How to Distribute Your Music
Digital and Physical Distribution. Online and Offline. MP3s and Physical CDs.
Once you have finished music you’ll want to start selling it. You’ll want to make it available online at digital download stores like iTunes or Amazon, and made available to record stores around the world. There are several companies that offer online and physical distribution, each with slightly different pricing and services.
Online Digital Distribution
Online digital distribution is submitting your music to an online retailer store like iTunes or Amazon to be sold on their websites as mp3 downloads.
All 3 Digital Distribution services listed below include the following stores which are the most popular places where customers download music: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, eMusic, Rhapsody and MySpace Music. Below this section is a complete list of the online distribution stores that each website offers.
Some online distributors will require you to submit your CD in mp3 format, but others require wav format, so it’s a good idea to have the songs on your album in both formats.
Keep in mind that just because your music is submitted to these online stores it doesn’t mean that they’ll be accepted. It’ll take about 6-8 weeks after submitting before your music is online. iTunes is usually faster, appearing online in sometimes as fast as 2 weeks.
Reverb Nation, CD Baby, and Tunecore will all charge you a fee to submit your music to online retailers. Then the online retailers will take a portion of your sales, which will range anywhere from 30-40%. Mp3s sell at $0.99 so you will receive roughly 60-70 cents per song sold, after paying the necessary fees to submit you music and keep it online.
Through Reverb Nation the cost of digital distribution is $35 per album or single per year. No extra fees for setup, the $35 will cover the setup and the first year of distribution. If you have money in your Reverb Nation Bank you can use all or part of it to pay for your album submission. They require that you upload your songs in wav format. They also require an image of your album artwork and a barcode number. If you don’t already have a barcode they will supply one for you without charging you an extra fee, but it can take up to 2 weeks before you receive your number. They will also assign all of your songs their own individual ISRC number. It’ll take about 6 weeks for your music to appear on all of the online music retailers websites. Some are faster than others, iTunes should only take about 2 weeks. I’ve also noticed that the first album you submit will take much longer than any other albums you submit later on. So, the same process for your second album submission will not take nearly as long as the first. Another option you have is the ability to give them your release date. If you do not want your album available until a certain date, you can enter a date and your music will not appear online until that date. Once your submission has been paid for they will submit your music to 34 online stores. Whether or not these stores choose to carry your music is up to them, but most of them will. For an extra $25 for a total of $60 a year per album you can upgrade to the Pro Package and get 40 stores total. You will not be able to pick and choose which retailers you want. Once you submit your album it will be submitted to all the online retailers on the list. Besides the Reverb Nation annual fee, the online retailers will take a portion of your sales. This ranges between 30%-40% depending on the retailer. Mp3s usually sell for $0.99, so you will receive about 60-70 cents per mp3 sold. So, to make your money back you would have to sell at least 50 mp3s per year.
Once your music is online and selling, it’ll take about 4 months before you can transfer money to your bank account. Your sales report will arrive about 3 months after the sale happens, then Reverb Nation holds your money for 30 days before it becomes available to transfer to your Pay pal account. You will only be able to transfer money to a Pay Pal account and not directly to your bank account.
Another option they offer you is your own personal Reverb Store. You can set this up once you have an account with them and you’ll be able to sell: Physical CDs, mp3 downloads, ringtones, and merchandise (T-Shirts, Hoodies, Tote Bags, Canvas Caps, Sports Bottles, Travel Mugs, etc.). You do not have to pay anything to maintain the store, and you will be paid immediately after a sale. You can set prices to whatever you want and they will take a predetermined amount for every item sold. So, there will be no need to pay them since they take their portion first and send you the rest.
CD Baby’s digital distribution service is $49 for a one-time setup fee per album or a $13 one-time setup fee per single. After your one-time fee CD Baby will then charge you 9% of your sales for the rest of the time that your album is online. They do not charge an annual fee, so if you don’t sell anything you don’t pay anything, except for your initial fee. But if you sell a lot, you will be paying them a lot. One nice thing about CD Baby is you can pick and choose which digital distribution retailers you want to sell your music on, for a total of 25 different stores. You will also need to have an album image and a barcode to submit with your music. If you need a barcode they will supply you with one for an extra $20 for an album or $5 for a single. The $49 fee also includes physical CD distribution.
