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Five things to consider when choosing a digital music distributor

Words by Kavina.

Online music sales dominate user consumption patterns, and are forever evolving (hello TikTok!). Your trusty digital distributor could be the only thing standing between your new record and acquiring masses of potential fans, but the sheer volume of notable contenders can make it pretty overwhelming when trying to choose the right fit for your vision and music needs. 

Here’s five things to keep in mind when you’re choosing the right distributor for you.  

You may be able to keep 100% of your royalties but think twice where you can’t 

Many distribution sites will give you 100% of your royalties but charge higher distribution fees to compensate while some will work with a percentage royalty claim but give you the opportunity to level up in a higher playing field. 

The point of a music distribution platform is to get your music seen and sold to online sites, allowing you to keep all your music rights as an artist and owner. There should be a very good reason if they are sharing any other benefits. 

Seriously, where is your money going?

Setup fees, commissions, annual fees plus percentage or profit. You should know exactly where your money is going and why. Be wary of unexplained store registration costs and extra data reports when you’re already paying for a service where you thought this would be included in the package.  

Distributors aren't as similar as you think 

Some sites charge per album whereas others will allow an unlimited amount of song uploads for annual fees.  

CDbaby boasts the biggest global reach with over 150 network and store partners and also does physical distribution. Distrokid claims faster distribution to online streaming and downloading sites. They also showed market foresight in being the first to partner with Tiktok and offer split payments to multiple collaborators on a project.  

You get the idea, there’s a lot of pro and con lists to draw up. 

Electronic music distribution works differently 

Not all music distributors partner with electronic music sites. Symphonic, RecordUnion and Spinnup partner with both Juno and Beatport but take a higher cut from music royalties because of the limited distributors of electronic music. Enter our savior Ditto music who launched a Ditto DJ Plus giving their users an unlimited distribution package with specifics to all major DJ and producer oriented online stores.   

Is there access to a strong support system?

True artist horror story: Being a folk artist and discovering heavy metal releases accidentally distributed in your name but no one is there to help you sort out the mixup. Some support services won't get back to you for a few days let alone at all, whereas others make it an essential part of their user interaction structure. 

Check to see how accessible the user dashboard is and whether communication options such as chat support are offered. Is there a 24hour hotline vs. an automated email  stating that someone will get back to you in 24hours or more…? This was my experience when testing the support systems of one distributor after I read a customer review. 

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