This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
How many record labels are you signed with? None? I wouldn’t worry about that because today, we’re learning how to distribute your music for free. Independent artists no longer need to be dependent on a record label to get their music out into the world.
By using a music distribution service, you can easily distribute your music to over a dozen platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon, etc… There are many of these digital service providers on the market, but some of them charge NO upfront fees. However, you’ll most likely be giving up a percentage of your royalties in exchange for their service. Let’s look at a few options!
- Free distributions VS paid distribution
- Distribute your music with Soundrop
- Distribute your music with Stem
- Distribute your music with AWAL
- Distribute your music with Amuse
- Distribute your music with RouteNote
- Register with your national performance rights organization (PRO)
- Which of these music distribution services do I recommend?
Free distribution vs paid distribution
Although some of the music distribution services charge no upfront fees, it doesn’t mean they are free. It may seem appealing at first, but a paid service may actually save you money sooner or later.
So how do I decide which type of service is best for me?
The deciding factor will be based on the sum of royalties you receive. If you haven’t started distributing your music yet, chances are you aren’t receiving any royalties… unless you’ve been licensing your music.
In this case, select a free distribution service. They’ll take a percentage of your royalties (like a record label), but you’ll pay nothing else. Just make sure you maintain your exclusive rights!
However, if you ever started to make more than 100$ per year from royalties… I would start considering a paid distributor.
Let’s do the math… Using DistroKid as an example, you’d only be paying 20$ per year. So if your free music distribution service took 15% of your royalties (most do), it’d cost you 15$ per year.
It would still cost you less, but here’s the deal… Royalty payments are made quarterly (every 3 months), so what if your audience grew within the next 3 months?
It’s always a good idea to think ahead and act before your free distributor actually starts costing you money.
But don’t get me wrong, if you’re just starting out, these following music distributors will be your best options!
Distribute your music with Soundrop
I recently found out about an interesting option for artists who’d like to include cover songs in their music catalogue. Soundrop not only lets you distribute your music for free, but they’ll also license you to cover songs at an affordable price.
Why would you be interested in such an offer? It’s simple.
Covering popular songs can be an excellent tactic for growing your audience, but the licensing process can be difficult. Tracking down their owners can be quite difficult, so Soundrop simplifies this.
You’ll only need to pay 9.99$ to license a song FOREVER. That’s right, you can cover it for the rest of your life.
To top it all off, they also distribute your music for free, BUT…
Soundrop does take 15% of any royalties coming your way. Instead of paying them up front, you’ll only pay them once you start making money.
There’s no application process for this distributor, you can simply sign-up.
If you’re thinking of producing cover songs, I would sincerely consider Soundrop. It’s pretty unique.
Distribute your music with Stem
You’ll be giving up much fewer royalties with Stem. They actually have the lowest “cut” out of all these distributors.
Dividing payments will be much easier with Stem as well.
If you’re collaborating with other artists on projects, this option will probably suit you best. Every owner can sign-up via the platform to simplify this.
And believe it or not, they only take 5% of your royalties. You’d need to be making LOTS of money for that to impact you.
However, Stem does have an application process. You’ll need to apply for a direct membership and have it reviewed. They claim this to be necessary to ensure personalized service for each artist.
The real advantage is that you get access to a representative. It’ll be like having an agent who’s truly looking out for you. It’s pretty amazing that you get all of this for FREE.
And it doesn’t end there… You’ll also have access to analytics and you’ll also get paid MONTHLY. Royalties are normally paid out quarterly, so this is a HUGE plus. You can receive payments via direct deposit or Paypal.
Once again, I highly recommend this option if you wish to automate split payments.
Distribute your music with AWAL
I personally find AWAL to be the most impressive free music distributor. It’s like the record label for artists who don’t want a record label.
Ironic, isn’t it?
It basically begins with a selection process. You’ll need to submit your music for review by AWAL’s team. They claim to only work with artists they think they can help.
You’ll have a dedicated behind backing you up if you are accepted. The percentage of royalties this distributor will take varies from person to person.
There are essentially 3 stages you can join; Gaining Momentum, Breaking Through, Going Global.
They’ll start by taking 15% in the first stage, but as your career evolves… You’ll gain access to funding from AWAL!
However, this will result in a renegotiation of terms that’ll most likely result in fewer royalties. It’s a little vague, but you won’t be signing any long-term contracts.
If you’re somewhere between independent artists and signed artists, this may be interesting. But it really functions like a record label.
