One of the most exciting moments for an artist is when you’ve just completed your new album. You’re thrilled with how it turned out (hopefully!), and you can’t wait for people to hear it. But… how do you do that? Let’s talk about how to distribute your own music.
I’m going to assume you’re not on a label where they’re taking care of this for you, otherwise you wouldn’t be interested in how to distribute your own music.
The good news is that this is an EXCELLENT time to be an artist when it comes to releasing your own music. It’s never been easier to get your music in all of the reputable digital music streaming services and stores.
There are a number of services which allow you to upload your music, song by song, putting in all of the relevant information, album art, etc. You can then choose which stores and services you want to upload to or skip.
Can You Upload Music to Spotify for Free?
Regarding music distribution, one of the most common questions I get is can you upload music to Spotify for free? People ask me about a variety of services, but I use Spotify as a catchall because they’re the biggest name in music streaming these days.
While Spotify in particular beta tested an option for uploading music directly to Spotify, they cancelled this experiment years ago for a few reasons.
They’re essentially the same reasons that you need to use a distributor today.
Namely, Spotify and other popular services like Apple Music get countless submissions each day. After a lot of trial and error, they’ve discovered that there are plenty of bad actors trying to submit to their services just trying to make a buck. This includes all the old loopholes like uploading silence or sounds which don’t even qualify as music.
Rather than dealing with these bad actors or just the artists themselves, they now defer to distribution services to act as the gatekeepers. These services enforce the standards which uploads must meet on behalf of the Spotify and Apple Musics of the world.
As such, you need to use a distribution service. Thankfully, they’re super affordable, easy to use, and even keep track of and pay out your owed royalties.
So let’s get into how to distribute your own music using one of these distributors.
How to Distribute Your Own Music
I’ve tried A LOT of services for uploading my music over the years. With that in mind, I’m going to highlight both Distrokid and Ditto Music, the only two services I can recommend and both of which I’ve used for the last decade.
As I mentioned, they get your music into every store/service you want when you want and track and payout any royalties you accrue from plays.
First, sign up with an account with either Distrokid or Ditto Music.
At the time of my writing this, both services offer their lowest tier for just over $20 (a year).
I continue to use both to this day and can vouch for my good experiences with both.
Either lowest tier/intro plan will allow you to upload unlimited music for one artist. Note that if you want to release music for multiple artists/under multiple names, they have higher tier plans for that.
Despite Ditto’s free 30 day trial period, I give Distrokid an edge over Ditto simply because they get your music into stores faster.
Ditto works just as well, but they’re not quite as relaxed about release windows as Distrokid.
For instance, the soonest you can release your music after uploading to Ditto is a full 10 days out.
This doesn’t allow for spontaneity when inspiration hits and you write and record a song you absolutely love in hours and want to share it with your fans. With Distrokid you can upload it and see it in stores within 2-3 days, sometimes even the next day. Ditto forces you to choose a release date at least 10 days in the future.
This isn’t necessarily the worst thing when you are putting together a marketing plan for your release and want to use that time to build hype around the track, but I like the flexibility of Distrokid.
I also slightly prefer Distrokid’s interface as compared to Ditto’s which feels more like filling out your taxes.
Regardless, the process for how to distribute your own music is straightforward enough with either service.
You first upload your song or songs with the cover art, filling out the track name and meta information like ISRC codes.
You then pick and choose which stores and streaming services you want your music featured in.
Here’s a sample of the stores Ditto currently offers:
All of the major names are there: Spotify, Apple, TikTok, YouTube, etc.
There’s no additional charge for including less, more, or certain stores – it’s all included with any plan.
I don’t have stats on how many people use the dozens of lesser known services, but there’s no downside to distributing to them, as well.
Both Distro and Ditto both keep track of your streams/purchases on every service for you to ensure you get every royalty which is coming to you.
Both distribution services add new music stores/services as they come along.
As such, you can instruct both Distro or Ditto to automatically upload your music to any new stores they add. You never know when the next Spotify will come along, so they’ve got you covered.
After the submission process is finished, you’ll get a message after awhile (it’s about a week for Ditto into their 10 day release period) letting you know if there were any issues with your submission.
This is where Distrokid wins again in my book.
I detailed this in the previously referenced and linked to comparison, but I often get messages after submission that there was some small detail which needs to be addressed before my submission can go live.
With Distrokid it’s not a big deal because the message comes much more quickly, typically less than a day after your submission. This lets you fix it and resubmit knowing that your song will still be live in a day or two.
With Ditto Music, the earliest you get this message is a week after submission. They then make you choose a whole new submission date, once again at least 10 days out, and it will be another week before you know if your submission got accepted this time. Otherwise Ditto Music is great, but their lack of flexibility drives me crazy.
But I digress!
Once you get a message that your submission has been cleared and is good to go, either service will give you a link to pre-save page.
Distrokid calls it HyperFollow. Ditto Music calls it a SmartLink.
Either way, it’s a page with pre-save links to that song in all of the most relevant stores/services.
You can share this page with your fans and they can click on the relevant store/service they use.
For instance, if someone clicks on the Spotify link from your pre-save page, your release will automatically be added to their library when it goes live.
It’s a nice way to do some low effort yet effective marketing for that song to build some hype ahead of your release and increase your listens when it goes live.
Simply share the pre-save URL the distribution service gives you with your followers on social media, your email list, or your website, and the link does the heavy lifting for you.
How to Distribute Your Own Music Tips
- Use Distrokid or Ditto Music for unlimited releases at an affordable fixed rate each year.
- Both services are reliable for getting your music in the stores/streaming services you choose.
- Both services will keep track of and pay out any and all royalties you’re owed from purchases and plays.
- Distrokid gets a slight nod as being the better choice for a better interface and more flexibility for releases.
- After submitting and scheduling your music, share the pre-save URL you’re given with your fans on social media, email, your website, etc. to build hype around your release and increase plays upon release.