DistroKid Can’t Wait to Pay You: A Conversation with Founder Philip Kaplan

by | Oct 21, 2016 | Music Promotion

Performer speaks with DistroKid founder Philip Kaplan about digital distribution and new the music industry landscape.

A few years back, I introduced you to DistroKid, a digital distribution platform that acts as an aggregator to digital stores and streamers such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and more. For basically $20 a year all of your music would be delivered to every digital store that matters. It appears many of you took my advice to heart, as the company has exploded with members over that time.

I caught up with Philip Kaplan (@pud), the founder and all-around cool cat behind DistroKid, to get an update. Any dude in tech who rocks Sepultura is alright in my book. (Full disclosure: I use DistroKid for all of my music release projects)

Performer Mag: Congrats on the Platinum record for “Hit the Quan!” Let’s catch everyone up on DistroKid.

Philip Kaplan: Thanks, man. That was crazy. Hopefully, there’s many more to come. We’ve distributed over 700,000 songs from 90,000 artists. We had a #1 worldwide iTunes hit (“Calibraska” by Jack & Jack), a top-10 Billboard hit (“Hit The Quan” by iHeartMemphis), and many more great releases from indie musicians, labels, and YouTube creators. We’re also paying out about $1,000,000 each month in royalties. That’s not just one big artist, either; it’s representative of a big family of independents. In addition to Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music, we service to 150+ more stores and streamers. It’s, um, going well.

PM: The intro account is still only $19.99/year for one artist and unlimited songs, but you’ve added some valuable bonus services, too. Right?

PK: Yes, we’re still a fraction of the price that our competitors charge for just one album. We’ve added YouTube Content ID integration and a Shazam option to aid in discovery. And of course, we do not take any percentage of your earnings, no cut at all, that’s your money. We are working to implement a few other surprises this year.

PM: But wait, that’s not all…

PK: (laughs) Right? As we’ve grown, we’ve listened closely to our members’ requests and just recently launched some features that further separate us from any other service like Customized Pricing in iTunes, Google, and Amazon. You’re no longer locked into 99 cents per track. We’re really excited about covers clearances too – making it easy and legal to release cover songs.  And it’s a little geeky, but we’ve adopted accounting with 20 decimal places so your simple and beautiful dashboard displays your stats, spins, and sales daily, and you get exact earnings amounts just like the majors.

PM: OK, let’s get into the big story: the launch of DistroKid Payments Network. This makes you the world’s first service that lets artists, creators, and collaborators automatically share revenue with each other. This is so needed.

PK: Yes! I cannot believe that this hasn’t been done yet. Music is still not an accounting-friendly business…just yet. Currently, every existing aggregator and distributor pays only one recipient per release. This means that whoever gets paid has to pay any other contributors their share. It’s a problem. Royalty reports, split payments, tracking down contact information – this is not what musicians should be doing. DistroKid members are now able to automatically route any percentage of earnings, from any track or album, to anyone.


Philip Kaplan of DistroKid

PM: Give us some examples of how difficult this process has been, and how you fixed it.

PK: It’s not unusual for a hip-hop album to have 15 songwriters, multiple guests and publishers. EDM tracks often have multiple rights holders, and it’s super common to have a few co-writers on an album or a song.  So, even if the person who gets the payments wanted to split them, they probably couldn’t do it correctly. Add to that, the collaborators have to chase down the payments, and it seems like something is being hidden, but it’s really just an impossible task.  It’s very much a pain in the ass, even if it’s 50/50.  Or, let’s say you are a YouTube creator and you do collaborations with other creators, you need an automated way to make sure everyone involved gets paid. DistroKid not only routes money from music services (iTunes, Spotify, etc.) automatically, but also routes money from ads on YouTube videos (your own or anyone that uses your music), via our Content ID integration.

PM: How exactly do you do this?

PK:  We make it easy to set up a “team” for each song.  When you upload a song just specify the email address and percentage of each collaborator; DistroKid will then automatically route the proper percentage of earnings to each person. And all team members have full access to DistroKid’s pretty stats, charts, and graphs.

Want to see it in action? Pick one of your recordings with the most collaborators, and go distribute it right here: http://distrokid.com/signup


Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.