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Navigating The World Of Independent Music Distributors (Part 1)

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March 13, 2023

This blog is a look at the world of Independent Music Distributors through the eyes and personal experience of an Indie artist.

Many of you are, like I am, small independent artists. We wear a lot of hats. From mix engineer to distribution and everything in between, we do it all because, frankly, we can't afford to pay anybody to do it for us. I have learned, through my experience, a thing or two about Independent Music Distributors. This is not a difinitive primer on this subject. Instead I will share what I have learned through my personal experiences. 

Back in 2014, when I released my first EP, CD Baby ruled the world. Back then, CD's were still an important part of distribution. CD Baby would distribute albums by both CD and download. You could also sell your music directly through CD Baby. When CD Baby discontinued sales to concentrate solely on distribution services, it opened the door for other Independent Music Distributors.

In today's world there are 3 different models for independent distribution.


  • Subscription Services/Paid and Free (Ditto, Distrokid, Tunecore and others)
  • Per Release Services (CD Baby and others)
  • Professional Distributors (Must be accepted by the Distribution company)


Subscription Services: With subscription services you have the advantage of being able to release a large numbers of releases in a calendar year for short money. Services like Ditto and Tunecore allow unlimited releases while others, like Amuze, cap the number of releases. Either way, they can be attractive to less established artists wilt limited financial resources. 

There are two main downsides to these services. Many offer basic services and require additional investment for more advanced features. For example, I am registered to assign my own ISRCs. When I wanted to move music from Ditto to Tunecore, I had to buy the most expensive package to be able to use my own ISRCs. The second downside is of major consequence. With subscription services, if you don't renew the subscription, the distributor will pull your music from online stores.


Per Release Services: Per release services tend to be more expensive. As a comparison, 10 releases through Ditto will cost you $19 while those same releases through CD Baby would cost you $100. The biggest plus with a per release distributor is that with your one time payment(s) per release, your stays in stores in perpetuity. In other words, you never have to worry about your release being pulled from stores because your subscription expired. There is a lot of peace of mind that comes with that knowledge.


In part two of this blog I will share with you my actual experience with several of these distribution services and where I finally landed. Thanks.


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