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Comparing the digital and physical distribution options

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by mylonite, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member

    I'm sorting through the distribution options for the three CDs we're releasing, and thought my research might be helpful - and also thought you all might have some advice.

    BACKGROUND: I'm putting together a box set for a musician that's going to be moving away. He's the best thing in my whole world, and I am seriously contemplating applying for jobs out in Denver because I'm not sure I can live that far away from him.

    We've got the recording done, the editing and artwork are nearly polished up, and we just started the licensing process for mechanical rights. There's a local group cutting us a great deal on the duplication and printing, so now it's down to distribution and goodbye parties.

    All the rest of this project was 'easy' for me - we had talented people pitch in their services, and grateful fans opening their wallets, but now comes the big decision - the one that follows him.

    I think these appear to be the options worth considering, although if you throw out some more names I'll hop on the research:

    CD Baby

    So as to keep this from being one insanely long post, I'm going to put the data I've found for each in separate replies.

    EDIT: there's another useful post (the one that found me this forum) posted here: http://recording.org/music-business-forum/47422-cd-baby-vs-tunecore-vs-orchard.html - but I'm a numbers girl, and wanted to put something together that truly tried to compare them in a financial sense
  2. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member

    CD Baby:

    Upfront Costs:
    $39.00 per album signup charge
    $9.95 per single signup charge
    $20.00 per album UPC code
    $5.00 per single UPC code

    Recurring Costs:
    9% of royalties from digital sales and streaming through iTunes, Amazon MP3, and the like
    25% of royalties from digital sales through CDbaby.com
    $4 out of each physical copy sold through CDbaby.com and their distribution partners

    You only have to send them five retail copies to get started with their physical distribution process.

    CD Baby submits to all the digital distribution groups found here: Digital Distribution Partners - it's quite a list.

    CD Baby says they get your music to the distribution partners within a couple of business days, and that iTunes typically takes another two business days to get it listed. Other partners might take up to a month to start selling your music.

    The ONE big thing that may be an issue is streaming. It's easy to get licensing for physical copies and streaming, but a little more grey for streaming. CD Baby says they give you full sales reports that will allow you to remit your royalty payments for streamed songs appropriately. Obviously, this only applies to covers.
  3. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member


    Upfront Costs:
    $49.99 per album signup charge
    $9.99 per single signup charge
    FREE UPC codes

    Recurring Costs:
    $49.99 per album annual renewal fee
    $9.99 per single annual renewal fee
    $4.95 + 45% of Amazon.com physical sales

    TuneCore uses Amazon Disc-On-Demand for their physical distribution, so you don't have to keep printing and mailing copies to the warehouse. Unfortunately, the copies they make aren't nearly as pretty - the only artwork you can submit is for the cover. You can always sign up for Disc-On-Demand seperately if you prefer to handle it yourself and use your full set of artwork.

    TuneCore publishes to all the major digital distribution groups (full list here TuneCore : FAQ) but not quite as many places as CD Baby.

    The distribution timetable is about the same as CD Baby - a few days for iTunes, a week for Amazon, and longer for most other partners.

    TuneCore also says they offer enough sales data to be able to remit royalty payments for streams appropriately.
  4. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member


    $19.99 per album signup charge
    $9.99 per single signup charge
    FREE UPC codes

    Recurring Costs:
    $60 annual renewal fee (unlimited albums)

    SongCast doesn't appear to offer physical distribution, so you'd either be using Amazon Disc-On-Demand or another physical distribution service.

    SongCast doesn't submit to nearly as many digital distribution sites - apparently just iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, Napster, Emusic, Spotify, and MediaNet.

    SongCast says the big names will have your music up in a few days, with the other retailers carrying your work within a month or so.

    Sales data from SongCast is supposed to be very detailed - including daily iTunes trending reports.
  5. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member

    $49.99 per album digital signup charge
    $99.00 per album digital and physical signup charge
    FREE UPC codes

    Recurring Costs:
    30% of royalties
    ~$1.50 plus 30% of physical sales wholesale price

    Orchard offers the best physical distribution service, through more retailers than anyone else, but there are no guarantees you'll get physical copies on the floor - there's just more 'on-demand' sources.

    Orchard seems to distribute digitally to everyone - at least as extensively as CD Baby.

    Orchard says it will take weeks to get you all set up - this is probably related to them being a much more 'full-service' group.

    Sales data from Orchard is supposed to be top notch.

    Orchard also does a few things that go above and beyond - submitting your releases to All Music Guide, Muze, and Orchard A&R team.
  6. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member

    And now that I have all that data in front of me, I realize that I really need to consider digital and physical distribution as two separate animals, and as such, I'm going to go do a little more research on Amazon Disc-On-Demand and other possible options. Anyone with opinions to weigh in is MOST WELCOME to post! Hope this helps some folks as well =)

    I happened upon a reference to Record Union, and I'm glad I did - they're also a really viable option.

    Record Union:

    Upfront Costs:
    $10 for UPC code

    Recurring Costs:
    Record Union takes your first $5 of profit for your first album
    15% of royalties from digital sales and streaming through iTunes, Amazon MP3, and the like

    Record Union does not offer physical distribution services, so you'd want to go through someone else.

    Record Union distributes to a whole slew of digital distributors - a full list is available here: https://www.recordunion.com/partners/ - which appears to be nearly as complete as Orchard.

    Record Union says it will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for your music to start appearing for download.

    Record Union provides your sales data in a CSV format - perfect for a spreadsheet nerd like me, and would make calculating streaming royalties very easy.
  7. mylonite

    mylonite Active Member

    Amazon Disc-On-Demand:

    Upfront Costs:
    ~$10 for printing and shipping the proof copy to you

    Recurring Costs:
    $4.95 per disc (plus shipping) to reorder short run physical copies for yourself - $3.96 for orders over 50, $2.97 for orders over 100.
    $4.95+45% of Amazon.com list price
    $4.95+15% of list price at your webstore
  8. Dr_Willie_OBGYN

    Dr_Willie_OBGYN Active Member

    I will not distribute to Emusic, Rhapsody, Spotify and all of these sites which give your music away ON-DEMAND for like 2 cents. Amazon and iTunes work just fine, as does Pandora Radio (not on-demand).

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