A guide to digital music platforms

Given the limits of our resources, it was not possible to list all of the available digital music platforms, so this is NOT a complete and exhaustive list. And before you sign with any digital music platform, ALWAYS read the terms and conditions of your agreement with them, as per the info below.

Getting directly on iTunes
Profiles of major aggregators
•    ReverbNation
•    TuneCore
•    CD Baby
•    Indie Pool
Pricing comparison chart for major aggregators
Other platforms to consider
How does signing affect copyright and performance royalties?
Some final words

Most digital music stores don’t have the capacity to deal with individual artists directly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t participate. If you’re an artist who is self-releasing your music, you can use aggregator services like CD Baby, TuneCore, Indie Pool or Reverb Nation to get your music into a vast array of digital music stores/services.

Getting directly on iTunes

If you meet all requirements (firstly you must own at least 20 albums in your catalog) you can sign up to sell your music by working directly with Apple. However, if you don’t meet the requirements, it may be best to work with an aggregator. Here’s a snapshot of what they offer.


In addition to digital distribution and aggregation services, ReverbNation offers robust social networking integration, profile pages, widgets, mailing list management and much more. For more information: www.reverbnation.com

Digital distribution services offering
•    $34.95 (essentials) to $59.95/year (pro), up to 40+  digital retailers
•    Reporting sales to Nielsen SoundScan
•    You maintain all the rights over your music, and keep 100% of the sales and
•    Weekly Trending Reports to track sales
•    Monthly payments/ earnings are available 60 days after the end of the month in which
     the sale/stream is reported
•    Pro Plan Bundle – $19.95/month for two releases a year (LP, EP or single),
                - Custom Android Fan App
                - Reverb Press Kits
                - Pro Widgets
                - 50+ FanReach e-mail newsletter templates with up to 10,000 contacts
                - Mega Song Storage – 100 MB max upload size & unlimited song uploads &
•    Max Plan Bundle – $500/year for four new releases a year, includes:
                - On The Go account management from your mobile
                - Free customizable music widgets
                - Fan collector to manage all fan emails from various sources
                - Create your own custom banners
                - Social Sync to update all your social networks at once
                - Promote It delivers targeted ads for your band in sites like YouTube,
                  Facebook, Pandora, MTV, and dozens more.

Other services offered
ReverbNation offers many other “à la carte” products such as Reverb PressKits, personal mobile apps, Social Shout submission process, Site Builder and Mega Song Storage. ReverbNation's Premium Song Licensing Program helps you get your music into film, TV, and games. ReverbStore offers an inventory free merchandise system that is integrated to your Facebook page, e-mails and widgets.

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TuneCore principally offers musicians and other rights holders the opportunity to place their music into online retailers and streaming sites while taking no rights and no revenue from the sale of artists' music. When you sign up with TuneCore, they automatically become your publisher. For more information: www.tunecore.com

Digital distribution services offering
•    One-time setup fee for submitting music $29.99  per album, $9.99 per single
•    Annual maintenance/renewal fee of $49.99 per album, $9.99 per single
•    From 24 hours to four weeks to get music in various digital download stores
•    Free monthly Sales Reports detailing how many downloads your songs received
•    Opt-in at extra charge for weekly Trend Reports which more details on downloads
•    Deposit earnings in PayPal account for free (3-4 business days) , but charge of
     $2.75 for direct deposit and $3 for mailing a check (7-10 business days)
•    Charge of 99 cents for every store you choose to distribute your music to
•    Free barcode for your album or single
•    Ability to get accounting and payments on a monthly basis
•    Up to 25 free streaming music players (widgets) with your music for your own
     plus Facebook, My Space and iTunes store link on your artist page
•    Team of full-time, specially trained Artist Support Reps and weekly newsletter
•    Ringtone distribution also available at $19.99 per year

Other services offered
TuneCore’s publishing service offers to register songwriters’ works around the world and collect any money owed, for a one-time $75 fee and a 10 percent cut of recovered royalties. In addition to distribution services, TuneCore clients have access to special deals, promotions, advertising opportunities, live shows and more. In addition to their deal with Universal Music, which allows clients to distribute their music through Universal via TuneCore, the sales history they build up at TuneCore gives them leverage when it comes to attracting label attention.

