Tunecore talks distribution, strategic partnerships with Shazam + GraceNote, & Publishing Administration services..
Tunecore has been an integral tool for many independent artists that are looking to get their music on platforms such as iTunes, & and the Amazon web store. Working directly with the artist and labels has been what they specialize in when it comes to setting up pre-orders online and within a timely manner. We dug a bit deeper and spoke with Chris Mooney (Director of Artist Promotions) as he explained some of the heavy duty back-end logistics, while also touching upon how they are continuously tweaking and paving new revenue streams for artists...
So, TuneCore, as a distributor, we have a democratic platform for where everyone who is an artist can sign up, distribute their music, and musicians pay a yearly fee, but they get to keep 100 percent of their money. And last year, we established a promoting and ad service for artists. We’re really trying to allow any artist, whether they are a bedroom guitar artist or the Grammy award winning artists. But, we allow any artist can use it, even if they want to use it to replace a label and start a label of their own, including hiring a publicist, or even a marketing team. But, for distribution, they want to be able to use TuneCore and use it a sole point of entry. So, that’s why we’re continuing to expand our partnerships, whether it is with stores because we do work with iTunes and Spotify. But, we also want to be able to expand into other areas that labels have helped artists. We wanted to make sure artists are in those environments to be not only represented but also acts to increase opportunities of sales, as well as additional promotional opportunities. Artist can say “Check out my song” and right from Shazam there is a link to buy the song straight from the app.
I guess that ties into iTunes and Amazon stores, but does that tie into the publishing administration that you introduced?
Well, for TuneCore publishing administration, that is a service that just collects money from around the world. It wouldn’t get your publishing for Shazam use because Shazam is only used for listening and you would be playing something on a jukebox and you would Shazam it. Even if someone was to play something on the radio and someone would Shazam it. That is where the public administration comes in and collects the music from where the music came from. But, we can also come in and collect money and say for example if someone is making a purchase from an overseas territory and Shazam is not only in the U.S. but also around the world and when someone overseas purchases a download, it is purchased differently from the U.S. and the U.S. publishing dedicates to the label and then the label pays out the money. But, with TuneCore, the artist is the label, more often than the label is paying not just the iTunes payments, but the mechanical and publishing payments that comes from iTunes and into TuneCore which goes into that person’s bank account, or into a TuneCore account. And as far as territories, mechanical royalties, which depends on the area. It’s usually depending on the total sales, which is maybe about 10% or less. That money is NOT given to the label. It’s given to the local performing rights organization. So it is usually DEMA or another organization and that’s when you need a pub admin to come in and collect that money for you because all it is going to do is just sit at the performing rights organization and if it is not going to be collected, it is just going to be distributed to the major labels in America. So, the independent artist is funding the major labels often times if they are not aligning with a pub admin company that can say “Hey, this song was downloaded from iTunes. You owe us 7 cents.” There is that electronic paper trail from our distribution services to the local performing rights organization (PRO) and now our pub admin is affiliated with over 70 countries, and we are collecting directly from this point. So, that is where restitution comes in, whether it is generating from sales and foreign territories, then it is money that is not going back to the artist that is based on the royalties. I know that is a lot to explain. (laughs)
(laughs) No you did a wonderful job explaining it. But, I just want to be clear with one thing. Your services with pub admin are more of an add-on layer to the publishing side, not an alternative to BMI or SESAC, correct?
It is in conjunction. TuneCore doesn’t collect from radio plays or jukebox plays. But, yes, you would more than likely want to be registered with BMI or SESAC or ASCAP, in addition to TuneCore admin publishing. They do not do pub admin. They do collect, in certain areas, where TuneCore is going to go after certain types of all sorts of money, including we’ve built our pub admin office, where we are going to be pitching for commercials, film, TV.
In terms for an artist, how important is publishing and royalties for today’s music industry?
