At some point every artist will have to choose which music distribution company they use to distribute their music on streaming services. There are dozens of options out there but most artists ask if they should use CDBaby or DistroKid.
In this comparison you’ll learn:
If CDBaby or DistroKid is cheaper for you (hint: it depends on your release schedule)
Which distributor is the fastest
What hidden fees they each have (one of them is insulting)
- Which features each one has (and doesn’t have)
What CD Baby and DistroKid Have In Common
Both CD Baby and DistroKid are music distribution services that make releasing music fairly simple. They each distribute music to practically every music streaming and download platform you could think of. This includes Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tidal, Deezer and over 140 other platforms.
They both distribute to social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. They both offer lyric distribution, YouTube Content ID and even automated mastering services. Both distributors allow cover songs and support Spotify Discovery Mode.
Outside of these commonalities, they’re quite different in many other aspects including:
Publishing royalty collection
Music video distribution
Cover song licensing models
Dolby Atmos support
Where CD Baby and DistroKid Differ
DistroKid offers unlimited distribution for one annual fee and CD Baby charges you per release plus a 9% fee on royalty collection. DistroKid can get your music live in as little as 2 days whereas CD Baby takes over a week. DistroKid supports music video distribution and Dolby Atmos support (for a price) while CD Baby does not.
CD Baby is known for their great customer service while DistroKid is known for very minimal customer service unless you’re a priority artist. CD Baby can handle publishing royalty collection (for CD Baby Pro publishing releases) and DistroKid does not.
DistroKid can handle cover song licensing while on CD Baby you have to handle the licensing yourself. DistroKid has a mobile app which allows you to check stats, royalty splits and even distribute music from your phone while CD Baby does not.
About CD Baby
CD Baby has been around since 1998. Originally they started as a way for artists to put their music on CDs, and eventually they got into digital distribution. Up until 2020 they had a retail program where they could help artists sell physical music and merchandise. They supported physical media through outlets such as Amazon and Alliance up until 2023 when it cancelled it to focus on online distribution exclusively.
DistroKid was launched in 2013 by Philip Kaplan, originally as a side feature of Kaplan’s music social network and then split into its own company in 2015. Over the years it has grown to become one of the most significant platforms in the DIY music distribution space.
In 20189 Spotify announced it had acquired a minority stake in DistroKid and hinted at the idea of enabling artists to distribute music directly to Spotify without needing a distributor. However in 2019 Spotify announced they were retreating from direct distribution (likely due to distributor, label and other DSP backlash).
Comparing Pricing Models: DistroKid vs CD Baby
When it comes to pricing, DistroKid and CD Baby adopt divergent models. DistroKid operates on an annual subscription model. For a flat fee of $22.99 per year, artists can upload unlimited songs and albums and collect 100% of their royalties.
I recommend their Musician Plus plan for $39.99 per year because it allows you to schedule a release date and re-use ISRC’s which is important if you want to use the waterfall release strategy or release an album that contains previously released singles. This plan also lets you release as much music as you want for up to two artists and collect all the royalties.
On the other hand, CD Baby pricing is per single or album released, with no annual fees. The pricing starts at $9.99 for a single or album with CD Baby Standard and $49.99 for a single or album with CD Baby Pro Publishing. Since there are no annual fees your music stays up forever unless you manually pull it from the stores. However, CD Baby takes a 9% cut of your royalties.
These differences mean in terms of pricing, the distribution service that makes sense for you will vary depending on upload schedule and how much money you’re making in royalties.
Is DistroKid or CD Baby Cheaper?
If you release music more than 4 times per year, DistroKid is cheaper
If you make more than $445 per year in royalties per year, DistroKid is cheaper
Distribution Speed: DistroKid vs CD Baby
When it comes to the speed of distribution, DistroKid truly shines. The platform prides itself on its fast service, often making music available on major streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music in as little as 2-3 days. This is a significant advantage for artists who are eager to get their music out to their fans as quickly as possible.
However, it’s crucial to note that while DistroKid’s speed is impressive, the exact timeframe can vary for other platforms. Specifically places like TikTok, Facebook and Instagram can take up to 4 weeks for your music to appear. But this is the platform’s fault, not DistroKid’s. Furthermore, while DistroKid’s swift service is awesome, it should not overshadow the importance of planning a release well in advance to ensure optimal visibility and promotion.
Contrasting DistroKid, CD Baby’s distribution speed is comparatively slower, often taking 1-3 weeks for music to appear on major streaming platforms. This is due to their manual review process where an actual human looks at the metadata and assets for the release to ensure they meeting formatting requirements. Unfortunately this manual review doesn’t seem to reduce the chance of distribution mistakes, as I know several people who have had problems with CD Baby and the tracks showing up on the wrong artist profiles on the DSP’s.
Customer Support: A Comparison between DistroKid and CD Baby
Customer support is one of CD Baby’s biggest advantages compared to DistroKid. Not only does CD Baby have live chat and easy access to email support, they even have a phone number you can call. I’ve heard that over the years CD Baby customer support has decayed slightly, but they still have a massive advantage in this area over DistroKid.
