Help! I really am trying to understand the following: What is the difference among the following: CD Baby, Soundcloud, TuneCorp, Distrokid – Kris Rogge Fisher, Texas Songwriter #AskAmanda
Good question, Kris.
The four companies you list: CD Baby, SoundCloud, TuneCore and DistroKid are all places that independent music artists can release music onto the internet.
One of them, SoundCloud just made the news by adopting a new way of paying independent artists based on how many spins they actually get on the service.
SoundCloud is also different from the other three, because they are the only one mentioned here that is both a streaming service for music fans, and also an upload and distribution platform for music artists.
SoundCloud started out as a place for musicians to upload their music in a place that can be easily shared with fans, industry and anyone else as a link that can be embedded in social media and on websites.
Since their launch, SoundCloud has been the subject of lots of news speculation as they have successfully pivoted their business models, and handled crises both inside and outside the public eye.
Overall, SoundCloud has been able to rise above the clutter and provide a consistent place for musicians and songwriters to publicly or privately post and share their work.
You can choose to use SoundCloud alone, or you can also use one of these other distributors in combination with SoundCloud to distribute your music.
SoundCloud is a direct interface between you, the artist and the fans. They can listen to your song, stream it, download it for free or with a paid download, and through the new Repost by SoundCloud, you can also distribute through them to third party retailers (Apple Music, Spotify, etc.) and split payments among your collaborators.
Their fees structures are: Basic SoundCloud for free, ProUnlimited for $12 per month, and the new Repost distribution option for $2.50 per month billed yearly.
SoundCloud’s new announcement about their pro artist payment structure is an interesting development in the indie music distribution world, and is worth noting as a possible avenue for you.
SoundCloud's Announcement on their website >>
End of SoundCloud announcement here. Back to Songpreneurs >>
I currently use a free SoundCloud account, and have used Pro before. Thanks to the new announcement, I’m considering giving them a try for some new releases to compare them to my current distribution service.
Example of my release "Appalachia Kid" words and music Pete Garfinkel and Amanda Colleen Williams on SoundCloud >>
SoundCloud attracts a lot of remixers and people who are into dance music, pop and other types of electronica. Country music is almost non-existent on SoundCloud (right now) and singer-songwriter, folk and bluegrass are not specifically represented there either.
However, SoundCloud is one of the places that you can easily upload and share a song file with a music industry person where they can listen without having to download the song.
It is sometimes used to pitch songs to film and television supervisors, and as a familiar listening outlet, SoundCloud can be a good choice for private link posting, even with the free tier to start.
The other three companies you asked about, CD Baby, TuneCore and DistroKid are all distributors for independent musicians.
Unlike SoundCloud that is also its own streaming platform, these other three act as a middle man between the music creator and the music retailers: iTunes / Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, Amazon Music, Instagram / Facebook music, YouTube Music, iHeart, Pandora and a host of other lesser known streaming and download platforms.
Each of the three companies has its own pros and cons, and I have personally used each of these services at different times in my career to distribute music to the internet, and even to sell physical CDs.
Here’s a little background on my experience with each, and which one I use now.
CD Baby was the first independent music distributor on the internet.
Brainchild of fellow Berklee College of Music alum Derek Sivers, CD Baby served a very important need in the market place.
When CD Baby came out, there was no PayPal.
Artists had to sell their music at live shows and to physical retail shops.
Back in those days, your band had to get a big enough following to be able to sell your music to the retail shops on consignment.
Derek wanted to make a place where people could sell their music to others online, and let the distributor act like a big music store on the internet.
Like a true entrepreneur, Derek developed his service based on what he wanted – to sell his own music, and then made the solution he came up with available for others.
People signed up like crazy to sell music through CD Baby that had just a couple of core principles at its center of operations.
One was to always give the artist the contact info of the people who purchased their music (because they’re your fans after all). You can read about the other points in Derek’s book if you're interested.
Eventually, Derek sold his company to Disc Makers and they have since sold it again to a company called DIY Media Group.
CD Baby’s current fee structure as posted on their website [last accessed March 9, 2021] costs $29 per album or $9.95 for a single release as the base cost before you add any additional options.
They advertise “no annual fees” and offer additional services such as publishing administration that take slightly more than a standard administration agreement, but are sometimes the only option for independents to get this service.
CD Baby does keep 9% of the money you make from distributing through them, and as much as 15% of your publishing income if you're using them for that.
Through CD Baby’s other DIY divisions, you can create and order physical CDs to sell at live shows, and create additional merch or even websites using their tools
Clients in the past have been attracted by CD Baby’s promise to distribute physical music. But in today’s world, I’m not sure how realistic it is to think you’re going to move a lot of album units in a physical store as an unknown independent unless you have a big box buy in strategy. Prove me wrong.
