Distribution in the music industry is currently in a beautiful state of flux. Only a decade or two ago, all musicians and artists would have to go the old-fashioned route in order to get their music out there. This meant getting a record deal, and having your music published to record or CD and hoping your contract actually allowed you to see some profit.
Now, that is all shifting. Most people are probably tired of hearing the phrase “with an increase in technology and social media,” but it’s true! The Internet has impacted arguably every facet of modern life. With websites like YouTube, artists in and outside the music industry can put their work out there for anyone to consume. We are now in a time where giant corporations with seemingly limitless wealth and access are no longer the be-all and end-all of anyone’s musical career.
One of the companies in the forefront of this revolution is DistroKid. Phillip Kaplan founded DistroKid in October 2013 in San Francisco, CA. DistroKid is an online digital music distributor. Simply, it provides a service that distributes music from independent artists and gets them into online stores like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, etc.
With a conventional recording contract from a major record label, artists give the rights to their music to the record label in exchange for royalty payments. Essentially, in exchange for access to recording studios and other resources, the artists agree to let the labels profit immensely off of their work. This exploitative model is notorious for cheating many artists out of well-deserved income. A poorly written contract can cause an artist to end up making next to nothing on an album or song, even if it does very well.
Third party distributors do exist, such as CD Baby, Ditto, and MondoTunes, but none of these are quite like DistroKid. When it first started, DistroKid was an addition to Phillip Kaplan’s original company Fandalism, a social network for musicians. Kaplan, Syracuse University School of Information Studies Alum, has founded several companies. Some of these include an ad-network, and a social-shopping startup. Although, DistroKid is certainly his most successful venture. Kaplan sentiments about creativity are clearly represented in DistroKid. On the subject he remarks, “Most musicians these days have over 100 songs just sitting there and it doesn’t make sense to choose which songs to upload to iTunes..And in a way your creativity is limited because there’s a cost associated with every song you record” (Forbes.com, 2013).
DistroKid has flipped the music distribution industry on its head. With this online service, members are charged just $19.99 a year, a fee that allows them to upload unlimited albums and songs for the year (Distrokid.com, 2016). Additionally, artists get to keep 100% of their royalties and receive a monthly income. DistroKid also offers different rates to suit different needs. Individual artists or bands can upload for the original 19.99/yr, or a dual artist/band plan for $35.99/yr, or a Label plan for 5 or more artists for $79.99/yr. This opens up a window for managerial opportunities in your own career or the careers of other artists and musicians. Distrokid has been regarded as a “million dollar record label for $20 ” (Performermag.com, 2013).
Just a few years after its establishment, DistroKid has already seen crazy results. This past January, it had its first certified platinum release, “Hit the Quan” by ILOVEMEMPHIS. The independent hip-hop group Jack & Jack have also found success using DistroKid as their distributor. In August of 2015, their album debuted at the top of the iTunes charts! The success of Jack & Jack is really representative of great changes happening in the music industry. They’ve experienced impressive achievements by staying true to their music and to their fans. Record labels often compromise this ability because artists are forced to conform to the requests of the labels. Jack & Jack gained a following through YouTube, Vine, and Twitter, and through DiscoKid, they can make their music the way the want it to be made.
Today, over 50,000 artists use DistroKid. Taking zero commission from its artists, its revenue relies solely on its flat-rate membership fee. Some other pros include a short 2-4 hour upload time to iTunes, proper licensing of cover songs, as well as a simple, user-friendly interface (Digitalmusicnews.com, 2014).
Major media companies and industry people would have us believe that the music industry is being threatened and we should fear the impending changes, but don’t be fooled. For the first time, artists are finally gaining agency over their work. Not every record label is bad, and some are responsible for the successes of many great people. However, change should be welcomed. The Internet allows us access to consume and produce more than ever before and there is plenty of room for everyone to be heard. There is an audience out there for any creation, and DistroKid is one of those companies helping to bridge the gap between creator and consumer.
Biggs, J. (2015, August 6). The DistroKid Music Distribution Service Has Launched An Indie Artist To The Top Of The Charts. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://techcrunch.com/2015/08/06/the-distrokid-music-distribution-service-has-launched-an-indie-artist-to-the-top-of-the-charts/
DistroKid. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2016, from https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/distrokid#/entity
Herstand, A. (2014, May 29). Want To Know Who The Best Digital Distribution Company Is? Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2014/05/29/digital-distribution-company-review/
James, M. S. (2013, October 23). A Million Dollar Record Label for $20 with DistroKid. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://performermag.com/music-business-2/licensing/a-million-dollar-record-label-for-20-with-distrokid/
Musicians: Use DistroKid to upload your music to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Google Play. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://distrokid.com/
Robehmed, N. (2013, July 3). New Service Lets Musicians Sell Through iTunes For Cheap. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2013/07/03/new-service-lets-musicians-sell-through-itunes-for-cheap/#4d9d527407dc
Salmon, R. (n.d.). Recording Contracts Explained. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr07/articles/contracts.htm