Distribute your music with Amuse
Amuse is sincerely my favourite option on this list, there’s nothing quite like it. It’s the only music distributor that lets you keep 100% of your rights and royalties.
What’s the catch?
Amuse makes it very clear to artists why they can provide free music distribution. They are also a record label!
This free music distribution platform is simply a way for Amuse to find new artists. If your music performs well, they may reach out to you personally to sign a contract.
The split is usually 50/50 like a traditional record label, but they can truly bring you to the next level. You could also refuse the deal and keep your free music distribution service so you keep 100%.
It feels like Amuse can potentially cater to everybody. I highly recommend this option.
Amuse is open to everybody, there’s no application process.
They even provide an app for your mobile devices. You could use this software to upload your music, review your analytics and withdraw payments.
Amuse can even pay you 6 months in advance. Wait… what?
Fast-Forward is a feature that allows Amuse to “predict” your future earnings 6 months ahead of time. They actually forward you the money, but they charge a fee.
You’d need to be making considerable money to gain access though.
Distribute your music with RouteNote
Lastly, RouteNote is probably the most humble of them all. This music distribution service will allow you to distribute your music to 50 different platforms.
It’s not as much as most platforms, but you’re still getting a lot to work with.
They take 15% of your royalties which is typical, but they also offer a paid service. You can sign-up anytime if you realize keeping 100% of your royalties is better.
They provide monthly reports in the form of analytics which can be useful.
However, I’m not a huge fan of their pricing options. This blog post is all about free options, but it’s worth mentioning.
RouteNote even allows you access to a unique marketplace to sell your music directly. It’s an interesting option, but keep in mind that they keep 85% as well. I would personally sell my music on my own website in this scenario.
They even host somewhat of an affiliate program. Each time you refer someone, you gain 2% of that artist’s earnings under the “free model”. Personally, I think this is the highlight of using RouteNote.
It’s not the best option, but RouteNote can be interesting for musicians interested in affiliate marketing.
Register with your national performance rights organization (PRO)
To make sure you receive ALL your royalties, you’ll want to register your artist profile. By consulting your national rights management organization, you’ll guarantee your payments.
If you want more information, you can consult this blog post.
You’ll want to do this BEFORE you start uploading your music. It should be the first thing on your “to-do” list.
It’s reported that there are currently billions of dollars that weren’t paid to artists You want your music to bring you as much wealth as possible.
Since most of the music distributors I listed don’t facilitate split payments… You’ll really need to make sure each owner is registered as well.
And keep in mind, every time your music is played in…
- Grocery Stores
You are earning royalties! The amount of “plays” your music generates also creates more royalties. However, “pay per play” rates vary from platform to platform.
Which of these music distribution services do I recommend?
If you’ve been wondering how to distribute your music for free, you now have multiple options to choose from. It can seem overwhelming at first, but you simply need to sort them one by one.
I encourage you to visit each website to compare.
Each artist has particular needs, so there is no “one size fits all” solution. However, I have a personal preference for Amuse.
Out of all the options, it is the most transparent. Amuse simply distributes music and charges you NOTHING for it, not even a “cut” from your royalties.
For artists who would eventually like to be signed, this is the best option. Amuse is actually a record label seeking new talent!
The app for mobile devices is also a really nice touch. It feels like a paid distributor, but it’s NOT!
But if you were going to consider a paid option, I’d take a look at DistroKid. It’s only 19.99$ per year for unlimited tracks!
I hope you have retained some value from this article and if you have, please consider sharing it with another musician.
Which music distributor have you chosen to distribute your music? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share any of your personal recommendations.
Je souhaiterais m’abonner à un distributeur pour déposer plusieurs morceaux.
Mes compos sont en cours mais pour l’instant, j’ai enregistré 3 titres d’un auteur et d’un compositeur. Les titres sont déposés à la SACEM .
Puis-je déposer moi-même les enregistrements sur un de ces sites de distribution ?
– pour 1 titre, j’ai réalisé moi-même l’enregistrement et le mixage,
– pour les 2 autres, cela a été fait par le compositeur.
Si oui, que dois-je prévoir comme répartition des royalties ?
Merci d’avance de votre réponse.
La/les seul(es) personne(s) qui a l’autorisation de publier un enrigistrement est celui qui détient le(s) droit pour la composition et/ou l’enrigistrement.
Dans la majorité des cas, c’est le compositeur qui détient ces droits.
Par contre, si le compositeur signe un contrat avec un manager et/ou une compagnie de publication, cette personne/organization pourrait recevoir l’autorisation (et les droits aussi).
