Distribution players – Focus on DistroKid

Reading time: 4 min

As the first in a series dedicated to digital distribution services, this article presents DistroKid, the biggest independent distributor in the world, with a little more than 2 million registered artists in January 2021 – a bit more than its two main competitors, CD Baby and TuneCore. We tell you how this leader was born, how it works and how much it costs. Let’s jam!

Where does DistroKid come from?

The DistroKid.com website was developed between 2012 and 2013 by Philip J. Kaplan, nicknamed Pud, an American entrepreneur, computer developer and amateur musician who had just created Fandalism, a social network where artists exchange performances and tips.  

A prolific musician, Pud was looking for the cheapest way to distribute his music online and initially designed DistroKid for his own use. He soon opened it to Fandalism members and its immediate success with them led him to make it available for any artist to sign up to via a website dedicated to digital distribution.

As the latest arrival on the digital distribution market (CD Baby dates from 1998 and TuneCore from 2005), DistroKid offers services similar to those of its predecessors, along with more accessible prices, which are key to its popularity.

DistroKid is the largest independent distributor in the world, with just over 2 million registered artists. It was developed by American entrepreneur and musician Philip J. Kaplan in 2012-13.

How does DistroKid work?

DistroKid functions as an intermediary between your recordings as an artist and the various streaming platforms. You can :

  • Upload the files and data of your recordings, then transmit them to the streaming sites that broadcast them on your artist profiles.  
  • Recover 100% of your royalties – the master rights from these distribution channels.  

To facilitate these processes, you will need to follow the instructions to ensure you supply all the relevant information in the right place. Once you have done this on DistroKid you will be able to distribute your music to all their partners (including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Google Music, Deezer, Tidal...), and these multiple revenue channels are centralized. In short, it's a huge time-saver which then leaves you free to create as much music as you want! It should also be noted that to be streamed on these stores, you are anyway obliged to go through a distributor.

To do this, all you have to do is register with your email address, then upload your audio and video files if you want to use Spotify’s loop video feature, as well as your data (song title, album title, artist page on the streaming sites, names of the different contributors to the recording if needed, lyrics, etc.). If you fill in all the boxes, your track will be put online very fast: it takes 2 to 5 days for Spotify and 1 to 7 for Apple Music, for example. However, we advise you to enter your information at least 2 weeks before the release date you are aiming at to be on the safe side. It can happen that information is missing or that the streaming sites take longer than expected to digest your data.

One last thing about your data: DistroKid automatically generates ISRC codes for your records and UPC codes for your albums/EPs/singles. This is good to know because these codes, which you might think of as the identity cards of your track, are indispensable for marketing your music.

DistroKid is a digital distributor – the mandatory intermediate step for distributing your recordings on streaming platforms. On Distro you can 1) Upload the files and data of your recordings, then transmit the latter to the streaming sites which diffuse them on your artist profiles; 2) Recover 100% of your royalties, the master rights resulting from these diffusion channels.  

How much does DistroKid cost?  

Among the advantages of DistroKid, are the transparency and simplicity of its prices! The site charges artists through their annual subscriptions alone; no commission is taken on royalties and no additional fees are required when new recordings are uploaded.

Its standard plan offers an unlimited number of tracks for a single artist or band name and costs $19.99 US per year. Unfortunately, this package does not include the option of tracking your listening and revenue statistics by platform. To get this modality you will have to pay $35.99 for your subscription. But this rate also allows you to manage two artists or band names – useful if you have a solo career and are part of a band at the same time, for example. DistroKid also offers a subscription for $79,99 dedicated to labels, as it can manage up to 100 names, which offers the exact same services.

While we are on the subject of money, it is good to know that DistroKid will distribute and send the royalties generated by a work to its different contributors from your account (or from the account of the person who manages your recording). The principle is simple: you select the title in question, provide the email address of the contributor with whom you share your royalties, and specify the percentage of royalties to which this contributor is entitled. They will then receive an email from DistroKid indicating that they should collect their royalties. If they already have an account on DistroKid, so much the better, if not, they will need to register. They will then benefit from a 50% discount on the registration fees. It is possible to add as many contributors as desired for any one track.

Even if the distributor transfers the royalties as soon as it receives them from the platforms, you will need to bear in mind the schedules of the latter: they usually pay royalties 3 months after the diffusion of the track, with monthly reports. For example, you will receive the monthly balance and revenues associated with January broadcasts in March.

The standard plan offers an unlimited number of tracks for a single artist or band name and costs $19,99 per year. The next package up also includes tracking of listening and revenue statistics per streaming site. Its price is $35,99 per year. Moreover, DistroKid will distribute and send the royalties generated by a work to its different contributors according to the % you enter on the account.

What do I need to remember?

DistroKid is the largest independent digital distributor in the world. It allows you to make your recordings available on partner streaming platforms. Its standard plan offers an unlimited number of uploads for a single artist or band name and costs $19,99 per year.

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