It is absolutely important. You’re going to miss out on money to distribute something. You’re going to miss out on money that you’ve generated from that money you don’t have from someone doing an admin pub deal for you. If your music sells, there is money that is being generated out there that is in addition to your downloads on your streams, especially if you are going to have any type of international fanbase based on what I described earlier. But, additionally, you can see that downloads and streams are a source of revenue, but you don’t want to have that only as your only sources you want to be able to collect your means of exploitations. You have the number of copyrights that are assigned to you when you create an original piece of music. You own the number of copyrights on that. So, if you have a pub admin, you can start exploiting that and having a wider means of having a music career, whether it would be in TV, whether it would be in film, whether it would be in collections, or even in foreign territories, or a number of different sources, or if someone is sampling your music, you want to be represented.
What level of a career should an artist consider your services?
Well, not every artist is the same. If you are serious about going into the music business, I think that you should get full representation to exploit your copyright. It’s going to depend on whether they are going to consider themselves an amateur, or if this is just a one-song thing, or if they are going to do this as a career, or even a side career, or as a hobby they are hoping to make money from. So, I think that the artist has to make a little bit of determination on that.
Billboard Magazine noted that album sales being historically low. Has TuneCore acknowledged their dip in sales and how have they tried to counteract it?
We’ve definitely seen many artists making money on Spotify, and other places like that and that’s why we have the pub admin service is because that is how you are going to continue to generate income from your music if your album sales aren’t there, you might be able to make up additional revenue streams that you didn’t make from album sales through single sales through overseas collections.
The slump in album sales, but the progression in single sales...
Singles can be distributed very quickly so you can really capitalize on momentum and you can use that single sale or that awareness or raise around the single to decide whether or not you’re going to be releasing an EP, a full album, whether you should get that done as soon as possible so you can have momentum, or if you should just come with another single. I think there are just a number of different marketing strategies that singles enable, whether it would be to set up an album, or to just set up a contact with your fanbase, so you don’t ignore your fanbase that you’ve built up on a past release.
Has streaming cannibalized the industry, whether it is album sales or single sales?
There is a large discussion about that and I think that a lot of artists have inferred about capitalizing album sales as far as not putting their music on Spotify. Spotify have come out with their own studies on paper saying “Look, album sales, by download or streaming, you can see the particular characterization.” With TuneCore, I don’t think I’ve seen it, although I’ve seen artists whose behavior and have decided not to put it on social streaming services, but wants to maximize the downloads. Sometimes, people are ignoring what we talked about earlier, which is the overall depth in album sales. So, they are looking for the helper and looking for the new service of Spotify, where it might just be the consumer behavior more affecting less sales than Spotify. Well, we can see that there are fans in art and fans in music who are adapting to streaming, so I think you are going to see more and more people streaming music and I think there will be more views through album sales, but is it a characterization or is it just opting into a new format and I think that’s the way that a lot of artists have to approach it, like “Hey this is a new format and this is how fans want to listen to music.” And so, if you ignore that format, you are ignoring your fans. And ignoring them won’t allow you to build a new foundation. But, I think one of the things that doesn’t get talked about around this streaming and Spotify is the whole Amazon and iTunes sort of approach, like if you download an album, you’ll have to pay for it. But, if you stream it, you’ll generate revenue from it because of streaming services but people are forgetting that download, whether is Amazon, iTunes, Google, they are generating money from the hybrid services of whenever you are listening to something that’s in your collection, you are also generating streaming revenue. And I always want to point out that download services are always head on as well as to try to adjust to the artists like “Hey let me create a system where you are going to continue to generate money through a system of listening to your music.” So, I think that is a topic of discussion that’s left out because people want to say download or stream and they forgot that the download companies are trying to expand into CloudPlay to generate revenue.
I think that is an interesting topic. I’ve never heard of that topic being brought up.
TuneCore: I think people want to think download vs. stream if the Mac Services of iCloud or with Google’s Play grow, it’s going to be a lot of adoption with that and that’s going to help sustain the download market or even help push it. It’s going to help make it a more viable choice for artists so they can know that they can purchase a download and keep it in the cloud and make it useful for other different sources.
below are some artists that have used the TuneCore platform..