Distrokid: A 2020 Review

You do indeed get what you pay for.

We are not a click-bait site that strings things out to get you to stay on the page, so here’s the summary. We found Distrokid to be non-communicative over more than two weeks when trying to submit music. Tech support is essentially non-existent so we pulled the music and went elsewhere.

The fuller story

It’s a weird time: millions of people in different countries are in some form of home isolation or quarantine. Anecdotally, it appears there’s lots more creation of music going on – some lucky people are using the extra time to start or finish musical projects they are working on.

I’m one of them, and in the past three weeks I started looking around for which online option I’d take to upload my music to all the streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Amazon Music etc etc). I had used TuneCore before, and although they fully delivered on everything they said, I didn’t particularly like their interface and thought I’d look around.

I’d had a few people across different musician groups online recommend DistroKid, so after looking at their pricing versus TuneCore and CDBaby, and reading some other info online (except one key source I missed, but more on that later), I signed up with DistroKid.

The sign-up process is great, as are the music upload features. I had my artwork and music files all in the correct format and it was flawless. Once you’ve submitted the files, you get a message at the top of the page that says you’ve been successful and that the album or single you’ve uploaded will be sent to the music services today. This is misleading on its own because rightly, DistroKid state elsewhere on their site that it can take ‘several days’ for songs to be reviewed and sent to stores. It’s a reasonable timeframe, so benefit of the doubt was given on the claim of it being sent ‘today’. No biggie.

The days dragged on and I followed the DistroKid twitter account, still not concerned. In fact I assumed there’d be some sort of extra delay given what’s going on worldwide and previous coverage of DistroKid alludes to them being a fairly small outfit. I was (and am) concerned that maybe some of them had become ill with COVID-19. Then I noticed they were posting at least daily on Twitter, either linking to something that has taken their fancy (Dave Grohl surprising a frontline healthcare worker on Jimmy Kimmel) or asking followers on their thoughts on different issues.

All normal stuff from a company Twitter account, but I noticed that amongst the responses to each tweet a regular handful of replies from disgruntled users. The theme is consistent: why am I not getting replies to my support queries and why is my music not being uploaded to the stores? Even more concerning, nearly all are ignored and the odd one that is responded to, involves the provision of a link to the DistroKid support site. I won’t bore you with the details of that, and you can actually check it out yourself, but it is one of the least user-friendly support options I’ve ever seen in respect of being able to send a message with details specific to your issue. Again, it’s totally reasonable that a small company needs to minimise queries that can be solved automatically, but whoever set up this Zendesk site has mastered the ability of making it a circular hell-hole.

This is where I realised I’d missed a source of information before signing up. If I’d checked out TrustPilot for DistroKid reviews, because that alone would have set alarm bells off for me. Reading through reviews I realised I was far from alone. Even if you believe competitors are trolling the reviews, there’s still plenty of obviously legit ones to cause concern.

When ten days had rolled around and still no submission to stores has occurred, I went back to Twitter and saw the same pattern – lots of interaction from DistroKid to any positive feedback and nothing to those asking for help. I thought I was being hard done by at 10 days wait, but there were others who were at the three week mark with the same non-communication. That was the deal-breaker for me. I logged in, finally found a way to ask for a refund (it’s the first time I found a form where I could actually type information) and then the following day clicked on the ‘Abort’ button to stop my music being uploaded to stores (if it ever were to happen). I remain skeptical of getting the refund but it will be something I will pursue very very actively.

Today, I paid an extra 25 bucks or so than DistroKid charged, to upload my music to TuneCore. To their credit, they have a very prominent message on delays in uploads due to the COVID-19 situation. And this is all I really wanted: any type of communication from DistroKid to explain that there’d be delays. It’s understandable a small team may be struggling with workload, but it’s also very easy to communicate that in a way that grows loyalty, not destroy it before it has a chance to develop. The DistroKid Twitter account shows the lights are on, but no-one gets in that door at this stage and it worries me why. There’s more to customer service than posting heart emojis or GIFs in replay to loving Twitter followers. I hope you folks are doing ok and I hope to read / see that things improve. To those reading this wondering whether to sign-up: read the good, bad and ugly reviews and make your own call of course.

One last comment: when you do a web search for ‘Distrokid review’, a lot of the higher ranked articles are from sites who are offering affiliate discounts for signing up to Distrokid, so take them with a massive grain of salt. I went back to TuneCore because it was a devil I knew, not because I’m getting some sort of deal to do so. I nearly went with CD Baby, but decided learning another interface wasn’t worth the effort. I actually wish BandCamp would offer a service to submit to other stores because I really like their approach.

Comments welcome below but ad hominem attacks or defamatory statements will be removed. Thanks to The Creative Shed for the opportunity to post this review.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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