|Price||$23 Annually | Musician||$15 Annually | Rising Artist||$25 Annually | Boost|
|Percentage||Keep 100%||Keep 100%||Keep 100%|
|New Stores||+Store Maximizer: $8 per release annually||+Store Automator: Free but has to be added manually||Unspecified|
|Transaction Fees||2.9% |
$1 Cap per withdrawal
25¢ Cap per withdrawal
|2.9% per withdrawal|
|Payment Threshold||$1||None||Determined by a 3rd Party|
|Content ID||$5 Per single|
$14 Per album
|Split Pay||Requires a $10 annual Subscription for collaborators||Requires an $8 annual subscription for collaborators||Free|
|UPC||Free, can’t bring your own||Free, can’t bring your own||Free, can’t bring your own|
|ISRC||Free, Bring your own||Free, Bring your own||Free, Bring your own|
|Cancel||Removed from stores||Removed from stores||Removed from stores|
|Taxes||30% Tax Treaty||30% Tax Treaty||Not subject|
|Custom Label Name||No||No||No|
Each of these distributors has different pricing tiers but these are the most comparable and affordable. You can check individual distributor breakdowns to learn more about each. Tunecore has the cheapest offering out of the three options at $15 annually. The winner? Tunecore.
While all three distributors get your music into what most would consider the important stores, Tunecore gets your music into the most. If you look at the list of stores, you’ll see what’s missing. The winner? Tunecore.
There are always new stores being added to services. TikTok might be the most recent significant store addition. Nobody wants to keep up with this stuff where they have to track which new stores have been added and manually add those stores to each release. Both Tunecore and Amuse allow your music to be automatically added to new stores for free, they just go about it differently. For Tunecore, going by the release I recently set up, at this tier you have to manually add Store Automator to your release. So, for every Tunecore release, you have to make sure you have the box for Store Automator checked.
Amuse doesn’t declare whether it distributes your releases to new stores automatically. My thoughts on that is, if it’s not in writing, it’s not included. Distrokid charges an annual fee of $8 per release, per year which is a lot. We’re talking $8 for every song you distribute, charged every year, per song where 3 songs would have you paying an additional $24 per year just for Store Maximizer. It’s like you’re paying for two unlimited accounts. The winner? Tunecore.
Distrokid is the only distributor on this list that restricts you from having a release date at this tier. Depending on the type of artist and release, release dates can be critical. They allow you to rally support and build momentum to make a big splash when your project drops. Ideally, you want a release date. Tunecore and Amuse give you one while Distrokid doesn’t. The winner? Everybody but Distrokid.
Both Amuse and Tunecore restrict you to a single artist on their lower tier while Distrokid restricts you to two. If you need to distribute for more than one artist you’re likely operating as a label or collective. I don’t know how much more distribution for two artists as opposed to one will matter if you’re a label with a full roster.
As far as flexibility goes, adding artists is an option for all distributors but they don’t all handle it the same.
Distrokid charges $89.99 annually for distribution for up to 100 artists.
Amuse allows you to have multiple artist profiles under one account if you’re using Amuse Pro. The caveat is that they don’t specify if those accounts are free. What leads me to believe they’re likely not is their highlighting of the fact that you can switch between accounts. Switching between accounts implies that each artist has their own account which likely requires a separate subscription. I’ve reached out to Amuse to confirm and will update you with their response.
Tunecore requires you to have their $49.99 Professional plan and pay $14.99 per additional artist on top of the annual fee. For what Distrokid charges to distribute music for 100 artists, you pay Tunecore for 6. The winner? Distrokid.
Take a look at your revenue if you’re moving from another distributor and if not, what are your expectations? Youtube can be your primary source of revenue or an afterthought. Doing music videos for your songs or uploading Art tracks to your Youtube channel and focusing on directing traffic there means it’s going to be your primary source of activity. Without the Partner program, you’ll need Content ID to monetize. If this is where you’re making most of your money, do you want to keep more of it or less of it? Probably more. Amuse would allow you to do that.
