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What is Music Distribution? Everything Artists Need to Know

What is Music Distribution? Everything Artists Need to Know
March 26, 2024
In short, music distribution is the ‘distribution’ (i.e. the sharing or releasing) of music to a collection of physical and online platforms and marketplaces.

Makes sense right?

It’s easy to think about music distribution in terms of the movement of music from artist to listener. But the truth is, the flow isn’t necessarily that direct.

With billions of active listeners, accessing and consuming music in hundreds of different ways, music distribution is now the only way to get your music into the ears of ALL your listeners - no matter where they’re listening. It's an essential part of every modern artist’s music release strategy.  

So if you're an artist or label looking to get your music out there via music distribution, you'll need a music distributor.

How does music distribution work?

Back during the dino age of physical music consumption (so that’s any kind of sheet music, printed scores, CDs, Vinyl, cassettes etc.) music distributors worked primarily to transport physical music into every record shop, wholesaler and outlet that supported the selling or usage of music.

And to this day, the role of a music distributor - sometimes known as a music aggregator - is somewhat the same. But now it mostly lives online.

In the hey-day of CDs, vinyl and cassettes, the recorded music industry was almost entirely physical. Which looking back now (unless you were a 90s kid or earlier), almost seems hard to believe!

In 2024 however, physical music sales now only make up a mere quarter of all recorded music. Meaning yep, you guessed it - the digital music market is now the largest contributor to the industry as a whole - and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon.

What does a music distributor do?

As the industry has gone from physical to digital, the process of music distribution has naturally changed alongside it, adapting to meet the new needs of artists in the modern industry.

And as you can probably guess, the response of many distributors was to plain and simply ‘go digital’ - changing from what were essentially supply chain managers before, into providers of digital infrastructure and rights administrators (high tech stuff!).

In 2024, the best music distribution services like Ditto Music now have 3 main roles:

1. Release music to online platforms

With almost 100% of the industry now gone digital (listeners included), artists who want to get their music out there and heard by an audience will need to make it available online.

Music distributors have distribution contracts with music services including Spotify, Apple Music & Amazon Music, as well as social media platforms, like TikTok & Instagram, plus smaller platforms with more niche audiences and international services only available in certain parts of the world.

What is Music Distribution? Everything Artists Need to Know - online platforms

For most streaming platforms (the big ones at least) artists aren’t actually permitted to upload their own music directly. Big Digital Service Providers (also known as DSPs) like Spotify host millions of artists’ music, meaning they don’t want to deal with the agro of working with & paying out on an individual basis.

Plus think about how stressful that would be on the artist’s end. If you want to release on multiple platforms that means dealing with countless people, countless emails and countless metadata requirements, all just to get your music on the right places.

For DSPs, their main priority is the end listener. For music distributors like Ditto, the main priority is the artist. That's why we act as the middleman, taking out all of the stress of what would otherwise probably be a very complex (and pretty much impossible!) process.

2. Pay out music royalties

Every time an artist generates streams or downloads from their music release online, they generate money in the form of royalties.

What is Music Distribution? Everything Artists Need to Know - get paid royalties

Pretty basic knowledge, right?

But it’s actually the job of the music distributor to fill the gap between transferring these royalties from the music streaming platform, back to the artist or music copyright holder.

You should also be aware that many well-known music distributors will take a sneaky commission cut of an artist’s royalties in exchange for their services.

Many but not all.

When you choose to release your music with Ditto, you’ll keep 100% of ALL the royalties you generate from online sales & streams, across every platform or online store you’re releasing to.

Working with a music distributor also makes this royalty payout process way more streamlined for both artists & music platforms - especially if you’re an artist who’s releasing your music on loads of different online stores.

One big payout at the end of the month, with all platforms/stores, streams & downloads accounted for.

3. Support & promote your release

This one isn’t necessarily an industry standard, but any good, high-value distributor will also give you the tools you need to promote your music through additional support, products and services.

In the age of digital music, distribution is a really critical part of every artist’s music promotion strategy. It can help you reach fans in places you didn’t even know existed.

At Ditto Music, we offer a number of services to help promote & push your release, including:

- Promo campaigns
- Playlisting
- Music sync pitching
(via our Ditto Music Publishing service)
- Pre-save links
- Chart registration
- Music industry advice & guidance
(check out the Unsigned Advice blog)

And you know you're in safe hands with our artist support team, available 24/7 to offer guidance and support during every step of your release.

Ditto also has a 30-day free trial, so you can try us out before you commit. Go sign up for free here.

More than just distribution, access game changing new features.

Why do you need music distribution?

So as you can probably tell by now, working with a music distributor is almost a non-negotiable for artists in 2024. Here’s why:

- Gets your music on every major platform
(and into the ears of as many people as possible!)
- Boosts your online artist profile
- Adds more credibility to you & your music
- Creates a regular revenue stream from royalties
- Gives you streaming info & in-depth data about your listeners

So now you know what music distribution is and why artists should work with a distributor like Ditto, what are you waiting for?! There’s no time like right now to get your music out into the world and earn some money while you're at it.

What is Music Distribution? Everything Artists Need to Know

Music Promo
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