Digital Distribution: ReverbNation vs. CDBaby vs. Tunecore 165

CDBaby TuneCore ReverbNation
Cost per Album $49. One time charge. $29.99 first year.
$49.99 each year after.
$34.95 to $59.95 per year.
Cost per Single $9.95. One time charge. $9.99 per year. $34.95 to $59.95 per year.
Percent of profit kept by the company. Direct downloads from CDBaby: 9%.Downloads from iTunes, AmazonMP3, etc: 9% of profit. $0 $0
UPC Bar Code $20 per album. $5 per single. $0 $0
ISRC Code $0 (?) $0 $0

Disclaimer: The above chart I compiled from simply looking at each site’s descriptions and FAQs about each of their pricing models. There may be additional charges I overlooked.

CDBaby Pricing Info:
Tunecore Pricing Info:
ReverbNation Pricing Info:

From the above chart, both ReverbNation and Tunecore charge yearly subscriptions to their services. However, they don’t take a percentage of any sales. UPC and ISRC codes that are required to sell your music are provided free of charge at this point in time. This may change in the future. The wording on both of their sites indicates this could change at their discretion.

CDBaby only charges a one-time set up fee. Then they take a percentage of all sales. UPC Bar codes cost extra, so the price of your initial submission will increase accordingly. ISRC codes seem to be included for free with your submissions, but I only saw one blurb about ISRC costs in CDBaby’s help documentation.

For singles, you’ll notice that ReverbNation’s costs don’t change from the $34.95 minimum. That’s because they consider any submission a “release”. A release can contain 1 to 50 songs.

Also, ReverbNation has a tiered service. At $34.95, you get submitted to 34 stores. At $59.95, you get 6 additional stores. I’m honestly baffled why these 6 additional stores would cost $25 extra per year.

Which Service to Choose?

In my opinion, CDBaby. Don’t take my opinion as gold, but here are the reasons why I would choose CDBaby over the other two services.

1. What if your band breaks up?

Who’s going to be stuck paying for these fees? You love what you’ve done with your band, and you want your tunes to be available forever. Also, it’d be nice to keep receiving the occasional payment for your years of hard work. But, if you’re paying hundreds of dollars per year in subscription fees, you’re a bit screwed without a touring band to support those costs.

With CDBaby, you don’t have to worry about this.

2. Changes in cost

Tunecore used to cost $34.95 per year and just raised their costs to $49.99 per year (over much bashing in the media). Now, you’re stuck with higher yearly fees unless you cancel and start over with a different service.

With CDBaby, you don’t have to worry about this. You’ve already paid.

3. Losing all your reviews, tags, and social clout

If you want to change services or discontinue your yearly subscription, your music will be removed from every digital distribution platform. That means all your reviews, tags, likes, shares, streams, etc. All gone in a blink of an eye.

With CDBaby, again, no worries.

4. Compound costs are unsustainable.

Consider a band that stays together for 10 years and has released 5 albums. They will be paying around $250 per year. Now, they’ve also released multiple singles over that time. Let’s say they have 10 singles, so they’ll be paying $99.50 per year, as well.

It may not sound like much, but a single can be recorded for about $300.

CDBaby, you’ve only paid that amount once. Not yearly.

5. You have to sell a lot of music to justify the costs

Considering you are probably getting chump change per download, you would have to be selling hundreds of downloads per year to simply cover the costs.

With CDBaby, you can earn over time to cover the initial cost. If your sales don’t do well, you can still make up the initial costs over a period of time. (Long tail sales.)

When would I not choose CDBaby?

The only time Tunecore or ReverbNation would be more advantageous than CDBaby would be if you’re selling thousands of downloads per year. If your music is making the top 100 charts in download sales, then CDBaby’s percentages look less appealing. For instance, if you were making $1,000 per year in downloads, CDBaby would be getting $90 per year. That’s two year’s worth of ReverbNation’s subscription fees.

For me, though, I’ll be concentrating on using my music to drive people to my email list and to my live shows. Digital sales are simply a “nice to have” if they happen at all. CDBaby will give me the set-it-and-forget-it option I desire.

And even if I did get 1000 downloads one year, I’d be wary that this might not happen the next year. For instance, I somehow, magically get a one hit wonder on YouTube that results in a giant spike in sales. Then, next year, I’m totally forgotten about.

Am I Missing Something?

My impressions are based entirely on knowing how hard it is to get people to download your music when you’re an unknown band. Most of my music sales came from CDs sold at shows. I’d be highly hesitant to pay yearly fees, so my opinion sides with CDBaby.

What do you think of these services? Is there a downside to CDBaby I’m not seeing?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

165 thoughts on “Digital Distribution: ReverbNation vs. CDBaby vs. Tunecore

  • Peter Wells

    Let me jump in with just a few fact checks, Seth.

    In your chart, don’t forget ringtones! Same as singles with us, $9.99 a year, you still keep all rights and we don’t take any cut of your earnings.

    To your point #1, an account owner responsible for their content. Even if your band never breaks up, someone (a manager, one person from the band acting as a manger, or even the band as a corporation, if you decide to incorporate it) has to agree to the terms and conditions. That’s the person who’ll collect the money, be responsible if there’s some kind of copyright or other challenge, and so on. There’s no such thing as “walk away and forget it”–an artist or band with music in a store is still in business, and they need to keep an eye on things.

    To your point #2, yep, we took a bashing in the media, mostly because the message got disconnected: few were talking about the 34 improvements we made to the site for the three years previously, and all without ever touching prices.

    To your point #3, this is true of any service, because it doesn’t have to do with the service, but rather the store. It’s iTunes policy, for instance, that if a release comes down from a distributor and comes up again through some other distributor, it’s considered new and can’t carry along its star ratings, reviews, etc.

    I’ll drop the point-by-point there, because as always, it’s up to anyone using any service to decide the worth of the service against its costs. The problem with comparisons like these are that they begin with a false assumption, because not all digital distributors are the same. I want anyone reading this to know that’s critical: it’s part of shopping around for the best service for you. It’s part of any good artist or band manager’s homework.

    Look at what you’re buying. Ask yourself, what am I getting for these dollars? Am I getting support responses within 24 hours? How about support over phone and even Twitter? Am I getting accounting accurate to 14 decimal places? I’ll stop, but you get the idea.



    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Thank you for taking time to respond to my post, Peter! I will make sure to update the graph to contain ringtones. I think this service is unique to Tunecore.

      #3 is definitely no fault of any particular distribution service. I think it’s terrible that the rights holder can’t change distributors without losing their data. You can change web hosting with no ill effects. You can even change your cell phone carrier and keep your number. But your music can’t get the some courtesy.

      This post wasn’t meant to bash on any service, but it’s really expressing my opinion coming from bands that probably will never sell that many downloads per year.

      To the effect of the other services like customer support, I can see Tunecore appears to be doing a phenomenal job. @TunecoreSupport will answer support questions within 24 hours, which is amazing.

      However, it’s extremely difficult to judge these differences without taking the plunge. I’d love to see an in-depth comparison of something other than prices. For instance, what additional features do you get from Tunecore versus CDBaby.

      I’ll dig in deeper and see if I can find more information.

      Again, thank you very much for replying to this. Your reply does reflect your commitment to Tunecore and its customers. With your permission, would you mind if I reposted this as a response?

        • alexander aka lightning

          hi im new to tunecore and i recently uploaded my first album but by accident because the sites very confusing to me lol i uploaded wrong tracks so i sent email and was given option to temperarily swap audios so i did and followed instructions ALOT OF THEM which was more confusing so i swapped the audios correctly but thinking i was being told to distribute again i pressed distribute , am i screwed? and have i just blew the biggest …….etc etc i never pressed add or changed anything aND I RECIEVED NO REPLY AFTER HOURS AND HOURS STILL NOTHING? would i be better waiting? or should i take my money somewhere else? cd baby maybe? i refuse to spend the fee again as its ludirous i only uploaded it on friday even starved myself to pay it,get in touch im stressed out ;( thanks alex.

          • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

            Honestly, you would need to follow up with Tunecore’s customer support. There’s nothing anyone else can do. If they don’t get back to you, you could always complain loudly on Twitter with @tunecore. 😉

            You might want to reach out to CD Baby’s customer support to see if they have any suggestions. You don’t want to double list your music because that’s not allowed. Your music might get completely pulled from digital distribution if you do that.

            Be persistent. Constantly contact their customer support until you get what you want done.

            Sorry to hear you’re going through this. I hope it resolves itself soon.

    • Michael Clay

      I paid $115 for a tune core track smart, it went wrong and it wasn’t even my song reviewed. It’s been 8 days and I have received 1 answer from TuneCore.. I have sent a couple more e-mails with no response. 24 hour response for tech support? WHAT? get off the grass. and TuneCore will not even refund me or redo the Track smart all because “It’s a third party company? What? then don’t take my money.

      NOT HAPPY.

      Michael Clay

  • Scott Colesby

    I’m going to have to agree with you on CDBaby, but for another reason not stated here. As soon as I get the funding together for a website, I’m going to be using HostBaby as my hosting site. Because HostBaby and CDBaby are the same company, HostBaby gives you 5 CDBaby submissions a year.

    When you consider the cost of CDBaby in your web hosting, I really can’t see much of a better deal.

