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Which digital-distribution service is cheapest?

RouteNote, an up-and-coming competitor for digital distribution for artists, does the math on its blog and acknowledges that it won't always win. A refreshing change.

Last week, I blogged about digital distributor RouteNote and did a brief comparison with CD Baby and Tunecore, two better-known services that help independent artists place their songs in online music stores such as iTunes and Amazon MP3.

Now RouteNote has one-upped me on its own blog and run a detailed--and very helpful--mathematical comparison of itself versus CD Baby, Tunecore, The Orchard, and Musicadium.

You can check out a direct comparison of up-front charges and ongoing revenue splits, as well as a chart showing how much money the artist will earn after selling specific numbers of songs.

RouteNote acknowledges when its service might not be the best deal--basically, when you get up to about 5,000 track sales, TuneCore and Musicadium offer more money to the artist, and at 30,000, CD Baby begins to show a slight advantage.

I found this to be a pleasant change from the usual marketingese that populates corporate blogs, in which competitors are rarely acknowledged except to be criticized. Of course, RouteNote can't resist tooting its own horn a little bit, noting that its small size makes it more invested in the success of its artists.

In the interest of fairness, I'd add one caveat: while The Orchard looks like a crummy deal for artists on a straight dollars-to-dollars comparison, it's more like a full digital record label. It handles digital distribution, as well as marketing and licensing (like getting your song on a TV show), and it works with video as well as audio.