How to Distribute Your Music for Free | For Artists Without a Label

how to distribute your music for free

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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 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.

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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.

But why?

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.

how to distribute your music for free
how to distribute your music for free

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.

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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.

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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.

clem onojeghuo pTeZKi29EYE unsplash

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.

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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…

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Cafes
  • Grocery Stores
  • Advertisements
  • Commercials

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.

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17 Responses

  1. 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. 

    1. Hey Jaye!

      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!

      – Stefan

  2. 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!

    1. Hey Dave!

      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!

      – Stefan

  3. 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.

    1. Hey Sarah!

      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!

      – Stefan

  4. 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.

    Thanks,
    Phanindra

    1. Hey Phanindra,

      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!

      – Stefan

      1. 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.

        ~Phanindra

  5. 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

    1. Hey Esther!

      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!

      – Stefan

  6. 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.. 🙂

    https://music.apple.com/in/artist/the-purighallas/1530120268

    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!
    ~Phanindra

    1. 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!

      – Stefan

  7. 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?

    Thanks!

    1. Hello Blair,

      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!

      – Stefan

  8. 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)

    1. Hey Lakshya,

      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!

      – Stefan

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