      • Bridge

        Would that really cover the costs though? HostBaby charges $200 for the year. 5 free submissions a year would mean you’d have to record 5 albums (at the $40 CDBaby price) to make up the cost of HostBaby.

        But what band on the planet can record and release 5 albums in a year? More realistically, you would do 1 album and 4 singles for your 5 free releases. With the album charge at $40 and the singles at $10, that’s $80 you’d be saving, making the charge of HostBaby more like $120 a year, which is still more expensive than other services out there.

        Plus your band will have to be at a place where they’re releasing music to do that; if your band isn’t established and ready to record, it won’t help you yet. Not to mention your band would feel pressured to release 5 submissions each year to justify the HostBaby cost.

        So none of this is to say I don’t recommend CDBaby and HostBaby. CDBaby seems to be the best deal out there for what I’ve researched, and two bands I know use HostBaby and love it (one band switched over from the Gator-something hosting). If you can afford it, it’s a good choice. Pure budget-wise, there’s cheaper choices out there. But you get what you pay for, right?

        • Scott Colesby

          I would agree that not all bands are up to the task of 5 albums a year. Thats why I say if you’ve got a 10 song album every year, break it up into EPs. Record one of your live shows and release that. Record acoustic versions of songs and release and album of that.

          Now, I know the argument can be made that not everyone has the budget for studio time for all that. My suggestion is coming from the singer/songwriter perspective. I’ve got my own home studio where I do all my recordings. So my studio budget is really time.

          I guess the key to this whole thing is that not one thing is going to work for everyone.

          • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

            I’m kicking around the idea of home recording with occassional studio recording. Putting out a large number of music per year is way too expensive going through a studio. However, the trade-off is decreased sound quality. That’s a delicate balance. Plus, recording a full band costs quite a bit in equipment.

            But that’s how I plan on starting. Doing it cheap until my band has enough cash to do it professionally.

            You’re right, though, the right amount of music releases is an ongoing experiment.

  • Shawn

    Based on what I know so far (which admittedly, isn’t much more than what you’ve outlined here), I’d tend to go with CDBaby first, too. Especially for an unestablished band/artist. The other companies’ fees are going to be a difficult to recoup for a new act.

    It is a serious flaw of the iTunes system that an artist can’t change distributors without losing its place in the store. However, I don’t see this as a huge loss since it’s not likely most people are going to buy from iTunes based on previous user comments. If someone likes a song and can get it on iTunes, they’re just gonna buy it. They’re not gonna care about the user reviews.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      I’m not sure how this works, but I think the user ratings/reviews help bubble a song up to be more discoverable. The likelihood of someone accidentally finding your music increases with more user reviews, tags, and likes.

      I don’t use iTunes anymore, so I’m not a great resource on that! But there are multiple stores, so each could have its own algorithm to make your music discoverable. If you switch the service, you might get ranked lower in discoverability. Which, in turn, hurts your “long-tail” sales.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      No problem! I’m glad it could be of help. I’m curious how difficult it would be to submit something directly to iTunes and AmazonMP3. I’m sure it’s a pain with ISRC and UPC codes, but I wonder if being your own distributor is worth the pain in the long run….

  • Chris Bolton

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for making this comparison. Choosing a distributor for your album or single is an important decision and artists deserve all the info up front.

    Here are some of the things that CD Baby offers that other distributors do not:

    NO YEARLY FEES (So what if you only sell 60 downloads this year? You still get paid for every purchase.)

    CD Distribution (In-store and online. We warehouse and ship your CDs to your customers for you.) (You get to sell your music in the largest all-indie record store on the planet with thousands of purchases made everyday).

    More Distribution (We deliver to 60 digital retailers internationally).

    Download Cards (Sell download cards at your gigs)

    CD Replication and Duplication (Order 10 or 10,000)

    Web Hosting (HostBaby offers a unique web tools made especially for musicians)

    Our Swiper Program (So you can take credit cards at live shows)

    Killer blogs, podcasts and videos to help artists

    Awesome Phone and Email Support

    We just launched a new music store widget and we’ve got lots more features in the works – at no extra cost :)

    If you are considering a switch from Tunecore (or any other distributor) we’ll give you half-off your signup fee.

    I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things, but that’s the gist. Feel free to give us a ring if you have questions. We’re all musicians too!


    Chris Bolton @ CD Baby

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Thank you for responding, Chris! And thank you for listing the additional features CD Baby offers. I was focusing on digital distribution costs over all other things, so I didn’t delve much deeper.

      I look forward to checking out the widgets! Cheers!

    • Whitnie crown

      Chris, we are in the process of choosing our digital distribution for an award-winning early music CD. CD Baby would be our first choice ( based on price) except you don’t distribute the digital booklet along with the cd. Tunecore is able to distribute both pieces to iTunes, etc.which for us is very important.

      Will CD Baby be offering this service anytime soon?

  • Paul Levinson

    A quick data point here: I’ve had my album, Twice Upon a Rhyme, distributed through Reverbnation for the past 18 or so months, and I’ve more than tripled my investment. With the yearly fee $35 or $60, you don’t need thousands of downloads or even a thousand dollars of income to do this – it’s plain arithmetic.

    I’ve had another album, Spun Dreams, distributed through Tune Core for about 6 months – too soon to tell about whether I’ll make a profit this year.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Thank you for the correction. I didn’t research what percentage of a download a service like iTunes would give, so I just threw out a “thousands” number unfairly.

      From your description, Tunecore/ReverbNation would be the better route since you don’t have to pay royalties. The only problem would be if this stops selling so well 5 to 10 years from now. Then you would start losing money on yearly fees.

      Oh, and congratulations on making money with your downloads! That’s no small feat!

  • Paul Levinson

    Thanks! By the way, I do agree with your point about the Reverbnation $60 option not being worth it. So far, all of my sales have come from the stores in the initial $35 package. But we’ll see…

    As the 5-6 years now, my goal is to have sales increase every year, into the infinite future … but we’ll have to see about that, too :)

  • Helene

    Thank you! I’ve been drowning in a huge comparison spreadsheet I’ve been making about distribution options for the last two weeks now. It’s good to have someone else’s viewpoint on the matter, especially when I have about 9% of a clue what I should be doing.

    I live in the UK, so please excuse the Anglocentric nature of my post. I’m about to self-release my debut EP. My needs are a little different from someone releasing an album because I can’t sell an EP for as much money – so the flat fees are tougher on me than they might be for an album release.

    For example, I don’t feel I can charge more than £5 for a CD, so CD Baby is instantly ruled out for physical sales as they take a flat fee of $4 per CD sale which is about £2.50! Also, $20 for a barcode seems pretty pricey when most other companies offer it for free or next to nothing, but the one-off sign-up fee is tempting and on a smaller scale they do actually work out cheaper than Tunecore. I don’t know how popular CD Baby’s on site download service is, but since they take a 25% cut, I would probably opt out of it, even though you can set your own price.

    The best one I’ve come across so far seems to be Ditto Music, who supply the first barcode free (and then for £2.50 for each release thereafter) and charge a fee of 33p per track per store you send it to (and I’m only bothered about iTunes, Amazon MP3 and possibly Spotify eventually). They do charge an annual fee (£16.50) but that’s the lowest I’ve found so far where one is charged. And they don’t charge you to leave either, unlike some places. I think they serve the US – I would suggest checking them out (if only to tell me where I’ve gone wrong and missed a clause about owning the rights to your children).

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      EPs are rough. My last band had an EP, and CD Baby’s prices were not conducive to making a profit by selling online. The price needs to be at least $10/6.99 Euro. Too much for a 5 song EP. If you can’t make a profit, there’s no point. Sell from your own website instead using something like PayPal. Mail the stuff yourself and add the postal rate.

      However, we did a great job of selling and giving it away by playing shows and not doing any online distribution. Disc Maker through CD Baby gave us a enough of a profit margin to print 100 CDs at a time. We got around a 100% profit per CD selling at $5.

      That is, unless our singer got lazy and decided to order the CDs last minute before our tour. Rush fees and sped up shipping can eat your profits pretty damn quickly. At least he’s doing video game podcasts now! (I love you, Joseph. Don’t benchpress me.)

      For Spotify, I heard the streaming profits kinda suck. Even Lady Gaga earned hardly anything from streaming. So streaming services, their value lies in being discovered more than making money directly.

      I’ll check out Ditto. Thank you for the heads up on that!

  • RhythmHub

    Cool post…I think all of the channels are good..some are stronger than others in certain areas but there was a time when folks had CDs in the trunks of there cars…PROGRESS..!

  • Joe Sombrotto

    My situation. Please advise. I have one, just one, song. No band. No album. The song would fall under the Patriotic genre. We recorded it at the Hit Factory in NY and we have produced a professional video to go along with it as well. I am the co-writer. The two artists performing the song are friends of mine. The video has generated about 85,000 views on YouTube as of this writing. (It has been up there 4 years now). I would like to generate money with this song via download distribution only. Not interested in selling physical CD’s. We will never have a band, no playing, no touring. Just the song. What service would be best for me? ReverbNation? Tunecore? Awal? CDBaby? Thanks.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Easily, ReverbNation is not an option. They don’t have a service for a single.

      Awal I’m not familiar with, so I can’t advise.

