Tunecore Review and Information
2023 Update: Tunecore has implemented huge sweeping changes to their pricing models in mid-2022 making it more competitive with Distrokid. Tencent has taken over a major market share of music streaming. Subscriptions skyrocketed by 26.4% to 523.9 million during the pandemic. Due to Spotify’s algorithms, release strategies have drastically changed.
What is Tunecore?
Tunecore is a platform for conglomerating the distribution of digital music. The main reason to use this service is it allows musicians to get their mixes and songs on multiple online distribution platforms. As of 2023 streaming is the largest source of revenue for the music industry, generating 84% of the total revenue. This means huge money for artists.
The main appeal of Tunecore is the sheer amount of implied reach that the site promises. In exchange for the distribution of your music to these services, they ask for flat yearly fees for putting the tracks and albums in their system. With a smaller year-one stocking fee, and a larger recurring annual fee.
The service allows artists to feature their work on a total of 150+ platforms, with the biggest networks in 2023 being:
- Spotify (31% of listeners)
- Apple (15%)
- Amazon Music (13%)
- Tencent (13%)
- YouTube Music (8%)
How much does Tunecore Cost and What’s Its Pricing Strategy? Updated for 2023.
In mid-2022 Tunecore switched up its pricing strategy. Prior to 2022, it used to be very uncompetitive for what you got. Now Tunecore utilizes multiple plans depending on where you are as an artist as well as a pay-per-release plan. Please note even for the free plans you will require a credit card or PayPal.
New Artist (Free)
This plan is intended for emerging artists. It is heavily focused on the idea of an artist coming out of nowhere and taking the social media scene by storm. It will only allow you to upload your music for use on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. For example to use in reels and posts. If this is your sole intention it’s excellent. Tunecore takes 20% commission on your streams but the plan is free.
Rising Artist ($14.99/yr)
This plan is where things start to get rolling. Prior to this release, Tunecore was getting destroyed by competition. Now it’s competitive. The plan allows you to release to all major streaming platforms. But its major advantage over competitors like Distrokid is that it allows you to schedule your release time. Tunecore will also allow you to set up your Artist pages on Spotify and Apple Music, which is a huge bonus. You keep 100% of your royalties.
This plan is very solid for a musician.
Breakout Artist ($29.99/yr)
The breakout plan adds automated uploads of music to new platforms as they emerge. It also provides you with analytics.
This is more of an offering for labels or musicians with multiple entities. You are able to add additional artist profiles for $14.99/yr. They also get premium artist reports for in-depth industry knowledge of each entity and its performance. You can also choose to omit countries from your releases.
Per Release Free Tier (Free)
You can release an album or single for free to social media and get 80% of your profit.
Per Release Singles/Albums ($9.99/yr // $29.99/yr)
You can also get all the benefits of releasing a single or album directly without a full account.
Is Tunecore Even Worth the Price?
As of 2023, Tunecore has now become one of the most cost-efficient aggregators. As a new musician, it offers one of the best plans (Rising Artist). Whether or not Tunecore is worth it is entirely dependent on where you are in your artistic career. Essentially the bigger your following is, the better Tunecore is for you. If you’re frequently getting questions about where to find your tracks during outreach and shows it’s definitely worth looking into.
Tunecore VS Distrokid VS CDBaby for Releases
As it stands now in 2023 the game has slightly changed. I’ll get into it further on, but the cost of releasing a single is not the only consideration. You must also deal with the platforms you are releasing on. For example, Spotify generously rewards collaborations. It is extremely likely that you’ll need to create an account on multiple distribution platforms in order to get paid royalties. Prior to 2022, Distrokid was a juggernaut in the game, and most artists created accounts on the service over TuneCore. In order to split royalties, you will probably need both a Distrokid and Tunecore account.
Tunecore charges a subscription for each musical entity (Band) or each musical release on a yearly payment schedule. You are able to keep all royalties on the songs and will stay in the distribution network as long as you pay the subscription. As of 2023 it is currently the most competitive distributor. If you are intending to do large amounts of collaborations and create new artist profiles for each (to manage royalties easier)
CDBaby charges a small 1-time fee for each musical release. Yet takes a percentage of royalties generated from the distribution network. In my mind, CDBaby actually impedes you as you get bigger popularity. CDBaby is slightly better than they were in 2020 but they are still terrible. If you’re intending to use Tunecores singles and Album only release CDBaby is a better option.
