FTC Disclosure: Deviant Noise Inc. may receive commission on products and services purchased through links on this page.
Last Updated: June 2020
A lot of new artists wonder how to get music on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Tidal, Amazon and all the other major online music platforms.
So in this post we’re going to explain what music distribution in the digital age is and go step-by-step through releasing a new song/album online
Does Spotify upload music for you?
The answer is NO – you need to work with a record label or “music distributor” to add music to Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music.
Table of Contents:
- The Best Music Distribution Companies
- How to Upload Music to Spotify: Step By Step
- How Much Does it Cost to Get Music on Spotify
- How Long Does it Take to Upload Music to Spotify
- Where Will Your Music Be Once Distributed
- Important Next Steps: Music Promotion
- A Little History: Old Music Distribution Priorities
Getting Your Music on Streaming Sites
The very first thing you need to worry about is making sure your music is GOOD ENOUGH to be out in the world.
Make sure you know how to sing, how to rap or how to make beats that are FIRE before putting it out there. And if you play an instrument, brush up on how to play guitar or how to play piano before you record your music.
If you’re SURE your music is good enough to be out there in the world to be judged by complete strangers, you need to get it to where everyone’s listening.
Unless you’re signed to a label, you have to work with an artist aggregator or distributor to get your music placed on these various services.
You’ve got a few options, but they all charge a basic fee.
The Best Music Distribution Companies Online:
Here’s our take on the best places to get your music distributed to all the music stores and streaming platforms out there.
- TuneCore - our recommended service
- DistroKid - our runner up
- CDBaby - the original independent distributor/aggregator
There are a couple others, but the above 3 are the best
You basically pay a fee, upload your song/album and enter all the applicable information (release date, artists/features, title, cover art, etc).
A couple weeks later, you can access your music on all the different streaming platforms.
All of the sites work the same way and distribute to the same platforms, but TuneCore and DistroKid are the most often used.
What to Choose: TuneCore vs. DistroKid vs. CDBaby
TuneCore is our preferred option because it’s a great brand and has been in the game a LONG time.
One of the world’s biggest artists – Russ – used their music distribution service to help him take his career into his own hands and become a massive success.
You get to keep 100% of your sales revenue, and they are not subscription based – you pay one-time per “distribution” you do.
They’ll also help you distribute your physical music products (i.e. CD’s) through Amazon.
They offer a lot of additional services like help with social media, publishing and much more.
Finally, we partnered with TuneCore to offer you 20% off your first distribution!
We also love DistroKid – they give you UNLIMITED distribution, for a year under a subscription model. That means you have to pay every year, but can release a new song every week while you’re subscribed.
Unfortunately, they don’t offer physical distribution/fulfillment (selling CD’s via Amazon) like TuneCore does.
However, DistroKid did implement a feature that’s pretty dope that other distributors don’t do. They can help you get your music onto Instagram and Apple Music with timed lyrics that scroll along with your song – karaoke style.
The new feature’s called “Synced Lyrics.”
If you don’t want to use TuneCore, we highly recommend DistroKid as the best alternative.
CDBaby is a good choice, but we don’t think it’s AS GOOD as the other two. They also sell your music in their online store and will make your physical CDs (if you had any pressed/created yourself) available to all the major record stores (which don’t even exist anymore…so…yea…).
With TuneCore, you get peace of mind and full distribution of your music to Spotify, Amazon and much more.
What About “Spotify for Artists?”
Spotify also released a feature called “Spotify for Artists” that you should definitely sign up for. It used to let you easily upload songs to Spotify and manage your artist profile.
Unfortunately, they recently announced that they’ll be closing the upload side of the service. You can still use it to manage your artist profile, however.
And if you use TuneCore they’ll help you automatically claim your profile when you release your first track.
It’s well worth it to be able to manage your presence on the largest streaming platform in the world. You also get great analytics and stats about your music’s performance online.
BUT, don’t rely on it to get your music on streaming services.
