There are dozens of music distribution companies out there.

Some can help you place your music on Spotify playlists, sign a record deal and find sync licensing opportunities.

Some will keep it simple and focus on music distribution only.

Understand what music distribution companies do and don’t do.

Pick the one that’s the right fit for you.

That’s what this post is all about.

What Is Music Distribution?

Music distribution is the act of getting your music out there in physical and online stores.

Digital music distribution is the process of getting your music out there in online stores like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and TIDAL.

Since physical distribution opportunities vary a lot depending on your situation and location, we’ll focus on digital distribution, which is accessible to everyone, everywhere.

However, if you do need physical distribution, I’ll show you which digital music distributors offer that service below.

Where Do Music Distribution Companies Fit In the Current Music Industry?

Historically

MUSIC PUBLISHERS were in the business of licensing COMPOSITIONS, i.e. written words and music.

RECORD LABELS were in the business of selling SOUND RECORDINGS, i.e. the recording of those words and music.

For example, MUSIC PUBLISHER Sony/ATV licensed songwriter Leonard Cohen‘s composition “Hallelujah” to RECORD LABEL Columbia Records so that recording artist Jeff Buckley could record it.

Then, RECORD LABEL Columbia Records sold a bunch of Jeff Buckley’s sound recordings in the form of CDs, streams and digital downloads.

MUSIC PUBLISHER Sony/ATV and Leonard Cohen made money from licensing the song.

RECORD LABEL Columbia Records and Jeff Buckley made money from selling the recording.

Digital Music Distribution Companies - Sound Recording vs Underlying Composition

Nowadays

It’s common for indie artists to self-release their albums and handle licensing opportunities themselves.

What does that mean for you?

It means that you can take your music career into your own hands.

You can decide to license and sell your music independently, without the help (and pressures) of a publishing or record deal.

We talked about the pros and cons of self-publishing your music in a previous post.

Now let’s talk about self-releasing your sound recordings.

Your record is ready. You’ve mixed it and mastered it. Your album cover art is ready to go.

What you need now is a music distributor to get it on all the right platforms.

You’ll also need to be really good at promoting your work and putting it in front of the right people but that’s a subject for another post.

What Does a Music Distributor Do?

A music distributor will….

  • Make your music available in stores,
  • Monitor and collect streaming and sales revenues related to your sound recordings, and
  • Pay you those royalties and sales.

What Does a Music Distributor NOT Do?

A music distributor will NOT….

  • Monitor, collect and pay royalties for your compositions,
  • Promote your songs,
  • Get your songs into Spotify playlists, or
  • Find sync placements and licensing opportunities for you.

— Additional Services —

There are a number of digital music distribution companies that offer services in addition to their standard distribution deal.

Examples of additional services include…

  • Admin publishing – e.g. CD Baby, Symphonic, Tunecore
  • Access to sync licensing opportunities – e.g. CD Baby, Tunecore, AWAL, Reverbnation
  • Playlist plugging possibilities – e.g. AWAL, Horus Music, OneRPM, RouteOne
  • Promotion and marketing – e.g. Amuse
  • Song reviews – e.g. FreshTunes
  • Mechanical licenses to distribute cover songs – e.g. Soundrop
  • Physical distribution – e.g. AWAL, CD Baby

This can be a little bit confusing because it almost feels like you’re signing with a publisher or label.

To keep things simple, remember that….

The primary job of music distribution companies is to make your music available in stores. Everything else is a side gig.

There’s nothing wrong with testing these additional services and seeing if they make sense for you.

Just remember that there are a lot of big promises out there but no one is as motivated as you are to promote your music and make it work.

Make sure you’re not signing anything that takes too much power away from you.

How Does Digital Music Distribution Work?

Digital music distribution is handled by digital music distribution companies like CD Baby, Distrokid and Amuse.

It’s as easy as opening an account with them, paying their fees and uploading your audio files, lyric sheets and album artwork.

Each digital music distributor has their own pricing structure.

For example, CD Baby charges per song or per album whereas Distrokid charges an annual subscr