I made a thing called DistroKid. It got big!
If you don’t already know, DistroKid is a music distributor.
That means we help musicians & record labels get their music into online stores & streaming services (iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, Amazon, and more).
Then we collect the royalties and pay out. Payments go either to the artist, or to any group of collaborators that the artist specifies, in any percentage.
When I came up with the idea for DistroKid, the incumbents were TuneCore and CD Baby. They were big — but old. I respect those guys; they paved the way for a lot of this stuff. But I knew it’d be possible to use today’s technology to build something:
- Cheaper: Musicians pay only $19.99 per year for unlimited uploads, and keep 100% of their royalties. Competitors charge per-album and take a large percent of royalties.
- Better designed: This was a low bar.
- More features: Cover song licensing, automatic payments to collaborators, YouTube ContentID matching, two-factor authentication, more…
- Faster at getting music into stores: Often within 2 hours
I thought it would take 1–2 months to build DistroKid. It’s just plugging into some APIs and moving files around, right?
It took a year. The longest I ever spent building something before launching it. Had I known it would’ve taken that long, I might not have begun.
I launched DistroKid in 2013.
This is a crowded industry with more than a dozen competitors. But DistroKid is great. It’s the first product I’ve built (and I have built a lot of things, yo) where I truly feel that if you go with one of my competitors, you messed up.
Nevertheless, I figured only a small number of smart people would somehow find us among the masses. They’d love us, but we’d be the microbrew of distributors. Our signup page doesn’t say “Thank You!” — it says “Congratulations!”. Because you found us, and you made the right decision.
Here are some numbers:
- 500 new albums uploaded every day
- 2,100 new songs uploaded every day
- 100,000+ artists
- 250,000 albums uploaded since launch
- 1.2 million songs uploaded since launch
- $2 million paid to artists this month
- $17 million paid to artists since launch
- 3 billion streams
- A buttload of hit songs, endorsements from artists (professionals and everyone), unsolicited endorsements from the founder of TuneCore (here) and founder of CD Baby (here), #1 albums, Billboard charting songs (such as) …and even an RIAA platinum record!
In the four years since launch, DistroKid has become the largest music distributor in the world by many counts.
- We only have three employees. A programmer (me) and 2 customer/artist service reps (who are amazing).
- DistroKid has dozens of automated bots that run 24/7. These bots do things that humans do at other distributors. For example, verifying that artwork & song files are correct, changing song titles to comply with each stores’ unique style guide, checking for infringement, delivering files & artwork to stores, updating sales & streaming stats for artists, processing payments, and more.
- These are the reasons why we can charge less (lower overhead) while delivering to stores faster & providing more features (almost everything is automated).
By contrast, our competitors largely have millions in funding, big teams that do things computers are better at doing, and legacy code that can’t easily handle new features. And they’re owned by venture capitalists and/or private equity firms who are banking on a large exit. There’s a lot of outside pressure on our competitors to squeeze every penny out of artists that they can. I understand. I’ve been there.
DistroKid intentionally has a small team and no investors. We’re here to make the world a better place for musicians — not to make billions from them. We’d make ludicrously more money if we charged what the other distributors do.
We do alright though.
(btw you’re a dummy if you give any percentage of your earnings to a distributor. for goodness sakes. if you don’t use DistroKid, that’s okay-but please don’t give a cut of your earnings to any distributor unless they’re also massively promoting you and helping with marketing; the only way they’d deserve it. if we took 9% of earnings [we take nothing] there are a handful of artists who’d owe us more than $100,000 each. for moving a few files around. that ain’t right.)
DistroKid’s goal has always been to make a more artist-friendly way to get music into online stores & streaming services. That way, releases that might not have otherwise been uploaded to stores, can be… and have the chance to become viral hits — and often do.
If you use DistroKid, thank you so much. If you’re one of our partner companies, thank you so much. We love you.
Hope you enjoyed this post; the first on DistroKid’s new blog. Which I’m calling “news” because that sounds like a better read than “blog.” Looking forward to writing more. Click the “Follow” button on the top of this page to get notifications. Also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks for reading!
Ps- Also I got engaged two days ago to my girlfriend. So that’s another thing I’ve been up to for the past few years. ❤️
What I’ve been up to for the past 4 years was originally published in DistroKid News on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.