      That pretty much leaves either Tunecore or CD Baby.

      With CD Baby, you will only have to pay a one-time charge of $9.99. Since you don’t have a band to continually support and promote your song, I would say this is the way to go. It’s the safest bet because you only pay once.

      However, CD Baby takes a percentage of each of your sales. If your song is selling well and profiting more than $150 to $200 a year, Tunecore would be a better option for your financial return. But you’ll have to keep paying $9.99 a year…even if sales do bad.

      For a maximum return on a niche song, here is a possible strategy. Begin with CD Baby for the first year. If you don’t sell more than $9.99, stay with CD Baby. If you’re making around $200 a year and trending upwards on sales, switch to Tunecore. As soon as it drops below $200, switch back to CD Baby and stay there.

      This is assuming your advertising for the song is coming solely from YouTube, and you don’t care about losing any rankings due to reviews from iTunes or AmazonMP3 (or the like).

      Note, this is only for digital distribution. If you have direct to fan sales, you may want to explore Bandcamp, TopSpin, or, simply, Paypal from your site.

      Personally, I’d keep it simple and just do CD Baby since you don’t want to actively support it.

      Don’t take my opinion alone, though. Do research and find out what’s best for you. Both Tunecore and CD Baby are wonderful services. Another factor I haven’t explored is the number of stores each service distributes to.

      • Jeff

        Hi, I don’t thing TuneCore does singles either. I released a single song through them, but it still came out as an “album,” even in iTunes. Wasn’t too happy about that, because it affects the way iTunes search function works if someone’s looking for your song.

        Otherwise, I’ve been very happy with TuneCore generally because they are *very* responsive to emails.

          • Jeff

            Ok looked back to the TC email and they actually said that’s the way iTunes is set up rather than a TC thing: “All singles and albums show under ‘ALBUMS’ on iTunes. I verified that you did create it as a single in your account and not an album. That’s just how the iTunes store lists it.”

  • Dave Jacks

    Hi Guys,

    I’m also from the UK and am considering all options.

    My question is this….

    If i register my song with CD baby does it count to the Singles charts in the Uk and what other charts would it appear in? Or do i need to register it somewhere else for this. I noticed on one site Ditto Music that they charged £60.50 for a Chart registered release? I’ve searched high and low on the CDbaby site with no mention at all at chart entry. I need to get this right, as this is the most important part of our project – not just the sales.

    Can anyone clarify this for me before I go ahead?



    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      This is probably a better question for CD Baby’s customer support. I’m not familiar with registering for “charts”. From what I know, CD Baby has nothing to do with charts. It’s up to a different service alltogether to determine what gets put on a chart. I think (but am not sure) that charts get their data from the various distributors with no extra charge to you.

      I personally wouldn’t pay extra for any “chart” service. Sounds scammy to me, but I could be wrong.

  • Rooz

    Im gonna release my EP digitally. It has four songs which 3 of them are covers. I’m afraid that iTunes won’t change the pricing of my EP because people won’t pay 9.99 dollars for 4 songs. Do you I have any better option that you would suggest? I also need to release it very soon. (I don’t wanna waste my time waiting for a UPC). Is it a good idea to get a barcode freely from another website (like Ditto music) and then use it on CD baby or ReverbNation?

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      You have zero control over iTunes (or any other distributor’s) pricing. Is there a reason you can’t release these as 4 singles? If you want different pricing schemes, you will need to contact customer support for CDBaby, Reverbnation, or Tunecore. I have no clue how or if they price EPs differently.

      You will need a UPC to release. Also, ISRC codes. CD Baby is extremely quick with handing out UPCs. ReverbNation and Tunecore will provide you with one free of charge with your submission.

      If you want to control pricing, use a service like BandCamp and sell directly from your website. You can even use PayPal. You will get more money selling directly.

      Also, have you got permissions/licensing for your cover songs? If not, your submission will be rejected. Also, you can get sued for trying to sell them without giving royalties to the copyright holders.

      Sorry, I don’t have an easy answer for you. I’m not an expert on these services. My article was simple research from their websites.

      • Stefan Heller

        Hey Rooz & Chris,

        Copyright law can be complex. However, once a song has been released into the Public Domain, it can be “covered” without seeking any permissions from the original artist(s) and/or songwriter(s) AS LONG AS you are not changing/adapting any of the lyrics nor adding anything defamatory etc to the original song. This is a simplistic overview, but basically, if you are doing a “rcok” version of an orginal ballad, regga version of aan original rock song etc etc, with no change lyically, there are no permissions needed. HOWEVER, you MUST credit the original songwriters (who may or may not be the original artist) AND you must pay all music publishing fees to the appropriate music publisher, who then will pay the songwriter concerned. Usually, these publishing monies are collected by ASCAP and/or BMI (for the most part) and if you are in any doubt about the correct crediting, call either of them and they will help out.

        Correct reporting and accounting will be very important whenever you cover another person’s work, otherwise you could face legal ramifications from the original owners.

        Hope this helps a little…


  • Ronny

    After a year and a few months, I have figured out that Reverbnation is a bit of a scam. The fee listed here is wrong because its almost double that amount or 60 bucks annually…however, they not only charge a $50 take down (making your so called one time payment, 50 dollars more than that initial amount spent), there are also fees taken for every transfer of money to your paypal account. Therefore, no matter what at Reverbation, you are spending $110 to set and take down each release. Its not reflected in any of the sign up document and they added it on to the FAQ a few months after I initially signed up…But I was not happy with that system. Forget about the fees, they hardly got our product anywhere that cant be done at any other aggregator and/or distributor. They have great marketing tools but this where and how they scam money from artists. Which sucks because obviously as a young artist, trying to grow in this industry, every penny counts. And, its hard to read thousands of lines of fine print like they have in their FAQ section. The fees they take are very easy to overlook even now…I was honestly shocked a company with so much going them, acts that way towards young bands….as if its not hard enough to break into the marketplace, you have look over your shoulders at your own partner because Reverbnation is not at all forthcoming about these fees….not even remotely…they hide it….and that sucks because I could have gone to every other company, that would and does not act this way towards artists. Most companies do not take advantage of young artists, but this company is a nightmare with regard to digital distribution. I am telling you its a nightmare to deal with their digital services. Its very hard. Let alone you will not get paid on time. Its now 8/11 and I have had money due to me since 8/5. And, they refuse to deal and/or answer to it. Its very hard…and I know they are scheming some way to keep that money…which is incredible to do to young artists in this industry today….

  • ReverbNation

    Hi Ronny,

    The current cost for Digital Distribution subscriptions are $34.95 for the Essentials Package or $59.95 for the Pro Package. Our distributor charges a takedown fee of $30 for the Essentials Package or $50 for the Pro Package to remove your release from the retailers upon cancellation of the service. ReverbNation keeps none of the takedown fee; 100% of the fee is paid to our distributor ( ). This information is included in the Terms & Conditions of the service that were agreed to upon submission of your releases. Withdrawals from the ReverbNation Bank are handled through PayPal and are subject to standard PayPal withdrawal fees. PayPal receives this fee; ReverbNation does not.

    With regards to your Available Balance issue, we have recently added security measures which do not allow for label accounts to withdraw funds from artist accounts; they can only withdraw from their own bank. If you would like to withdraw funds from the artist’s bank, you must log in to their actual account. Doing so will allow you to click the ‘Pay Me’ button and withdraw funds.

    I hope this addresses your concerns! I know that you have our support email address as we have corresponded about all of the above information on a few occasions, so feel free to let us know if you have further questions!

    ReverbNation Staff

  • Mark Hoke

    If you think about $50 bucks a year for distribution like Tunecore, its quite inexpensive. CD baby costs 39.95 setup fee and 9% of profit which means for the first year, the difference between Tunecore and CD Baby is $10. Now, including commission to Itunes, you would be making more money with Tunecore in the first year after selling 15 albums. So, 16 and up, your making more money with Tunecore. For the years to follow, with commission to Itunes, its 80 albums. And Reverbnation is less than that! If we’re talking dollars and cents, CD Baby is a rip off! If you don’t believe that you can sell more than 15 albums, or 80 for that matter, in a whole year then your wasting your money in the first place by investing into a distribution company. Also, the whole 5 album over 10 years thing… If the album isn’t selling, pull that mother f#cker! Tunecore doesn’t charge to take down an album after 6 months. If you only have 2 out of 5 albums selling more than 80 copies, pull the others! Yes it is cool to say you have your whole catalog on I-tunes to your grandma, but if she’s the only one buying then there really is no point.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Great points, Mark! Personally, I’m going for a different strategy with my music. For fans and shows, I’m trying to get them my music from my website instead of redirecting them to iTunes. I’d rather have a person’s email address for a song or albums because that is way more valuable to me. With digital dist and my strategy, money would just be a pleasant surprise. :) That’s why I like the CDBaby model since I don’t have to worry about it from year to year.

      With your strategy, the Tunecore model definitely sounds more lucrative! I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit, and I know a way that Tunecore or Reverbnation could blow CDBaby out of the water. They should drop the yearly charges and charge 9% like CDBaby. However, once your sales hit their yearly requirement, they stop the 9%. This way, you’re never at risk of not selling enough to cover their charges, and you’re always profiting. I truly believe this is the model that would be most beneficial to both musicians and the companies.