If you upload music via “Spotify for Artists” it only goes on Spotify and does not land on iTunes, Amazon, Tidal, Deezer, etc. If you want your music to be everywhere (which it absolutely MUST be) then you need to use a music distribution company like TuneCore.
How to Get Music on Spotify – Step-by-Step
This is a pretty straight forward process:
- Sign-up for TuneCore (20% off) or Sign-up for DistroKid (7% off)
- Choose what type of release you're distributing (single or album)
- Enter artist and release information
- Upload your music file(s), artwork and enter song details
- Choose the platforms you want your music on (choose ALL of them)
- Choose a Release Date
- Confirm all the info and finish the submission
You’ll also eventually need to enter in your payment information for how you want to be paid out for sales you make (iTunes digital downloads, etc).
Getting Your Music Ready
The first thing you need to remember is your music should be properly MIXED and MASTERED.
When you get your mastering done, make sure the engineer sends you audio files that are mastered for STREAMING (not for vinyl, CD, etc).
It’s always better to upload your music as a high quality (44.1khz, 16-bit) WAV audio file if you can.
Do NOT Use MP3s! USE WAV FILES! MP3s suck.
And triple check the information you enter into DistroKid, TuneCore or CD Baby before hitting that last “submit” button.
How to Use TuneCore – Step By Step Walkthrough
The process to distribute your music via TuneCore is SUPER SIMPLE.
Step 1: Create a Free Account
First off you have to create a free account entering in your basic info (name, email, etc).
After you sign up, you’ll have to verify your account.
They’ll send you a confirmation email. So next go to your inbox, and find the email from TuneCore. If you don’t see the email, check your spam folder or “promotions” tab if you’re using Gmail.
Step 2: Begin Your New Release
Once you click the link in the email, you’ll get to a page like below:
If you have more than one song to release choose “Album” and if you only have a single song to release choose “Single.”
After that you’ll see a screen where you have to enter in all your information about the track.
In the example below we use a single.
First, just enter the details of your music – song title, artists, genre, and language. And choose if there are explicit lyrics or not.
Then if you scroll down, you can enter additional details if you’ve already released this song before.
If you don’t know what any of that info is, don’t worry about it. It’s mostly optional info anyways.
Step 3: Upload Track Artwork
After you hit the “Create My Single” button you’ll be taken to a new page as shown below, where you can upload the track’s artwork.
Press the “Upload or Create Artwork” button on the top left, and you’ll see a page like this one:
Take a quick look at the requirements to make sure your artwork is compatible with TuneCore.
Then hit the blue “Upload Artwork File” button to choose a file from your computer.
If you don’t have artwork that fits the requirements you can scroll down and have compatible artwork created for you.
Otherwise, after upload you’ll see this:
Just hit “Save And Continue” and you’re almost ready to finalize your release.
Step 4: Upload Your Music File (WAV Only!)
Next, we’ll upload our audio file.
Your file MUST be a 16 bit 44.1 khz WAV file, so make sure it’s correct before trying to upload.
Just scroll down a bit and click the “Upload” button in the “SONG” section.
Choose your audio file from your computer and you’re good to go!
One of the cool things about using TuneCore is you can setup your release before your master audio files are even ready. That way you save yourself some time while waiting for your engineer to get back to you.
Check out the right hand side of the above picture. You’ll notice it allows you to pre-buy a release credit for future use.
Step 5: Enter Songwriter Information
Next, enter the songwriter and artist information below the “track upload” area.
It’s important to enter proper full names in the songwriter section of the people who actually wrote the song! (Sometimes this is different than the people who record/perform the song).
After that scroll down a bit to see more options available to you.
Step 6: Choose Stores and Additional Options
Here you can choose which online stores can carry your music. There’s no real reason to customize this, so just leave it at ALL STORES.
It’s also a good idea to add the “Store Automator” feature because any new stores that get started will get your music automatically without you having to re-submit to them in the future.
If you’re trying to sell physical CDs as well (lol) you can do so by choosing the “Amazon On Demand” feature.
If you want to let fans “pre-order” before the release, you can set that up there too.