Distrokid is the most expensive option on the list when it comes to Content ID because it charges a fee per release annually plus a percentage for the service. You’re charged $5 per single or $14 per album annually plus 20% of your revenue for Content ID with Distrokid. If you add the cost of Content ID to the cost of Store Maximizer, it’s a total cost of $66 annually for 3 releases. This $66 fee would be in addition to their $23 annual fee for distribution.
Tunecore charges no upfront fees but takes 20% of revenue which makes out better than Distrokid but not as good as Amuse. The winner? Amuse.
Being in the Youtube Partner Program means you’re going to make more collecting revenue directly than through Content ID. Youtube values first-party content more than third-party content so higher-paying ads run on first-party content than third-party content. Using Content ID, distributors claim your videos as third-party content which means you get lower-paying ads. In addition to lower-paying ads, you also have to split that lower rate with your distributor, earning you even less.
You don’t want Content ID claiming videos from your channel if you’re in the Partner Program. Whitelisting allows you to restrict your channel from the program. All distributors that offer Content ID can Whitelist but some make it easier than others.
Amuse will claim your video and force you to request them to release the claim which is cumbersome. You have to upload your video, wait for their claim, email a response to Youtube to dispute the claim, and wait for Youtube to communicate with Amuse, and for Amuse to respond and release the claim before you can claim your revenue directly. In all of that time, which would be the first week of the video when it’s generating the most traffic, the revenue would be sent to Amuse where they’d be taking a cut.
Distrokid has a similar system with Whitelisting but instead of having to dispute a claim, you can request videos be Whitelisted. The issue here is that you have to manually request each video and can’t just Whitelist your channel. It’s not the end of the world but it increases your workload.
Tunecore allows you to Whitelist your entire channel where you can rest easy and not have to take any further action. The winner? Tunecore.
Sharing royalties with collaborators is something that’s important to a lot of artists out there and what’s equally important is how collaborators claim their share. Distrokid requires collaborators to have a Distrokid subscription paying a reduced rate of $10 annually to claim their share. Tunecore requires collaborators to have a Tunecore subscription paying a reduced rate of $8 annually to claim their share. Only Amuse allows collaborators to claim their share for free. The winner? Amuse.
UPC codes track sales activity for albums. Let’s say you have a 30-song album and each song gets 50 million on-demand streams. Your total for the collection of songs would be 1.5 billion streams, that’s a platinum album. No matter how long it takes, once you’ve got a platinum plaque everything changes. When people mention your name they have to add the prefix “platinum-selling”. As Fat Joe says “Yesterday’s price, is not today’s price” Your rates go up. It matters.
ISRC codes track sales activity for singles so if you only tracked activity for ISRC codes, you’d just have 30 singles each with 50 million streams. That number of streams wouldn’t earn you anything in the sense of RIAA recognition.
At this tier, none of these distributors allow you to bring your own UPC code and for some, it’s not permitted at all. If you’re moving releases from another distributor, you can only keep sales for the singles intact, but not the albums so the clock restarts on the count to platinum status.
Distrokid doesn’t allow you to bring your own UPC code on any tier, nor does Amuse. It simply is not permitted. Tunecore only allows you to bring your own UPC code if you’re on their Professional tier for $49.99 annually, but at least it’s a possibility. The winner? Tunecore.
Distributors have to negotiate deals with digital service providers like Spotify. Things like their percentage of revenue, access tools, and features are all a part of that negotiation. When it comes to influence over digital service providers, it’s not about having a catalog that drives a lot of streams. Understand that for digital service providers, streams are an expense. They pay for streams, streams don’t earn them money. They make their money from subscribers.
What it comes down to is whether a distributor has a catalog of music, that if removed from these services, would cause their users to use another service. With big names like Papoose and Russ, Tunecore is the clear winner when it comes to influence. Distrokid has quantity but not clout and Amuse has neither. The winner? Tunecore.
