If you want your music on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc, you have to use a distributor. What is a music distributor? Put simply, you upload your music and album art to a distribution service and they send it out to all the streaming services and online stores.
Two of the biggest players in the market right now are DistroKid and CD Baby. There are many others, but these are usually the two we point people to. So which music distributor is the best? Let's look at DistroKid vs CD Baby.
DistroKid vs CD Baby?
Like many things in life: it depends on what you want. Both DistroKid and CD Baby have different focuses.
The DistroKid business model is a subscription. You pay a yearly fee and you can upload as much as you want. This is great if you like to release stuff often, say once a month (and you should). It starts at $19.99 a year, but I implore you to go with their $35.99 a year tier since it lets you manually set a release date.
The main downside to this model is that you have to keep paying them to keep your music up. Let your subscription lapse and your music will disappear from Spotify. You can pay them to never take it down for an extra $29. I suggest you wait until you release the album though instead of paying $29 on each SINGLE.
Other per-release addons include adding your song to Shazam ($1/year) and YouTube Content ID (so you get paid if someone uses your song in a random YouTube video – $4.95/year). If you want more info on the options when it comes time to upload, check out the section on DistroKid in our guide to promoting your music.
They also don't take a percent of your revenue which is nice of them.
DistroKid is very much a streamlined platform – like a modern tech company. Everything is speedy, automated, and efficient at the cost of a less personal customer service experience. This might be fine for you just want an easy way to upload lots of music. They definitely make it harder to talk to a person for customer service than other companies.
About CD Baby
CD Baby has been around since 1998. They started as the best way for artists to put their music on CDs (it was way harder to do that in the 90s), eventually adding on streaming distribution.
They have a static pricing model – you pay them per release and you're done. It starts at $9.95 for a single or $29 for an album. They offer upsells if you want them to handle publishing rights (aka songwriting royalties – which are separate from the revenue you get for the recording).
One hidden fee for CD Baby is they require to have a UPC code (aka a barcode) – even for digital-only releases. You can buy it elsewhere, but they sell them for $20 for the album or $5 for a single. Because of this, you can view CD Baby's TRUE price as $14.95 for a single or $49 for an album.
They do take a 9% cut of all your revenue. Not the end of the world (especially if you aren't getting millions of streams and downloads), but this might be a matter of principle for you.
The big advantage to CD Baby is they make it easy to order CDs and vinyl as a part of your release. But don't let CD and vinyl be the ONLY reason you go for CD Baby. If you decide you want to release your album on CD or vinyl that you originally distributed via DistroKid, you can go to CD Baby's sister company, Disk Makers for their printing services too.
TL;DR: Which Should I Go With?
If you're employing the modern release strategy of more songs more often, go with DistroKid because it's unlimited – makes releasing singles very easy. Just go for the $35.99 tier so you can set a specific release date, “label” name, etc. Learn why you should set a release date a few weeks ahead in our megaguide.
If you just want to release an album, print some CDs, and be done with it forever, go with CD Baby. Although if you don't care about CDs, uploading to DistroKid and choosing the $29 “Leave A Legacy” addon is a good option as well.
David Ryan Olson
Hey I'm David. I'm a mix engineer and I run Evergreen Records. We are all about helping you grow.
If you'd like to work with us on your next project, or would love to chat about the music business, please don't hesitate to reach out!