After that, scroll up a bit and hit the SAVE button on the track information
Step 7: Finalize Your Release
We’re almost done! Once you’ve saved your info you’ll be asked to choose a subscription type.
I usually go for the 1 year in most cases, but if you want to save a bit over time, you can go with a multi-year subscription.
Once you hit the “Add to Cart” button you’re taken to a page with all the items you’re purchasing for this particular release:
Scroll down and hit the “Proceed to Checkout” orange button and you’ll be able to enter your payment information.
You’re able to pay with either PayPal or Credit Card.
Once you’ve paid you’re taken to a confirmation page with the release information and you’ll be emailed a receipt.
And that’s basically all you’ve got to do!
Your single or album will be released to all stores you chose on the date you set.
Congrats! Your music is out there for the world to find.
How to Use DistroKid – Step-By-Step Walkthrough
Here’s an in-depth guide on how to use DistroKid to release your music. (Click Here to Get 7% Off Your Membership)
Step 1: Create Your Account
The first thing you need to do is create an account with your email address:
Step 2: Choose Your Membership Type & Pay
Most people will be OK with the Musician package for $19.99 per year. It lets you distribute as much music as you want for that year under a single artist name.
But we recommend choosing at least the Musician Plus option. It gives you some additional customization and reporting/analytics. But it’s not 100% necessary.
Just click whichever option suits you best:
This service will make you enter your payment information and subscribe to the service before you’re able to start a new music release.
So on the next page, enter your credit card information and pay for the yearly membership. Unfortunately they don’t offer PayPal or anything else as an option, so you’ll need access to a credit card. If you don’t have one, you can buy a Visa or Mastercard gift card and it should work.
Step 3: Click, Click, Click again… And Enter Contact Information…
After you hit that join button, your credit card will be charged and you’re greeted with this screen:
And then when you hit “Start Now” you’ll get the following screen. Notice the tiny link that you’re supposed to click:
And then you’ll be told before you can start a release you have to enter your contact information…
And then when you hit that “Add Contact Information” button (yes, that’s a lot of f$^kin clicks to get to where you’re going…) you’ll be asked to enter all your relevant contact details.
This is all the basic information that they ask for:
- Phone Number
- Business Name
- Postal Code
Also don’t forget to read (lol) the DistroKid Distribution Agreement.
This is a legally binding agreement so make sure you know what’s up with it.
No one likes reading terms of service and contract-law English that’s 1000 pages long, but it’s probably a good idea to do.
Then just click that little checkbox below it to state that you’ve read and agree to all the terms contained in the text above.
Enter your DistroKid account password at the end and then hit the “Continue” button
Step 4: Start a New Release
Next, you’ll begin a new release. A release is any single piece or collection of music you intend to distribute to all the different digital music stores and online streaming services around the globe.
There’s a ton of sites to upload to, and we suggest choosing all of them. Remember, even though Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal are the biggest streamers, you want your music to be on every site possible. Don’t make it more difficult for a random person to access your music.
Then choose how many songs you want to release on this project. You can choose to release a single (1 song) or up to 35 songs together as an album/collection/playlist.
Next, select whether or not this music has already been released elsewhere. If you choose “Yes” another are pops down asking for the original release date. This would then make this submission a “re-release.”
This is usually best for stuff that’s been out (ex/ old music for the past) but isn’t on the streaming sites yet. But maybe if you already put it out on SoundCloud you can also consider it a re-release. Not a big deal, it’s totally up to you.
Step 5: Enter Artist Name and Release Date
First enter your artist or band name (not your real name, unless that IS your artist/band name). Make sure you capitalize the first letter of each word/name. Don’t use ALL CAPS or all lower case letters. AnD DoNT uSe WEirD AsS SpONgE BOb CaPItaLizAtIon. It will get rejected from all the stores/sites.
Important Note: The Artist/Band Name section is ONLY for the MAIN artist. This is NOT for any featured artists or producer names. That comes later…
Next, you can choose your release date (it can be the same day or in the future) and time.
