Digital Distribution Comparisons


Ever wonder as an independent artist how to get your music on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, and other leading digital distribution sites?  Well there are multiple ways to do this and I’ve done the research and conveniently compiled it for you here below:

CD Baby

Costs: $35 one time cost
Number of Stores: 13 (includes all majors)
Percentage You Get From Each Sale: 91%
Physical Product Sales Option: Yes
Payout: Weekly
Credit Card Machine: Available for purchase – conveniently linked directly to your PayPal account ($36 one time fee).
Webpage with account: Yes
Barcode price: $20
Time it Takes to Go Live: 2-5 weeks to send to retailers, then 3 weeks to 4 months for it to go live on the digital retailer site.
Support: Phone and email

Overall CD Baby Notes: With CD Baby, you have to send 5 CD’s to start and approximate your inventory for them.  It is nice because both your physical and digital product are together, but it can be annoying to try to know how much inventory to give them.  If they have too much, they send it back to you and you pay that shipping expense.  CD Baby keeps $4 from every physical sale, though!  That is the kicker.  If you are selling an EP, you normally sell that for around $5, so it definitely is not worth it.  Heck, many full albums will be available on iTunes in a few weeks for $7.99.


Costs: $19.98 per album, per year!  An ongoing cost, plus they charge the first $0.99 from each store (and iTunes is divided up by country, so that could be a lot).
Number of Stores: 13 (includes all majors)
Percentage You Get From Each Sale: 100%
Physical Product Sales Option: No
Payout: “Most stores (like iTunes) send your sales information and money within 45 days after the end of the month in which the sale took place. As an example, if you had sales in the month of February, the stores send your sales information and money by April 15 (45 days after the end of February). Some stores, like eMusic and Napster (for streams only) send your sales information and money within 45 days after the end of each QUARTER.”
Credit Card Machine: No – just digital sales.
Webpage with account: Yes.
Barcode Price: Included
Time it Takes to Go Live: “On average it takes about 4-6 weeks to go live on all stores. Some stores review faster than others with Amazon taking under a week, Napster and Emusic about a week or two, Rhapsody about 2-3 weeks and the same for GroupieTunes.”
Support: Email, although they have an extensive FAQ.

Overall TuneCore Notes: TuneCore has a lot of great services like video tutorials and tons of information on marketing, but the price is just not worth it for most artists.  If you are selling a lot of albums every year, then go with TuneCore and have the higher up-front/on-going costs.  Otherwise, TuneCore is probably not the option for you.


Costs: $34.95 one time cost
Number of Stores: 10 (includes all majors)
Percentage You Get From Each Sale: 100%
Physical Product Sales Option: No
Payout: Same as tunecore.  Some stores payout quarterly, most are monthly, and RN will payout within 45 days
Credit Card Machine: No – just digital sales.
Webpage with account: Yes.
Barcode Price: Included
Time it Takes to Go Live: RN uploads within days, usually takes 6-8 weeks after that from the digital distributor.
Support: Email.

Overall RN Notes: ReverbNation also has a lot of promotional stuff to help for an artist, but simply are not as good as the last one: Catapolt.


Costs: $25 one time cost
Number of Stores: around 100 stores! (includes all majors and they break up iTunes EU into separate categories to make it sound better).  Also includes Best Buy’s digital store, which is really only beneficial because you can use their logo.  They don’t have large digital sales obviously.
Percentage You Get From Each Sale: 91-95% (tiered system, basically 91%)
Physical Product Sales Option: No
Payout: Once a month from when the digital distributor sends through PayPal.
Credit Card Machine: No – just digital sales.
Webpage with account:
Barcode Price: $20
Time it Takes to Go Live:
Support: Email.

Overall Catapolt Notes: You don’t have to have a physical CD like you do for the other distributors (but you do need artwork and a barcode still).  Catapolt is cheap, gives you the largest spread to distributors, and gives you a good return for your investment.

In conclusion, definitely compare Catapolt and TuneCore as your top two options. I emailed TuneCore and asked them why I should go with them and this was the response I got:

“Well, Jonathan, I admit I’ve never heard of Catapolt, and a Google search doesn’t turn anything up. But there are a lot of reasons, too many for me to put into a single email, to pick TuneCore over CD Baby. I guess the big ones–the ones that usually are most important to the most people–are these:

CD Baby takes 9% of your sales, forever, without a cap. TuneCore takes 0%, you keep it all.
CD Baby charges you for barcodes/UPCs. TuneCore gives them to you as part of your album.
CD Baby makes you mail in multiple copies of your CD, then someone there has to physically rip them and load them. TuneCore lets you upload them instantly.
Your out-of-pocket costs for both stores are just about the same–TuneCore is a bit cheaper.

