Digital Music Distributors Compared

by Dashiel on February 24, 2009

We’re aware of the fact that we’re a small company compared to some of our competitors, but our cost to bands is also smaller than most of them. All of our major competitors make a charge for either uploading or hosting your tracks, subscription fees, renewal fees, charges for ISRC codes, different charges based on how many outlets you want your music to appear in, the ways they find of hiding new charges are as innovative as they are various.

We don’t charge you anything until you start making money. Uploading is free, hosting is free, picking different stores is free, in fact everything is free until you sell your first track, at which point we’ll take 10% of the revenue that comes back. You get to keep 90% of everything we make by working together. Ours isn’t the lowest percentage rate in the market: CDbaby offer 91% to their clients, but their upfront charges mean that not only do you have to get your credit card out of your wallet and pay them before you can hope to see any return from selling your music, but you’re also worse off with them than us until you sell more than ten thousand units. The same is true of Tunecore and Musicadium, and the Orchard never get close, as they take 30% of sales revenue for themselves AND charge you $90 up front.

Here’s a little table showing what you’d pay up front to distribute 2 albums over two years through some of the big distro sites (Musicadium deal in AUD, which I’ve converted at today’s rate of 1.549 to the USD).

Music Distribution Companies Compared

And here’s another detailing the income you’d get from various levels of sales, again based on distributing 2 albums over 2 years to all the stores RouteNote deals with, with an average per track income of $0.65, which is what you get back from iTunes.

RouteNote is awesome

As you get up to the 5k mark, Tunecore begin to pull ahead, it’s all pretty even around 10,000 and there are undeniable differences in the revenue earned when you get up towards to 30k sales mark, but we’re cheaper all the way up there, and the money will only ever flow one way – to you – if you deal with us.

So why are we better than our competitors? For artists starting out on their own, who want to be in control of their own destinies until they can prove the worth of their music, who don’t want to spend up-front money, and who aren’t realistically looking for sales of thirty thousand records in the first year or two, we are cheaper, quicker and much more interested in the success of our artists, because we’re smaller and our own success is that much more closely linked to that of our musical partners (read some of our testimonials!).

We had a response from Musicadium about this post – querying the way we’d worked out the fees mentioned. Here’s how it works out, based on the figures here in their agreement:

2 x upload fee to more than 3 stores = 2 x $99 = $198

2 x barcode (UPC) generation = 2 x $39 = $78

2 x annual renewal fee = 2 x $20 = $40

198 + 78 + 40 = 316

$316AUD / 1.549 = $204.00USD

Although the exchange rate has probably changed by now…

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