearly subscription of just $19.99, you get unlimited digital uploads for distribution.
Once uploaded, Distrokid will track and collect all earnings, which entirely go to the artist (minus any bank transaction fees). In other words, Distrokid doesn’t keep any of the profits.
This digital aggregator works with all the major online music platforms that you can upload your music to. These platforms include:
Distrokid is also compatible with social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Resso. If you have musical collaborators that subscribe to Distrokid, you can share credit as needed! This is an excellent feature as it allows the service to automatically divide and distribute earnings amongst collaborators according to how you have split it.
Distrokid’s low cost and unlimited uploads contribute to its popularity; however, it has some limitations. One major drawback is that it doesn’t have any options for publishing support. With Distrokid, you will only receive mechanical royalties (royalties received exclusively from purchase downloads and streaming). In other words, you could potentially be limiting yourself by missing out on different types of music royalties.
As far as musical aggregators go, Distorkid is easily one of the most reliable, affordable, and accessible options for independent artists looking to reach a broader audience.
Landr is a relative newcomer to the online music distribution world, but their automated online mastering service has been around since 2014. Though an automated mastering service may not be suitable for every artist, what’s handy about Landr is that their distribution services are included with their mastering subscription.
With yearly subscriptions ranging from $48-$299 (and monthly options available), Landr is a little more pricey than some of its competitors. While Landr lets the artist retain 100% of their revenue and has access to many of the most popular streaming platforms and social media, these features are standard among competitors.
For this reason, if you aren’t planning on using Landr's automated mastering services, then this higher-cost subscription probably doesn’t make sense for you.
TuneCore has been around since 2005 and quickly gained notoriety by attracting some of the most prominent artists of the time to its services. Within a few years of its launch, TuneCore was helping the likes of Frank Black (of The Pixies) and Nine Inch Nails deliver their albums to the world. Today, TuneCore accounts for around 4% of all digital music sales in the United States.
TuneCore’s pricing model operates on a more a-la-carte basis than some of its competitors. Rather than commit to a yearly subscription, the amount you pay depends on what you are releasing. With a promotional $29.99 cost per album for your first year ($49.99 after that), you can also simply choose to pay $9.99 for a single release. You can also choose to purchase album bundles upfront, at a discounted price, for if you know, you will be releasing multiple albums over time.
With TuneCore, artists keep 100% of their royalties. Speaking of royalties, one of the most attractive aspects of using TuneCore is that they offer the artist the option to pay for full publishing administration. This allows the artist to earn mechanical royalties (streaming/ downloads) and earn direct licensing royalties for master use, sync, print, and YouTube. They also offer unique opportunities for you to potentially get your music placed in movies, tv shows, and commercials.
Awal is an interesting addition to the digital musical aggregation space as they are a kind of crossroads between a traditional record label and today’s digital music distribution companies.
The main factor that sets Awal apart is that it’s not available to every artist. Artists must submit their music and then be accepted to access their services and have music distributed. Along with distribution, Awal has the potential to offer benefits such as limited promotion, A&R services, and funding for projects. Which of these services get offered to what artists (and to what degree) is decided by Awal depending on the artist’s reach and success if they are accepted.
While Awal doesn’t charge artists for its distribution services, they retain 15% of your revenue, which is potentially significant for some artists. The main benefit of working with Awal, despite its high cost, is establishing genuine client relationships that could lead to career opportunities.
CD Baby is a similar service to TuneCore in that it doesn’t operate on a yearly subscription model. With CD Baby, you pay a one-time fee with each release. What makes CD Baby unique is that it retains 9% of the earned digital distribution revenue rather than giving 100% to the artist. Though this may seem steeper than its competitors, CD Baby goes after every potential earning source, thereby maximizing your potential revenue.
When you sign up for CD Baby, you also enjoy the following benefits:
Signing up with CD Baby will also:
Ensure you are affiliated as a songwriter with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) in the US (ASCAP, BMI) and Canada (SOCAN).
Make sure that your songs are registered with royalty collection societies worldwide.
They will collect all types of performance royalties that you are owed from around the world.
Work to collect mechanical royalties for streaming and international downloads, worldwide
CD Baby can also produce physical copies of your album as a CD if that’s something you need!
Which Digital Music Aggregator Is Best?
These five digital music aggregators are some of the most popular and relied upon in the industry. In one way or another, all of these services provide the potential for you to upload your music onto streaming platforms and reach new audiences worldwide.
Every artist has their own goals and needs when it comes to their music, and as such, you should carefully review yours before deciding on an aggregator. While some services aim at simple, cheap, and easy solutions for uploading music, others cater to a more traditional label-like experience. The company that is right for you is whichever one will best fit your budget, goals, and experience.