Like CD Baby, TuneCore was founded by an innovator in the digital music space, Jeff Price.
Jeff is an outspoken advocate for independent music creators, and also like CD Baby's founder, Jeff is no longer involved with the leadership or operations of his company. (He went on to start Audiam, the company that helps collect royalty from YouTube.)
TuneCore made a big splash onto the music scene early in its career by distributing Nine Inch Nails and high profile acts including Frank Black of the Pixies.
I used them to distribute my music for a while and found them to be similar in many ways to CD Baby.
TuneCore offers many of the same services as CD Baby including music publishing administration, and other artist services.
Their current pricing according to their website [last accessed March 9, 2021] is $29.99 per album for the first year and $49.99 for each following year, or $9.99 per year for your single release, but they do not take any percent of your earnings.
DistroKid is the new kid on the block when it comes to digital distribution for independents.
Brainchild of serial entrepreneur in the music creator to fan space, Philip J. Kaplan, DistroKid came about sometime after he started Fandalism.
DistroKid entered the indie distribution race and made it possible for music creators to easily and in many cases, overnight, release songs onto iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and a slew of lesser known music retailers and streaming services around he world.
In some ways, DistroKid is really impersonal, such as last nameless customer service representatives, and a not so copyright friendly policy stance or two, but in general, DistroKid offers a most streamlined and no-nonsense way to distribute music online.
The only caution given here for DistroKid, and this may in fact apply for CD Baby and TuneCore depending on their relationships with independent music publishers, is for buyer to beware of using the “license your cover” option.
From personal experience, I can let you know that the only licenses that are actually secured for cover songs are ones that are 100% licensable through Harry Fox Agency (HFA).
If your songs are not part of this NMPA created system, then DistroKid’s customer service reply is that “all cover license requests are submitted via Harry Fox Agency, and through our agreement with them, only apply to DistroKid uploads, and are not valid outside of DistroKid,”
and when notified that the song for which they had accepted payment to secure mechanical licensing had not been licensed, because it is not part of HFA, but rather an independent administrator, the reply was:
“We cannot license with another license provider at this time, nor can we accept any other third party licenses at this time, per our agreement with stores. If you need your distributor to be able to do so, you'll need to try another distributor that can offer that service.”
In other words, don’t count on the service to get your proper licensing for you. If you want it done correctly, especially in regard to independent music creators, you need to send mechanical licensing request directly to the songwriter / music publisher / administrator to ensure that it’s done properly.
Also, recently DistroKid was at the center of a scam perpetrated by some of their users that uploaded and monetized other people’s music illegally in a piracy operation.
In their defense, the reason the pirates probably chose DistroKid is because they’re the cheapest and easiest to use to get music uploaded and released on all digital online platforms (that I have personally used thus far.)
DistroKid themselves were not implicated in any of this wrongdoing, but their name was splattered across the headlines in some negative publicity recently, and it’s good to get things like that out in the open.
In general, having used all three of these distribution companies for true independent musicians, I have to say that DistroKid is my current service of choice for releasing my own catalog of music.
DistroKid’s current pricing is the most cost effective for me, “Musician Plus” $35.99 per year for unlimited songs. This is the tier you want to use as a pro with your own ISRC registrant code.
What's an ISRC registrant code? The answer to this and lots of other no nonsense songwriter and music business entrepreneur questions is in our Getting Started Workbook -
If you are just wanting to release songs as a hobby, you could go for the Musician plan at $19.99 per year for unlimited songs. Label options are also available allowing unlimited songs 5 or more artists on your plan and other goodies for $79.99 per year.
DistroKid current pricing as of March 2021
Despite their impersonal feel, which is part of their branding, the customer service is at least responsive when you need them.
They have a handy portal to use for claiming your official artist channels on a few of the streaming services, and offer stats and direct to PayPal distributions of your money earnings.
In addition to the cover song licensing tool (again only for 100% HFA songs), you can opt in to other services including YouTube monetization and the like.
Recently they’ve been adding lots of other features including DistroKid fan voted playlisting on Spotify, and some pretty cool internal promotion features.
As a current DistroKid user, I am part of their affiliate program as well. If you are in the market to distribute new music, and want to use my referral link, you get 7% off savings and I get a $10 commission if you sign up.
Do you have a good or bad experience with any of these companies?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments, or drop us a line here >>
Amanda Colleen Williams is a second generation songwriter and multiplatinum awarded music publisher based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Visit her Official Website here >>