Disclosure: We’ve partnered with BOTH TuneCore and DistroKid to give our readers discounts on their services. If you use the links on our page to sign up, you get a dope discount and we may receive compensation for referring you. Special thanks to TuneCore for sponsoring this article!
Ready to release and promote your music? Dope. Having trouble deciding how to release it? We got you…
In one of our earlier featured guides, we showed you exactly how to get your music on streaming platforms, step-by-step.
But in this article, we’re going to help you decide what company is the best choice for your upcoming music release – Tunecore vs. Distrokid. We’ll talk about who they are, what makes each company special and what our recommended option is.
Spoiler Alert – TuneCore is our preferred distributor for getting your music to all the platforms/stores/outlets in the market.
Let’s talk about it…
Quick Comparison Chart
|Pricing||7/10 – Higher up-front cost||9/10 – Cheaper up-front cost|
|Basic Service||9/10 – 150+ store reach, high-value-added opportunities for artists||8/10 – 150+ store reach, decent “bells and whistles” extras|
|Premium Addons||8/10 – Mostly a ONE TIME fee (YT Ad Revenue, Publishing Admin)||7/10 – Lots of paid add-ons that get expensive fast (paid PER RELEASE)|
|Payouts to Artists||10/10 – Artist gets 100% of STORE payouts||6/10 – Middleman takes cut of store payouts|
|Try TuneCore – Get 20% Off!||Try DistroKid – Get 7% Off|
What are Tunecore and Distrokid All About?
Both of these distribution companies offer independent artists the ability to sell and stream their music through all of the major online platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and many more.
Make no mistake, both companies are a solid choice to distribute your music with, but in our opinion Tunecore is the better option.
Not only have they represented some of the biggest artists in the world, like Russ, the Brooklyn, NY-based company was started back in 2005 while Distrokid arrived on the scene in 2013. Originally, though Distrokid was actually just an “add-on” service to the music social network Fandalism and became it’s own company in 2015. So Tunecore has about 10 more years of experience, relationships and track record than Distrokid.
They also have offices all over the world and direct partnerships with the digital stores where your music will live. Distrokid is a smaller (and newer) outfit, but this year they started an initiative with record labels to help discover new talent (for a “finders fee,” of course).
Differences Between Distrokid vs. Tunecore
Both companies offer the same sort of music distribution services in general. But each company has a few “extras” that may sway you in one direction or another.
The other main point of difference between the two competitors is their pricing models, so let’s start there.
Flat out – Distrokid is a cheaper service. But hold up because that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better option for you.
Tunecore charges you per music release, whether it’s a single or an album. So if you want to release 4 albums this year, you’ll be charged separately for each one.
For your first release, you’ll get a discounted price ($39.99 for an album, $9.99 for a single) but after that the regular pricing applies ($59.99 for an album, $11.99 for a single). It’s also important to note that you’ll need to renew the album/single every year.
You can also release a ringtone (do people still use those?) for $24.99 per year using TuneCore. DistroKid does NOT currently offer ringtone releases.
On the other hand, Distrokid is a subscription service that allows for an unlimited number of releases with whatever plan you choose. There are 3 main options – Musician ($19.99 per year), Musician Plus ($35.99 per year) and Label ($79.99 per year). The lower account allows you to release music for 1 artist, the Musician Plus plan allows for up to 2 artists and the label plan allows for up to 5 artists.
If you need to release more than 5 different artists, you’ll be charged more on a scale depending on your needs.
With TuneCore, you’re able to distribute an unlimited number of different artists (or an unlimited number of artist names, if you make different types of music), since you’re paying PER release, instead of a subscription fee.
Why DistroKid Isn’t REALLY Cheaper than TuneCore.
It’s also important to note that while Distrokid seems cheap up-front, once you start to add extras (which all cost extra, too) it can start to get kind of pricey. This is stuff like having your music added to new stores as they open up, or having your music recognizable by Siri or Shazam, or even YouTube’s content ID.
For example, to get all the Distrokid addons your first release would cost $84.86 on the regular “Musician” plan, and each additional single would cost $64.87 while each additional album you release (10 tracks) would cost $112.78.
Got a cover song? That’s another $12. Oh and they also take 20% of your YouTube ad revenue if you get the YouTube Content ID addon.
Now that doesn’t mean TuneCore doesn’t have addons – their “TuneCore Social” service is a $10.99 fee per month. And if you want to take advantage of YouTube and Publishing services, they cost $12 and $99 as a ONE-TIME fee, not for every release.
What’s more is that TuneCore allows you to bulk up on distribution credits for a discount of up to 15%. However, the credits can only be used for NEW releases, not renewals of your previous releases.
Let’s talk more about the basic service and these addons both companies offer.
Service Differences between DistroKid and TuneCore
The main service of both companies is basically the same – they’ll get your music on all the major music streaming and sale platforms on the internet (150+ platforms). They also both offer analytics/tracking for your sales, etc. Finally, the upload process and options available to you are basically the same for both companies.
The differences in service come into focus, however, when you look beyond the “bread-and-butter” functionality.
