Distribution players - Focus on TuneCore

Reading time: 5 min

Second in a series highlighting digital distribution services, this article focuses on TuneCore, a distributor dedicated to self-produced artists, which is one of the biggest intermediaries in the market, along with DistroKid and CD Baby. We tell you about its birth, its modus operandi and the cost of its services. Let’s go!

Where did TuneCore come from?

The company was founded in 2005 in Brooklyn, New York, by American and former independent-label manager Jeff Price. His goal is to allow artists to “do it all themselves” – ie, without the producers – and distribute their music mainly on streaming platforms. By way of a reflection of its meteoric rise: 10% of the tracks distributed on iTunes in 2012 in the US were distributed by TuneCore.

TuneCore is perceived as an intermediary that opened up digital distribution by making it accessible to all, but also less expensive for the big artists: its first customer was the singer from the Pixies, then other big names like Mick Jagger and Drake started to use it. They were seduced by Jeff Price’s founding idea of changing the way royalties were split between artists and record companies so that artists received a higher proportion than before).

In addition to its primary service, the platform has been offering online publishing and synchronization contracts since 2011, to help the rights owners of broadcast tracks receive royalties from their distribution by third parties, particularly in the audiovisual sector (television, video games, commercials, etc.).

TuneCore has been owned by French company Believe Digital since 2015. The two companies’ services intersect notably via their SIGNED BY program, which has enabled more than 300 artists to be signed to Believe after being spotted on TuneCore.

TuneCore is one of the top 3 digital distributors and was founded in 2005 in Brooklyn, New York, by former indie label executive Jeff Price. In addition to its distribution services, the platform offers publishing and licensing deals. More recently, the site has created a 100% social media digital distribution offering.

How does TuneCore work?

Like other online distributors, TuneCore is the intermediate step between artists' recordings and streaming platforms. You can:

  • Upload your recordings files and data, then send them to the streaming sites that broadcast them on your artist profiles (TuneCore has about 200 partners, including Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Tencent, Apple Music, and YouTube Music);
  • Recover 100% of your royalties – the master rights from these distribution channels.

The site’s walkthrough gives you all the assistance you need in order to fill out your info (contact details, billing address, identity), your data (song title, album title, artist page on the streaming platforms, the names of the various contributors to the recording if necessary, the lyrics), your files in the proper format, with the automatic creation of ISRC codes. The goal is to get the green light from the stream sites as quickly as possible – between 1 and 15 days, depending on the platform – while making sure your tracks land on your profiles so that you will receive royalties from the streams.

Once your sounds are released, you can see via your TuneCore account the number of streams and/or downloads, and the income your tracks generate. These reports are presented as graphs per stream site and country. You can set them to show your performance daily, weekly, or monthly.  

This tool allows you to see what’s doing well and what’s not, where and when, and track your income in detail. You can also reinject your earnings into TuneCore’s services, so it becomes like a digital piggy bank at your disposal, saving you from having to make bank transfers. The principle: don’t spend more than you earn via TuneCore so that your account remains in balance.

For an additional fee, TuneCore offers custom mastering and sync license services. We’ll come back to these topics in dedicated articles, but do keep them in mind if you think you might want to use them: uploading all your catalog onto a single platform will make it easier for you to put it to work for you using these different ways later on.

TuneCore is the intermediate step between artists’ recordings and the various streaming platforms. You can upload the files and data of your recordings, transmit them to the streaming sites that broadcast them on your artist profiles, and get back 100% of your royalties – the master rights from these broadcasting channels. Once your sounds are published, you can see, via your account, the number of streams and/or downloads, and the income your tracks generate.

How much does TuneCore cost?

There are four options. Here are the details.

The New Artist plan

At $0, this plan offers the unlimited distribution of tracks on social platforms that make music catalogs available to their users, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Here, the game aims to achieve a breakthrough by having some of your content go viral. In exchange, you give 20% of your royalties generated to TuneCore.

The Rising Artist plan

This plan allows you to broadcast your tracks on music-streaming platforms like those mentioned above and social media. It will cost you $14.99 per year for an unlimited number of tracks, and you get 100% of the revenue earned. In addition, you can: pre-schedule all releases, have official verification on Spotify and Apple Music, and get answers from TuneCore support within 72 hours.

The Breakout Artist plan

For $29.99 per year, this plan offers the same benefits and services as in Rising Artist and New Artist plans. But you have more than that: you have access to the Automator feature, which allows you to make your music automatically available on the new platforms that will be released in the future, you have access to downloadable reports, and the support will answer you within 48 hours.

The Professional plan

The last one costs $49.99 per year and is more for labels, managers, and bigger artists. It includes all the services from the other three plans plus: access to select country restrictions, exclusive partnerships, use of your universal product code and a custom label name, premium sales reporting, promotional opportunities, and the support will answer you within 24 hours.

NB. Even if the distributor transmits your royalties as soon as it receives them from the platforms and social networks, be mindful of the latter’s schedules: they usually pay royalties three months after the diffusion of the track, with monthly reports. So, for example, you will not receive the monthly balance and revenues associated with your January broadcasts before March.

The New Artist plan has no upfront fee and allows you to distribute unlimited tracks on social platforms for 20% of your earnings. With the Rising Artist plan at $14.99 per year, you can distribute unlimited songs on music streaming platforms and social media with more services. The Breakout Artist plan costs $29.99 per year and has the same services as the previous plans plus the Automator feature. Finally, the Professional plan costs $49.99, includes everything from the other plans, and adds more services and features.

What do I need to remember?

TuneCore is a digital distributor. It is the intermediary stage between artists’ recordings and streaming platforms. There are four plans: The New Artist Plan with no upfront cost; The Rising Artist Plan at $14.99/year; The Rising Artist Plan at $29.99/year; The Professional Plan at $49.99/year. Each plan has its benefits and services depending on your needs as an artist.

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