Digital distribution is the process of releasing your music to various digital streaming platforms (DSPs) and services. In the past, distributors would take care of physical releases — CD, tape, vinyl etc — and that’s still the case, but for the purposes of this guide, we’re going to focus on digital distribution only. We’re also largely looking at open distributors that (almost) anyone can use. There are others like The Orchard and Believe who are pickier about who they let on their platform, but this list is open to anyone, bar AWAL, who we wanted to include as an example of what these types of platforms offer.
There are many different distribution companies who take care of different aspects of the process — with varying fees and percentages — but ultimately their job is to take your music, release it on the platforms you want to be released on, and track how people are interacting with that music. They’ll then pay out what you’re owed based on the streaming rates of each platform.
While the destinations will largely remain the same for most distros, how it happens, how easy it is, how fast it happens, how much it costs and what communication and interaction you’ll get on how your music is performing can differ wildly. Some offer extra services such as publishing and YouTube monetisation, while others offer excellent analytics around how to track your music across platforms, demographics and locations.