Who wants to get evicted in the dead of the coldest winter? If a distributor shuts down or randomly changes its pricing to something you can’t afford, that’s an eviction. You’re forced to pick up all your music and find another home which can be a really big problem. Particularly if you’ve taken full advantage of the unlimited model and went berserk with releases. You don’t want to be a guinea pig where a distributor is trying to figure things out by testing on you. It also isn’t wise to use a distributor with a poor model where it isn’t likely to be able to sustain itself and will eventually go out of business.
Distrokid has been around a really long time and is incredibly stable. The same can be said about Tunecore. Neither distributor has had a history of changing their pricing much over the years. Amuse, has changed their pricing multiple times as they’ve looked to figure out a more profitable system. They started off completely free allowing artists to keep 100% of their royalties while paying nothing at all. Along the way, they introduced tiers where they restricted what was available for free to drive users to pay more. Now, they’ve eliminated free altogether and switched to a percentage model on their lowest tier so who knows what’s next for them. It’s pretty unstable. If security is a major concern for you, your choice is between either Distrokid or Tunecore.
If you cancel your membership or your card cannot be charged for whatever reason, Amuse will reduce you to their percentage-based tier. Your music will be removed from all the stores exclusive to their subscription-based tiers. Distrokid will remove your music period, there is no other tier. Tunecore will remove your music as well, but you have the option of having your distribution fees pulled from your royalties. That’s an important option and I’ll explain why.
Other distributors will cancel if they cannot charge the card on file. You could have $100 in royalties and no money on your card. There was an artist I spoke to that found himself in a coma for months. If a distributor couldn’t charge his card, they’d cancel his service despite the fact that he could have money on his balance with the distributor.
Additionally, what you see you’re owed by your distributor is in your distributor’s bank account until you request to be paid. This means it’s contributing to a balance that is accumulating revenue in the form of interest for the distributor. Some distributors, namely the ones with payment thresholds, explicitly state in their terms that you are not entitled to that interest. Charging your balance wouldn’t bring in any new money so that’s likely the reason most distributors don’t do it.
Payment processors like Paypal charge a fee per transaction to facilitate the service. Some distributors eliminate the fee or limit it, while others leave artists to pay the full amount. The transaction fee is usually about 2.9% which gets more punitive as your revenue grows. It’s something you’d like to avoid or minimize if you can. Tunecore caps transaction fees at 25¢, while Distrokid caps them at $1, and Amuse leaves them uncapped so you’re responsible for paying the full amount. The winner? Tunecore.
If you reside in a country without a tax treaty with the United States you’ll be subject to up to a 30% tax withholding when using distributors based in the US. Amuse isn’t a US-based distributor so they’re not subject to the tax. They leave taxes up to you whereas Distrokid and Tunecore will withhold the funds from your balance. The winner? Amuse.
This is the core job of a digital distributor so the number of places your music is added to matters a lot. Not all stores are really stores. Some of the places distributors get your music into are providers that supply music to businesses like restaurants and retail stores. Bottom line, you want your music everywhere so you want a distributor that can get your music everywhere. We’ve listed all the stores each of these distributors has listed along with who distributes where and a breakdown of the stores you may not recognize.
Examining the list of stores, you see Tunecore wins hands down. After Tunecore it’s Distrokid with Amuse distributing to the least amount of stores.
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List of Stores
|Youtube Content ID||✅||✅||✅|
|Soundtrack by Twitch||✅||✅||✅|
|7Digital / Triller||✅||✅||✅|
|Kuack Media Group||✅||❌||✅|
|Listen on Music Time||❌||❌||✅|
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Nuuday – https://nuuday.com/
Denmark. Represents companies that deliver media like movies, tv shows, and music to homes and mobile devices across the country.
Saavn – https://www.jiosaavn.com/
One of the top music streaming services in India.
TouchTunes – https://www.touchtunes.com/
Hand curated catalog. Provides music to bars, restaurants, and workspaces through the usage of Jukeboxes.
Yandex Music – https://music.yandex.com/home
Russian music streaming service. Yandex is Russia’s answer to Google.
Offers Hi-Res music for streaming and download. Serves audiophiles.
