Updtaed as of 01/03/2022
Our TuneCore review gives you an inside look at the platform and how they are helping independent musicians.
TuneCore has been around for a while and is another staple in music distribution.
With a growing number of artists turning to the company, we help you to determine if this feature packed platform is right for you.
Music distribution seems fairly straightforward, right? You simply get your music into the right hands, and it will be smooth sailing from there. Easy.
But you and I both know that nothing is as simple as it appears in the music industry, especially when it comes to getting your music heard on different streaming platforms and digital storefronts.
Music distribution companies like TuneCore have been around for over a decade now and are helping the underdog make major strides in the music distribution game.
TuneCore is one of the strongest music distribution companies that I have had the pleasure of using, and I’ve relied on the service to release my music for some time now. The best part is that I can count on TuneCore to make my music available to fans across hundreds of different platforms.
In this review, I want to share some of the many benefits TuneCore has to offer as well as touch on some potential pitfalls to help you make an informed choice about distributing your music online.
Who Is TuneCore For? Quick Summary
TuneCore Discount (25% Off)
TuneCore has a lot of features that are beneficial to artists of all genres; however, one thing to be aware of up front are the fees associated with releasing your music as they can add up quickly.
However, I believe TuneCore’s fees are fair, but they may not be in line with all musicians’ budgets. The bottom line? If keeping upfront costs very low is your goal, then TuneCore may not be your best option.
With that said, you may find that TuneCore’s features are worth the fees, especially when you consider the fact that the company does not take a commission on your music.
This model is advantageous for artists who don’t want to worry about paying more for selling more music. When you pay an annual fee, you don’t have to think about losing money as your sales climb through the year because you’re one and done – no commissions with TuneCore except for YouTube.
I’ve found that TuneCore’s fee schedule and sales model works for my needs, and I really value the strength of the analytics that TuneCore provides. Want access to solid and up-to-date reporting that is arguably the best in the industry?
Then TuneCore has exactly what you need!
Also, if you are really focused on monetizing your YouTube videos then TuneCore has a number of features to help you do just that. Yes, there is a commission involved, but if your music gains traction, that commission can be balanced out.
- Distribution to social platforms
- 0% Commission – keep all royalties
- Publishing administration & potential sync opportunities
- YouTube monetization
- Education and rewards program
- Instant verification on streaming profiles
- iTunes pre-release solutions
- Payment splitting if all parties are on TuneCore
- Strong revenue and analytics reports
- YouTube commission of 20%
- Annual fees
- Charges a fee for adding new outlets
- linkShare option for TuneCore Social Pro users only
- Lacks strong marketing support for things like playlist plugging
What Is In This Guide
One of the things I really like about TuneCore as a company is that they really do seem to care about artists.
If you’ve worked in the music industry, you already know that there are plenty of people out there just waiting to take advantage of you.
At TuneCore, the company culture seems focused on serving artists and providing opportunities to elevate independent music as a whole.
An example of this approach can be found in the company’s efforts directed at education and investment in artist development.
TuneCore’s parent company, Believe Digital, has partnered with Spotify to introduce the “Discovery Mode” tool.
Through this partnership, independent artists have the ability to reach new fans and market new music with no upfront costs.
Additionally, TuneCore has also upstreamed over 340 artists to Believe Digital through the company’s “Signed By” program.
This ultimately leads to more exposure, larger opportunities to get heard, and more ways to make money from a career in music.
I mention these two examples because these are the things that speak to artists.
Too often, I run into other music distribution services that promise a lot to artists but more often than not there’s not much that differentiates them from any other distributor.
They also may have a ton of features on their platform, but when the dust settles, these features rarely move the needle for artists in the right way.
With TuneCore, I not only get the features, but I also see the company working toward making it easier for independent artists to get a fair shake and get heard.
What TuneCore Does
Although we’ve already covered a bit about what TuneCore has to offer, I want to take a step back and begin with the basics of what TuneCore actually does.
Perhaps you’ve heard of digital distribution but weren’t sure what exactly that means.
In short, they serve as the middle men between you as the independent artist and music platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and more. Essentially, they help make your music available to the public for consumption.
Platforms like TunCore also have to evolve with technology and changes within the music industry. The way music is consumed continues to change and as an artist you want to maximize your potentially to be heard as much as possible.
Which leads us to our next point on where TuneCore can distribute your music.
Outlets & Release Options
TuneCore allows you to distribute your releases to over 150 digital stores and streaming services across 100+ countries worldwide. Beyond that, you get to pick and choose which stores you want your music distributed to.
