METALTONE RECORDS is a multi-genre music label and production house

What is Music Distribution?

Music distribution is the connecting line between your music and your listeners. Music distribution is a core part of the industry’s business model, making it possible for music to be purchased, downloaded, or streamed online. Music distribution dates back to the 15th century with the invention of Gutenberg’s movable type printer. This printer made it possible for sheet music to be printed and distributed at a large scale. Today, music distribution is vital to the music industry’s most significant revenue stream: streaming. Without distribution, promoting your music to fans would be impossible. It’s a critical part of every musician’s promotion and release strategy. 


The Two Kinds of Distribution: Physical vs. Digital

There are two main types of distribution: Physical and Digital. 

The more traditional distribution method is Physical, which includes CDs, vinyl, cassettes, sheet music, and printed scores. Distributors work with record labels or artists, giving distributors the right to sell their music to big box retailers and record stores. 

Digital distribution works similarly, just on online platforms. Instead of physically transporting music to stores, the music is distributed to online streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as content creation platforms like TikTok. While physical distribution is still alive and active, digital distribution has outpaced physical distribution’s overall revenue contribution, accounting for 45 percent of total revenues compared to 39 percent for physical sales. 


How Digital Music Distribution Works 

While physical distribution is still alive and well (hi again, vinyl), digital streaming is now one of the primary ways music listeners discover and consume audio, making it an essential part of every artist’s release and promotional strategy. 

Distributors disperse music to streaming services and online download platforms by executing payments, subscriptions, or contracts. Once distributed, any time a song is streamed, that song accumulates mechanical royalties. Distribution companies then securely take those earned royalties and payout the artist or label. Major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music usually pay royalties 2-3 months after the streams occur.