DistroKid doesn’t offer a phone number, live chat or even an email address for you to contact. They have a pretty thorough help desk which asks you which area you need help in, and directs you to the best article to answer your question. If you choose the right combination of options in their help desk it will let you fill out a form and contact them, but it’s quite difficult to find.
DistroKid is a very automated platform and in general music distribution is largely self-serve. Very rarely will you ever need to contact distribute support. Most often in cases of problems on streaming platforms you’d be direct to contact the DSP instead (like Spotify or Apple Music customer support).
What Streaming Services Do They Support?
Both DistroKid and CD Baby support over 150 streaming services and music platforms. This includes the following:
Instagram & Facebook
…and many more
DistroKid Mobile App
For music creators that either don’t have a computer or very rarely use a computer, DistroKid supports music distribution from their mobile app (currently iOS devices only). Even for artists that distribute on the computer the app is handy for checking stats, grabbing links and resources and handling royalty splits on the go.
DistroKid Additional Features
Mixea and DistroVid are two exceptional features offered by DistroKid. Mixea is an automated mixing tool that allows artists to generate a balanced mix of their tracks within minutes.
DistroVid, on the other hand, allows artists to upload music videos to Vevo, Apple Music and Tidal.
DistroKid’s Dolby Atmos feature allows artists to distribute music in this immersive, spatial audio format. Apple has been pushing hard to make Dolby Atmos popular, likely due to their recent dive into the world of VR with the Apple Vision Pro headset.
In addition to these features, DistroKid retains its robust cover song licensing system. This unique feature allows artists to legally record and release cover songs, handling all the paperwork and even paying the original songwriters on behalf of the artists.
Along with these features, DistroKid also offers Hyperfollow pages and an unlimited lyrics feature. They even have a social phone feature so artists can start building their SMS list at a low price.
These extra features ensure that DistroKid remains at the forefront of digital distribution platforms catering to the evolving needs of artists in the digital age.
CD Baby Additional Features
CD Baby offers a plethora of additional features that set it apart from many other distribution platforms. One of their most notable extras is the ability to opt-in for publishing royal collection at a higher price.
CD Baby has many partnerships with other music industry companies. This includes Bandzoogle, where you can get 15% off your first year and 2 free CD Baby Standard releases when you upgrade to their annual plan. They also give 20% off your first month of Laylo Pro, 15% off at Groover and 100 internet radio plays for free at radio airplay.
CD Baby also offers Show.co, a smart link creation tool with Spotify pre-save support. Through this tool you can also build your email list, premiere a YouTube video and even create a Spotify audio ad.
DistroKid and CD Baby Hidden Fees
Both DistroKid and CD Baby have additional costs that may or may not matter to you depending on your needs.
CD Baby does not include UPC codes in their pricing, so you have to pay an additional $5 per single and $20 per album for this UPC code. This is a true hidden cost because you will need a UPC to distribute your music, although you can purchase it elsewhere. I find this cost to be particularly insulting.
I mentioned this before but CD Baby also takes 9% of your royalties, which can add up to a lot of money long term.
DistroKid doesn’t have any true hidden fees because all of them are optional. However some of them may be important to you. For example if you want to distribute cover songs through DistroKid you must use their cover song licensing program which costs $1/mo per song. Additionally if you want to use YouTube Content ID it costs $4.95 per year per song.
They also charge $1/year for Shazam support, although i’m not quite sure what this does because all of my music is in Shazam and i’ve never once paid for this feature.
They offer a lifetime distribution option for every release which costs an extra $29, but in my opinion you should never use this because the entire point of using DistroKid is the annual pricing model.
Conclusion: CDBaby or DistroKid—Which is the Better Choice?
For most artists DistroKid will be the better choice because they cost less, don’t touch your royalties and are generally more cutting edge when it comes to features compared to CD Baby. Nowadays its important to release music frequently and this is where the annual fee for unlimited music model that DistroKid uses makes a lot more sense.
However if you’re releasing less music per year or have a need to take advantage of CD Baby’s Pro Publishing features it may make sense. Registering with collection society’s can be quite a pain so to lose 9% of those royalties may be worth it for you.
Personally i’ve been using DistroKid for years and for over 50 releases, and I love it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s go over some frequently asked questions for CD Baby and DistroKid.
Can you use both CD Baby and DistroKid?
Yes you can use both CD Baby and DistroKid. Just make sure you don’t distribute the same music with both distribution services.
If you distribute the same songs using both you will create a conflict for who is supposed to collect your royalties.
Does CD Baby give 100% of royalties?
CD Baby gives you 91% of royalties, and they take 9%.
Can I upload Dolby Atmos to DistroKid and CD baby?
DistroKid supports Dolby Atmos audio but CD Baby does not.
What are the downsides of DistroKid?
DistroKid is not known for having the best customer service, and for artists that don’t release much music it may not make sense to pay annually for distribution.
Does CD Baby take down down music?
Nope, when you distribute music through CD Baby it is a one-time fee. They only take down music if you tell them to take it down, or the music is violating copyright law
What is the best music distribution company?
This will vary from artist to artist. Between CD Baby and DistroKid I think DistroKid makes more sense for most artists. DistroKid is faster, cheaper and has more features than CD Baby.
How long does it take for CD Baby to get on Spotify?
It generally takes CD Baby 1-2 weeks to get music onto Spotify (and Apple Music).