DistroKid recommends that you set your release date to at least 7 days in the future, because it increases the chances that you’ll be added to major streaming playlists. And music discovery in 2019 really is all about playlists, so it’s a good practice to follow.
But beyond that, 7 days is cutting it close, and you may not be able to access your song everywhere by that release date. You should try to give yourself a 4 week window before your release date. That will ensure that on your release date your song/album WILL be available on EVERY store.
You can also choose if you want to allow people to pre-order the song on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon. Totally up to you. We like making shit easy for people, so we’d say “yes” allow pre-orders from the very same day we setup the distribution.
(But at the same time,we don’t ever expect ANYONE to actually buy a song… it’s not 2005 anymore…)
For the release time, we recommend choosing the second option – make the song available to everyone, everywhere in the world at the same time. Make it easy.
DistroKid’s system will automatically check to see if there is another artist/band in Spotify or iTunes with your same name.
If this is the first time you’ve ever released music under this name (and there’s no one else with the same artist/band name) the screen will look like the above screenshot.
If you already have music in Spotify or Apple Music/iTunes or there’s already someone else out there in the world that has the exact same artist/band name as you, the screen will look like the pic on the left.
If the artist that gets found is really you, then choose “That’s Me!” or “Yes – group this release with my other [NAME] releases” for both.
If there’s some other artist/band that’s using your name make sure you choose “I’m a different [NAME]” or “No – this will be my first [NAME] release.”
If you mess this up you’re going to have a huge headache (and potential legal issues) in the future.
So make sure you’re picking the right option so everything shows up correctly on the streaming sites.
Step 6: Add Artwork and Genre Info
The next field is “Record Label” if you’re on the Musician Plus package. If you’re not on a label or don’t have a label, you can just make up a name.
Next up, you want to upload the song or album artwork. Make sure you’re uploading something that looks good. If you need to hire someone for a photoshoot or an artist to draw something it’s well worth it.
We live in a visual culture. The look is just as important as the sound.
The image file you use should:
- be 3000x3000px
- be a JPG file
- be original artwork (not already used before + you own the rights to use it)
- NOT CONTAIN a website address, social media account names, spotify/apple/amazon/etc logo
- NOT BE blurry (don’t resize a smaller image, pixelated images get rejected)
After you’ve uploaded the artwork choose the genre of the song/album. You don’t need to enter a secondary genre, but it may help with fans discovering you if you do.
Step 7: Enter Song Details and Upload Song(s)
Now we need to enter the details about the music we’re uploading and actually upload the audio files.
We always recommend uploading high quality (44.1khz 16-bit) WAV files to make sure that the audio quality is as high as possible. Also you want to make sure your music is fully mixed and mastered properly. Don’t upload some amateur, distorted or shitty sounding audio.
First enter the name of the song(s) – and note that THIS is where you’d enter any featured artists names. See the screenshot below:
A featured artist should be entered in brackets like this: “SONG NAME (feat. [feature artist name])”
If you have 2 features, use the “&” symbol. If you have 3 or more, use a comma to separate the names and an “&” before the LAST featured artist name.
If you’re uploading a cover version of another song, DO NOT enter the original artists name here. That’s not allowed. As far as capitalization, it’s the same rules as for the Artist Name section above. Also, you can’t enter any producer names here either.
Then choose the file(s) (make it high quality WAV if possible) you’ll be uploading. If you already have an ISRC code click the little link on the right side and enter it.
If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry about it.
After this you’ll enter song details – songwriters, explicit lyrics, etc. If you’re on the Musician Plus plan you also get to choose the price you sell digital downloads for. So if you want to charge more than $0.99 per download (good luck…) you can.
For the songwriter choose “Another artist wrote it” if the song is a cover version (you’ll enter the original artist’s name in a section that pops up if you choose that button).
If it’s your original work, make sure you’re entering EVERYONE who has rights to the song. If you buy beats online or work with music producers or additional songwriters, you need to enter their name and role in the songwriting process here.
Then, choose if you have explicit lyrics (swears) in the song and whether the song you’re uploading is an instrumental (no lyrics/words) or a “radio edit” and move to the next step.