Joox – https://www.joox.com/intl
Music streaming services in HongKong China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar
Kuack – https://www.kuackmedia.com/about
Kuack Media is the current market leader in white-label music streaming platforms for mobile operators in Latin America and the Caribbean. Kuack Media also operates in South Pacific and Africa.
All-in-one mobile service provider for Africa: Chat, Call, Watch, Listen
MediaNet – https://www.mndigital.com/
Provides music to businesses like Music Choice
Verve Life – https://www.vlgroup.com/
Gracenotes – https://www.gracenote.com/ – Owned by Neilson
Content Metadata provider
Gracenote is the world’s leading entertainment data and technology company. We power the top music services, consumer electronics companies, automakers, media companies, and cable and satellite operators on the planet. At its core, Gracenote helps connect people with the entertainment they love most.
Spinlet – No website
Spinlet is a digital media company, focusing on Afro-Centric content. Spinlet’s primary service is music streaming and downloads available globally via web browsers, and the Spinlet app on iOS and Android.
Zvooq – https://zvuk.com/
Russian streaming platform
Q. Sic – is Australia/New Zealand’s first commercially licensed music streaming service.
Specifically designed for the Hospitality/Retail industries, Q.SIC allows businesses to stream music legally giving them access to content and playlists through basically any internet-enabled device (iOS, Android, Mac, PC, and Sonos). Some Q.SIC clients include McDonald’s, Car Dealerships (Toyota, Volkswagen), Hotels (Terminus Hotel, Richmond Club Hotel), Retail Outlets (Mecca Cosmetica), and Bars (Holliava).
Music Island delivers your music to six popular digital stores and streaming platforms throughout South Korea, including Melon, the country’s largest subscription service boasting over 4 million subscribers.
Launched in 2013, NetEase is the fastest-growing music service in Mainland China. The service added 200 million users in 2019, bringing its total user base to a record of 900+ million. NetEase represents the largest share of international music amongst all services in Mainland China, with more than 50% of streams accounting for non-Chinese music. NetEase has some of the most socially engaged music fans in the world and is the leading music service for dance music in Mainland China.
TIMMUSIC is a digital music streaming platform that is made instantly available to users of the first telecommunications provider in Italy, Telecom Italia S.p.A on desktop or mobile app. When you distribute your releases to TIMMUSIC, you can get discovered by music fans across the country. The app boasts user-generated and curated playlists, weekly discovery charts, and over 45,000 active monthly users.
Soundtrack Your Brand
Soundtrack Your Brand is a digital music service that provides retail establishments with licensed playlists based on genre, mood, and business type. With the world’s largest catalog of music licensed for this use, business owners can use ready-made soundtracks or create their own personalized experiences. Soundtrack Your Brand lets artists make their music available to be streamed in bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms, offices, and more.
UMA – United Media Agency
United Media Agency (UMA, formerly “BOOM”) is one of the most popular streaming platforms in Russia, boasting a catalog of over 35 million tracks. UMA users are able to stream, discover, and create/follow playlists, and the app is integrated within two of Russia’s largest social networks, VK.com and OK.ru, as well as the VK Music app.
Gaana is one of India’s most-downloaded music streaming and download apps, boasting over 185 million monthly active users. The platform also has playlists, radio, a discovery portal, and a widely-used voice assistant for multilingual searches.
Hungama is India’s leading digital entertainment company that runs two popular streaming services – Hungama Music for music streaming and Hungama Play for video streaming. With over 65 million monthly users, Hungama offers a multilingual and multi-genre library of songs, music videos, and more, along with a unique loyalty program, Hungama Rewards that allows fans to earn and redeem points for every action they take on either of the streaming platforms.
Wynk is one of India’s most-downloaded music apps, with over 100 million installs and over 1.5 billion monthly streams. The service is integrated with one of the leading telecom brands in the region, Airtel, and offers users features like personalized radio, playlists, voice search, and more recently, “Wynk Direct”, which gives them the opportunity to share music with their friends on the app regardless of connectivity.
Delivering your release to Wynk means it will be available to listeners in India, Sri Lanka, and fifteen countries within Africa.
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