Tunecore just made the biggest update to their service since they launched 16 years ago: Unlimited releases for an annual subscription.
And it’s about time.
First off, if you’re new to music distribution and you need to catch up a bit, I gotchu. If you’re an independent artist looking to get your music on streaming services and digital stores (collectively known as DSPs) like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Pandora, Tidal, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, TIkTok, Instagram and the rest, you need to work with a digital music distributor. There are a ton out there. Read my comparison of 17 of the biggest DIY digital distributors for independent musicians.
Tunecore was the second big player in the digital distribution space when it launched in 2005.
Second to only CD Baby which was the first digital distribution platform for independent artists to get their music onto iTunes – when that was the only service worth mentioning back then. CD Baby took (and still takes) 9% of the revenue generated. Tunecore set itself apart by taking 0% of the revenue generated (but charged a hefty annual fee per release). Because of this, it attracted the artists believing that their annual royalties would make up for the $50/album/year fee.
However, the music industry landscape looks awfully different in 2022 than it did in 2005.
Now, Spotify flat out says that to be successful on their platform you should be releasing music every 4-6 weeks.
Having to pay per release, every year, is frankly untenable for most indie artists (like Tunecore’s previous model).
DistroKid changed the game when they launched in 2013 with a previously unheard of model of charging a low, annual fee for unlimited music releases to all the digital music stores while keeping a 0% commission. At the time it was the only music distributor doing this.
And Tunecore seems to have studied every DistroKid plan and undercut their pricing at every stop.
If you want to see my full comparison of DistroKid, Tunecore, CD Baby and 14 other digital distributors along with a fancy schmancy comparison chart, check out that review: Best Music Distribution Companies: Comparison Chart
Tunecore still keeps 0% commission (passing along 100% to the artist) with this new unlimited plan.
So, the main difference between Tunecore and DistroKid now comes down to price (Tunecore is cheaper) and the various features (there are many). Tunecore has better backend analytics, but DistroKid has better built in features (like payment splitting and lyric distribution). More on this in a minute.
Tunecore is owned by Believe – a more hands-on digital distribution company catering more so to labels and vetted artists.
Let’s break down Tunecore’s new pricing model.
The Free Tier – “New Artist”
Technically there’s a free tier, but this will only get your music on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you want to get your song on TikTok only, you might as well use TikTok’s distribution service SoundOn which is the most direct way to get your official release up on TikTok as an official Sound.
But if you’d just like to get your song on these 4 social platforms, sure, I suppose this could work for you. TuneCore will keep 20% of the revenue generated (which won’t be much). The only platform generating real revenue of the 4 is YouTube. And only if you’re generating a bunch of views.
$14.99/Year – “Rising Artist”
For nearly $15/year you can distribute unlimited releases to all the platforms with limitations. The biggest limitations that you may run into with this plan is that you’re unable to add a custom label name or add additional artists to your releases. Also, you’ll have to upgrade to the next tier up for $29.99/year to get the Store Automator. On the Rising Artist plan, if there’s a new store added, you’ll have to go in and manually add it yourself. This is a pesky little thing that you’d think would be automatic, but DistroKid and now Tunecore have found an annoying way to milk you for a bit more money. Your reports are a bit more limited than the higher tiered plans and you’re not able to download the reports on this plan. Also the customer service turnaround time is up to 72 hours on this plan.
$29.99/Year – “Breakout Artist”
I’m a little fuzzy on what you get in this tier above the previous tier other than the Store Automator that’s worth paying for.
This plan claims you get 48 hour customer service turnaround time but that is inaccurate.
I tested it and it actually took them 61 hours. So, this is false advertising. Don’t promote something you can’t achieve, guys.
There is a fun little Cover Art Creator where if you don’t have a way to make your own release cover, with a few clicks, Tunecore will generate one for you. Also, there are “Daily Trend Reports” which honestly aren’t necessary if you’re using Spotify for Artists (which you should be). And apparently you can only download your reports on this plan.
Similarly, on this plan and the Rising plan you can’t add additional artists. Want a “feat.” artist? Or anothet artist other than the one on your account? You’ll have to upgrade to the Professional plan.
$49.99/year – “Professional”
This is the tier which allows you to put in your own record label name and add additional artists. There are some other artist services and extra features listed on their chart, but honestly, I’m not sure of the benefit of those. Haven’t been able to track down any success stories or reasons this tier is worth the price. This plan promises 24 hour customer service turnaround time. You’re also able to carve out countries you don’t necessarily want your music released to (maybe you have a record deal specific to that country).
Adding Additional Artists
The only way to add an additional artist to your release is you must be on the Professional plan AND pay an additional $14.99/artist/year. How this works is, you’re charged $14.99/artist/year. So if you and I want to release music with the two of us as primary artists, under my account, I’d have to pay an additional $14.99 for you, but then we can release unlimited songs for the coming year. At the anniversary, if we’re still releasing music together, I’d have to pay that $14.99 again. However, if we want to bring in a third collaborator, that’ll be an additional $14.99 for a year for that artist. And so on.