Step 8: Choose Extras and Submit
OK.. We’re almost done. The next step is to choose additional distribution options (these cost extra money) and agree to all the terms of DistroKid.
Here’s what it looks like:
And here’s a quick breakdown of the extras:
- Instagram and Facebook Music
- Cost: Free
- DEFINITELY select this one. It’s free and gets your music on the biggest social networks in the world. Why wouldn’t you?
- Store Maximizer
- Cost: $7.95/year
- DistroKid is always adding new stores/platforms they work with. So if you choose this it’ll add this release to them as they get added.
- Shazam & iPhone Siri
- Cost: $0.99/year
- Shazam and Siri can be used to tell listeners the name and artist of a song they don’t know but are currently listening to (think of malls, restaurants, coffee shops, radio, etc).
- This is WORTH IT. Check this option at the very least because it increases the chances new fans will discover your music.
- Leave a Legacy
- Cost: $29.00 (one time fee)
- So, if you don’t choose this option you’ll need to make sure you’re renewing your DistroKid membership every single year to make sure your music always stays on the different streaming and music purchase platforms.
- This one’s up to you – it’s not necessary but it’s always nice not to have to worry about your music being deleted from Spotify because your credit card expired…
If you choose to get ALL the extra options (a good idea, in our opinion) it will cost you $37.90 at the time of purchase and another $8.94 every single year that you want these options for this music release.
After you’ve chosen your extras (make sure you AT LEAST choose the Instagram/Facebook option), check the 4 check-boxes at the bottom (you’re agreeing to a bunch of terms and conditions so you should read all that shit).
Finally hit the “DONE” button, and there you go. Your release will be put onto all the various music streaming and music purchase services on the internet!
If you scroll down a bit you’ll see a link to a page that gives you details and status of the release. You can also see how the royalty/payment splits are setup, add lyrics, add extra distribution features and more
You also get a “pre-release” link you can share with your fanbase, family and friends that lets them know about the upcoming releaase:
If this is your first release, you’re probably pretty stoked right now. Congratulations! That’s really f$#kin dope. It’s a crazy feeling seeing your name and music on places like Spotify and Apple Music.
Next up, we’ll talk about how to upload to Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music via TuneCore and CDBaby.
How Does CD Baby Work?
Now let’s talk briefly about how to get on spotify with CDBaby.
It’s a similar process to the other platforms. You just sign up for an account and once you’re in the dashboard you click “Add a Title”
The screenshots below might not be exactly how the site looks today.
We haven’t used CDBaby for a few years.
Next, just choose whether you’re distributing a single or an album/mixtape/ep.
After this CD Baby will ask you if you want to do a free distribution (on the CDBaby store only), a regular distribution (all music platforms) or a pro distribution (regular distribution + royalty collection).
If you want to make things easy on yourself, I’d say go with the Pro option. In our Artist Series blog post next week we’ll talk a little more about making sure your royalties are being paid to you properly.
Either way once you make your choice you’ll be asked to enter in all the same info Tune Core asks.
If you don’t already have a bar code (and you probably won’t) CD Baby gives you the option to buy one. You’ll need one so get it.
How Much Does DistroKid, TuneCore and CDBaby Cost
DistroKid has 3 different membership levels ranging from $19.99/year up to $79.99/year – the higher up membership levels are mostly meant for people that need to release music for multiple (more than one) artist. If you’re running an independent label choose the $79.99 “Label” membership, otherwise one of the others will do.
All DistroKid memberships allow you to release AS MUCH MUSIC as you want for the entire year. It’s definitely the best option.
Also remember, there are additional options you can choose for your releases on DistroKid that cost money as well.
Distributing an album on TuneCore will run you $29.99 for the first year and $49.99 for each year after that. A single is $9.99 per year, flat.
CD Baby’s pricing is a bit different. They have both “Standard” and “Pro” distribution options. Standard means you get your music everywhere. With Pro they’ll also collect and pay royalties for you (make sure you’re also a member of a Performance Rights Organization like ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN).
