At Black Sheep, we typically record and mix music to a 24 bit, 96kHz sample rate to create high fidelity, quality products. And so, I delivered master audio files to the client at 96kHz and 24 bit. I also usually provide a compressed mp3 version of the audio, but typically advise the client against its use for distribution since it represents a lower quality compressed audio recording.
Recently, I recorded, mixed, and mastered an album for a client whose intention was to release it to the streaming platforms such as Spotify and Tidal. This is not unusual.
The client chose to go with CDBaby as a distribution service and was surprised to discover the that the upload of the audio to the service failed because it was not compliant with CDBaby specifications. I was surprised as well, and also a bit embarrassed, to find that the masters I had provided at 96kHz had failed to upload to CDBaby for distribution.
It turns out, all CDBaby files must be stereo and 16bit, with a 44.1kHz sample rate. Presumably, this is due to the original mission of the company to produce physical CDs, which of course are 44.1kHz and 16 bit.
DistroKid, for example, on the other hand, will accept 24-bit audio files, with sample rates of 96kHz or less, and doesn't introduce restrictions for other file types so long as the file is no larger than 1 gigabyte.
The CDBaby restriction seems lame to me, especially since they are now in the business of populating the digital streaming platforms with product, many of which have the option for high fidelity uploads.
So, it I thought a brief comparison of the 2 services might be helpful to those choosing a distribution service for their music.
CD Baby and DistroKid are both digital music distribution services that help independent musicians and bands get their music onto online streaming platforms and digital music stores like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. However, they have some differences in terms of pricing, features, and distribution methods. Here's a comparison of the two:
When it comes to charging for services, CD Baby and DistroKid take different approaches.
CD Baby: CD Baby offers a range of pricing options. Musicians can choose to pay a one-time fee per release or opt for a yearly subscription model. The pricing may also depend on the features and services you want, such as digital distribution, physical distribution, and more.
DistroKid: DistroKid offers a straightforward pricing model. Musicians pay an annual fee, which covers unlimited uploads of songs and albums.
It offers multiple membership plans: Musician, Musician Plus, and Ultimate (Label). The main drawbacks of the Musician plan, which is the cheapest, are that you can’t set future release dates on any content, and you can’t view release statistics.
There are no additional charges for single releases, and the pricing is generally more affordable for those who release music frequently.
CD Baby: CD Baby offers a fixed pricing structure with no revenue-sharing. Musicians keep 100% of their royalties, but CD Baby takes a percentage of the sales price for distribution services.
DistroKid: DistroKid allows musicians to keep 100% of their royalties. There is no revenue-sharing, but they charge an annual fee for their service.
CD Baby: CD Baby typically takes a bit longer to get music onto streaming platforms and stores, often a few days to a couple of weeks.
DistroKid: DistroKid is known for its fast distribution. Music is often available on streaming platforms within 1-2 business days.
CD Baby: Audio files are only accepted as AIFF, WAV, FLAC (all preferred) or MP3 files. All audio files must be encoded with a sample rate of 44.1 kHz and in 2-channel (Stereo). The bit rate for AIFF, WAV and FLAC should be 16-bit ; MP3 files: bit rate should be between 128 kb/s and 320 kb/s.
DistroKid: Audio files should be WAV, MP3, M4A, FLAC, AIFF, or Windows Media (WMA). If you're sending a WAV, 16-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV is typical but pretty much anything works.
The maximum size that DistroKid will accept is 1gb. If you have a track that's larger than that, consider converting it to FLAC format before uploading to DistroKid. FLAC is a beautiful, lossless format (same audio quality as WAV) but the files are relatively small.
DistroKid has no limitation to the length in minutes that a track can be. However, albums cannot contain songs where the average track length is less than 60 seconds.
CD Baby: CD Baby offers a range of additional services, including physical CD distribution, music publishing, sync licensing, and promotional tools. They also provide a more traditional record label service with artist support and opportunities.
DistroKid: DistroKid primarily focuses on digital distribution. They offer some additional features, such as customizable release dates and YouTube Content ID, but they do not offer physical distribution or publishing services.
CD Baby: CD Baby provides YouTube Monetization services, which help artists earn revenue from their music on YouTube.
DistroKid: DistroKid also offers YouTube Content ID, which allows artists to monetize their music on YouTube and track the use of their songs in videos.
Uploading music to DistroKid is more navigable than uploading music to CD Baby. With DistroKid, you input all of your release’s information on a single page, whereas on CD Baby you have to click through several pages of information before submitting your release. Each of these CD Baby pages contains a fair amount of instructions and requirements that can be difficult to parse. You’re more likely to miss some information buried in CD Baby’s page log than with DistroKid’s.
DistroKid’s interface promotes a social bond between independent artists, whereas CD Baby focuses more on the artist as an individual.
DistroKid users can customize an account profile when they input their music genres, artist inspirations, social media usernames, and their biography. DistroKid publishes this profile to its various community-driven promotional tools.
Unlike DistroKid, CD Baby doesn’t facilitate any artist-to-artist interactions or customizable social profiles. CD Baby’s interface is more aesthetically pleasing than DistroKid’s though, and it’s easier to view its artist development tools and your releases at a glance.
Ultimately, the choice between CD Baby and DistroKid depends on your specific needs and preferences. CD Baby may be a better choice if you want more comprehensive artist services and are willing to pay a one-time fee for each release. However, for me personally, the constraint to 44.1kHz 16 bit is a deal breaker.
DistroKid may be a more cost-effective option if you release music frequently and want a quick and straightforward distribution process without revenue sharing.
Be sure to consider your distribution goals and the features that matter most to you when making a decision.