How To Master Digital Distribution — TuneCore Edition

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Photo Credit: TuneCore

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TuneCore is an independent digital distribution company founded in 2005 by Jeff Price, Gary Burke and Peter Wells. The Brooklyn, New York — based digital distributor has continued to expand over the years and has grown into one of most recognizable brands when it comes to the independent music industry.

Receiving high praises from Taylor Bennett, Chance The Rapper and — most recently — the Atlanta-based rapper Russ. Who was recently featured in TuneCore’s ‘Artist Spotlight’, which features success stories and testimonials from their online community.

Originally — back in 2005 — TuneCore began offering publishing and licensing services to artists and now — as of 2019 — the company has developed a full fleet of resources to help artists connect the dots and reach new heights of success.

Even though TuneCore has been criticized for its pricey tier structure, which is a combination of distribution fees and a yearly subscription.

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The digital distributor has been able to put up some pretty impressive numbers and grown to become one of the largest digital distributors in the music industry.

Bolstering over 250,000 artists worldwide, TuneCore announced back in 2019 that it had raked in over $1.5 Billion in revenue for it’s artists and helped them to amass over 200 billion streams & downloads. A stunning 83% increase year-over-year.

Given DistroKid’s and CD Baby’s cheaper alternatives to digital distribution and pricing structure. TuneCore has been able to operate at a premium by continuously creating value for their artists and offering services that have been unmatched by it’s competitors.

TuneCore’s Content Manager Kevin Cornell sat down with DJBooth.net to discuss the digital distribution company’s new role in today’s ever evolving independent music landscape.

“Our Entertainment Relations team is ready to offer support to artists, managers, and small labels that use TuneCore. They’re on the ground to be a resource for people. It’s giving artists access to information in one central location or throughout one experience using TuneCore.

When you’re using TuneCore, it’s more than uploading your music. You’re taking control of your distribution and publishing administration, which is stuff you couldn’t do [before]. It’s underrated how much control you have. The ability to plan. The ability to put a release plan together and build out campaigns on your own… This is, to me, what empowerment means. You can market your music across all platforms. You can find out where your fans are in the world and what platforms they’re using.

With TuneCore’s distribution to over 100 countries worldwide, your releases can truly have a global reach, and that’s a huge door-opener for a lot of artists. You might be based in Pennsylvania but have a huge following in South Korea. You might be based in London, but find you have a huge following in South Africa. That’s the coolest. You can get your music everywhere and see where people are listening, and that can impact your tour selection.”

— Kevin Cornell

Artist Services

TuneCore offers a host of “Artist Services” that range from social media marketing, promotions, CD Duplication and even Sponsorships. Now, lets deep dive into some of TuneCore’s fundamental features and services.

Video Monetization

This is a service that focuses on Facebook and Instagram. Video Monetization is in place to help artists collect royalties when any of their music gets played on either of the two social media platforms. Music continues to be the main driver when it comes to social media growth and development. With that being said, artists can sign up for ‘Facebook Monetization’ through TuneCore. Which gives the users of Facebook and Instagram access to your music through a massive audio library and includes a lyric verification program for original content. TuneCore is asking for a 20% cut for this service, which is a pretty good deal when compared to alternatives.

YouTube Sound Recording Revenue Collection

This is essentially a collection service where TuneCore partners with YouTube to help artists track royalties owed/earned when their music is used on the platform. TuneCore charges a $10 starter fee and takes a 20% portion of the overall earnings. This is big for certain artists and not so much for others. Depending on how popular (or pirated) your music can be on YouTube.

Expert Advice

“Value Learning Over Money.”

This is a powerful quote and it speaks to what TuneCore is trying to achieve through their free blogs and ‘how-to’ posts that are aimed at developing independent artists and record labels into powerhouses. TuneCore’s blog covers everything from Copyright Law to HealthCare. Even though it is part of a bigger strategy at play, it does help TuneCore to be recognized as a thought leader and only adds to the strength of the brand.