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For a small fee per album, CD Baby offers an impressive array of sales and distribution opportunities to download and streaming services. Fore more information: members.cdbaby.com

Digital distribution services offering
•    One time $49 submission fee per album for all digital stores and services
•    One time $12.95 submission fee per single for all digital stores and services
•    CD Baby pays you 91% of your net digital distribution revenue
•    CD Baby pays you 91% of your MP3 sales
•    Via the CD Baby Widget, sell MP3’s on your Facebook Page and your website
•    Sell MP3’s directly from CD Baby’s website
•    Mail order distribution of your CDs and vinyl records via CD Baby’s website
•    CD Manufacturing via Discmakers (CD Baby’s parent company)
•    Web hosting via Host Baby
•    You set the selling price for physical media sold on CDBaby.com and through
     CD Baby’s physical distribution program; CD Baby
      keeps $4 per unit sold
•    Set a pay point ($10 minimum) above which you will be paid the following
•    FAQ info, member forums
•    Offer Download Cards to fans
•    UPC Bar Code purchase for your releases
•    Music Promotion Tools and Digital Musician Guides
•    Free SoundCloud integration
•    Partnerships with Sonic Bids.

Other services offered
HostBaby provides tools and to create a professional website. CD Baby has partnered with Rumblefish, a pioneer in the world of music licensing, to make your songs available for sync licensing. With the MicroSync or All Media sync options, you can make your music available in YouTube's growing catalog of licensable music and you'll be able to license your music. A cover song licensing service is available via Limelight/Rightflow (i.e. acquiring mechanical licences). CD Baby has recently introduced a publishing service, but it’s currently only available to U.S.-based members.

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Indie Pool is Canada's largest provider of independent music solutions. With more than 100,000 Canadian songs, Indie Pool is Canada’s largest supplier to iTunes and Canada’s No. 1 CD manufacturing broker for independent artists. For more information: www.indiepool.com

Digital distribution services offering
•    One-time setup fee for submitting music is $49  per album
•    Online portal to check sales and pay yourself
•    Indie Pool allows you to buy only as many CDs as you need
•    SMRT On-Demand with Distribution Package $249
•    Shopping cart for your website or other web portals
•    You set the wholesale price  for your album and Indie Pool marks your CD up $3
     while taking care of housing your CDs in their
•    Demand monitoring for your CD.  All orders shipped within 24 hours, track, restock
     and authorize returns (when necessary)
•    Mobile payment app
•    Give the toll-free number to your fans and Indie Pool will process your phone orders
•    Free barcode registered with SoundScan
•    Retail database cataloguing to HMV and data setup to Gracenote & All Music Guide
•    1-888-88-INDIE and team of four artist reps.

Other services offered
Indie Pool offers simple, effective, affordable, e-mail-based copyright evidencing for $1.95.  Artists email a private address, which prompts our servers to time-stamp, mirror, back up, store and create a printable certificate. Music licensing - 15 years, 20, 000 bands, more than 200,000 songs – Indie Pool is Canada’s fastest growing sync licensor to film & TV. Indie Pool can also help in delivering your music to radio stations than through DMDS (Digital Music Delivery Service).

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Bandcamp is a platform for artists and labels to sell their music and merchandise directly to fans. Artists choosing Bandcamp will get a customizable microsite with the albums they upload and unlimited storage. Bandcamp has every stat you can imagine, including sales, streaming time, and details on when people stop listening to a track. It offers a way to sell music in a range of audio formats, set your own prices, track real-time stats, collect fan e-mails and more. Bandcamp collects a revenue share of 15% on digital on sales and 10% on merchandise.  The revenue share on digital drops from 15% to 10% as soon as you reach $5,000 USD in sales. Other notable features include: funds deposited directly into your PayPal account when fans make purchases, customizable shareable, embedded music players for the net and Facebook, and sales submitted to SoundScan (U.S., Canadian and international sales reports).

Bandzoogle is one of the most effective platforms for musicians to build their website and manage their direct-to-fan marketing and sales. This Canadian  start-up’s platform is one of the oldest web hosting tools, available for musicians since 2003, and were just named one of the 100 fastest-growing companies in Canada.. Bandzoogle sites are very easy to create, stylish, flexible and they come with some great built-in features. The service is free to try, and offers affordable monthly subscriptions plans, with great customer service.

DashGo works with independent artists, labels, and content owners to distribute content across a range of digital music stores, ad-supported services and social networks – including YouTube and iTunes – with integrated analytics tools for tracking results. Clients and partners include Weezer, Rock Mafia, Coconut Records, Delicious Vinyl, and Time Records.

Fandalism is an emerging social network for musicians, with more than 500,000 members. Fandalism is incredibly simple and straightforward. Musicians enter their basic information, such as location, preferred genres of music, and influences. They then share their work through photos, lyrics, and embedded YouTube videos and SoundCloud players. Fandalism offers a free song upload to iTunes, and unlimited uploads to iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play for $19.99 per year for members.

earBuzz is a tool for independent artists to sell high-quality music, and has been returning 100% of the CD and download purchase price back to artists since 2000. Member artists have the option, at an additional $39 per year, to have their album enrolled in the earBuzz Worldwide Ten Program, WWX. This program places an artists' entire CD on iTunes Worldwide, Amazon.com, Rhapsody, and the Top 10 music download sites in the industry.