Social Commission 20%
If you want Tunecore to send your music to TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Tunecore will keep 20% of the revenue generated from those platforms. Now, at this time, there really isn’t much revenue generated other than YouTube – and what they will distribute is the static track cover with the song playing on your Artist Name – Topic channel.
Songwriting & Publishing
Something that tripped me up was the question where it asks me to add in songwriter details. If I co-wrote a song, there is no option for that. I’m allowed to include my co-writers, however, the only two options are:
- YES, I wrote or control 100% of the song (i.e. the underlying musical elements such as the chords, lyrics and melody) embodied in my sound recording
- NO, I did not write this song nor do I control the rights to underlying musical elements of the sound recording (such as the chords, lyrics and melody)
Well, if I co-wrote this song with one other person, then I control 50% of the song. Where’s this option? This is a clever way to get you upsold into Tunecore Publishing. Which, if you distribute with Tunecore you absolutely should signup for Tunecore Publishing. It’s only $75 one-time signup fee and you’ll get all of your songwriter/publishing royalties collected from around the world.
Sure, you can signup with your PRO and/or CMO in your home country and/or the MLC if you’re in the US to get all of your publishing royalties, or you can just sign up for an admin publisher like Tunecore Publishing and get that money a lot quicker with less hassle and headaches (theoretically).
Now, if you’re not distributing through Tunecore you can still signup with Tunecore Publishing to act as your admin publisher. It’s definitely not as streamlined and a bit clunkier, but it’s an option.
Tunecore Publishing is far superior to CD Baby Pro Publishing because Tunecore Publishing will collect your publishing money for every song you write whether that song is released through Tunecore or not. Whereas CD Baby will only collect your publishing money from songs released via CD Baby.
Which Streaming Platforms and Digital Stores does Tunecore distribute to?
Tunecore distributes your music to around 150 stores and outlets: all the major platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Pandora, Tidal, Deezer, Snapchat, TikTok, Triller, Tencent and NetEase in China, JioSavaan and others.
There are some cool additional services that Tunecore offers that I’d like to highlight in addition to its distribution services.
Something that Tunecore does that very few other distributors offer is advances based on data. Tunecore has partnered with Lyric Financial to determine (through data) how much they can offer you in an advance based on your previous earnings. The system will take a look at your revenue over the previous 12 months and based on that data will offer you an advance (upfront cash payment) on what it thinks you will earn in the future. They charge you a fee for the service and then Tunecore keeps your royalties on the designated releases until your advance is paid off. You’re not able to remove those releases until the advance is paid off.
Tunecore never owns your masters or anything like that. With these advances, they just front you the money the data says you will make over the coming time period.
If you’re trying to choose the lead off singles or see if your music is up to competitive standards or just get some feedback from average listeners on your song, you can pay random people to listen and rate your song. This is powered by SoundOut and the people listening are those who have signed up for their service to get paid to do just this. You’ll get an overall score on your song (1-10), a word cloud, and customized feedback, written out.
I highly recommend this for every new artist if you’re unsure if your music is ready for primetime!
Some Missing Key Features
There are some things that for Tunecore to keep up with the competition, they should really prioritize next. For one, Lyrics. To get lyrics added to Spotify, Instagram, Apple Music, Shazam, Amazon Music and Google, most require going through Musixmatch. However DistroKid has this built right into their platform. It is a massive headache going through Musixmatch. Their support isn’t great and their platform is very glitchy. It’s been a week and I still can’t get a response or get set up properly.
Still No Payment Splitting
In 2022 it’s a deal breaker not to have payment splitting. These days everyone is getting cut into royalties. Your producer, manager, band members, hell maybe even your session musicians (I do it!) or songwriters. There’s no way in hell I’m going to be crunching these numbers in spreadsheets and figuring out how much each pay period I’m supposed to be sending each person. DistroKid, Amuse, Stem, Symphonic all have a way to put in your team members info and they will pay them their cut directly.
When Tunecore inevitably adds this, I BEG of them to get “recoupment” integrated from the start. Meaning, if I spend $2,500 on the song, I want to make this $2,500 back BEFORE I pay out my team members their cut. DistroKid currently has this, the rest do not.
Current Tunecore Customers May Be A Bit Annoyed
Now, I do need to make a personal gripe. I have one album on Tunecore. And I had just renewed the annual subscription for $50 and then, a few weeks later, they announced this update. So every time I sign into Tunecore I get the notice to switch my plan. I’m apparently ineligible for the $14.99/year plan I’m assuming because of the one EP I have up is enrolled in Store Automator.
Of course it’s a no brainer to switch. Why would I pay $50/year for 1 album when I could pay $30/year for unlimited releases? Except, now I have to pay $80 this year because of this switch. Which is mildly annoying. They didn’t really think this through and should refund me (and everyone else) who paid an annual album fee in the past 12 months if we switch to the new unlimited model.
UPDATE: after bringing this to their attention they have decided to give current customers a discount on the upgrade.
You can learn more at Tunecore.com
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