Flat out, TuneCore has MUCH better customer service and support than DistroKid. They’re a decade older than DistroKid and have so many more offices/employees, so when you have an issue or need questions answered, you can easily get ahold of someone and get things resolved.
TuneCore’s Artist Support Team works 7 days a week. They take this shit seriously and reply within 1 business day. They also answer DM’s on social, and even have phone support if needed.
DistroKid’s support is… less optimal. Sure you can reach out (if you can find their contact method buried in their FAQ), but it’s not the best experience. Response times are slow and not always super helpful (but that’s just speaking from personal experience).
TuneCore also has a more helpful blog for aspiring artists and also offers partner discounts on products/services that musicians may find helpful (like product manufacturing, for example).
Added Value Services
Distrokid has some cool additional features they claim, like instantly getting you a “blue check” on Spotify, letting you upload your lyrics to certain platforms and they backup your music in case you lose your master recordings.
But in my opinion, those are kind of “meh” bells and whistles that don’t really mean much but sound cool.
DistroKid really is just a budget “get your music on streaming sites and music stores” without a lot else. That’s not a knock – they’re still a great company.
But TuneCore is a bit “above and beyond” when it comes to the value added services.
For example, if you take advantage of their Music Publishing Admin add-on, your music is automatically considered TV/Film/Ad/Game sync opportunities they come across.
What’s more is that they also try and bring on new opportunities for their artists too – like their new Rewards program which lets artists unlock VIP masterclass sessions to help grow their career, get discounts and more.
To me, those opportunities are much better value than what DistroKid is offering.
There are also some differences in the add-on services offered by both companies.
We touched briefly on the “addons” Distrokid offers earlier in this post, so let’s flesh that out first.
DistroKid offers the following paid addons for your releases:
- Shazam & Siri Recognition – for $0.99/song/year you can have your song “Shazam-able” or recognizable by Siri on iOS devices.
- Store Maximizer – for $7.95/album/year you can ensure your music will be added to any NEW platforms that emerge
- YouTube Content ID – for $4.95/single or $14.95/album PER YEAR (and an additional 20% cut of any ad revenue) you can ensure you get the credit if any of your music is used in a YouTube video
- Cover Song Licensing – for $12/single/year you can easily license any existing song covers you want to release.
- Tidal Master/MQA – for $8.99/single or $17.99/album, you can make sure an audiophile-quality master recording is uploaded to Tidal
- Leave a Legacy – for $29/single or $49/album you can ensure that even if you don’t renew your DistroKid membership, your music will remain on all the platforms.
- Social Phone – for $12.99/month you can use DistroKid’s platform for Text Message Marketing to your fanbase.
Tunecore also has some paid addons artists may find useful:
- Music Publishing Administration – $99.00 ONE TIME fee and TuneCore will make sure you get paid your publishing anytime your music is used/played, even if you don’t know about it.
- YouTube Ad Revenue – $12.00 ONE TIME setup fee and similar to DistroKid’s Content ID Service (TuneCore will also take a 20% cut of any ad revenue from YouTube)
- TuneCore Social – FREE or $10.99 PER MONTH (pro version) gets you access to TuneCore’s own social media management tool where you can edit photos, post to all your socials from one place, use special filters/text/stickers, and get deep insights/analytics on how well you’re marketing your music (including historical reports).
All in all, both companies have some pretty useful addons that serious artists will want to take advantage of. Tunecore beats Distrokid by a little bit – their social tool is better, and they handle publishing administration for artists.
And some of the stuff you need to “add-on” with DistroKid, is already included with your TuneCore release.
Payouts to Artists
This is where things get REALLY interesting.
Both companies pay out all of the royalties and sales they collect to the artists – you get 100% of what they collect.
But that’s not the full story here.
TuneCore, thanks to their dominance in the industry, is able to negotiate directly with music platforms. Most other distribution companies can’t do that. What that means for you as an artist is that you get 100% OF WHAT THE STORE PAYS OUT.
Since companies like DistroKid aren’t able to work directly with stores, they work with middlemen (in DistroKid’s case, they work with a company called Merlin to collect payouts). Unfortunately middlemen take a cut before it gets to DistroKid.
So yes, DistroKid pays out 100% of the money they receive from Merlin – but they don’t receive 100% of what the stores pay out.
So in essence, TuneCore’s payouts to artists are better. In fact, in their history, they’ve paid out over $2,000,000,000.00 to artists. (Yup, that’s 2 BILLION dollars).
Bottom Line – Who to Go With
I think it’s safe to say we’re BIG fans of TuneCore for all the reasons above.
I have personally used DistroKid to release music in the past and it was fine, but I am planning on sticking with TuneCore for future releases.
From their customer support, to their higher payouts to artists and the more valuable extras that come with the service – they’re just the better option. And that’s why they’re our #1 recommended service when it comes to independent music distribution services.
Again, DistroKid is a great company that offers a good service. But TuneCore beats them in the areas that matter to us.
If you’re releasing your music soon, go with TuneCore.
Oh, by the way, we’ve partnered with TuneCore to give you a 20% discount on your first release! So take advantage and get your music out there into the world today!