A Million Dollar Record Label for $20 with DistroKid

by | Oct 23, 2013 | Music Licensing

distro kid screen grabSteve Jobs’ nightmare has come true; it’s now possible for “just anybody” to get on iTunes.  At an Apple special event way back in 2003, Jobs was defending criticism of iTunes’ small catalog (then only 400k tracks) by saying, “This number could have easily been much higher, if we wanted to let in every song.” He finished this way, “Well, we don’t want to let that stuff on our site!” Derek Sivers famously wrote about it here: http://sivers.org/itunes

CD Baby, and other third party distributors, did successfully get independent music into iTunes. But it was complicated and costly, with setup fees per album and song. In 2010, Philip Kaplan set out to change that by launching a social music site, Fandalism, which also teased an offer for any member to get a single song on iTunes and major stores for free. 600,000 musicians have now signed up.

That service is now called DistroKid. Here’s the simple deal: For just $19.99/yr., musicians can upload as many songs and albums for streaming and sales to all the major stores. That’s it. No setup fees or revenue share, and full reporting is included. Sell a million downloads, and it’s still just $19.99.

I had a chance to chat with Philip Kaplan (@pud), founder of Fandalism and DistroKid, about both services. As a member, I personally recommend you sign up for Fandalism, and plunk down the $20 to get all of your songs on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon (more soon).

Performer:  We’re all musicians here. You’re listed as a drummer, but I’ve seen some awesome guitar shredding from you on Fandalism; are you currently in a band?

Kaplan: I’m the drummer for Coverflow, a Silicon Valley-based cover band. We play rock versions of contemporary pop songs. I also do some stuff on my own, but Coverflow is my main band.

Performer: Fandalism is a great idea; is DistroKid now officially a standalone, or are they both meant to work together?

Kaplan: Thanks. Fandalism is a social network for musicians. DistroKid – which allows musicians and artists to sell their music on iTunes & other stores, originally started out as a feature on Fandalism. After a couple months, I decided to spin DistroKid out as its own standalone service. It makes more sense to me that way.

Performer: Aside from the killer cost, what sets DistroKid apart from other digital distribution partners?

Kaplan: DistroKid is the only service that can get your music on iTunes usually within 2-4 hours after you upload it. Other services usually take days. Also, DistroKid has a user interface that’s a lot cleaner and more modern. It’s much easier to use than anything else out there.

Performer: How is Fandalism being received (full disclosure: I’m a member). Are there any plans to take Fandalism bigger, or take it in a different direction?

Kaplan: I’d like to do more live gatherings & events. I organized a “Fandalism Open Jam” in Washington Square Park in New York City that attracted about 400 musicians. It was amazing.

Performer: One of my favorite apps of yours was “Punch Your Friends.” Any plans to take Fandalism or DistroKid into the app world?

Kaplan: I definitely want to make a Fandalism app, and also a DistroKid app. I haven’t started either, but should get around to it sooner or later.

Performer: It’s clear that DistroKid is about more than money. Why was it important to you to build and launch it?

Kaplan: Musicians shouldn’t have to make decisions or plunk down cash every time they record something and want it in stores. They should be able to easily upload everything they record, all the time, whenever they want. That’s the goal of DistroKid, and why it’s just $19.99 per year for unlimited uploads.

Performer: What are the things (music and photo file formats) our readers need to know about the DistroKid upload process to get started today?

Kaplan: Nothing special, really. To make it really easy, DistroKid lets you use any image on your computer for your artwork.  So uploading your artwork is just like uploading a pic to Facebook. Also, DistroKid lets you upload music in many different audio formats. That’s it; the goal is to make it super easy.

Performer: You’re known for being a one-man team by relying on automation. Do you have any advice for musicians on how they can apply the same method to their career?

Kaplan: For every successful thing I’ve built, I’ve probably built five things that nobody cared about. So I’d tell any musician, ‘Pump out a ton of stuff! As much as you can.’ All you need is one hit to take off, and then parlay that into more hits.

Head to www.fandalism.com and join for free, and check out www.distrokid.com to upload and start selling tonight.


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