10 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Digital Music Distributor

When it comes to choosing a digital music distributor to get your music on sites like iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Spotify, you want to feel confident in your choice.  If music is important to you, you want to know who’s handling your music assets, the quality of the service and the value you’re getting for the distribution fees you’re paying.

Here are 10 questions you should ask any digital music distributor before you entrust your music to them.  Choosing the right distributor is just as crucial as picking the right guitar (or microphone or drum set or, well, you get the point).

1. Is music distribution their primary business?

Many companies provide other products and services in addition to distribution.  That’s not a bad thing, but you want to make sure that they equally support and invest in the distribution portion of their business and are not using it as marketing “hook” to build other parts of their business.

2. Do they take any portion of the sales revenue your music generates from distribution?

Different distributors have different business models.  Some distributors will take a cut of the distribution revenue you earn from the downloads and streams of your music.  Other distributors, like TuneCore, believe that artists should keep 100% of their distribution sales revenue.

3. Do they have a dedicated Customer Care team? 

Let’s face it. We all need a little help sometimes.  If you run into trouble during the distribution process is there a team that can answer all of your questions quickly and get your music back on track and headed to stores?

4. Do they have an online help tool so you can easily find answers to questions you might have?

Many of your distribution questions can likely be answered very quickly, and without the help of a living, breathing human. An easily searchable help section can often get you the answers you need to get through a few minor hiccups.

5. Do they provide guidelines on how to format your release so you have smooth distribution to stores?

The digital stores have very specific requirements when it comes to the format of your release (audio files, artwork, and release information). You’ll want to know these details ahead of time so you won’t experience any holdup on distribution.  Does the distributor monitor the assets being delivered to double check that everything is formatted correctly?

6. Do they support their artist community?

As an artist, you want to feel like you’re part of a large, creative community.  The distributor you choose is lucky to have you, and should provide you with the kind of support you deserve.  Are there opportunities for you to increase your fan base?  Or do they give you tips from other artists to help your career move forward?

7. Do they offer iTunes trend reports so you can see how your music is selling in stores soon after it goes live?

When your music goes live in stores you’ll likely be very eager to see how it’s selling, so you want to make sure the distributor offers iTunes trends reporting. Ask them if the reporting is updated daily or just weekly.  Do you view the data in csv files? Or do they offer a dynamic web-based tool so you can sort and view sales by release, track, geolocation and more, right from your account?

8. How transparent and detailed is the sales reporting?

It’s important for your digital distributor to be completely transparent with respect to your digital sales and streaming revenue from all the stores you sent your music to. You should know exactly which songs/albums were downloaded and streamed where, and for how much (to the penny).  Do you have access to your sales information 24/7? Is it presented in a way that is easy to understand, filter and sort?

9. Do they offer Publishing Administration to help you collect your worldwide songwriter/publisher royalties?

If you’re a songwriter, you earn additional royalties from the sales, streams, and use of your music around the world.  When a distributor offers a publishing administration service, there’s a built-in audit trail that lets the distributor make sure you’re receiving the correct amount of songwriter royalties.  Also, ask them if the service is in-house or if they use a third party.

10. Do they offer Ringtones?

Ringtones are a great way to make more money from your music by turning a 30 second snippet of a song into a ringtone to sell in the iTunes store. Why not make a little extra money and let your friends hear your music whenever someone calls?

Obviously there’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a digital music distributor.  Getting your music for sale online is a big deal!  We urge you check out our help site for answers to all these questions and more, and always feel free to reach out if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

Did we forget some critical questions to ask?  Let us know in the comments.

  • Nehedar

    It’s also important to consider whether you will be making significant sales. I’ve been on Tunecore since the beginning, but with 6 albums out now, I am not selling nearly enough to make the 50 per album per year charge a smart choice.

  • Marvin

    I guess you guys forgot to mention “Do they have annual fees that suck money out of indie musicians and do they make it impossible to cancel membership ‘to avoid’ those annual fees!” additionally, define ‘dedicated customer service’. We can’t get an email response whatsoever. If you want a neutral, honest opinion we feel MondoTunes and CDbaby has you beat. Cdbaby doesn’t have annual fees (yes, they do take a percentage of sales but my bet would be that your annual fees brings in much more revenue than their percentage of sales. Which indie artists are selling???). MondoTunes has major label influence with a team of previously successful musicians running it therefore, they seem to be much more connected to today’s musicians. They have hundreds more retailers without annual fees and without a doubt the best distributor. You’ve fired your CEO to make some changes. You better keep up with the trend of your competitors or you’ll be ingested by one of them.

  • Marvin

    I guess you guys forgot to mention “Do they have annual fees that suck money out of indie musicians and do they make it impossible to cancel membership ‘to avoid’ those annual fees!” additionally, define ‘dedicated customer service’. We can’t get an email response whatsoever. If you want a neutral, honest opinion we feel MondoTunes and CDbaby has you beat. Cdbaby doesn’t have annual fees (yes, they do take a percentage of sales but my bet would be that your annual fees brings in much more revenue than their percentage of sales. Which indie artists are selling???). MondoTunes has major label influence with a team of previously successful musicians running it therefore, they seem to be much more connected to today’s musicians. They have hundreds more retailers without annual fees and without a doubt the best distributor. You’ve fired your CEO to make some changes. You better keep up with the trend of your competitors or you’ll be ingested by one of them.

    • tunecore

      Hi Marvin. I’m sorry you thought our renewal fees were not clear. We have a “Subscriptions” tab under your name in your account so you can view when you have releases coming up that are due for renewal. Also, when a release is up for renewal it gets a banner across it on your Dashboard page indicating it’s up for renewal. You can manage your “Payment Preferences” under your name in your account as well.

      I’m sorry if you have not received a response from our Support team. We were off Monday for Columbus Day so there is a bit of a delay in responses. We tried searching for your account but were unable to find your e-mail. But normally you should receive a response to e-mails by the end of the next business day.

      In regards to our fees, we have the lowest 1st year rate for an album of most, if not all, of our competitors (just $29.99). We do charge annual fees in order to make the constant upgrades and improvements to the site and user experience. As an example, we just recently introduced Daily Trend Report information for iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon MP3. You can see how your sales are doing almost immediately, and no other distribution company is offering this.

      We are also continuing to add more stores to our service. Within the past month we’ve added 7digital, Shazam, and Gracenote and we’re always looking to add more based on suggestions from our customers.

      If you’d like to speak further about your account please give us your contact information and we’ll be happy to reach out.

      -TuneCore

  • Richie Cabo

    So how much does it cost to get the music distributed through Tuncore. Administration costs? It is not clear what the bottom line is. We are giving three songs for mastering on Friday to TuneCore at .75.00 each. Would we get the fourth free at a later date as per their offer to get the fourth mastered free, because we are recording the fourth at the end of the month?

    • tunecore

      Hi Richie –

      Your first album on TuneCore will cost $29.99. Take a look at some of our pricing break-downs here: http://bit.ly/1twhF0L

      As for administration, we invite you to check out our Music Publishing page to learn more about getting a publishing deal with TuneCore: http://bit.ly/1cXBrZb

      Finally, regarding your mastering, the “4th Track Free” offer is on-going and you should have no problem redeeming that at the end of the month.

      Let us know if you have any more questions!
      -TuneCore

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