The Rhythm of Revenue: Exploring Music Distribution and Royalties

Tanmay Bohra
September 26, 2023
5 min read

Today, distinguished musicians and tomorrow's chart stars, we begin on a voyage into the complex world of music distribution. Gone are the days when CDs, radio waves, and vinyl albums were the only ways to achieve musical success. Join us as we unravel the complexities of music distribution, appreciate its far-reaching repercussions for young musicians, and recognize its position as the desired key to realizing your goals on the largest of platforms.

Mr. Stroll's Insights: The Evolution of Music Consumption

Consider this: a young and ambitious artist, Haley, had just released her first EP, a compilation of heartfelt songs. She was on cloud nine, convinced that she was the greatest thing since sliced bread. She strode into a neighborhood record store, proudly clutching her gleaming CD discs grinning from ear to ear.

The store owner, a wise old record collector, Rance Stroll, couldn't help but chuckle when he saw Haley's enthusiasm. "Ah, kid, those are some mighty fine tunes you got there," he patted her back. "But let me tell you, the music world ain't what it used to be." 😥

Haley's face sagged. "What exactly do you mean, uncle?"

"Well, darling," Mr. Stroll started, "back in the day, we'd stack vinyl records, spin them on turntables, turn on the radio, and delight in the crackling glory of analogue. But it's all about digital these days 🎶🎤, and if you want more eardrums vibrating to your music, you'll need to dive deeply into the realm of music distribution."

So, what is music distribution anyway?🤔

Music distribution refers to the process of making music available to the public through various platforms and channels, allowing listeners to access and enjoy it. This process involves getting music from artists and record labels to listeners through physical and digital formats. It's the bridge that connects your creative talent with the rest of the world.

But here's the catch: today, it's no longer simply about physical copies like CDs, cassette tapes, or vinyl records as Rance said above (though those are still quite awesome 🫶🏼). Today's music distribution is all digital (just like everything else has turned digital; it’s the era of Instagram and TikTok folks!)

A person doin music production on their mac

The Digital Revolution

In this digital age, music distribution means making your tracks available on various online platforms. We're talking Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and a gazillion other streaming services your grandmother probably doesn't even know exist

Why digital, you might ask? To begin with, it is convenient. Smartphones allow people to carry their complete music libraries in their pockets. Plus, there are no plastic CD cases polluting landfills! Music industry and the environment is a topic for another day, albeit an important one!

What Does It Mean for Future Artists?

Now that you understand what music distribution is, let's get to the important stuff: what it implies for you, the aspiring superstar. Consider music distribution to be your golden ticket to the music industry (without the terrifying Oompa Loompas, of course; Charlie still had to buy 2 bars to reach Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory!)🍫🚁

  1. Global Reach: Remember Haley? She had to go from store to store to introduce her music. With digital distribution, your music can reach listeners on a global scale. You're not just performing in your neighborhood; you're jamming out in the whole of India, Japan, and even the North Pole (yes, Santa needs a good beat, too - he’s quite free pretty much the entire year!)
  2. Fair Share of the Pie🧩: Sure, you might not become a millionaire overnight, but digital distribution ensures you get a fair share of the earnings. No more relying on shady record deals by greedy record labels that leave you with crumbs while the suits sip wine.
  3. Creative Control: You make the decisions. You have complete control over when and how your music is released. Do you want to release a surprise single at 3 a.m.? Take the plunge! You're in charge. Go for it!
  4. Feedback Loop: Digital platforms provide detailed analytics that can help you understand your audience better. Who's listening? Where are they from? Which tracks are on repeat? This data is your Brahmastra to fine-tune your musical journey.
  5. Lowered Barrier to Entry: You don't need a fat bank account to get started. Many music distribution services offer affordable or even free plans for new artists. So, even if your pockets are jingling with spare change (let’s face it, most of our pockets and bank accounts are almost empty in these tough times of high inflation, war, climate change, and God only knows what else!), you can still get your tunes out there.
  6. Longevity: Once your music is on the internet, it's there forever. Your songs could be discovered years from now, turning you into a timeless legend transcending generations. Just think of all the undiscovered gems from the past that we still groove to today. 🎧🎙️🥁🎸🎷

Selecting a Distribution Partner

Okay, you've decided to participate in music distribution. But where do you begin? You'll need a distribution partner. It's similar to picking your bandmates: you want someone who has your back through thick and thin!

