Review of Tunecore
2020 Update: As it stands I have to almost always suggest DistroKid over Tunecore and the other competitors. See the comparison section below for details. You can see my in-depth DistroKid Review here.
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 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 being:
- Amazon Music
- Google Play (2020 Update: Being Discontinued and combined with YouTube)
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’re frequently getting questions about where to find your tracks during outreach and shows it’s definitely worth looking into.
In my opinion, Tunecore is only viable if you are a full-time musician with a large following or a record label with many artists. However, in almost any other circumstance, Distrokid is your best option.
Tunecore VS Distrokid VS CDBaby for Releases
2020 Update: As it stands I have to almost always suggest Distrokid over Tunecore and the other competitors. Unless you are running your own record label, and releasing multiple large records for multiple large bands. As an indie artist or band manager, go with DistroKid. This section will explain in-depth why this is so.
Which service you go with generally amounts to how much traction you have on your own and whether you’re planning to be a releasing under multiple artists/bands. All of the companies have almost the same distribution networks. Any differences usually amount to <1% of your streams and sales. Distribution networks are essentially null at this stage in the industry.
Tunecore charges a subscription for 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. The more releases that are done, the more expensive the service becomes. Additionally, to break even on each release, you need to generate a lot of streams and sales. If this was the 90s, this would be the best distribution network. It’s not.
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. For actual numbers, if a track or album generates >$950 yearly revenue the service starts to lag behind Tunecore. Yet is almost always behind DistroKid.
DistroKid charges a yearly subscription to stay on their service. Their basic plan is $20 a year. Their upgraded plan is $36/yr. It immediately beats Tunecore and CDBaby with that pricing unless you’re only releasing 2 singles for the entirety of your artistic career with Tunecore (or 2 a year with CDBaby).
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” to “Youtube Style”. 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 DistroKid is efficient and effective for this strategy.
What is Needed To Release on Tunecore?
The requirements for distributing a song to Tunecore are pretty straight forward. 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 Tunecore/DistroKid 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. Click the button to see for yourself:
Priming The Algorithm
Finally, and 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. If you intend to do this on DistroKid you need the $36/yr plan.
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.
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 almost always the better alternative. With only a small recurring yearly fee, Distrokid will be much more efficient for you.
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.