Digital Music Distributors Compared (again)

by Dashiel on November 30, 2009

It’s been a while since we last ran through the comparison between our digital distribution service and those of our competitors. Let’s open with a table looking at the USD$ price of signing up various types of release to a few of the major digital distributors out there on the net, which we’ll follow with links to the information pages from which these figures were derived, and a brief look at the pros and cons of each service. [A UPC is a barcode, necessary for most online stores to identify your release as a unique product.]

Signup Fee – All stores – 1yr

UPC

Sales Percentage

Distributor

Single

EP (5 Track)

Album (15 Track)

CD Baby

$35.00

$35.00

$35.00

$20.00

9%

DMD

$82.35

$197.65

$329.41

$0.00

0%

Emubands

$41.09

$57.56

$82.27

$0.00

0%

Musicadium

$101.79

$101.79

$101.79

$40.10

0%

RouteNote

$0.00

$0.00

$0.00

$0.00

10%

The Gene Pool

$9.87

$49.33

$49.41

$0.00

10%

Tunecore

$9.99

$41.76

$51.66

$0.00

0%

CD Baby – First thing to note is that signing up to CD Baby’s digital service means you also have to sign up to their physical program, and send them at least 5 physical CD’s (click and see step 2 of this page). [You can get physical distribution through RouteNote via Amazon's on demand service] On top of the signup fee, you’ll also need to pay them $20 to set up a UPC for you [we do this for free], then they’ll take 9% of the revenue that comes back from their online retail partners [slightly less than our 10%, but we're not charging you any upfront fees]. Their signup fee is a flat, per release deal, although they say that single pricing is “coming soon”.

DigitalMusicDistribution.co.uk (DMD)This deal information document makes us feel very nervous. The company doesn’t seem to have seen fit to run their deal memo through a spellchecker, so it seems unlikely they will have run it past a lawyer. Their flat fee service involves you paying £100 [!] upfront for a 6 month release, after which your music will be removed from any services they uploaded it to, so our table has them in for double to make up the year. It gets even more worrying – they ask that you send the money directly to them by PayPal with a payment tag attached explaining what you want to buy from them, and then they’ll contact you… I’m sure you can email them first and open a dialogue, but I’d need some pretty serious assurance that my money was safe before I sent it. This can’t ever be an issue with us, as money only ever flows one way. From us, to you.

Emubands – UK based, with a flat fee up front model, their lack of an annual subscription fee makes them the most efficient of our competitors, but their admin process is offline; meaning you have to send them a CD and a cheque and co-ordinate the upload and distribution remotely. With us, you can do it all from your computer, and monitor your release, your sales data, and what payments are owed at any time. You’d also have to make more than $1,400 worth of sales through iTunes before you had spent the equivalent of an album’s sign up fee with Emubands on our back end percentage (a dollar on iTunes means about 58c in your pocket with us).

Musicadium – Musicadium have a flat fee system, outlined in this document [pg.4] and based on how many stores you want your music to end up in, rather than how many tracks your release is. You have to pay Aussie sales tax on their fees, which you can claim back from the Australian government if you send them the receipt, and they have a AUD$20 annual renewal fee on top of this, if you want to stay with them after the 1st year.

RouteNote – This is us. We don’t charge you anything for uploading, subscription, hosting or anything else. We just take a straightforward 10% from the retail revenue of your tracks. This means that we want you to succeed, and we don’t ask you to pay us for the privilege of being a part of your success. If you’re selling millions of dollars worth of music, then you aren’t going to sign up with us, as the 10% gets big, but then, you’re probably signed to one of the big 4 anyway, and things get a lot more complicated in that case. We’re here for independent artists looking to self-release music without having to cross someone’s palm with silver to get their music up online – hopefully this is you!

The Gene Pool – Charge exactly the same back end rate as we do, but with an added fee on top, and distributing to less stores. This should be an easy decision for you to make.

Tunecore – They have headline package prices for singles and albums, but once you start getting into the nitty gritty of their pricing, things get a bit more expensive. The numbers above are based on their $0.99 per upload per track to a release, and then $0.99 per online store you want that release to go into. They also make a $19.98 a year maintenance charge per release, so your costs can start adding up once you’ve got a few different releases online.

A lot of these stores cry up the huge number of retail partners that they’ve got, but a lot of these are duplications, counting the iTunes stores in different territories as separate entities, that kind of thing. We try and keep it simpler than that, deal with the major retailers, and only count them all once. It is important to keep in mind just how small a share of the market the minority stores have; iTunes represented about 88% of the American market way back in ’06 and has been growing since; we’ve done more analysis of their market share in this previous post. This means that once you get past the top 3 retailers, the additional revenue streams from the rest of the market are comparatively very small.

There are a few other distribution houses out there that don’t deign to put their deals out on the net for people to see – if you’ve got experience of working with The Orchard, Ingrooves, IODA or anyone else and would like to contribute to this discussion, please comment and let us know what you think of their services. You can also check out our previous post comparing digital distribution services that goes through some different scenarios to this one – read it by clicking here.

[EDIT: - I neglected to mention Zimbalam, another of our competitors based in France. They have a slightly bigger store list than us, take the same back end percentage (10%) and charge a £20 fee for singles, £30 for albums)]

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