Music distribution, in general, is the process of getting music, in physical or digital formats, from the artists or labels to the various brick-and-mortar or digital online retailers who offer music downloads or streaming to consumers.
Physical music distribution is the process of getting physical music formats like CDs and Vinyls into various retail stores. This type of music distribution is handled by music distributors who handle the shipping of the product to shops.
In the past this was solely the domain of record labels who would make deals with distributors to get records into the major and independent music retail stores.
In recent times it has become possible to do independent physical music distribution through print-on-demand services and companies like CD Baby that offer physical music distribution for independent musicians and artists.
Most music consumption today is done online via digital retailers and music streaming platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Youtube and Tidal. Social media platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok and Facebook also account for a large amount of music streams.
Digital music distribution companies, also known as aggregators, offer artists the a streamlined way to distribute digital music releases to multiple online retailers and platforms from one central user interface. CD Baby, Tunecore, Distrokid, Landr, Amuse and Spinnup are a few companies among many that offer digital music distribution services.
These same companies, in most cases, also collect the royalties and other revenues which they then pay out to the artists and also provide reports and stats that artists can use to improve their business strategies.
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