Donc, si vous n’avez pas composé la musique et que vous avez transferé le droit de l’enrigistrement au compositeur (ce qui est le cas normallement quand l’artiste paye pour l’enrigistrement), vous n’avez pas l’autorisation de déposer les enrigistrements.
Si vous représentez officiellment ces artistes par contre, c’est une différente histoire.
Est-ce que cela répond a vos questions? Faites-moi signe si vous avez besoin de plus d’information.
Thank you for your time and information
Hey Wiz, it’s my pleasure!
Hi Stefan, how are you?
I used Distrokid, but they told me because of editorial discretion, I can’t upload anymore tracks on my distrokid account. So I would have to use another music platform. Is there any good ones you recommend? & is it easy to connect your previous music artist with the new distributor? For example on my Distrokid my artist name is Smooth DoubleB. So, could I still have my new music under the same artist in a different distributor?
Thank you for your help!
That’s interesting, they didn’t give you a better reason than that?
To answer your question, it’s really easy.
Actually, you can you multiple music distributors at once and it uses the same artist name/profile (streaming services merge them together). I’ve covered this in AN ARTICLE I wrote on using multiple music distribution services at the same time. I’ve personally used DistroKid with RouteNote at the same time with no issues.
I hope that answers your question. Let me know if you need more support, thanks!
Hey there, thanks for writing the article and experimenting with the distributors. I was wondering if you could share insight about which distributors (free or at what plan level) offer TV/Film placements, or other sync opportunities.
Additionally was wondering, are you able to breakdown the overall costs for the distributors you’ve used- including but not limited to: sign up fee, cost per withdrawal transaction (does it vary by PayPal v direct deposit), taxes (I heard distro recently made headlines for serving users with a 30% tax fee).
I’m in the US and starting out! Thanks for sharing all your wisdom!!:)
I’m glad to hear that you have an interest in TV/Film licensing.
However, music distribution services aren’t the best means of getting there. Sure, some of them (TuneCore, CD Baby, Songtradr, etc…) have “sync opportunities”, but it’s very superficial and rarely gets anyone any results. You can research this for yourself to validate what I’m talking about.
The only music distribution service that seems to have better infrastructure for TV/Film licensing is Music Gateway.
I’ll be adding it to this guide shortly, but it’s much more than simply music distribution.
If you’re really serious about TV/Film licensing though, I recommend reading this article I wrote. It’ll give you some important insights.
In regards to your other questions, I’m currently using DistroKid. The signup fee is only 19.99$ per year (however, I recommend the next tier which is 35.99$ per year). The cost for withdrawal is standard amongst all music distribution services because it’s PayPal that charges the fee (unless they offer other options, like direct deposits). Paypal is usually around 2%.
As for taxes, DistroKid automatically deducts 30% (for non-US citizens, anyway) if you don’t provide an ITIN/TIN.
However, if you fill out your tax information properly you should only experience the typical deductions for your state.
I hope that answers your questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything else.
Thanks for stopping by, take care!
Thanks for this really helpful blog post. Since it was published in 2019, another distribution site called magroove.com has surfaced on the internet. I’m wondering if you have any insights on this service. A friend has had success with it so far, but it’s early days for him. The site has no “About” section and feels somewhat vague and ambiguous. I’m considering using them, but my trust factor is a little on the low side at the moment.
I took a look and to be honest, it doesn’t look that impressive.
The distribution services I included on this list are top-notch, that’s why I recommend them.
However, I’ve been meaning to update this post with another distribution service I recently found out about. It’s actually one of the best free music distributors I’ve seen yet.
Check out Music Gateway if you’re looking for something great.
Otherwise, my favourite on this list is RouteNote. I personally use DistroKid at the moment and think it suits my needs perfectly.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thank, Stefan. Will definitely check out Music Gateway.
Awesome, let me know what you think!
Thanks for this great write up, it’s quite helpful. How about “Songtradr”, what do you think about their service. I hope to get a reply soo. Thanks
I’m glad that you found the guide helpful!
I didn’t list Songtradr on this list because I don’t personally like it. I’ve used it briefly in the past and wasn’t satisfied with the overall quality of the platform.
I’ve also heard many accounts of users having issues in regards to payment.
The option to license your music is also quite superficial, it’s similar to TuneCore and CD Baby in that sense.
If you want my opinion, I’d say go with RouteNote. It’s my favourite free music distribution service with the most perks.
I personally use DistroKid though. The small yearly fee is more than worth it and it suits my needs very well.
