Review of Tunecore
What is Tunecore?
Tunecore is a platform for conglomerating the distribution of digital music. The main reason to use this service is it allows for musicians to get their mixes and songs on multiple online distribution platforms.
The main appeal of Tunecore is the sheer amount of implied reach that the site promises. In exchange for 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 being:
- Amazon Music
- Google Play
How much does Tunecore Cost and What’s It’s Pricing Strategy?
Tunecore has a subscription pricing strategy that’s separate for every album and single released on the service. If you stop paying, your music is removed from the service. For an album it costs $35.99 ($3/mo) for the first year and $59.99 ($5/mo) for every following year. A single has a flat rate of $11.99 ($1/mo).
Is Tunecore Even Worth the Price?
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 are only expecting to sell 5 tracks a month you’re probably better off going with a different distribution network, but if you’re frequently getting questions about where to find your tracks during outreach and shows it’s definitely worth looking into.
If you’re not quite at that point, and you are having trouble selling merch and inspiring your fans to take action, I can’t suggest the book Six-Figure Musician enough. Tunecore really shines when you start to get established and this book is probably the best thing written to get you to that stage. It’s really eye opening, and you can really maximize the benefits of self publishing distribution services.
What is Needed To Release on Tunecore?
The requirements for distributing a song to Tunecore are pretty straight forward. 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 Tunecore 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 in the music stores. It needs to look 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 graphics 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. Click the button to see for yourself:
Priming The Algorithm
Finally, and this is a huge game changing secret… 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 I just gave you. 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 their 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 on to the 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.
Tunecore VS CDBaby VS Distrokid for Releases
Which service you go with generally amounts to how much traction you have on your own. Tunecore’s main benefit is the of the reach of the company’s distribution. Tunecore has some other advantages compared to competitors like CDBaby. The reason that Tunecore gets more appealing the bigger you are is because it charges a flat fee, and that fee only really becomes worth it if you sell around $950 worth of music a year in comparison to CDBaby’s pricing strategies.
My suggested distribution platforms are ordered by how big you actually are, and how many fans you have. Distrokid if you’re just starting out, CDBaby if you plan on doing an album launch and expect $1k – $4k from it, and Tunecore if you’re above that.
Going back to their main benefit, Tunecore does bring a a lot to the table through their synchronization licensing. Which allows you to make your music available to music supervisors for use in film and television. Essentially this licensing lets you put your tracks into a database for content creators to use it in their own media. Things like television shows, commercials and large music events.
If you do manage to get a placement like these, you’ll get some massive benefits. Upfront there’s licensing fees and getting paid for the placement. But these really snowball because once your song gets played in a commercial everyone’s going to be googling the title and picking up your track. Depending on how tight your musical business plan is, this could make you an overnight success.
Placement’s a pretty rare though. Usually you need a bit of a following for that marketing director to green light your track. If you do have enough fans and notoriety that the director is aware of you, Tunecore will let this partnership be possible. You need to be just the right amount of underground indie.
If you’re part of the sync licensing Tunecore also does some legwork for you by trying to find potential placements for you. But for it to be worth it your tracks have to stand head and shoulders above everyone else’s and be specifically designed for use in different types of media.
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 they’ll ever get purchased. A large portion of music (around 94%) on the platform sells fewer than 100 copies. 64% of the tracks manage sell more than one copy. 1 in 3 tracks don’t sell at all. You definitely have to be in the top 5% of music composers for this platform to really pay off.
The main problem with the above paragraph is the annual fee, the first year for an album is cheap at $35.99 but the following years it costs $50 to keep your album on the platform’s roster. If you’re not making the sales you’re just going to be losing money.
As mentioned above Distrokid is the best alternative if you’re expecting lower sales. With only a small recurring fee, Distrokid will be much better for you if you’re at the stage where you are apprehensive of distribution services worth.
Both services provide a nice way to reach potential audiences and are 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.