DistroKid charges a yearly subscription to stay on their service. Their basic plan is $20 a year. Their upgraded plan which is required for Prerelease is $36/yr. The plan allows for 2 artists instead of one from the start. It immediately beats CDBaby with that pricing unless you’re only releasing 4 singles a year with CDBaby). If you are intending to do large amounts of collaborations and create new artist profiles for each (to manage royalties easier) Distrokid allows for 100 artist profiles on their top plan for $80/yr. Which would cost $1550/yr on Tunecore
You get to keep 100% of your royalties and can release an unlimited amount of tracks and albums, without raising the price of the subscription. The $36/yr plan is recommended, as it allows you to set release/preorder dates, gain data insights, and set iTunes prices.
Right now the industry is changing rapidly and artists are finding that thanks to technology a new release schedule is becoming extremely lucrative. It’s moving from “Movie style” of albums to “Youtube Style” of singles. Instead of doing one large project blockbuster hit, it’s better to reach out to your fans often. In other words, instead of 1 album a year, it’s better to do multiple small releases.
This strategy is much more effective for artists (especially indies) because it allows you to frequently interact with your fans in a meaningful way. Each new release is an event to increase your popularity and fan base. At the moment, only Tunecore and DistroKid are efficient and effective for this strategy.
What is Needed To Release on Tunecore?
The requirements for distributing a song to Tunecore are pretty straightforward. They have the same requirements as any distribution service. You only need to bring a few things to the table. Here’s a rundown of everything you’ll need:
- A Tunecore account
- Funds to pay for the service
- A kickass track or album
- An ISRC Number (Tunecore will provide you with one if you don’t have one)
- Amazing album art for the track/album
- Artist information (You and any collaborators)
- A list of what digital stores you want Tunecore to release to
What Does A Successful Release Need?
This is a slightly different question. Here’s what you need in order for your release to be as successful as possible. After releasing a bunch of indie music over the years I’ve determined three things that really up the success of music being sent to a distribution platform.
First, you’ll need an existing fan base and a way to communicate your new releases to them. Most of the store’s suggestion algorithms look at how popular tracks are and will suggest tracks with more traction more often. It’s unfortunate but you need to have some form of off-platform buzz.
You’re probably doing it already, but if you aren’t; Post in your social groups, tell your fans, advertise during shows, and if you got an email list from merch sales, send it to them too. Make them aware.
Sexy Album Art
Second, album art needs to look professional. This is pretty much the first contact fans and potential new listeners come into contact with you in the music stores. It needs to be on point because subconsciously the quality will be attached to your music. I found a direct correlation between art quality and shares/new listener discovery.
You’ll need a really good graphic designer, illustrator, or photographer. If that’s you, put in extra time to make it look amazing. Reach out to buddies if you know any. I didn’t know any, but I found a few freelancers online. Ironically I found them on Fiverr and learned that inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap. I’ve come to use freelancers a lot more in my work.
Priming The Algorithm
Finally, this is a huge game-changing secret for music distribution… You need to set a future release date of at least 2 weeks after you send it to Tunecore. Here’s a guide on how to do it. This is a real pro strategy. Let me break it down.
All the main music platforms have new release suggestion engines in place. When a new track is released, they find its way to new fans through these playlists. However, all of these platforms require time to get to your track, analyze it, and decide what kind of listeners would enjoy it. This usually takes around 10 days.
If it doesn’t get that analysis, it won’t make it onto the algorithmic suggestion playlists, because by the time it does get analyzed, the track will be too old for a “New song suggestion” playlist.
Adding in this future release date lets Spotify, Apple, Google Play, etc figure out what your music is all about, and connect potential new fans that will enjoy it.
In addition, Spotify is rewarding collaborations heavily. The songs and artists you are playing with determine which new fans Spotify will show your music to. If you want to expand the borders of your fan base you will need to collaborate with other musicians in your genre to grow both your audiences. And managing those royalties is a big consideration.
Is Tunecore a Scam For New Artists?
It’s definitely not a scam, but it’s definitely not for the naive or new mixmasters. Just because you can put your music into the system doesn’t mean it’ll ever get streamed or purchased. A large portion of music (around 94%) on the platform sells fewer than 100 copies. 64% of the tracks manage to sell more than one copy. 1 in 3 tracks doesn’t sell at all. You definitely have to be in the top 5% of music composers for this platform to really pay off.
Tunecore provides a nice way to reach potential audiences and is a great way to bring in some extra money that can be used to improve your setup or free up some time to continue to create. But if you’re looking at a distribution service be sure to pick the one that’s right for where you’re at professionally.