There are various distribution services out there, each with its own quirks and perks. Here are a few popular ones:

  • TuneCore: TuneCore provides total control over your music. They charge a set cost for each release, and you keep 100% of the profits. No, that is not a typo; it is all yours.
  • CD Baby: They provide a variety of distribution options, ranging from digital to physical copies. CD Baby also provides sync licensing, which allows you to get your music into movies, TV shows, and advertisements.
  • Amuse: If you're a low-budget artist, Amuse has you covered with free distribution. Yes, you read that correctly: there are no upfront payments. They make money when you make money, therefore they have a vested interest in your success.
  • AWAL (Artists Without a Label): If you prefer a more personalized approach, AWAL may be for you. They provide artist services beyond distribution, like marketing and promotion tactics suited to your distinct sound.
  • Grootin® : Welcome to Grootin® - Studio to Stage, Simplified! Grootin®  - yours truly 🙏🏼, is also empowering artists in the digital age by providing cutting-edge tools and technology while revolutionizing the music industry with AI-powered music creation, seamless global distribution, and strategic marketing.

Caveat: These are good examples, however you should always review your distribution partner after thorough research and take up the medium which is best suited for you and tailors the distribution strategy to your needs. You can learn more about our distribution services at

Uploading Your Music: A DIY Adventure

So, you've picked your distribution partner – what's next? Uploading your music 🎧🎶! Think of it as uploading your masterpiece to the digital art gallery that is the internet.

Threads for kniting

  1. Prepare Your Music: Your tracks should be ready to rock. That means properly mixed and mastered, with eye-catching album art to boot. First impressions matter, after all.
  2. Choose Your Release Date: When do you want the world to hear your masterpiece? Pick a date that works for you, and your distribution partner will make it happen.
  3. Upload Your Music: This is where you unleash your inner tech wizard. You'll need to create an account on your chosen platform, provide some details about your release, and upload your music files. Don't worry; it's not as complicated as it sounds. If Haley can do it, so can you!
  4. Distribution Magic: Once your music is uploaded, your distribution partner takes over📈📈🥁. They'll send your tracks to various streaming platforms and online stores, making your music available to the masses.
  5. Promote Like a Pro: Don't just sit back and wait for the magic to happen. Share your music on social media, connect with your fans, and consider running targeted ads to boost your reach.
  6. Analyze and Adapt: Remember those nifty analytics we mentioned earlier? Use them to your advantage. If a particular track is gaining traction in a specific region, consider focusing your marketing efforts there. It's like a treasure map leading you to your loyal fans.

The Power of Collaboration

Let us pause for a moment to recognize something crucial: collaboration, partnership, and teamwork. Even the biggest solo musicians have an army of people working behind the scenes in the music industry. So, on your way to greatness, don't be frightened to collaborate with others.

Collaboration can take many forms:

  • Featured Artists: Invite fellow musicians to feature on your tracks or vice versa. It's like a musical exchange program that can introduce your music to new audiences.
  • Producers and Engineers: These folks are the wizards on the other side of your mic in the recording studio, helping you fine-tune your sound. Find the right producer, and your music can soar to new heights.
  • Songwriters: If you're not much of a lyricist, consider working with a talented songwriter. They can turn your melodies into lyrical magic.
  • Visual Artists: A stunning music video or eye-catching album art can make your music stand out. Collaborating with visual artists can add an extra layer of appeal to your work.
A person teaching helping another friend  to tune ther guitar.

