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Fandalism’s Philip Kaplan Launches DistroKid, An Affordable Way To Upload Music To Stores Like iTunes

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Earlier this year, Philip Kaplan expanded Fandalism, his social network for musicians, with a service called Fandalism Distro, which allows musicians to bring their songs and albums to iTunes and elsewhere. Today he’s spinning out the distribution service as a separate site, which he’s calling DistroKid.

Kaplan, who previously founded or co-founded the blog FuckedCompany, the ad network AdBrite, and social-shopping startup Blippy, said he wants DistroKid to change the way people think about distributing their music. In the same way that Gmail taught people that they didn’t have to delete their email, Kaplan said DistroKid should convince musicians that they can always bring their music to online stores such as iTunes: “You shouldn’t have to think about it.”

Tools like GarageBand have made it easy for users (including many who wouldn’t consider themselves musicians) to produce their own music. However, Kaplan said it’s still “a big decision if you’re going to upload your album,” because other services can charge around $40 per upload (TuneCore, for example, charges $29.99 per album for the first year, and $49.99 per album per year thereafter) — maybe not an enormous cost if you’re a professional musician, but enough to give you pause if you’re a hobbyist who just created something for fun. As a result, a lot of music ends up sitting on hard drives.

With DistroKid, users just pay an annual fee of $19.99 and they get unlimited uploads. You can upload one song for free before you even enter any credit card information. The service includes uploading to iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play, with plans to add Amazon soon. Kaplan said it’s also much faster than competing services, which normally take three days to upload an album. With DistroKid, an album should be on iTunes within two to four hours, and users get emails updating them throughout the process.

When Kaplan discussed the service with me back in January, he described it as a way to drive users to Fandalism, rather than a major business on its own. Until today, he’s been running it as an invite-only service, and users have already uploaded more than 1,100 albums. However, Kaplan told me that his view on how people will use Fandalism Distro/DistroKid has evolved, as he saw that some users were only interested in the distribution, not the social network.

“I just sort of bit the bullet and said, ‘If I want this to be truly the best system in the world for uploading music to stores, it should be its own thing,’” Kaplan said. Hence the launch of DistroKid as a standalone site — Kaplan is demonstrating the service today at the SF MusicTech Summit.

That does mean Kaplan is now working alone to build and maintain two separate services — Fandalism and DistroKid. He said he still doesn’t plan to hire anyone else: “I have been building these companies that can be run by one person.” The key to making that approach work?

“I’ve automated absolutely everything,” Kaplan said. “Every now and then there will be a problem, and rather than just fixing a problem, I have to build a system to fix the problem.”