CD Duplication

TuneCore’s CD Duplication service is a great way to go for artists who are looking to promote their work to media outlets, press and overseas. TuneCore offers subscribers $50 off all orders over $500.

Sponsorships & Special Deals

The sponsored services are in conjunction with TuneCore partners such as: Qrates, RadioAirplay.com, Feature.FM and Bandzoogle. They create value depending on what your looking for in a ‘special deal’. For example, Feature.FM helps artists create automated marketing tools that can help analyze data from a number of streaming platforms to create promotional campaigns.

TuneCore Social

This is a social media based promotional service that TuneCore offers artists. The service is aimed more at artists who use social media to promote releases, new videos or live events. TuneCore Social Pro starts at $7.99/month and $85.99/year that includes a 10% discount. The services cover everything from scheduling to carefully constructed social media analytical reports viewable through a smartphone/mobile app.

TuneCore Fan Reviews

This is service where TuneCore has partnered with Soundout: a consumer insights company that focuses on sonic branding testing. TuneCore offers three tiers of service that include listener reviews, data points and analytical touch points.

Cover Song Licensing

For artists who are looking to cover some of their favorite artist’s songs this is a great way to go. TuneCore acts essentially as a facilitator and offers two tiers of licensing:

  • Limited — For $15, an artist can secure a ‘Limited License’ and are mainly for artists who project they will sell less than 500 “units.”
  • Standard —For $59, an artist can secure a ‘Standard License’ and are mainly for artists who project selling more than 500 “units”.

One of the biggest differences between the two licenses is that the ‘Standard’ option covers artists indefinitely and the ‘Limited’ option only covers a certain period of time. For more info on ‘Cover Song Licensing’ check out the link below.

‘Personalized’ & ‘Instant Mastering’

TuneCore and AfterMaster Audio Labs has joined forces to offer artists an affordable alternative to mastering and audio engineering. Offering TuneCore users exclusive rates with ‘Instant Mastering’ starting at $9.99/track and $75/track will give you access to ‘Personalized’ mastering services from vetted sound engineers.

Public Band Page

This service provided by TuneCore is geared more towards artists who don’t have a website or blog yet. The service is a part of TuneCore’s social media promotional services. The ‘Public Band Page’ is essentially a digital asset that you can share with press, venues, publications and on social media. This is a great feature for artists who may not be well established and need a testing ground for growing a brand identity.

Customer Service & Support

TuneCore has a massive user base and employs under 300 employees. So this is a cautionary tale, when you’re uploading be sure to review and edit titles two or even three times over. If there is an issue, you run the risk of having your project taken down or waiting weeks for a response. When it comes to distributing to over 150+ stores, old school rules are pretty much in effect. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Reporting & Analytics

TuneCore’s reporting and analytics service is considered to be top-notch in comparison with the company’s competitors. TuneCore’s dashboard provides artists with a number of ways to view money earned, downloads, a way to analyze streams and how specific songs are performing on different streaming platforms. The section covers everything from revenue to geographic demographics.

Above Average Turn-Around Time

On average, it takes TuneCore one business day to review a release. The digital distribution company is one of the faster distributors when it comes to releases. Although, it could take weeks to reach the full 150+ stores.

In conclusion, I would say TuneCore is a great fit for artists who know exactly what they want to do and where they want to go. Given the pay structure, I wouldn’t necessarily use the platform for experimentation. Especially with cheaper alternatives such as CD Baby and DistroKid.

If your plan is to use TuneCore’s platform for it’s incredible services and functionality. I don’t think there’s a better alternative given the direction of the company and what they are offering in terms of value and opportunities created.

If you’re interested in learning more or joining the conversation feel free to sign up for our monthly Newsletter, join our Facebook group. You can also follow me on Twitter!

Written by

Entrepreneur based in Minneapolis, MN. I write about Music, Inspiration, Economics & Business. Website: 227-mn.com & Newsletter: http://ow.ly/nBJJ50AbYAF

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