      • Mark Hoke

        Fantastic idea how about we start a distribution company for the smart indie musician called ‘Logical Distribution’. We can eliminate the hassle of having to choose from ‘the other guys’. We will also make it a number one priority to have a telephone support line that actually takes calls and gets answers. We can run referral programs (non of these other sites do this!) and give discounts for referrals who join. Oh and give the customer the ability to choose who they want to distribute to.

        • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

          Hell yeah! Also, provide an easy affiliate program to incentivize your fans to share your music. Every time they help sell your music, the fan gets paid.

          TuneCore has great twitter support. They will engage with you within 24 hours of your request. And CD Baby, according to the book I just read, has phone lines to real human beings to help you out.

          Don’t all these services allow you to opt out of certain distribution outlets? I thought that was a standard feature. Especially if you’ve already had your album on a particular outlet.

    • Ben

      That’s one of the great things about digital distribution and the Internet though–why pull an album if it is not selling? You don’t have to worry about warehousing costs, so why not leave it up for eternity? Oops, with Tunecore you have to pay them that yearly fee. I’d like to see statistics to see how many bands who have signed up with Tunecore even make enough in sales to cover the yearly maintenance cost. It only makes sense if you can generate enough sales, and I’m betting the vast majority of bands don’t. A lot of bands only exist for a few years. Maybe after a while they sell only a handful of mp3s a year. So what? Why should they have to take their music down? That makes no sense. Too many bands are getting sucked into the whole non-existent profit argument when they argue against going with CDBaby. They’re falling prey into the dream of selling thousands of copies, so they want all of it. Well all of nothing is nothing, and the chances are your CD isn’t going to hit even 10,000 in sales. And the argument that “if you can sell xxxx copies, you don’t belong in this business” is pure BS. There are a lot of local bands, part time bands–they want to put out a CD without being bled to death over the years.

      • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

        Weather people like it or not, music is a loss leader today. I was talking with my friend Thom from Butt Trumpet, and how he grew his band. The music was the gateway drug to get people to shows, to buy the limited edition item, to buy the t-shirt. In business-speak, the music is the entry point into your sales funnel. It grabs people in and turns them into people that will buy shit from your band. (Well, the “shit” part probably isn’t official business-speak.)

        Nowadays, getting a person’s email address is worth more than a digital download or selling an album. I don’t mind CD Baby taking 9% because most of the rest of the industry takes a bare minimum of 15%.

        I agree. Pulling the music down shouldn’t be an issue. However, it happens when musicians don’t sign contracts on royalties, copyrights, and what happens when a band breaks up. The takedowns are most likely a bad breakup from the band themselves, a bad contract with a manager, or a bad contract with a record label. Or, like Rebecca Black, a dispute between the music outlet from which the song was purchased.

        What I don’t like about the Tunecore or Reverbnation deal, is the yearly charge can increase at their whim, regardless of your sales. But if you are ACDC, the Tunecore and Reverbnation deals are awesome! It depends on your long-term strategy and the growth of your sales how you want to go. For instance, if you are riding a mega hit, you will want Tunecore.

  • Sam W

    Just wanted to say this web page has really been helpful in diffusing some of the “unknown” facts/differences of the music distro biz..
    I am pretty convinced that CD Baby is sounding like the overall winner for my situation, though the part about the EP pricing gives me concern.
    I was planning on releasing a 6 song EP and then another 6 song EP in a few months, after the second release, offer a hard copy 2 disc set with both. But the pricing I’ve heard you guys discuss for EP releases sounds rough… 6 songs, 6 bucks sounds about right…. Can anyone elaborate on CD baby pricing? thanks!

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Thanks, Sam!

      None of the three companies have an “EP” option. The prices above apply equally to an EP or a double disc album. Also, none of these companies have any control over how iTunes or any else will price the album. They simply distribute to them.

      If you want to control how much your stuff is sold for, you have to sell it yourself from your website. I’m sure there’s a way to negotiate pricing with these companies, but that is beyond my knowledge. You could always try calling them and asking! :)

  • Eliza DeAngeles

    I would just like to say THANK YOU. I sat for hours trying to figure out with whom I would self distribute. I chose Tunecore and have been happy. I sold enough copies in the first 4 months to cover the fees and even posted a second album. I have one concern which is a general with all the companies i would imagine, about streaming, maybe someone can explain it to me. lately i have notice my songs flying out of the door at 0.01 a stream? on one hand I am like ok wow they got streamed in countires all over the world Priceless, and on the other hand i’m like 0.01 really ??? I dont recall agreeing to this though is my issue..? I dont understand the concept of streaming can some shed some light for me ? Thank you much Eliza D

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Unfortunately, streaming payouts suck. Even Lady Gaga got a shitty amount of money though she was one of the top streams. This goes back to your music being the loss leader. It gets fans into you. If you get any money at all from streaming, count yourself lucky.

      The reason behind this, the companies that stream get a lot of hits on music. In order to keep their businesses open, they can’t be paying out a lot of money for every stream. That, combined with bandwidth, is extremly expensive for these companies. Streaming is a great way to get your band discovered, but it’s a horrible business model for these companies. Imagine your shows, where every person that hears your show, you have to pay the audience money. Every song, you have to deal out money to each person in the club. That’s the business model going on here.

  • bob stewart ESQ

    In this $ now world lets not forget. Dear cd baby, it’s your contract that stinks.Tricky wording(Iam being kind).Say you do become the next Stones,If you dont think your not going to end up in court with cd baby your being a blind or a very trusting song writer. Dont listen to me,run it past your lawyer and ignore posts from those that have (any form of interest in cdbaby or it’s employees).The contract isn’t worded the way it is for your protection or advantage,this is the real world! Run it past your lawyer then comment back. If it’s the real deal any lawyer would love the pub. of having their name mentioned. Truth Out

  • Rory

    Well, unless tunecore makes their site easily accessible to blind people, I guess I’ll keep using CDBaby. CDBaby is a much more blind friendly place to set up new albums, and if it ends up costing me more to use them if I sell a lot of downloads, I’ll just call it a reward to them for being accessible, even if it’s purely by accident.

  • Production Wiz

    Thanks for a wonderful discussion. Re the overall picture, there are tons of firms making money off us poor artists. Reverbnation sucks they send out tons of emails trying to get me to pay for some service or the other. TuneCore and Reverb nation charge yearly. There is even a site that has some supposedly monthly contest if you get enough people to like your music, but they kept most of the money (I know because I test these sites and sporadically buy some of my own product to see if it’s a scam).

    Overall: a) BEWARE of most of these sites, they don’t care about our craft they want our money, period.
    b) If you’re doing music to make big money, think again, that model is virtually over and who knows what the next business model will bring. Do music to change the world or just to have fun, if you make money, great, if not, have another backup job.

    My choice is CD Baby for various reasons, if you need CDs then you’ve got them, if you need hosting (and related gifts) they offer it.

    But without radio playing our inde music we’re dead. What they call inde music is really MAJOR record labels distributing spin off record companies or subsidiaries that often focus on specific sub-genre of music. It’t not us, the real inde artists that put our friggin rent money up to produce, distribute, etc.

    While I’ve produced some of the world’s biggest artists, because I am pretty socially conscious and won’t compromise with the radio or record companies they don’t give me any airtime or credit, but i’m in this not just for money but to make this a better world. (although some big cash won’t help on various levels.)

  • sarah

    For those who don’t know, SoundExchange is like ASCAP/BMI for internet radio and some streaming services. All artists should sign up with them because most legit internet radio (which includes many “streaming” places I believe) pay a flat fee to SoundExchange AND report to SoundExchange every track and artist that they play and when and how often. So, if you are the songwriter (i.e. own the publishing rights to the song) you will get paid via SoundExchange. (Its like ASCAP/BMI but for the internet.) Some services don’t apply, like, I think, the ones where you choose to listen to something … facebook? But, MANY do, like pandora, etc. Here’s info from their site:
    SoundExchange is an independent, nonprofit performance rights organization.
    SoundExchange is the non-profit performance rights organization that collects statutory royalties from satellite radio (such as SIRIUS XM), internet radio, cable TV music channels and similar platforms for streaming sound recordings. The Copyright Royalty Board, which is appointed by The U.S. Library of Congress, has entrusted SoundExchange as the sole entity in the United States to collect and distribute these digital performance royalties on behalf of featured recording artists, master rights owners (like record labels), and independent artists who record and own their masters.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      It’s extremely important to have your music registered on SoundExchange. Especially since so many services are heading towards digital. And from what I’ve seen of their site, it’s very easy to register your music.

  • Montreea

    Go with CD Baby. They are reliablie and customer service is great. Before you choose Tunecore, go out and google Tunecore scam and you’ll find a long list of artist complaints about Tunecore. Do your research first.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      What I looked at when searching for “TuneCore scam” didn’t seem like a scam to me. It sounds like bands are sampling or doing cover songs and not getting appropriate licenses. If they paid the bands out, the lawyers would either come after the bands directly or go after Tunecore.

      Bands really need to understand the licensing process before EVER touching other people’s music. If you try to take other people’s music and make money off of it without paying them, that’s stealing. There’s simple services out there to get licensing rights: SongTrust, Limelight, Harry Fox. Get the license, and the bands will get their cut of the money from Tunecore.

