How to Distribute Your Music

Music distribution can be tricky to navigate.

When it comes to releasing music, a typical plan between artist, manager, label & publicist looks like creating & finalizing the product, and then promoting it once it’s out there. Often times, the act of actually getting the music out there is disregarded, or seen as a minute part of a bigger plan. However, how and with whom you distribute music can have major implications (both positive and negative).

Choosing the right music distribution platform can mean things like optimizing metadata and streamlining payments. Unfortunately, many teams aren’t thinking of this, and are purely thinking in terms of marketing: what playlists can I get on, what blog will premiere this, how many fans will share this? While all of these things are important, it’s worth noting that keeping your metadata organized and accurate, and setting yourself and collaborators up for easy payouts means more time to focus on creativity and marketing in the long run.

In this post, we break down how to set up your music distribution properly, including how to choose a distributor to what to have prepared when you’re finally ready to upload. 

Find a Music Distribution Platform You Consider a Partner

How and with whom you distribute music matters. As with any role on your team — manager, agent, publicist, so on — your distributor is part of your organization and plays an integral role on getting your hard work out into the world.

There’s no right or wrong way to go when it comes to music distribution; it all depends on your needs and priorities for a given a release. When you choose Stem as your music distribution platform, you get:

  • Direct music distribution to major DSPs like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, TIDAL & more.
  • Automated royalty splits among you and your collaborators
  • Shared dashboard to you can view performance and earnings data for any content you’ve worked on
  • Monthly royalty payments directly to your bank or PayPal account (and mechanical royalties paid quarterly)
  • Access to our Creator Support team for hands-on help with your release

Stem has no term, so creators can use us at-will as they figure out what works best for them and their businesses.

Create An Account with Your Distributor

At Stem, we make it easy for creators to apply and start distributing music.

To apply to be a Stem client, head here.

Prepare to Upload Your Music

Knowing what you will need in order to complete a process up front, especially as it relates to distributing or getting paid for your music, will save you a lot of time in the long run. At Stem, we want our users to have the smoothest experience possible, and make an effort to manage expectations up front. Once you’ve recorded your next great song and are ready to distribute, use this checklist to manage everything you’ll need to have handy:


  • Sound Recording (.wav or .flac)
  • Album Artwork File (.jpg, RGB color space, minimum of 3000 x 3000, 1:1 ratio)

Metadata – the basics:

  • Artist Name(s)
    • Primary Artists will appear in the Artist column on DSPs
    • Featured Artists will appear with their name next to the song title on DSPs
  • Song Title(s)
  • Album Title (if you’re releasing a single, this should be the same as your song title)
  • Label Name (this is optional. If you leave it blank, your name will appear on the p-line of your release)
  • Genre
  • Track order (album or EP only)
  • Platforms you want to distribute to
  • Live Date
  • Original Release Date (often the same as your live date, unless you are uploading content that was released before)
  • Language

Metadata – the complicated stuff:

  • ISRC (International Standard Recording Code)
    • A unique code assigned to sound recordings, used to track streams & sales and to route payments
    • Stem can assign you one at no cost. If you’re uploading previously-released material, your prior distributor should have this information for you
  • UPC (Universal Product Code)
    • A unique code to identify a whole product
    • If you release a single, it is still seen as an album in the eyes of the DSPs, so your single’s UPC will be assigned on the album level
    • An album or EP with multiple songs is assigned one UPC. If an album is 8 songs, every song on that album will have the same UPC.
    • If you release an album, and it includes a single you previously released, the single version of that song and the album version of that song will have different UPCs, but the same ISRC as long as they are the same sound recording
  • Territory Restrictions
    • Stem can distribute worldwide, or include/exclude territories of your choice)
  • Pricing
    • You can suggest the pricing tier for your release on storefronts that enable downloads. Platforms often adjust this at their discretion, but it is still important to know what you want.
  • Parental Advisory – Set on the song level, this is meant to warn listeners of explicit content, or lack thereof.
    • Explicit – Contains swear words or adult content
    • Clean – A version of a song or album that is edited for content (ie: censoring swear words)
    • Not Explicit – A song or album that does not inherently contain any offensive or adult content


For each song, you will need:

Master (Sound Recording) Splits:

  • For each collaborator:
    • Name
    • Email
    • Role
    • Percent of earnings they are due

Publishing (Composition) Splits:

  • For each collaborator:
    • Name
    • Email
    • Publisher Name (if you don’t know it, don’t worry. They will have the opportunity to edit once they log in)
    • Percent of earnings they are due

To help when you’re on the go, we created a handy master checklist for you:

Stem's Ultimate Music Distribution Checklist

Once you’ve uploaded your music, check out our guide to 10 Things to do After Making Your Music Available Online. This includes creating a Spotify for Artists profile, registering with a PRO and more.

One Day at Stem: Friday October 28th

Discover how Stem can be the backbone to your music business.