A Standard single will cost $9.99 per song and a Pro single costs $34.95 per song (one time fees). A Standard Album costs $49 and a Pro album is $89 (introductory price only).
How Long Does DistroKid, TuneCore and CDBaby Take to Upload Your Music to Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and Other Places
Once you finish filling in all the information you’ll be asked to upload audio/image files and make payment. It usually takes some time (a day or so) for the Aggregator staff to review your submission.
After that there are different wait times before you’ll actually appear on all the different platforms.
- iTunes: Though the time it takes for music to go live on iTunes can vary, releases typically go live within 24-48 hours
- Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadio: 3-7 business days
- Amazon On Demand: 6-8 weeks
- Google Play: 1-2 weeks
- Spotify: 5 business days
- All other stores take 1-3 weeks
Where Will Your Music Be?
All the companies will distribute your music to all the major platforms. The only edge CD Baby has over Tune Core is the physical copy distribution to music retailers and their own online music store.
DistroKid also has a few additional smaller stores it works with, and is always adding new ones.
But all of them will get your music on:
- iTunes and Apple Music
- Amazon Music
- Google Play
- YouTube Music
- many other platforms
This way your music is available for potential new fans almost anywhere they decide to discover new music.
IMPORTANT NEXT STEPS: Music Promotion
You ain’t done yet. You may get songs on all those different pro platforms now that you know how to add music to spotify, but there’s one problem…
Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come (fuck that’s an old reference…)
The point is, after you upload to Spotify you still need to actively promote your music to new fans and get new listeners from other online platforms.
We’ll talk more about effective ways to promote your music in upcoming Tuesday Artist Series blog posts.
But for our purposes here (getting on all the major music discovery/streaming platforms) I want to mention one thing.
Don’t neglect putting your music up MANUALLY everywhere you can think of.
Get Your Music Everywhere Else + Find New Fans
Upload music videos (or picture videos) of your songs to YouTube manually. Upload MP3s to places like SoundCloud, BandCamp, SoundClick and anywhere else you can think of where people find new music.
Then you need to start interacting with different communities online. There are tons of forums, Facebook groups and other online spots where people talk about and share new music.
BUT DON’T FUCKIN SPAM YOUR SHIT!
Interact with the community. Engage with the people. Be helpful. And then share your stuff.
Here’s another quick tip: download the smartphone app TikTok (formerly Musical.ly) – it’s mostly younger people making lip-sync videos and sharing online, but it can help you too. It’s a pretty popular app and you can make your own videos with your songs in the background to try and get some new listeners.
The point is, just because you learned how to put your music on spotify, doesn’t mean anyone will listen. You still gotta grind it out and build up a fanbase.
But at least now, when a fan you gain manually starts telling their friends about you, your music will be easily findable everywhere online.
Old Music Distribution Priorities
If you’re a new or independent music act – rapper, singer, band without a major record label deal (and even if you’re trying to get a label deal) – there’s one thing you can bet on: your music has to be everywhere.
And with how the music world works today that means being on all the different online streaming platforms. It’s all about streaming.
No one wants your CD… (mostly because… how the hell are you even gonna play a CD today??)
In the past (pre-2010), proper music distribution meant getting your music on iTunes, Amazon music and the last remaining music stores out there, while praying someone actually PURCHASED your physical CD or digital downloads.
Streaming existed back then, but no one cared about how to put music on Spotify.
We all know how that turned out – when’s the last time you actually BOUGHT music you liked?
Recorded music sales have been dying for almost 20 years. No one wants to buy music anymore. Maybe the die-hard fans who will buy everything you put out, but how many of those you got?
Like Gary Vee preaches, focus on where the attention is at.
And that’s music streaming platforms.
Don’t worry though, once you distribute your music properly (which we’ll show you exactly how to do) your music will still be available for purchase too (lol).
That’s all, y’all. We hope this post helps you get your music out there for everyone to hear!
Got any tips, comments, suggestions or questions about music distribution? Leave em in the comments.
If you liked this post, please share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else so other artists can learn how to upload a song to Spotify. It’s much appreciated!