  • TDU

    I know Bandcamp doesn’t offer quite the same services as far as submission and physical CD’s. But as far as someone looking for a solely digital option, it should be mentioned. They offer some great services, and the best feature is people can download music in whatever format that want from Wav, to Flac to mp3. And you can charge whatever you want. A much better deal for the customer if they choose to venture outside iTunes for buying music.

    As for Tunecore, they just had a half price submission sale over the last few weeks, and I submitted my first album. It went very smoothly and was up on iTunes within 24 hours. If the sale is still on, it’s a good chance to test out their services for a year.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Yeah, I didn’t mention Bandcamp because it wasn’t a digital distribution outlet. As far as a direct to fan offers, I’ve been hearing great things about BandCamp. Actually, I’ve been hearing bookers really preferring Bandcamp to hear a band’s music because it’s so easy to use.

      There’s a few other direct-to-fan services I need to explore like TopSpin and Nimbit. I tried to test out TopSpin, but they didn’t have a free option to test drive their widgets. Still, they take about 15 to 20 percent of each sale. I don’t think it’d be that difficult to set up PayPal or E-junkie on your site and keep most of the money for yourself.

      That’s a great deal on TuneCore! Thanks for the heads up, TDU!

  • Ivan Staley

    Anyone look at Google Music?
    “Google Music has a one-time $25 setup fee for each artist page and keeps a 30% commission on your sales. There are no other fees — not for uploading tracks, creating albums, making changes to existing albums, editing your artist page, or anything else within the artist hub. You have the power to select and change what you sell…”

    How about Disc Makers $49 Mega Distribution Bundle?

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Hey, Ivan! I haven’t had a chance to look at Google Music, but, from my limited understanding, it’s not a distribution service that gets you on multiple stores. I could be wrong.

      And 30% sounds awful. CD Baby only takes 9%. If Google is taking 30% of my sales, they better give me free setup.

      I haven’t seen Disc Maker’s bundle, yet. Thanks for the heads up! Some great services I need to look into!

  • Peter

    Great article and great commentary. I will be releasing a single where I think there is a chance that it could become quite popular because it is very topical. Yes, I know in the real world the odds of this tend to be minimal, but I want to be prepared in case. It seems like Tunecore is the best choice from all the discussion, but I have a few questions:

    1. Do these services allow you to opt out of streaming where the royalties are only around $0.01 per play
    2. Which of the services have the broadest distribution venues (Tunecore, CD Baby, Reverbnation)?
    3. If the song gets covered by another artist, what do I need to do in advance to benefit from that? I have already have a registered copyright for it, but that doesn’t do anything for royalties. Does SoundExchange do this for me? Also is SoundExchange something that is done in addition to ASCAP/BMI registration or is it a replacement for registering with ASCAP or BMI?

  • David Palmer

    I’ve used most of the listed distributors. All have pro’s and con’s though most important one is you have to pay in some format. For example with tunecore annual fees, cdbaby percentage of your sales, reverb monthly (which is prob the worst)

    My band changed to JMD Distribution a few months ago. Largest distribution (reaches waaay more retailers and online stores. I think like 800 online stores.) They also do not charge monthly/annual fees which is a breath of fresh air.
    They pay back 100% royalties as well. Most importantly, only one I’ve ever called who actually had live customer service. I absolutely recommend them

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      I’ll make sure to check them out. I’m about to start doing some more research on how money makes its way back to artists (or doesn’t make it back in some cases). Thank you for the heads up on this distributor. Almost sounds too good to be true! :)

    • rusty_talent

      A warning about JMD music. We uploaded an album with them a couple of months ago. Sometime since then the implemented a new login system which required us re-registering. But, with the new accounts, which you have to register for, you can’t view your current projects. Only future ones. So now there is an album uploaded through them that we can’t view any stats on. Which is completely ridiculous.

      And another annoyance, when upload they album they listed themselves as out Publisher. Tunecore does not do this.

      Not much benefit in saving money on a submission when you have to deal with these issues.

        • Mandy BFB

          We use JMD Distribution and they’ve been super prompt about their quarterly payments. We thought the same thing at first but after contacting them found out theyre a partner through Universal Music Group channels so they have a more traditional distribution. Thats why they have so many more retailers and partners than other distributors.
          They’re all musicians so there’s no BS monthly and yearly fees.
          the daily trend reports some other distributors provide are not accurate at all because only itunes provides those reports and they’re never accurate in comparison to the quarterly reports. most retailers send reports quarterly. This is something we found out directly through some of the retailers.
          We’ve done 2 projects with them and have had a great experience so far.

    • travis

      Ive been trying to reach jmd distribution abou their program and they dont answer their phone, they dont have a directory on the phone and going to the operator automaticaly takes you to voicemail. And this was at 10 am on a tuesday afternoon pacific time.

  • TheMusicMan81

    I’d like to add Record Union – – to the discussion. They’re a relatively new Digital Distribution service which in my opinion deserves to be considered alongside the more famous counterparts in this article.

    (* Disclaimer. I actually rate them so highly that since I did my own research into digital distribution I have gone and joined them as an A&R. Send me an Email if you’re curious about how it works or simply want to join in – RealWhenShared(@)gmail(.)com – Self promotion finished! 😀 )

    And before I go on about what’s good with Record Union, I want to say that every band/artist should do their own research into what service could benefit their own needs. Every service has it’s pro’s & con’s! What it comes down to in the end are; What are your needs? And which service can serve those needs the best? So start reading those FAQ’s and Terms & Conditions. Even if it can be a bit daunting at first, it will always be a benefit to your own education & career!

    Cost per Album = Just the cost of an UPC Bar Code (See below)
    Cost per Single = Just the cost of an UPC Bar Code (See below)
    Percent of profit kept by the company = Record Union asks for the first $5 annually from your release once it begins to generate sales on the services we distribute to, plus 15% of the sales. This means that we only make money when your music begins to sell, and there are no financial risks for you as an artist.
    UPC Bar Code = $10 (If you already have a UPC or “barcode” for your release then distributing your music with Record Union is free.) In addition, if you sign up through an A&R then you’ll receive 2 bar codes for free!
    ISRC Code = 0

    Other Pro’s – You can choose which services your release will become available on.
    – You can cancel your agreement with Record Union any time, free of charge. However, RU do require a 3 month termination period to give RU time to notify all the partners and remove your music from their catalog. In most cases, it will take a lot less than 3 months. Please note that you will continue receiving royalties until your music is fully removed.
    – With their coverage & diversity (Music stores, streaming services and mobile services) they reach about 95% of the global market. List of Partners -> – Please note that some of the partners themselves distributes RU’s music to a wide array of online stores, so the actual number of online stores exceeds the ones listed.

    I guess I could go on and on 😉 But the thing I really like about this service is that there are no financial risk for you as a band/artist. No costs upfront; Record Union only make money when you, the artist make money. And now we’re back to something I wrote earlier in this post, it’s all about YOUR needs. As others already have stated; If you are a big money making selling machine then Tunecore are a good choice because they take less percentage pr sold album, but if you don’t expect to get the big money just yet then RU are a great choice (in my opinion) due to their non subscription, no money upfront setup. You can’t loose.

    In addition I would setup an account with Bandcamp or Noisetrade. That way you can have a place of your own, where you control the going price of your music, to point back to when you do Direct To Fan happenings (discounts, giveaways, etc..) And finally, if you want sell physical albums as well, then perhaps set up the physical distribution via CDBaby to gain access to their (admittedly) vast offer of physical stores, reputation, and other good services like print on demand etc..

    So to conclude: My choice would be Record Union for Digital Distribution teamed with Bandcamp for Direct To Fan action and CDBaby’s physical distribution.

    Pepper me with questions if you have any, give me your Pro’s & Con’s regarding my thoughts, I’m always looking to learn of new ways & better ways 😀 !


  • Wesley McCants

    We, the Macbrothers, Inc., released two songs at Tunecore, Priscilla & Egypt, over a year ago. We haven’t made a red cent on either song since the release date at the beginning of February 2011. In all the distribution outlets Tunecore is affiliated with you would believe confidently that one individual from the whole of the worldwide web would have bought a copy of one of the two inexpensive released songs: at least. Not so. Zilch. This smells of manipulation or favoritism on the part of Tunecore and whoever else is involved. We plan to elicit the succor of the U.S. Justice Department about the moral integrity of this online service for songwriters and musicians. I don’t believe Tunecore is as forthright as it boasts itself to be. In contrast, it doesn’t appear in the forefront to be shady, but when one plus one doesn’t equal two, as the Principia Mathematica teaches us, then one needs to check at the backdoor to find out what’s going on.

    Wesley McCants
    Member of BMI
    Disabled Vietnam Veteran

    Post Script: How can a company swindle a disabled veteran and sleep at night?

  • Anthony

    I’d like to suggest yet another option I feel is noteworthy that maybe one of the bands could review and let me know their opinion on.

    It’s called Symphonic Distributions, and on paper, it appears to be superior to all of these services.