Both CD Baby & Reverb Nation offer mail in or upload options to submit your music to them. So, you can upload everything to them when you sign up for their distribution service, or you can mail them a CD and they will digitize it for you. They also both offer Digital Distribution through their own websites. CD Baby will only take 10% of your mp3 digital download sales if it’s sold on their website. Most companies will take at least 30%.
Tunecore charges $50 a year per album or $10 a year per single. They also charge a set-up fee of $1 per online retail store, plus a $1 song delivery charge per song. A barcode and ISRC numbers are included. So, for example, if your CD album had 12 songs on it, you would be charged a one-time song delivery fee of $12 for all your songs, a one-time distribution fee of $18 for a submission to 18 online retailers, and $50 per year. For a total of $80 for the first year and $50 for every year after that. A single would cost roughly $29 for the first year then $10 a year after that. Like CD Baby, you have the ability to choose which retailers you would like your music on as well. So, set-up fees will vary depending on how many songs you have and how many retailers you want. They do occasionally have specials. Their 6 Year Anniversary Special offered albums for only $20 and singles for only $5, but it didn’t state how much the yearly fee would be after that. They also offer Amazon on Demand as one of their online retailers which makes your music available on Amazon as a physical CD.
An International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) is a unique 12 character number assigned to your individual songs, which is used to identify individual sound recordings. When you submit your music to a digital distribution service these numbers will be assigned to you without any extra fees or hassle, so you won’t have to worry about them too much. Just be aware that some sites will ask you for them, but it won’t be mandatory to the submission process.
Physical CD Distribution
Physical CD distribution is submitting your physical CDs to retail stores to be sold on their website or at their brick and mortar record store. Several companies offer this service on their own websites, but only CD Baby offers distribution to several thousand stores around the world.
If you would like to sell your physical CDs on CD Baby’s website they will charge you a $49 one-time setup fee per album. Included in your one-time setup fee they will also distribute your physical CDs through Super D One Stop, a distributor that will put your music on their catalog and make your album available to over 2,500 music retailers worldwide. If you sign-up for CD Baby’s digital distribution service, physical CD distribution is included in the $49 set-up fee. CD Baby will charge you $4 for CDs sold on their website no matter how high or low your CD retail price is. To get started, just mail them 5 CDs, they will keep 1 for their archive and will sell the rest. If they run out they will ask you to send them more. You will also have to setup an online account with them on their website. You will receive money for physical CD sales on CD Baby once your account balance has reached at least $10. You can change this limit, but it has to be at least $10. Then you can have it be sent directly to your bank account, have them mail you a check, or it can be sent to your Pay Pal account.
Bandcamp does not have any set-up fees to sell physical CDs or mp3s on their website, but they take 15% of your sales. It drops to 10% as soon as you reach $5,000 in sales and stays there as long as you’ve earned at least $5,000 in the past year. Bandcamp does not ship physical CDs. Once a CD is sold on Bandcamp they will send you the necessary information and you will ship the CD to the customer yourself. You will be paid for physical CD and mp3 sales on Bandcamp immediately through Pay Pal only. The nice thing about Bandcamp is, once a customer buys your Physical CD they also get an immediate download of all your tracks in any format they want, and you can also include extra perks like PDF files. They also offer discount codes for special promotions, 200 download codes for free giveaways, 200 download credits per month for free downloads or your tracks or albums, and pre-orders for CDs about to be released.
The flat fee that Reverb Nation will take for physical CDs is $5.49 per album, and you can set the retail price to anything you want. Once a CD is sold you will receive the remaining portion of the sell after Reverb Nation takes their cut. For example, if you sell your CD for $9.99, you will receive $5.50 for every CD sold. You’ll be able to make a withdrawal once your account is up to $20. Once a physical CD is created using their online Design Application, they will print it when someone buys it and will ship it to them. You won’t ever have to send them any CDs.
