A Guide to Digital Music Distribution

It’s great that in the 21st century, we can make banging tunes and fab cover art – and give it to a music distributor who then gives it to the world. Sure, to get your music out there you could approach certain (but not all) music platforms individually and distribute on your own, but why? What a load of work you don’t need! A music distributor has cultivated relationships with global platforms and can get you onto them quickly.


What is Digital Music Distribution?


Essentially, it is the link between your music and consumers.


Distribution takes your music and places it on platforms for consumers to listen to. Platforms we all know very well such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Deezer, and lesser known platforms such as Shazam, Beatport, Shazam and 7 Digital, all platforms that are friends of ours at Spinnup.


If you’ve ever wondered how to get onto all of those platforms and more, it is via a digital music distributor – and there are many music distributors. Some OG ones distribute physical copies of music, like CDs, tapes and vinyl, but these days most distribute digital music, and some do all of the above.


At Spinnup we distribute music online digitally – digital consumption of music is now the most popular way to listen to music so it’s a no-brainer. Even CDs are becoming obsolete (and who has a CD player in their pocket or even their computer anymore?)


Sometimes the distributor is the link between a record label and the consumer, as is often the case with indie and smaller labels, and for DIY artists they are the link between you and the fans. Either way, distribution is required for both entities.


In this article we’ll be looking at digital distribution (like us) for the independent artist (like you).


The way people hear your music is by way of distribution. Uploading to SoundCloud is a form of distribution. But you can do much more than that – and you can get someone else to do it. A distributor, like us at Spinnup, has the contacts and setup to get your songs on more than 45 streaming platforms, from the niche services to giant stores.


A few clicks of a button and a small subscription fee will distribute your songs GLOBALLY and start selling in digital stores. Provide us with your music, artwork and all the deets of the release (we call it metadata) and we will assign codes to your music (ISRC and UPC), make sure everything is up to scratch by the stores’ guidelines and then send it off to our partner stores. As soon as people start hitting play on your music, we’ll give you daily stats to track in your artist account.


The best part? You earn royalties every time your track is streamed or downloaded and at Spinnup, we pay artists 100% of their royalties in monthly sales reports, which you can withdraw at any time via PayPal.


We’ve got quite a few friends in the distribution game artists can choose from – ones that give you access to various national and international platforms, have different costs or payment structure, and some that are free and take a percentage of royalties as a fee.


Often paying a percentage of royalties to a distributor ends up being much more expensive for the artist in the long run, even if was initially free to distribute your release. We believe artists should keep everything they earn, so we charge a small flat rate subscription fee and have zero hidden costs or extra features you need to pay more for.


How Do You Start?


Get on the internet and search music distribution for unsigned, or independent artists. Check out the different prices and clauses. Dirt cheap fees may be enticing, and it might save you money now, but it doesn’t mean they will do a good job. On the flip side, be wary of extortionate prices.


The three main things to look for are;


  • Keeping your rights


  • Keeping your profits


  • Worldwide distribution over multiple platforms


Distributors Charge Fees:


  • Per release


  • Charge one fee per year for unlimited releases


  • Take a percentage of your earnings


The first two are the most common practice. In our opinion avoid any music distribution service that wants to take a cut of your profits or who wants a percentage of the rights to your music.


We at Spinnup are here to help you – and have the added bonus of a major label affiliation, which increases the chances of your music being heard by the team at Universal Music Group. You keep all of your Spinnup royalties and getting heard could lead you to getting signed, which over 100 Spinnup artists have been.


What Do I Need To Supply To Get Music Distributed?


Once you have signed up with your distributor – you will need;

  • The music you want to release (a song, an E.P. or an album) in a high quality format, usually WAV or FLACC file


  • The artwork to go with the music. This must be a perfect square and minimum 1500×1500 pixels so that also means high quality


  • Info about the release. The title, featuring artists, songwriters (and their publishers), song lyrics etc.


  • Release date. You get to choose!


Exciting right?! You can get your song distributed worldwide very easily. If this were the 1970’s you’d need a record label, or at least a truck load of money. But modern technology has changed the supply chain. Bob in Tennessee can now listen to your song on his way to work while Betty blasts your track in her car in Latvia.


The distributor gets your tracks to music fans, letting you sell your music meaning you don’t have to track down Bob and Betty’s chosen music platform yourself.


Many distributors ask for four weeks lead time for a release. Even though they can release a project sooner this is in case some platforms are backed up, so it’s best to get your song to a distributor at least two weeks before your release date – but preferably four. This is especially good if you are doing heavy promo and want to make the most of consumers’ attention and tease a release date.


Once your release is with the distributor and ready on the platforms – you will be able to do things like claim your artist profile, pitch to playlists. And at Spinnup once it’s live, we’ll send you a unique promo link to share with your fans and followers. Look out for them and share, share, share!


The biggest platform for playlisting is Spotify – so sign up for ‘Spotify For Artists’ to manage this.  Apple Music For Artists is another great platform with an artist profile you can edit, find out how to do that here.


Can I Distribute A Cover Song?


Yes, you can – most distributors allow you do to so provided you do it the right way.


You must identify the original writers and not claim the song as your own. There is a small extra charge to release a cover, which comes in the form of a mechanical license which an artist will need to buy to release a cover song for downloads in the US.


You will own the recording of the cover – but not the song itself. This means you can distribute your recording of the song with the appropriate licenses, and with us all you need to do is check a little box that says the track is a cover when uploading your music.


Having your music in big stores or on the best platforms used to be the exclusive world of record labels and their artists. But now thanks to digital distribution, independent artists like you have the exact same chance of earning a living off your music, getting playlisted, getting noticed, or getting signed as the biggest names in the industry.


It also gives you more control over how your music is released and ultimately more control over how you manage your career.


Now you understand distribution – check out what to do with your promo!