I hope that provided some insight, let me know if you have any other questions. Take care!
Thanks for the guide but I have a question: have ever had a problem with Distrokid when it comes to payments coz is the one I’m currently using?
Few days I came across too many comments complaining about it especially when it comes to payments to non US citizens.
I haven’t personally had any problems with DistroKid in regards to payment.
However, DistroKid does deduct a certain percentage of your income if you’re a non-US citizen (without an ITIN).
Even US citizens pay these taxes, but it goes according to their state’s tax requirements and is done automatically. If you’re not a US citizen and haven’t gotten yourself an ITIN, you will automatically be taxed 30% if I’m not mistaken. It’s kind of annoying, but getting an ITIN would certainly help bring that down.
I’m not a financial advisor though, so you’ll have to look into this yourself.
Let me know if you have any other questions though! Thanks, take care.
Does Distrokid charge any other fees after paying $19.99 per year? People say it has hidden fees and that concerns me.
I am planning to go with Routenote because it also gives youtube content id as well as SoundCloud monetization. It also helps us with an OAC on YouTube.
Do you think I should go with Routenote?
Is there any distributor other than amuse that offers you different features(like youtube content id and SoundCloud monetization or sync licensing) along with more stores and takes 10% revenue or less? (If possible,pls suggest a free one..but you can also tell me the paid options as well)
There are no hidden fees with DistroKid. What most people are referring to are the upsells.
I personally don’t use any of them because I think they’re useless. I talk about that more in this article.
I think RouteNote is great! I use both DistroKid and RouteNote’s free plan, but I wouldn’t upgrade to the paid plan. If you’re just starting out, RouteNote is perfect and you can simply upgrade once you start making more than 100$ per year (they take 15% of your earnings, so that’s when it would be worth it since the yearly fee of premium is 9.99$).
If you want more information on RouteNote, you can read this article which I just published today.
Other than that, I really like DistroKid and RouteNote. I’ve heard good/bad things about both, but I personally haven’t experienced any problems as of yet. DistroKid is MUCH faster than most music distributors though. It usually takes 2-3 business days for my tracks to start appearing in stores.
If you have any other questions, feel free to schedule a consultation with me. Thanks!
Great overview of these distributors.
I would like to know if music distributors need to report royalties the musician earned from digital music platforms, to separate publishing companies such as Songtrust? How does the songwriter/artist collect the mechanical royalties they are due?
Great question! Luckily for you, I’ve recently created two article that will thoroughly answer your questions:
– How To Collect Performance Royalties
– How To Collect Mechanical Royalties
Think of them as “the complete guide to collecting royalties”.
If you want a quick answer though… Music distributors collect SOME mechanical royalties, but it’s all grouped into one total with performance royalties (that’s how I understand it). You’ll still need to register with other administrators like SoundExchange to collect ALL your mechanical royalties. SongTrust only collects FOREIGN mechanical royalties.
To collect all your performance royalties, you’ll also need to register with your local PRO.
So, please read the articles for more in-depth knowledge on the matter. If you have any additional questions after completing them, I’d be more than happy to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with you.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope that answers your question!
Thanks a lot for your views on DistroKid. I have subscribed to the basic plan last night and within less than 12 hours, my song is on Apple Music!! Here’s the link.. 🙂
This being my very first music score ever distributed to a streaming platform, and the fact that I am just a novice in this area, I feel very excited and wanted to thank you for making this happen!!
I’ll keep visiting your website for more knowledge and information, which I think is in plenty!
Thanks once again!
I’m impressed, 12 hours is an all-time best for DistroKid. It’s usually taken 2 days on average for my tracks to be released.
I listened to your song and it sounds fantastic! I hope it’s the first of many more to come!
Your kind words mean the world to me, I’m so happy that I was able to help you get your first song released. I’m also thrilled to hear that Decibel Peak has become a valuable resource for musicians such as yourself, I never imagined it would be the case. There’s much more where that came from though. You’ll be seeing lots of new content coming up in the next few months. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter if you want all the latest updates!
Thanks again Phanindra, it’s always great to hear from you. I wish you the best, stay safe!
This is really enlightening.. I manage an artiste and for the past few months I’ve been really discouraged about how our distribution lately went.. The turn up was soo discouraging and yet it wasn’t for free.. I’m going to be doing more research from now on. Thanks for this… Besides AWAL seems to be cool.. I hope I get something really nice out of this
Which distribution service were you using before? I think AWAL is great, but just keep in mind that there’s an application process.
If you’re looking for an alternative, I personally recommend checking out RouteNote.