There’s a ton more, but I’ll add one of my own: TuneCore takes the time to have one of the co-founders hand-write you an email. :)”.

I found it funny that the Snr. VP of Operations at TuneCore did not even know about a leading competitor, but either way, an interesting email.  Also, all of the distributors have tracking information, some is obviously more extensive than others but each will cover your basics.

Hope this helps my friends making independent music.


  1. Hi,

    Great article! It was really helpful. However, I think the reason that the Senior VP of Operations at TuneCore didn’t know about “Catapolt” is because you spelled the name wrong. It’s CatapUlt –

    And, I also wouldn’t call it a leading competitor… I had never heard of it before this article. By the way, I think I have found another great alternative to these examples – EarBuzz. They also give you 100% of the royalties.

    Either way, thanks a lot!

  2. Cool article.
    It would be great if you could check us out as well, we are the market leaders here in the UK and distribute thousands of artists worldwide.
    As well as covering hundreds of stores for a tiny price we help with chart eligibility, claiming back money for gigs, setting labels up for artists and loads more.
    We have had 7 UK top 40 singles, all with unsigned artists



  3. I own an indie label and have released 8 albums with CatapUlt and I couldn’t be happier – the set-up is easy, distribution to the stores is within a month, affordable … this comes after working with CDBaby who lost my check for 6 months, then credited an account for me to credit it to and then wondered why I was upset after waiting for 6 months to have my albums released and someone even pointed out to me that they’d seen my CD’s sitting on the table all that time. Got a refund – of 2 albums though that was an accounting accident on their part, but never got my albums back. Sloppy customer service, too. I waited 2 hours on the phone once only to give up. That was typical.

  4. After a year and a few months, I have figured out that Reverbnation is a bit of a scam. The fee listed here is wrong because its almost double that amount or 60 bucks annually…however, they not only charge a $50 take down (making your so called one time payment, 50 dollars more than that initial amount spent), there are also fees taken for every transfer of money to your paypal account. Therefore, no matter what at Reverbation, you are spending $110 to set and take down each release. Its not reflected in any of the sign up document and they added it on to the FAQ a few months after I initially signed up…But I was not happy with that system. Forget about the fees, they hardly got our product anywhere that cant be done at any other aggregator and/or distributor. They have great marketing tools but this where and how they scam money from artists. Which sucks because obviously as a young artist, trying to grow in this industry, every penny counts. And, its hard to read thousands of lines of fine print like they have in their FAQ section. The fees they take are very easy to overlook even now…I was honestly shocked a company with so much going them, acts that way towards young bands….as if its not hard enough to break into the marketplace, you have look over your shoulders at your own partner because Reverbnation is not at all forthcoming about these fees….not even remotely…they hide it….and that sucks because I could have gone to every other company, that would and does not act this way towards artists. Most companies do not take advantage of young artists, but this company is a nightmare with regard to digital distribution. I am telling you its a nightmare to deal with their digital services. Its very hard. Let alone you will not get paid on time. Its now 8/11 and I have had money due to me since 8/5. And, they refuse to deal and/or answer to it. Its very hard…and I know they are scheming some way to keep that money…which is incredible to do to young artists in this industry today….

  5. The main reason that Tunecore couldn’t find Catapult is that you had spelled it wrong. The Tunecore rep used that against you in saying that he couldn’t even bring it up on Google. Funny! It’s obvious the rep was hiding behind the misspelling and makes me doubt their integrity.

  6. What about Ingrooves Fontana.
    Can you give me any feedeback in regards to that company and how they compare to Catapult, CdBaby and Tunecore?

  7. Great article though seems that it’s a bit older as a few more players have entered the game. We looked at the above options and used Tunecore before (and probably wont do it again).
    Catapult seems to be interested in labels with large catalogs and isn’t much of a player. We did hear about Mondo Tunes at SXSW in 2012 and probably some of the coolest cats we met. They distribute I believe through their relations with Interscope and UMG but are completely independent. no monthly or annual fees and the artists maintain all their rights and royalties. Others either take a percentage or have annual fees. that’s our recommendation and looks like a tremendous amount of artists are headed that way. We played the Warped Tour and most indie artists were mentioning them simply because they’re more connected with musicians and are less corporate like the above names. No, we’re not getting paid for this plug of Mondo, just thought it would help other musicians 🙂

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