The Google Play artist hub is where musicians can go to create a Google Play store page, set the price on their music and sell direct to users. Artists get 70% of revenue and Google gets 30%. You can reach millions of music fans across Google and Android devices.

IDLA is a digital distributor that is owned by Canadian independent labels and distributors. The Independent Digital Licensing Agency provides labels and artists digital asset delivery to digital music services, royalty collection and administration through an organization whose financial interests are directly aligned with its independent artists and label members. Part of IDLA's service is to administer and collect royalties from digital services, and provide members with a consolidated monthly electronic statement all at the lowest rate anywhere (nine percent). IDLA will collect on behalf of its members royalties arising from the activities of MERLIN, the global independent rights collective, and advocate on behalf of IDLA members in the fair distribution of MERLIN proceeds.

Last.fm is a music recommendation service for music fans. For artists and labels, it’s a way to connect with Last.fm’s 40 million users. Listeners have already started a page for your music! Look up your artist name to claim your page. Register and you can upload your music to Last.fm.  Services to artists and labels include a unique player – targeted radio to your fans. The more you’re played the more you’re promoted. Unique stats – see your weekly listeners, graph your plays, track your charts, and see your fans’ activity. Also, there’s an Artist Royalty Program – you can choose to be paid directly (as an artist or label) for your streams.

MondoTunes provides the largest digital distribution in the world and reaches more than 750 retailers and mobile partners across 100 countries for an annual fee of $37.99 per album, no annual fee and no commission. MondoTunes offers free UPC and ISRC codes, and offer the ability to create your own music label, as well as live representative assistance.

Nimbit is a US company offering direct-to-fan sales, promotion, and career management solutions for independent artists and their teams through web-based services. The most popular aspect of the Nimbit Platform is their Mystore application that gives users a storefront to sell music and merchandise on Facebook and websites. You can also get discovered by selling music on iTunes and getting placement on Spotify and access to detailed analytics and sales reporting. Nimbit also offers CD and DVD manufacturing.

SoundCloud is the world’s leading social sound platform. Their widgets enable you to take tracks from SoundCloud and embed them on other websites. You can upload your originally-created material effortlessly to SoundCloud in a few clicks and then easily share to Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. However, songs are shared with no possibility of selling to your fans. SoundCloud allow fans to comment on your songs, which allows you to get personalized feedback on each section of your compositions.

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Most importantly, carefully read the full Terms of Use agreement to ensure that you understand the impact that the terms might have on the use of your music, and the legal relationships you might already have with other organizations. For example, some digital platforms may require that you “own all of the rights” in your musical works for sound recordings. Whether you are the owner of all of the rights will depend on any arrangements you have made with performing rights organizations or music publishers, including SOCAN, CMRRA, SODRAC and/or Re:Sound.

You should be aware of the potential conflicts between your arrangements with such organizations and the Terms of Use that any particular digital platform may be asking you to accept.  Also, be sure that you understand the full implications of any “waivers” you may be asked to give in order to use the digital platform or receive their services.  If in doubt, be sure to obtain the clarifications you need and seek independent legal advice.

Be aware that while they may be helping your indie/D.I.Y. record label sell, license, distribute and promote your recordings, some agreements may also be undermining your rights to be paid as a songwriter. and some others may be helping you.

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Tags & Discovery Engines
Use genre tags properly and honestly. Submit links to discovery engines so people can find your music by accident.

How to choose
Some of these services only focus on a limited service offering, while others offer an entire suite of services beyond digital distribution. Determine which services you want or need in order to make your music (songs and recordings) available, versus the costs of doing so.  Choose a pricing model that makes sense for your career. It’s a very dynamic, fast-changing sector and these digital platforms may at any time change their business practices, services and/or pricing structures. Be sure to do your research, talk with other musicians about their experiences, and read the music business blogs that report on these digital platforms.

Don’t forget the fine print
Be aware that many services are based outside of Canada and the copyright laws may differ from Canada in several significant ways. Always read the Terms of Service agreement of each company you may be considering for reference to waivers regarding public performance/communication and reproduction rights, as these waivers may not be agreeable to you and/or they may conflict with your SOCAN agreement.

Register your songs with SOCAN
When you’re ready to release your music into the marketplace, remember to register your works with SOCAN in a timely manner via your online account page, in order to be paid for the public performance and communication of your music. As well, refer to the Simplified Distribution Rules for info about earning royalties via SOCAN. For more info and questions, contact our Information Centre at 1-866-30-SOCAN or e-mail us at members@socan.ca.

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