That’s if we’re only considering free options. I personally work with DistroKid right now and I think it’s worth every penny (that’s what it ends up costing per day; pennies).
If you ever need more assistance, feel free to reply to this comment! Thanks!
Thanks for this article, Stefan. I was just reading up about free music distributors and found reference to SongTradr. How would you compare it with Amuse? I’m really a novice in this area and would definitely benefit from your thoughts.
Songtradr’s business model is slightly different than the music distribution services in this article.
For example, Songtradr also provides opportunities to submit your music to get it licensed for TV/Film placements. In other words, it also functions as a non-exclusive music library.
I haven’t worked much with Songtradr though. I had an account at some point, but I closed it because I was hearing some pretty bad things about the service (the free plan, anyway). I encourage you to do some research as well because I can’t make any claims as…
1) I’ve only used the free plan (they have paid plans as well)
2) I have no evidence that my sources are credible
I mainly didn’t like the user-interface.
Amuse is much simpler to use and the main difference is that their free plan gives you 100% of your royalties.
Songtradr takes 10% of your streaming income and 40% from licensing opportunities (on the free plan).
If you want my honest opinion though, I’d go with Amuse if you’re looking at only these two. I personally use DistroKid and haven’t had any serious problems as of yet. I think it’s much better than both Songtradr and Amuse. It’s the most affordable “premium” music distribution service, so I also encourage you to take a look at DistroKid if you’re serious about your music career.
I hope that answers your question, feel free to reply if you need any more assistance.
Thanks for stopping by, I wish you the best!
Thank you once again, Stefan. That’s very insightful indeed! I am indeed glad that I stopped by your post. I now have a few options to look at before I plunge into this area.
Eu estou no plano gratuito da Indiefy, o problema que no gratuito somos distribuídos apenas para 4 lojas, e o plano pago deles é caro pois cobram 120 dólares anuais; o que é um absurdo pelo que eles oferecem e pela porcentagem que ganhamos com nossas músicas nas lojas digitais, ah! no gratuito eles cobram também 15% de comissão; uma vantagem que temos de trabalhar com eles é que é muito fácil para fazermos os uploads das músicas e das capas e tem também o aplicativo!
Se você preferir ir com um distribuidor de música gratuito, recomendo verificar a RouteNote. Escrevi um comentário explicando todos os benefícios (é meu serviço gratuito favorito).
No entanto, eu recomendo fortemente o DistroKid para funcionalidade máxima porque custa apenas 20 $ por ano. É também o mais rápido em termos de velocidade de distribuição. Você pode verificar a revisão que escrevi aqui. Eu pessoalmente uso o DistroKid (só para você saber).
Deixe-me saber se você tiver alguma dúvida. Obrigada por apareceres.
I didn’t realize that music distribution services are what you need to get your music onto different platforms like Spotify or Apple Music. My little brother has been taking voice lessons since he was 7, and he has started making his own music. I will suggest that he find a music distribution service to help him get worldwide recognition.
In the past, the task of music distribution was almost exclusive to record labels. Now it’s possible for any artist to become their own publisher.
I look forward to hearing some of your brother’s music online. Feel free to share a link or two once he’s gotten that set up!
I personally work with paid music distribution services. I’m using DistroKid at the moment.
Let me know if you and/or your brother need some assistance along the way. Thanks for stopping by, take care!
Hallo there Stefan,
This is the most detailed and valuable post I have seen on helping independent artists to make money off of their music. My cousin has been struggling with getting his music out there and he asked me for help since he knows I know a few things here and there about technology. My research brought me to your post and I am really grateful for this post. I am going to show and have him follow your advice. Thanks a lot for being really helpful here. I really appreciate it. Good day!
I’m really glad you found what you were looking for. Most people aren’t aware that music distribution is this simple. There are even more people who aren’t aware that it can be done for free!
I appreciate you sharing this with your cousin, I’m sure it will help him get over this initial obstacle. I personally use Amuse because it’s 100% free and you keep 100% of your royalties.
Thanks for stopping by, take care!
I often wondered how music distribution service operated? Your article articulated it very well. A very interesting read for those who are into music and want to make it big without the attachment and I love how you provided recommended streams that artiste can sign up with and earn some money for their music.
It’s pretty simple, eh? Amuse is especially interesting for those who really want zero attachment. Signing any form of contract can seem intimidating at first, so this is why I recommend Amuse.
The most difficult part is registering with your local PRO. However, with the internet the process has been simplified in most countries.
Thanks for writing!