You can use all three websites listed in this section for different services because all offer services that the others don’t. Reverb Nation for your digital distribution, merchandise sales (including ringtones, CDs, and mp3s). CD Baby for your physical CD sales (including digital distribution on CD Baby plus retailers not on the Reverb Nation list) and CD Duplication. Then Bandcamp as well for physical CDs and digital downloads with the ability to hand out coupon codes and free download specials. For example, you can use Reverb Nation for your digital distribution, then use CD Baby for physical distribution plus additional digital distribution. Since CD Baby allows you to pick and choose which digital retailers you want, you can add digital distribution to your physical distribution at no extra charge and add all the stores that Reverb Nation doesn’t offer. If you want to keep things more simple and all in one place, you can do everything through CD Baby without having to use anybody else.
Ringtones and Merchandise
When you sign up for an account on Reverb Nation you can start selling ringtones, merchandise, mp3 downloads, and physical CDs immediately on your own personal Reverb Store page. It’s free to setup and the merchandise will be created on demand when a customer buys it, so you won’t have to store anything. You can upload individual songs or albums and sell them as ringtones and mp3 downloads. If you’ve already submitted your album to their digital distribution program you can start selling your mp3s without having to put in the information again. You will get $0.50 for every ringtone sold which is sold at $2.49. You can set the price for mp3 downloads for anything you want and Reverb Nation will take a flat fee of $0.30 per mp3 sold. One nice feature is that you can sell a song immediately on their website without having to pay anything or wait several weeks. Once you have earned $20 you can make a withdrawal and send it to your Pay Pal account. They take a flat fee for each item sold, and you can set the price to anything you want. The easiest way to start selling merchandise, is to use the image you’ve already created for your album cover and put it on all the items they have available. They have Travel Mugs, Sports Bottles, Canvas Caps, Tote Bags, Hoodies, T-Shirts, plus more in all sorts of styles, sizes, and colors. You can design your merchandise using their online designer.
Online Digital Distribution:
Reverb Nation, $35 a year per album or single
CD Baby, $49 one-time setup per CD ($13 one-time setup per single) + $20 bar code + 9% of sales
Tunecore, $50 a year per album ($10 a year per single) + $1 per store + $1 per song delivery charge
Distribution Website Services:
CD Baby: Physical CD Distribution, Digital Distribution, CD Duplication
Reverb Nation: Digital Distribution, Audio Streaming, Merchandise, Ringtones
Tunecore: Digital Distribution, Physical CD Distribution, Licensing and Endorsement Deals
Physical CD Distribution:
CD Baby, $4 per CD sold
Bandcamp, 15% of sales
Reverb Nation Store, $3 per CD sold
Ringtones and Merchandise:
Reverb Nation Store
Number of Digital Distribution Stores:
Reverb Nation: 30+ (40+ for $25 more a year per album)
CD Baby: 25
These prices are all subject to change, so please visit their websites for a current price list.
Reverb Nation Digital Stores:
7digital, Apple iTunes, Amazon MP3, Aspiro. Deezer. eMusic, Google Play, Guvera, La Curacao, Last.fm, MOG, MySpace Music, Myxer, Nielson Soundscan, playlist.com, Rhapsody, Simfy, Slacker, Spotify, Synacor, VirginMega, Virgin Mobile Canada, Zune
Various Other Stores (Medianet, Tesco, Thumbplay OTA, Musicwave, etc.)
(Extra $25: 24/7, Play.com, Media Markt, Puretracks, We7, Nokia, Rdio, etc.)
CD Baby Digital Stores
24-7, 7digital, Amazon MP3, Apple iTunes, Deezer, eMusic, Google Music Store, GreatIndieMusic, iHeartRadio, Last.fm, MediaNet, MOG, MySpace Music, Myxer, Nokia, Omnifone, Rdio, Rhapsody, Simfy, Spotify, Tradebit, Zune
Tunecore Digital Stores
Apple iTunes, Amazon MP3, Deezer, eMusic, Google Play, iHeartRadio, MediaNet, Muve Music, MySpace Music, Nokia,Rhapsody, Simfy, Spotify, VerveLife, Zune