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Is DIY Music Distribution Worth It?

DIY Music Distribution has been on the rise. For over 25 years, we have seen platforms like CD baby, Tunecore, Distrokid, and Amuse position themselves as the go-to distribution platforms for independent musicians. DIY Distribution gives independent musicians access to hundreds of Digital Service Providers (DSPs) like Spotify or Apple Music. DIY artists (usually) keep 100% of their music rights and may sacrifice a percentage of their royalties.

These platforms are affordable and provide the basic services of music distribution that every indie artist needs.

Here are some pros and cons of DIY music distribution:

PROs

You control the timing

In traditional record labels and independent distribution companies, it could take weeks or months before a release date is set. It’s the opposite on DIY platforms like CD baby, Tunecore, and Distrokid because there is usually no filtering process. Therefore, musicians can stick to a timeline and release music to streaming platforms when the song is ready.

There are many financial Benefits

Working with a DIY music distributor entitles artists to keep 100% of their rights and at least 80% of their royalties. This number could drop to 15% when working with a record label. DIY platforms that offer label services and other premium features could charge up to 50% commission on royalties of the artist. Some charge a yearly distribution fee, and others may charge a one-time fee for distributing singles, albums, and EPs.

You will have creative freedom

Unlike label artists, indie musicians are not restricted to a style or format when releasing music. Therefore, DIY artists possess the freedom to explore and experiment with new sounds without the pressure that record labels may impose on them.

CONs

Cost & Features

There are always hidden costs involved in using DIY distribution services. This can be annoying because every release is different. Indie artists cannot always predict what features they need in the next release. Some distribution platforms offer credit distribution, lyric distribution, and song splits, while others don’t. For instance, CD baby and similar digital distribution services frequently offer a PRO option (CD baby pro) for additional control over releases.

Reliable Reporting

Not all platforms provide clear and intelligible revenue reports. It is important for any artist to keep tabs on streams and royalties made from streaming platforms. In fact, DIY artists must conduct platform specific research to ensure royalties are properly reported.

Integration with Social Media Platforms

While DIY distributors upload to major DSPs like Spotify, Amazon music and Apple Music, Platforms like YouTube and Instagram are sometimes excluded, or come at an extra cost. For example, in the paid opt-in feature, Distrokid keeps 20% of YouTube video revenues.

Furthermore, If your DIY music distributor doesn’t offer similar publishing services, you won’t receive any money if advertisers or content creators use your song in a video. Ultimately, it is important to understand the concept of music publishing and sync because royalties only contribute to one outlet of making money as an artist.

Subject to Change

Some platforms are subject to change their plans and processes. For example, instead of letting all artists upload their music to digital services (Like  DistroKid or TuneCore), AWAL changed their services to use a “first layer” of A&R screening. As a result, it’s estimated that nine out of 10 recordings uploaded to the AWAL platform are rejected.

Similarly, Universal Music Group is implementing a major shift to its indie artist distribution business (Spinnup) that moves it closer to the AWAL model. It shuts the door on many DIY artists wanting to have their music distributed by UMG.

In Summary

The decision to release music through DIY Distributors is dependent on the artist. Music distribution should enforce your personal and career goals, plans, and strategy. DIY artists must decide if goals are more aligned with streaming platforms like Apple Music or Spotify, or better suited for additional publishing and synchronisation services. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each music distribution platform, strategise every release, and plan for the future.

However, Unlike a label or independent distributor, a DIY release will not provide the artist with the most crucial item, which is your name’s association with the brand. This is the main reason why an artist could decide to work with a record label or independent distributor.


References

Herstand, A. (2022, February 22). Best Music Distribution Companies – Full Comparison Chart. Ari’s Take. https://aristake.com/digital-distribution-comparison/#distrokid

Ingham, T. (2022, March 16). Sony Music’s $430m acquisition of AWAL officially cleared by UK competition watchdog. Music Business Worldwide. https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/sony-musics-430m-acquisition-of-awal-officially-cleared-by-uk-competition-watchdog/

Sokolovskiy, D. (2022). Pros and cons of releasing music directly via a distributor. Daniel Lesden Blog. https://dsokolovskiy.com/blog/all/direct-music-distributors/

Stassen, M. (2022, May 19). Universal dumps DIY distribution, as Spinnup goes invite-only. Music Business Worldwide. https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/universal-dumps-diy-distribution-as-spinnup-goes-invite-only/

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