How to get your music on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and more

The music world has changed beyond recognition in the last 20 years. From a time when you’d need to hope a sweaty A&R guy (yes, generally a guy; yes, generally sweaty) would turn up at one of your gigs and sign you for £1billion to a time when there are no A&R guys and it’s up to your own unique combination of marketing / technical / IT / management skills if your music gets listened to. From a time when the record companies were the gatekeepers to a time when there are no more gatekeepers. But there are still gates.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing is a question for another article, but today we’re going to look into how to get your music onto the main platforms easily and cheaply.

How can I get my music distributed?
If you want people to be able to listen to your music on the main streaming platforms, you need either a record label or a distributor. Record labels are pretty hard to come by nowadays, and unless you’ve already got a huge following or recently starred in a reality TV show, the chances of being signed are vanishingly small. So you need a music distributor.

What’s a music distributor?
Also known as “aggregators”, digital music distributors take tracks from the likes of you and me and pump it out to all the places that people might listen to or buy those tracks: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Tidal etc.

What will a music distributor do for me?
Fundamentally, the distributors have relationships with all the main streaming platforms and charge you a fee in exchange for using those relationships to get your music listed. They may do more than this (help get you onto playlists, master your tracks, offer backrubs etc.) but this is their main job.

So how does it work?
You will send them your tracks (generally by uploading to their website), enter all the relevant details (artist name, track names, contributors, genre, album artwork etc.), pay them any money they ask for, and sit back and watch the money roll in…

Really?! Sign me up!
Well, sorry, not really. Yes, it’s easy enough to get your music onto these services, but the bit about watching the money roll in may have been a little misleading. The problem is that it’s easy for anyone to get their music online now, so the tricky bit is getting your music heard above all the rest. Though some of the digital music distributors may be able to help with this (for a fee, of course), you’re still going to need to be out there gigging, active on social media, and doing everything you possibly can to ensure people actually go looking for the music that you’ve released..

So how much do these music distributors charge?
There are two basic ways that distributors charge for their service: fixed fees or commission. Sometimes they will charge a combination of these two, and sometimes the fixed fees are recurring (so you have to keep paying a certain amount per year to keep your music listed).

Here’s a little breakdown of some of the most popular services, giving an indication of cost for a single or an album:

Distributor Percent Commission Single Fee Album Fee Fee type Notes
Amuse 0% Free Free Free! All offered for free so they can sign you to their label
CD Baby 9% $9.95 $29 One-off Also offer CD and vinyl manufacture
Distrokid 0% $19.99 $19.99 Annual Quite a few hidden fees
Ditto Music 0% £19 £19 Annual Fairly poor reputation for customer service
EMU Bands 0% £24.95 £49.95 One-off Based in Glasgow!
Record Union 15% $10 $16 Annual Includes up to 6 services
Tunecore 0% £7.49 £23.99 Annual Annual price increases after first year

Note that these prices / percentages don’t tell the whole story – there are often hidden fees for specific types of listings, so make sure to read the small print.

To summarise
There you have it; it’s easy and cheap to get your music listed on pretty much every imaginable service. However, it’s less easy to make sure it gets listened to. How do you make sure it gets listened to? We feel a new article coming on…