    I have yet to actually test it though, so I’m not entirely sure

  • bapu

    dear chris,
    Happy to read the duscussions im a solo flute artist some of my tracks
    On you tube played more than 90000 times and received good comments and as well as digital download enquiries.My question is now im ready with my solo
    albums i have checked reverbnation and cd baby please let me know which will be best for me?im mainly in to meditation music gotgood responses guide on

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Personally, I’d go with CD Baby. Especially since this is your first time trying to do distribution, you will only have to pay a one time setup fee, then they only take a percentage of your sales. If you use Reverbnation or Tunecore, you will be paying a yearly fee. Right now, you don’t know if you will generate enough sales to justify paying a yearly fee.

      You mentioned that you had more than one album ready. You could always experiment. Do distribution through both CD Baby and Tunecore. Then you can see the difference in services for yourself.

  • Van Paul

    Anyone out there have any experience with Songcast?
    $6 per month, $19.99 per cd one time only….
    Seems a bit expensive when compared to CD Baby

  • Bsnide

    My band is currently making an EP we want hard cd copies and mp3 copies, and we are leaning towards discmakers and getting their “Mega Distribution Bundle” which appears to be just a one time payment of $60
    Anyone know about this site and if its any good?

  • J.Biggs

    I think cd Baby Is A Rip Off I Google My Name & They Had My Cd Since 2007 & Havent Sent Me No Money So I Think They Are A Big Scam My Cd Club Heat Do Not Use Cd Baby They Are Full Of Sh__

  • DannyJ

    Just started the application process at TuneCore just to be able to read the fine print. The contract contains the following clause: “Ninety percent (90%) of Gross Receipts shall be credited to your TuneCore account. Company shall be permitted to retain ten percent (10%) of Gross Receipts.”

    Now, this means gross receipts from all sources, including mechanical royalties from ASCAP, etc., when others record or perform your songs. Your chart at the top says that TuneCore does not take a percent of profit. Their contract, says they take 10% of the GROSS receipts.

    Based on this fact alone, CDBaby is looking better, if only to save one-percent on transactions. Granted, TuneCore performs other services that CDBaby doesn’t – but I’m glad I stopped to read all the legaleze before signing anything!

  • Buffy Helmet

    Tunecore is the devil! Stay far away! Cdbaby is wonderful (No, I don’t work for them). But Tunecore ripped me off of 600 bucks. Took me 6 months of hassling with them, their lawyers, and anyone who would listen there, till I finally got my money. They are lying thieves. Trust me. Or find out the hard way.

  • Richard Stevens

    I’ve done a ton of research and attended frequent music conferences about the future of music distribution. There are some good companies out there but as far as overall value and services, MondoTunes is without a doubt the leader of the pack. They’re new but they have tremendous industry experience “as musicians” and not corporate peeps trying to crunch numbers. They also have a close affiliation with Interscope Records but without taking royalties or rights from artists.
    They have the largest distribution range, they provide unique services others don’t, they market artists and most importantly, you can hop on a phone call with them to shoot the shit about the industry (and they know what they’re talking about). Music industry is all about word of mouth and their reputation was incredible at SXSW and other conferences I’ve been to. I’m a music industry writer and have no benefits from promoting them other than the fact that independent musicians need all the help they can get! check them out and best of luck

    • Gravel Roads

      Interestingly enough, this is “formerly JMD Distribution” as stated clearly on their website banner at the top of their page. If you have been following this topic at all you will note that they were mentioned earlier, above. Perhaps they are in fact too good to be true, but they certainly warrant further “investigation”…:)

      Oh, and I have to say, this is invaluable info for anyone trying to get started with their music. Thanks everyone for your comments!

  • sean



  • LostInDigital

    Hi there,
    Interesting article and comments.
    Would anybody be interested by the following?
    Digital distribution, worldwide (all retail stores, all territories).
    Distribution of albums, singles and/or ringtones (for iPhone mainly, since the rest of the ringtone market is almost dead).
    Keep 100% ownership.
    Royalty rate: 54%
    Payment threshold: 20€ (via PayPal)
    2 options:
    1. upload fee per product (album 9,9 € / single 4,9€ / ringtone 3,9€) + monthly subscription of 0,99€/month for account maintenance.
    Fully managed account (no DYI interface), nothing to do except agreeing contractual terms and initial submission of your files.
    2. subscription only: 9,9 €/month, no upload fees, unlimited number of releases (products). DYI interface (you create your products, upload your files…etc).
    If interested, drop me a line with a link to listen to your music (soundcloud, myspace..)

  • Elly

    Don’t know if this thread is still running, but if so, does anyone have any experience with The Genepool? Thanks in advance for your help. Got to make a decision fast.

  • Josh


    I remixed a track and distributed it through Tunecore and according to the TuneCore iTunes Weekly Trending Report I sold 1600 units from Dec 10th to Dec 16th 2012.

    But the last two weeks…December 17th 2012 onwards…..I was unable to get my iTunes Weekly Trending Report on Dashboard.

    I promoted my remix through my Linkshare iTunes Affiliate Link and it has indeed recorded sales made since Dec 17th 2012.

    But there is no such report on my ( iTunes Weekly Trending Report) on my Tunecore Dashboard…I do have all the Screenshots of the sales made from my Sinlge during this period (December 17th 2012 onwards) from my Linkshare iTunes Affiliate Dashboard.

    Is it the iTunes Holiday Shutdown/Blackout week or am I missing something here?

  • Josh


    This is just an update.I did get my iTunes Weekly Trending Report on Jan 2 , 2013.It was the iTunes Holiday Shutdown.

    You won’t get your iTunes Weekly/Daily Trending Report when the iTunes office is closed for Christmas Holidays.

  • Leon

    heres some more info you can add about reverbnation,,ive been on there a while and decided to sell my music but ran into this issue i sent them a message it reads as follows

    ok so here is the issue , you ask for your Digital Distribution uploads to be in at least 320 bit rate, which will put almost any 3:30 song over your 8 meg limit for upload, (how many artist do you know that have an album full of 2 min songs?) you see what iam getting at,, why isnt the upload for songs 10 megs,,,i mean if your mega upload package gives you 100 meg limit for just 1 song,so why is it so low with out it,and iam sure you are aware that there are other sites that do not charge you for any upload size, it seems to me you put it so low as to trap people into buying both packages, dont get me wrong i can understand paying for your services on the site but 40.00 is not even close to a competitive price in fact its double the standard and you do everything for free anyway so paying that price for a meg or 2 seems like a rip off, and by the way none of that is explained through the entire process of uploading an album, its waits to the very end to say oh ya you will have to buy the mega upload package as well and who in the world uploads a 100meg song anyway?…look the bottom line is you force people to buy the upload package on an unfair level or reasoning ,,and on a side note i dont upload much music here because of how troublesome it is just to get one song on here,,oh wait its too long,,shorten it,,,oh still to big for upload better turn down the quality,,oh wait now i cant sell it, and it takes forever for uploads so its a very big pain to upload anything here,,as a site that is dedicated to helping artist ,forcing them to share lesser quality songs dosent seem very helpful at all when you call it as it is huh? know this message is pointless because nothing will be done about that and ill “probably” seek out anther provider but i thought i would express what i and many other artist find is a large problem with the site

  • Leon

    well they got back to me on my complaint,they didnt give me an answer,,i saw that coming
    so you should add to the reverbnation part that i will in fact cost you 40.00 to get the mega upload
    pack and its yearly,and you will also have to pay the 40 for selling your music,my total was around 82.05,,unless you know how to compress a song thats in wav format to under 8 megs cause they only accept that file for selling,,anyone who knows what iam talking about is probably laughing there ass for right (its not possible) (unless your song is one minute long)
    i have no problem paying the fee,,but be upfront about it,,not shady as hell

    • Ben

      How does ReverbNation, Tunecore, iTunes, CDBaby etc help with marketing your music? If you want to sell your music yourself, you can just save cost on all these by using Paypal Express Checkout. It provides all the resources and code for you to sell the digital file yourself, and collect payment yourself.
      However, if you want a platform that does more, i.e. market your music for you as well, you can explore Tell My Friends.

      • Leon

        i have the express paypal and my own web site,,but to answer your question,,because of name,,,i dont know of tell my friends i assume they help advertise (which i do myself) but how good can they be if in 5 years of doing this i have never herd of them,,none of my music connects have,,but how many people check places itunes,,and to get on there your self has alot of legal issues to deal with thats why :)

        • Ben Looi

          You need a marketing platform, not an online store. Here’s what Tell My Friends can do: is a link to a song, Love The Way You Lie, Skylar Grey’s song covered by an artiste named Nat Ho.

          This link can be shared on Facebook, Twitter etc. Whoever buys the song gets their own link for that purchase, and earn commissions when they tell friends and friends buy from their link.

          Tell My Friends has a blanket license from music publishers, so this helps artistes manage the rights issues that they may run into. Contact me if you want to find out more if this helps in your music promotion/marketing/sales.

        • Ben Looi

          Tell My Friends is new. We are in beta stage and will officially launch in April 2013. That’s why you never heard of us in the last five years. :)
          Yes we do help to market, and fans will also help market. We will be at SXSW in Mar 2013 so if you would like to find out more, do drop by.
          Do check out our Facebook page to see our latest event where we help market our artistes music using TuneStand.
          We have a blanket license from music publishers, so that solves most of your legal problems. :)

  • Richard

    There are also finer differences between CD Baby, TuneCore, ReverbNation that may affect digital distribution.

