Comparing ReverbNation,  TuneCore and CD Baby

Looking for the perfect way to sell your music? Don’t know which distributer to use? Now that you’ve given your all to make your music, these might be some thoughts going through your head. Look no further, as we’ve done the research for you.

For either the budding independent artist, or the well-established music maker looking to expand his venue, multitudes of options for distributing music exist. We’ve done some research on three of the most popular ones; ReverbNation, TuneCore, and CD Baby. We’ve captured the basics of each of these sites so you don’t have to go looking yourself.

As you can see above, each of the three sites has the same basic purpose of distributing music.  Each site comes with their own fees; some yearly, some one time only. In the case of ReverbNation, Pro will distribute to a wider range of stores than Essentials does, but otherwise is functionally identical. Being the artist you are, you’re probably wondering just how much of the money from sales your distributer is going to take.

We found these numbers for you. In the case of ReverbNation and TuneCore, no royalties are taken from your revenue by these sites themselves. CD Baby on the other hand, will charge $4 for each physical CD that you mail in that is sold, 25% or $0.29 per song sold (whichever is higher), or 9% of any digital copy sold.

Depending on your fan base, you may want to distribute your music in a particular way. Some people prefer digital downloads as they don’t take up space in their home, and it lets them use the music on their portable players with no hassle. Other fans prefer physical copies that they can do as they wish with. As you can see, several options are available to you, and these are your options depending on which site you choose. Both TuneCore and CD Baby will sell physical CDs for you; however CD Baby requires you mail in physical copies created yourself. ReverbNation can digitally create CDs for you to sell, for a fee. Every site will encode your music for you to particular formats for the stores they distribute to without you having to worry about the details

After reading through this sparse information, you’re likely asking what other services these sites provide. However, there are so many it would take an entirely separate article to discuss them all! Instead, we’re going to give you a short list and advise you visit the websites of these companies if you find yourself curious as to what these services are.

As a busy artist with limited time, you’re likely going to want to know how long it will take to get your music up in stores. Fear not, for we’ve also investigated this for you.

As you can see, over a single year, CD Baby barely trumps the other services when you are selling fewer songs, but is quickly outmoded by the other services as sales rack up. ReverbNation’s returns are calculated presuming you used Essentials and didn’t purchase any of the additional services available. The bottom half of the table looks rather disheartening for ReverbNation as you can see. In the case of selling 100 of the same song over the course of 3 years, ReverbNation’s subscription costs outweigh the returns from selling anything. However its sales returns once again win out over TuneCore and CD Baby in the other circumstances

In conclusion, CD Baby seems profitable at first, until sales begin to rise. Once lots of products are on sale, CD Baby begins taking more of your hard earned money, making the other services look far more appealing. The more sold, the more TuneCore and ReverbNation return, but ReverbNation is slightly better at returning a profit. Since this is calculated without any of the bells and whistles ReverbNation offers, thus profit may drop lower if more of these services are used.

While TuneCore and CD Baby take a considerable amount of time to get your music on sale, since ReverbNation sells your music itself, it makes your music available when you say it’s ready.

We’ve come to the following conclusions. If you only have a couple albums or singles up for sale, you’re going to get the most out of your money if you use either ReverbNation or TuneCore. We found that CD Baby’s royalty charges added up far too much from lots of sales to make it worth it compared to the other services, thus we didn’t include it in our final comparison. The more products you have available for sale, however, the more valuable ReverbNation’s deal becomes. So if you plan to only release a couple products, TuneCore and ReverbNation are tied neck and neck, so to speak. If you like any artist are ambitious and intend to release many products over the course of many years, ReverbNation’s value overtakes TuneCore’s. CD Baby nickels and dimes you to the point where they are taking far too much of your hard earned money for us to consider it worth it to you, the artist.

Below we have some general charts you can use to estimate how much money you’ll see from various sales amounts factoring in price of product and amount of time over which they are sold.