Remember that seeking assistance is not a sign of weakness; rather, it demonstrates your dedication to your job. Besides, there’s so much more you’ll get to learn when you partner with other artists! 🥳👯

The Nitty-Gritty: Earnings and Royalties

Alright, let's talk turkey – royalties: the money is here honey! 🤑💵 When your music gets streamed or downloaded, you earn money.  But how does it operate, and how much money can you expect to take home?

  • Streaming Royalties: Most of your earnings will come from streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. They pay artists based on the number of streams your songs get. Typically, the payout is US $4-5 per 1000 streams. But with enough streams, those few dollars add up to quite a lot.
  • Download Sales: When someone buys your music on platforms like iTunes, you get a more substantial chunk of change. After all, they're buying your song, not just streaming it.
  • YouTube: YouTube can be a goldmine for artists, especially if your music videos go viral. You can earn money through ads, but be prepared for some serious competition with funny cat videos.
  • Performance Royalties: If your music gets played on the radio or in public places like cafes and malls, you're entitled to performance royalties. Organisations like ASCAP and BMI collect these royalties on your behalf.
  • Sync Licensing: Remember CD Baby's sync licensing option? This is where it pays off. Your music could end up in movies, TV shows, or commercials, earning you licensing fees.
  • Merchandise and Tickets: Don't forget about merch and live performances! Selling merchandise like t-shirts and concert tickets can be a significant source of income for artists.

Remember that the music industry is a complex beast in terms of revenues, and money does not pour in instantaneously. Keep your day job or side gig till your music takes off.

A girl playing a guitar on the street
Earning Royalties

The Road to Stardom: What to Expect

Now, let's get real. The road to musical stardom isn't all glitz and glam. It's more like a rollercoaster with unexpected twists and turns. Here's what you can expect on your journey:

  1. Rejection: You'll face rejection – a lot (believe me, it hurts too and I’ve been through it 😞😔). Not every music blog will feature your latest single, and not every record label will come knocking on your door. But remember, rejection is just a pit stop on the road to success. Don’t feel dejected though
  2. Hard Work: Making it in the music industry takes sweat, tears, and more late-night rehearsals than you can count. But every ounce of effort is a step closer to your dream.
  3. Criticism: Brace yourself for criticism. Not everyone will love your music, and that's perfectly okay. Even the Beatles had their share of haters.
  4. Financial Challenges: Don't expect to quit your day job right away. It takes time to build a solid income from music. Be prepared to juggle multiple gigs until your music takes off.
  5. Networking: Building connections in the industry is crucial. Attend events, connect with fellow artists, and never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned handshake (or a virtual one these days).
  6. Patience: Patience is truly a virtue! 🙏🏼 Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a music career. Be patient, stay persistent, and keep the faith.😴

After all of your hard work, sleepless nights, and countless cups of coffee (or whatever helps you stay up late), the day would finally arrive: your debut release. You've uploaded your music, promoted it like a boss, and now it's time to hit play and celebrate. But here's the thing: releasing music is like manifestation. You've done your best to prepare them, but now it's up to the universe to decide their fate.

Finally, keeping the music alive…

There you have it, music fans and aspiring musicians: the tea on music distribution. It's a magical portal to sharing your melodies with the rest of the world, a tool that allows your music to transcend borders and boundaries. Music really has no language! Not so overwhelming, no?

Haley had to learn the hard way, but she has never looked back since then. With the power of digital dissemination at her disposal, she went on to captivate hearts and perform all over the world.

So, keep strumming those chords, hitting those high and low notes, and fueling your passion for your music. The entire world is out there: let their eardrums vibrate to your masterpieces, their feet tap to your beats, and hearts fill up to the brim with emotions because the digital stage has been set. Embrace the trip, be true to your sound, and allow the magic to flow.

Who knows, one day, maybe your name will be etched in the annals of musical history, right next to the legends who dared to dream, create, and share their magic with the world. 🫶🏼👏🏼💖

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Tanmay Bohra
September 26, 2023
5 min read