    For example CD Baby and ReverbNation do not allow you to upload a PDF booklet to iTunes, whilst TuneCore does.

    In contrast, TuneCore does not have the facility to allow you to specify the composer for individual tracks, whilst CD Baby and ReverbNation do.

    Just looking at MondoTunes now …

    Would love a big chart with the all these types of options against each of the aggregators hehehe

  • Donovan Capron

    I’m an upcoming producer/composer and I would like to somehow make royalties off the music I compose for artist. I’m signed up with ascap as well. Is there a way that these distribution sites can distribute or split money to the people who created the project so everyone get their fair share? I’m composing for many people daily and im looking for a way to makesure everyone gets their cut when music is being bought or listened too.

      • Donovan Capron

        thanks for your quick reply. Is their a way of automating this? When making 60-120 songs per year,that may become a task, and then their is having people trust you with their royalties afterwards,seems almost easier said then done.

        • LostInDigitalMusic (@LostInDigital)

          Yes that’s a job to run a music business!
          The number of songs does not really matter, the amount of money / royalties generated does.
          This is what will determine how to size your accounting procedures for distributing the revenue to your artists.
          There are commercial solutions for labels to achieve this, for example “Royaltyshare”.
          Otherwise if you are distributing through a digital distributor, the reports supplied should be robust enough to help you do the split easily with some filters in excel.
          If you’re dealing with each retailer separately then that can be a tough task to achieve, this is usually why the accountants are here for in music companies!
          If you need help, please contact me via my website contact form.

  • Medddor

    Great resource you’ve created, Chris, thank you. As you see it, what would be the downsides, disadvantages, or the negative in utilizing what both CD Baby and Tunecore have to offer for the same CD release (other than the cost, obviously)?

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Unfortunately, you can’t use both at once for the same music. For digital distribution, stores like iTunes won’t let you have duplicate entries for the same album.

      So, if you choose one company, you’re stuck with it unless you do a takedown where you remove your music from the digital distribution service. Sometimes, this costs money to do.

      • LostInDigitalMusic (@LostInDigital)

        Well, practically you can deliver the “same” music twice.
        What you have to do is to use different UPCs, so that the retailers do not consider the products as duplicates.
        But this should not be a problem if you’re using different digital distributors to deliver the same product: CD Baby will assign UPC 1 to product A and at the same time TuneCore will assign UPC 2 to product A.
        As a consequence iTunes will receive product A twice, under UPC 1 and under UPC 2.
        On the store, and from a human being / customer perspective, this will be a duplicate.
        But the automated content management system from the digital retailers will not be able to detect it as long as they use the UPC as the key for identifying products.
        This “technique” is used (deliberately or not) by most major companies and big labels. It artificially increases the “size” of their digital catalogue and makes their offer more appealing for retailers when negotiating license deal with them.

        Another option if you run your own company and are a registered member of is to create your own UPCs and assign different UPCs to the same products.

        • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

          Interesting. When I was reading up on CDBaby’s policies on distribution, I remember it saying you were not allowed to have duplicate entries. I wonder if that policy changed, or they just don’t police it.

          Thanks for bringing that up.

          • LostInDigitalMusic (@LostInDigital)

            Well, hum, yes it’s certainly not allowed because these companies like CDBaby want to remain “credible” in terms of catalogue management towards retailers like iTunes and others.
            But, the reality is that “everybody” does that to boost sales and artificially increase catalogue size.
            Another tip for not “getting catched” is to deliver the same product (same tracklisting) but with a different cover art (and still under a different UPC).
            This is done very frequently by “the big ones”.

  • McJJ

    To me it seems like Reverbnation isn’t 100% on the up and up. They offer a 3-day “FREE!!!” Trial for one of t service. I subscribed to try it out, was told you need to cancel if you don’t like it, and when I went to cancel it said you needed to cancel 2 days in advance, but I was already on the 2nd day. So they charged me.

    One month later, they charge me unwittingly AGAIN, this time around $20 for a month of the PRO account, something I DID NOT agree to (but speculate was part of the trial deal) and didn’t even notice!

    I triplechecked my account settings before cancelling that one also, and then promptly deleted my band account, and even now I’m hoping I don’t get charged AGAIN in a month for something ridiculous!

    And it’s a shame too, it wasn’t TOO bad of a service…

    My advice is, if you DO try them out, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES agree to payment of any kind!

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      I loved ReverbNation when they first came out. They had a ton of cool tools that no other site had. Shareable and embeddable widgets for your songs, shows, press, and tours!

      Unfortunately, they seem to have fallen behind in innovation. Nobody wants Flash widgets anymore. They want HTML5 and mobile/tablet capabilities.

      They were badass, but really have dropped the ball.

      I’m sorry to hear you got those charges. Hopefully you contacted their customer service and got a refund.

      I used to pay for their pro services, but competing services have far outpaced ReverbNation’s offerings. I really hope they make a comeback and innovate for the independent musician, again. They really were badass back in the day.

  • gdohv

    Just came aross this thread and trying to get through this tangled web of information lol. Its so hard, im trying to make my own chart just so i can see for myself. But as far as most comments, I see CD Baby for obvious reasons but im kind of leaning towards Tunecore. Is there anymore opinions/info on dittoMusic though? Experience with it? I want to be on digital platforms but also physical Cd’s as well. Any more advice?

  • JTV Digital (@JTVDigital)

    As far as I can see, Ditto’s pricing model looks quite complex.
    If you’d like digital + physical distribution maybe CD Baby is the best path yes.
    However if you’re looking for DIY or managed digital distribution solution, please opt-in at my website and we’ll get back to you. Cheers,

  • Ian Taylor

    Our band is finding the more you can do in house the better. Although not every band has a drummer who can also record/mix there are many things you can do before you make the step to digital distribution. Also it helps to know a recording engineer/studio that likes you and your band and is willing to cut you a deal. We also record all of our live shows and put them on, as we believe sharing out music is the first step to selling a cd once we record one. Also if we have a particularly nice hq live show, we print our own labels stick them on burned CDs and put them in jewel cases to sell at shows. If we happened to do covers at that show, we would only include our original songs on the sampler.

    Building a fan base and getting your music out there is the most important thing to do, as no-one will by a CD from a band they have never heard. Find as many ways to spread your music as possible with the income that you have. We use reverbnation to host our website and have twitter, Facebook,, and are soon to add a few more services. And tour tour tour. It may seem a daunting task, but being in a band is more than just being a musician. It’s about being an engineer, booking agent, promoter, and so on.

    Best of luck,

    Ian Taylor
    Keyboards, Vocals, and booking for Tonal Caravan

  • Michael

    I did not read all of the comments. So if I repeat someone, I’m sorry.

    I’m having a hard time working the math out on why CDBaby is so much better. At $49.99 a year for TuneCore, and assuming you only get to keep 70% of your sales (like with iTunes) you will only need to sell 7 albums a year or 70 singles to pay for the service. That’s a lot, but it is nowhere near “thousands of singles.”

    That’s a pretty freakin’ huge misdirect.

    And lets say you sell 100 albums. The first year of sales I’d say TuneCore wins just because the start up price is the same and TuneCore does not charge a commission. So let’s look at the second year.

    100 albums = roughly $700 (after iTunes or similar store takes their cut)
    With Tune Core you keep $650
    With CDBaby you keep $637

    So as far as I can tell unless you are selling fewer than 100 albums a year you should NOT go with CDBaby. To be fair, 100 albums a year might be a lot for some people. And there is something to be said for not having to renew the service each year. But if you are selling a significant number of albums – multiple hundreds or thousands – then I’d say use TuneCore until you think you might die, then switch to CDBaby. Or put it in your will. :)

  • Mental MagiQ

    Wow. This has been so enlightening. Thanks Chris, and everyone for your comments. My question is: is there any downside to dealing with any of these distributors from third-world countries? I’m from Lagos, Nigeria. Anyone dealing with them from outside the US? What’s been your experiences? I’ll appreciate some good info. Thanks again, all.

  • Artie Barnes (Barnes & Barnes)

    My 2 cents: Cdbaby has been WONDERFUL for my duo for the last 7 years. I had a heinous experience with Tunecore, so let me say RUN away fast from them, you guys! They ripped me off of almost 600 bucks from illegal royalties they made, which I had to fight hard for to eventually get. It’s a long story, but it’s on the internet. Just google: “Tunecore Artie Barnes” and you’ll find it I’m sure. And no, I don’t work for Cdbaby, but I love them! The one time fee per album is simple and easy. Some of our albums don’t do 50 bucks a year worth of downloads. With Tunecore, we would lose money right there. And giving up a paltry 9% per download is almost nothing, as far as my thinking goes. For my duo, the math works REALLY well to use Cdbaby. They send me checks literally weekly and I love that! We sell a lot of downloads. As far as for ReverbNation, I know nothing about them. Also, I believe the main guys got fired over at Tunecore last year, did they not? Thank goodness. From my horrible experience with them a few years ago, they were rip off artists.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Sorry to hear about your experience with Tunecore. I wasn’t a fan of their pricing model, but this is the first I heard of rip-offs.

