CD Baby Vs. DistroKid: The Real Cost Comparison

The music distributor DistroKid says they’ll only charge you $20 per year to release as much music as you want. But is that REALLY true?


And yet many musicians have fallen for the $20 bait on DistroKid’s homepage. Because it looks so damn cheap, simple, and alluring when you want to release tons of tracks.

But the truth is: If you’re a prolific musician, you could actually be paying DistroKid THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS out-of-pocket over the course of just a few years to distribute your songs.

(In case you didn’t know, DistroKid will remove your music if you miss an annual payment, unless you pay a heftier fee upfront. They also charge a bundle for “optional but awesome” annual add-ons.)

Meanwhile, FOR A LIMITED TIME, CD Baby is now offering Standard distribution for just $4.99 (plus a free UPC barcode).

Just $4.99 to distribute an album OR single. Want to stock up on album and single-song submissions today, save now, and release later? You can! Set yourself up for years of affordable and worry-free distribution; then put out the music whenever it’s ready.

But let’s get back to DistroKid’s promise of unlimited distribution for $20 per year…

All their add-ons and repeating fees mean you could be spending almost 20X more than you should for things CD Baby provides automatically without stressful annual subscriptions and endless upsells. So today let’s do some myth-busting and a little bit of math to dispel the nonsensical notion that you’re saving money with DistroKid.

The true costs of releasing music with DistroKid:

For $20/year, DistroKid will get your music onto Spotify and TikTok and lots of other platforms. That part is true.

But the basics of distribution aren’t enough today when there are countless ways to use, discover, and monetize your music online, IRL, and through both new and traditional media.

You want to take your music as far as possible, right? Well then…

The “extras” at DistroKid will cost you:

With DistroKid, you can’t do ANY of those things via their standard annual subscription plan of $20/yr. Because all those services are upsells. And in many cases, these additional costs are charged yearly and per-release! So the more music you put out, the more you owe DistroKid annually.

Be Prolific, right? 😉

The ACTUAL first-year cost of DistroKid distribution is really closer to $78 for one single, $117 for one album, or $290 to release four singles and an album. And those are just THIS YEAR’s costs, because remember, many of their fees repeat PER RELEASE, PER YEAR.

So again, as you build a catalog of music over many years, you could be paying THOUSANDS!

Here’s a breakdown of DistroKid’s true costs, assuming you want to release four singles and an album this year. And let’s begin with the fact that if you want to choose your own release date, enter your own record label name, or do an iTunes pre-order, your annual subscription fee isn’t even $20; you have to upgrade to $35.99/year.

DistroKid Fees (annual fees listed in red) 1st Single 2nd Single 3rd Single 4th Single Album Annual Subscription
$20 $35.99
Custom release date, label name & iTunes pre-order * * * * *
“Leave a Legacy” $29 $29 $29 $29 $49
YouTube Content ID $4.95 $4.95 $4.95 $4.95 $14.95
Discovery on Shazam $0.99 $0.99 $0.99 $0.99 $9.90 (assuming ten tracks)
Future DSP Deliveries $7.95 $7.95 $7.95 $7.95 $7.95
1st Year Costs (per release) $42.89 $42.89 $42.89 $42.89 $81.80
Annual Maintenance (starting 2nd year) $13.89 $13.89 $13.89 $13.89 $32.80

Total 1st Year Costs (including subscription): $289.35

Releasing 20 singles & 5 albums over five years: $2330.35

That’s the most expensive $20 you’ve ever spent, huh?

In the related video I made above, I quoted a slightly lower five-year fee, being generous and assuming some artists would remove certain singles over those five years, or that some songs which appear on full albums later may not need all the bells-and-whistles if the same services are accounted for in the album submission.

But no matter if you use a more generous or more extreme interpretation of these fees, one thing is true in all cases: DistroKid does NOT cost $20 per year.

It’s WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more expensive than most people realize.

How much SHOULD you pay for music distribution?


For a limited time, that’s how much it costs to release a single or album with CD Baby.

CD Baby’s one-time setup fee for music distribution includes:

[*We’ll never remove your music assuming you have the right to distribute the recordings, and that you don’t violate DSP guidelines, CD Baby’s policies, or our Terms of Service. So, ya know, most of you are cool.]

Yes, most of the things DistroKid charges you EXTRA for, CD Baby includes in our Standard Distribution.

That $4.99 setup fee also gets you things DistroKid doesn’t even offer.

This includes physical distribution for vinyl & CDs; sync licensing to get your songs placed in film, tv, commercials, and games; label services; and personalized metadata, album cover, and audio inspection for every release.

Beyond our one-time setup fee of $4.99, we only make money when you do (because we keep a 9% cut of your digital music revenue).

Our 9% cut of streaming revenue gives you a worry-free way to distribute a lifetime of music without growing subscription costs. And we are incentivized to fight for your entire catalog, not just your newest releases. Our interests are aligned and we’re always seeking new opportunities help you get paid and build an audience.

We’re a partner in your success. And once you reach the point where you’re earning so much money you think it might be wise to shop around for other distribution options, well… give us a call!

Because, depending on how often you release music, that means you’re also consistently generating millions of streams. If that’s true, we can offer even MORE opportunities for your music, so let’s talk!

Basically, what I’m saying is, if you ever feel like you’re growing beyond CD Baby, it’s probably just time to work closer with us, or even graduate to our parent company Downtown Music Services, where you can unlock advances, hands-on marketing strategy, and much more.

I hope this shows all the value you’re getting at CD Baby for that $4.99. At DistroKid, they’re luring you in with a quick $20 promise, but it’s a trap.

You deserve a payment model that makes the most sense for the least stress.

Distribute your music today (and forever) at CD Baby.


Credits: CD Baby Vs. DistroKid: The Real Cost Comparison