Distrokid was the first music distribution service to offer unlimited distribution for a flat annual fee while allowing artists to keep 100% of their revenue. At the time they hit the scene, there was only CD Baby charging artists per release while taking a percentage of revenue, and Tunecore charging artists annual fees per release to keep 100% of their revenue. Distrokid has to be credited with revolutionizing the space of music distribution.
As a result of their revolutionary offer, they were able to corner the market and change the game. The thing about it was it was a really stripped-down service that focused on stores it considered essential which was limiting because it didn’t get releases in as many places as its competitors. Their website wasn’t going to win any awards for beauty either. Artists of a certain stature wouldn’t use Distrokid simply because it looked Bootleg and a lot of people associate price with value, but most other artists didn’t care and they’re the majority. This allowed Distrokid to gain a lot of power through sheer volume.
Fast forward to today and almost every digital distributor now offers unlimited distribution for a flat annual fee. Even Tunecore was forced to adapt and switch to the model. Distrokid’s offer centered around paying less for less, while other companies like Tunecore switching to the model meant an offer of more for less. People that can’t afford a Bentley will settle for the Chrysler that looks like a Bentley. If they can get a Bentley for the price of a Chrysler, guess what? They’re going to buy a Bentley. There really isn’t much of an argument for Distrokid anymore.
The owner of Distrokid strikes me as a cool fun-loving dude that’s managed to create a strong community around his company. They have a lot of fun features like Slaps.com – their own version of Soundcloud, Wheel of Playlists – a game where everybody gets their music on a Playlist, and Playlist Spotlight where tracks get selected for placement based on community vote. The owner often engages with users on Reddit. They do a great job of making their users feel rewarded with every new feature they announce. Using Distrokid feels less like you’re using a service and more like you’re becoming part of something. It’s like how a whole generation of Hip Hop got classified as “Soundcloud Rappers” and formed a community around it. I feel like the same thing has kind of happened with Distrokid.
Provided that a sense of belonging isn’t listed as something you’re looking for in a music distribution service, there are a few major turn-offs with Distrokid. Fees, things that are throw-ins with other music distribution services Distrokid charges extra for. The core offer is $23 for Unlimited distribution but if you want something as small as a release date you must upgrade to the $36 annual plan. They charge annual fees per release for things like Content ID, having releases automatically added to new stores, and having your music distributed to audio recognition services like Shazam and Gracenotes. Their fees drastically increase their prices to a point where they far exceed Tunecore’s offer, which provides more.