      Yeah, the not making enough to cover the yearly charge is the thing that gets me. I know a small band can be a struggle to get download sales. Much less, keep those sales going for infinity.

      Thanks for commenting, Artie!

    • tdu

      Sorry for your bad tunecore experience. I can’t agree with you that 9% of each transaction is ‘nothing’ though. I am not particularly fond of any of the structures these companies have worked out, but CD Baby’s is the least appealing by far.

      • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

        I wish there was a service inbetween the two models. 9% until you hit a cap, like $49.99. Then, all the fees go to the artist. So, CDBaby-like until they collect $50, then it’s like Tunecore with all proceeds going to the artist.

        In my opinion, 9% is better than having a Major Label take 93%. Or, insanely, trying to do digitally distribute on your own. And if you are selling so many downloads that 9% is getting in the way, that’s a good problem to have.

  • jeff

    I have been considering releasing my music for free digitally, and at cost of manufacture and shipping for CD’s. I feel my group is more likely to get better exposure this way for our 19 song album. Considering that CD Baby expects a percentage from each sale, that rules them out (although I have been told they are the popular choice). Also, CD Baby wants the group to send them the finished CD (with artwork/sleeve) and this seems like more work for us. What do you think would be the best platform for releasing our record given this scenario? And what format offers the best exposure/distribution? – Jeff

    • thisdotmusic

      Great resource of information on here and still going since 2011! Many thanks.

      I would like to add my compliments to Record Union. They have a good price for the ep release. The site is nicely organised so someone of simple mind like myself can understand it! Help is always available when needed with polite and helpful replies. And as someone has mentioned there is an A & R facility that is worth following up where by introducing new talent to Record Union you can receive a % of their sales.

      Good luck everyone!

  • lorenzo

    Tunecore are a bunch of CROOKS! They never reply to emails, they’ll charge your credit card without your permission. Even if you have six or more emails stating you no longer want any service. I have replies from Brian who does the email support bullshit. Still they’ll run all over you. Don’t base your judgement on this report, but check others complaint. You’ll see for yourself! DONT BE SCAMMED INTO THEIR SERVICE!!

  • AMAdea Music

    Here we would like to mention AMAdea Music. There are no fees per album with us and you still get 90% of your sales.

    Cost per Album $0
    Cost per Single $0
    Percent of profit kept by the company. 10%
    UPC Bar Code $0
    ISRC Code $0

  • Coraera

    Thanks for this. Very helpful! I have been mulling over the headache of digital distribution. I have also found people engage more and buy CD’s at live shows but until I can afford to get over to Louisiana, Berlin and Sydney online options are helpful and to some extent deter piracy. I also think HostBaby looks appealing but would rather hosting closer to home by a company I can phone. Too bad my previous registrars and host offered little in the way of music marketing options and did sneaky things like renewimg expired domains etc when I had deselected that and on an expired card!

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Digital distribution is cool and all, but, it’s way better when you also have something physical to sell. Vinyl, schwag, limited edition CDs, etc. Digital distribution is definitely the gateway drug to get people into your sales funnel.

      I use HostGator for my hosting. They do exactly what I want without getting in the way.

      • Edwin Dude

        Hi – excellent forum. I’m leaning towards CD Baby but my question applies generally: I want to put out a digital-only single and want to know – how do any of these distributors let me send my track to specific radio stations (in the hope of getting airplay, obviously)? Without airplay, unless you’re gigging how is anyone to know your track exists?

      • Edmond

        In the United States, if you’ve set yourself up properly, remembering that this is the Music Business, you will be able to use the TuneCore charge as a full write-off against taxes as a business expense necessary to make taxable income.

        I have my own bar code. It can be had, and then you can sell bar codes to other musicians (careful, this is a gray area, though many do it.. do it correctly). I have my own ISRC base code, from which the song codes are generated. This can be had as well.

        Bottom line, as you figure out costs, please, please treat this as the business it is. It’s possible to be profitable.

  • RouteNote

    Im very surprised that you didnt compare RouteNote. RouteNote is the leading digital music distributor in Europe with over 51,000 artists at the moment and growing fast. p.s. we have a FREE offering

  • Jeanette

    I have recently discovered – which offers a 100% revenues on sales. Their approach is to focus on Direct-to-consumer sales. On top of that I get the email addresses of my customers, so that I can stay in touch with them at any time. That has proven to be valuable when promoting a new release or concert. I just hit my loyal fans up via email and they’ll be informed.

    Since Lizzar is a music-platform/marketplace and not a distributor my music is not distributed to iTunes or other stores, but do I really need to be on iTunes, knowing that iTunes keeps 30% of every sale I make? Plus, iTunes keeps all the customer data for itself – so I don’t even know who my fans are and who purchased my album.I have no way to build a artist-fan-relationship with fans when using iTunes.

    I thus focus on selling my music in one store where I get 100% of the revenues and customer-data that really is invaluable.
    Using the premium features of the service costs me only $9.95/month. Since I get 100% on every album sale, I just need to sell one album a month to cover expenses.

    Have a look. The service is called!

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Well…iTunes is one of those places that everyone is using for their music. Same as Spotify and Pandora. It’s how things work.

      So, I’d rather pay DistroKid $19.99 a year than $9.95 a month for Lizzar. Not sure why paying $120 a year is a better option when you can’t get on something major like iTunes. That doesn’t make much sense.

  • Steve V. Lee

    Tunecore, CDBaby, Discmakers, guess what??? ALL under the same exact umbrella of a more major corporation.
    No matter WHO you choose, you’re getting reamed, although yes, you’re probably getting heard more than you would have on your own.

  • RouteNote

    Need to look at RouteNote. We offer a Free option for artists (they keep 85% of the royalties) and a Premium model (keep 100%). Artists can move between the models… whatever makes the most financial sense and they can do this at any time. No more getting overcharged!

  • Bill Everhart

    The real question for me is who owns the rights, composer copyright, publisher, mechanical and synchronization. I read somewhere that Tunecore requires you to use them as publisher, which if true just lost you 50% of your royalties as opposed to forming your own publishing company. That alone would eliminate Tunecore for me.

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Great question. I’ve signed up to ASCAP as both composer and publisher for my music. I’m not sure how that plays out with distribution or sync licensing. A great question for an entertainment attorney.

  • Colleen Rose Novak

    I cancelled all CD Baby Distribution over a year ago, people were buying downloads in front of me and they never appeared. I also heard from a few execs in the music industry, that if you do not have power attorneys from major labels going in to look at the books with many on-line distributors, you are getting ripped off. Leaving CD Baby was a nightmare, I had to fight and write cease and desist letters to several partners, why when they are showing no distribution at my account and were legally notified??? I thought it was all done finally, yet wait, no it isn’t…
    Over a year later I Google myself to find yet another Partner of CD Baby still selling my music (copyright infringement) so again, sent the partner a cease and desist letter, they tell me my RETAILER ha ha ha CD Baby should be notified, when CD Baby has already dealt with me via phone, e-mails and direct notification STOP SELLING MY MUSIC! I had to write the copyright office as well. Ya know, if I was not making money why would this be so difficult? Why does CD baby continue selling my music via partners when I pulled all the music off distribution??? You should be able to suit over this aggravation and infringement, it is ridiculous already. So anyone thinking about using CD Baby better think again, word from the wisdom accrued here, FOOD FOR THOUGHT
    I did not have any problems with iTunes, they pulled immediately which is why I use them via Distrokid. CD Baby is not cool, they lost their coolness when Disc Makers took over.

  • Matt

    Hi there, I’m a solo artist getting ready to release my first full-length album, and I’ve been going back and forth on which place I should go with to distribute the album. I currently have a profile on ReverbNation, but I’ve never released anything for money through them. I recorded, mixed, and mastered the album entirely myself from home, and for not much money at all. I’ve decided I want to stick with digital distribution, at least for the time being, but I’m pretty worried that I’ll end up screwing myself by choosing a poor distributor. It may sound like a dumb question, but is there any risk of potentially losing rights to music when it comes to distributing music myself? As a relatively inexperienced artist, I just feel like I’m running blind, and I’m not quite sure if I’m taking the proper steps before putting my music out there. Any thoughts or advice on this would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Sorry for the late reply!

      The important thing is to own the rights to your music, not the distribution. If you are releasing music with other musicians, I highly recommend you spend the money on an entertainment lawyer. You need to know how royalties will be distributed when a band member quits the band.

      Otherwise, any of the solutions you choose are fine for distribution. Most of these companies are highly reputable.

      Personally, I’m using to release a ton of releases for only $19 a year. It’s not on this table I put up, but it’s a new option I’m enjoying.

      I hate to tell you, but the whole shebang for a song is complicated. It sucks.

      You have to understand copyright, royalties, licensing, and distribution. And, honestly, no one has a clear picture how it should all work.

      Protect your ass. Copyright your material. Register your shit with a PRO like ASCAP or BMI (if you’re in the US.). Get a contract with your bandmates to know what happens when someone quits.

      Distribution is still an important decision. I chose CD Baby, because bands break up more often than not. You pay an up front fee and just pay a percentage of sales. This is good if you are a small band that doesn’t have a solid future.

      If you are a bigger band that has strong sales and a strong future, choose something like TuneCore. You pay a yearly fee, but none of the percentages of CD Baby.

      Does that make sense?