What this means is that you don’t have to take the time to fill out paperwork, submit files, deal with approval processes, wade through guidelines or deal with all of the other hassles that often come with digital distribution.
Not only does TuneCore handle this for you, but the company knows this side of the industry inside and out. This knowledge and experience, combined with close relationships with streaming platforms and digital storefronts, ensures that everything is handled efficiently and professionally.
While TuneCore works with major storefronts and streaming services like iTunes and Spotify, it also provides inroads to get your music listed on lesser-known, but still popular, sites and services.
This can be a big help when it comes to promoting your music locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Distribution To Social Platforms
Beyond distribution to streaming services and storefronts, you can also have TuneCore handle distribution to social platforms for additional exposure, sharing, and earning potential.
Even if social media platforms aren’t going to be your primary focus for marketing your music, you can’t deny social media’s influence on viral sharing.
From YouTube Shorts to TikToks to Instagram Stories, there’s no shortage of ways to leverage social media sharing to spread the word and get your music in front of huge numbers of potential fans quickly and without a lot of investment.
TuneCore is ahead of the curve on this in my opinion as the company offers a number of affordable ways to market music using social media.
Currently, there are no upfront costs to opt for releases with YouTube Content ID or other social options.
Using TuneCore’s social tools, you can release music to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Reels and more, and you keep 80% of the revenue.
Although this differs slightly from other TuneCore services in that you do split revenue, there are no annual subscription costs to utilize these services.
I like to think of social through TuneCore as an added bonus that generates passive income, despite the split.
More importantly, I see these options as marketing tools. I use social media to gain added exposure and new fans instead of using it to make sales directly.
I want potential fans to see the name of the artists I’m producing, share posts and tracks with friends, and then funnel these shares into sales in the future.
Something else to consider in all of this is that social sharing encourages fan feedback, and in many cases, this is going to be as objective as it can get.
Because your music has the chance to reach new audiences who are engaging organically, you have the ability to hear straight from the horse’s mouth about what people like and don’t like about a particular aspect of a track, album, or musical concept.
Release Dates & Pre-Orders
Scheduling and promoting release dates is crucial for building hype around an album or song release.
This has become even more important in the digital age where social media hype can go viral around the world in a matter of hours.
With the help of TuneCore, you’re able to select a release date that aligns with your marketing plans.
You can also incorporate a pre-release campaign into your marketing strategy while using TuneCore.
The company allows you to make your album or single available for sale on iTunes before your official release date. This not only helps to build anticipation, but it can also give you an idea of your expected sales before release.
Unfortunately, TuneCore only allows you to do this with iTunes and no other store at the moment.
The company suggests that you provide between three and four weeks of planning to execute this properly. Although pre-release services are only available for iTunes at the moment, most artists utilize iTunes as a mainstay for releases anyway, so it shouldn’t be a deterrent.
*Please note: A pre-order cannot be added to a release after it has been paid for and distributed to stores. You need to set up your pre-order during the upload process to take advantage of this feature.
Speed To Stores
TuneCore is very good at getting your music live on iTunes and Spotify quickly.
Speed to iTunes is very quick, and releases typically go live within 24-48 hours. Spotify, on the other hand, typically takes five business days.
All other stores range between one and three weeks depending on the store.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that these are suggested times under best-case scenarios. Don’t rely on the posted timeframes because each case is unique.
Be mindful of this when planning your releases, and try to make your submission at least 3-4 weeks ahead of your target release date.
Fees & Commissions
TuneCore is similar to the majority of other distribution sites in the fact that it is free to join. There is no fee to sign up.
That said, TuneCore does charge a distribution fee to upload your music.
Now, what some people really dislike about TuneCore is that there’s an annual fee on every single or album that you upload. You can check current distribution pricing below:
TuneCore Discount (25% Off)
This is where other companies like CD Baby, which doesn’t charge an annual fee, may start to look superior to TuneCore.
After all, if you aren’t making any money from your music, then why should TuneCore profit?
While you’re certainly justified in wanting to keep as much of your money as possible, companies charging a commission are essentially taking a gamble on you “now” in hopes of a bigger payout down the road.
TuneCore does not take a commission, and this means you get to keep 100% of what you earn from your music. The company is putting in the work to distribute your music, and you’re paying for the service.
CD Baby, on the other hand, doesn’t charge you those annual fees. Instead, it takes a healthy 9% commission from everything you make.
On the surface, this may seem better, but this isn’t necessarily the case. This means that you’re going to be paying 9% of each sale for as long as CD Baby, or a similar service, is handling your distribution. Every sale, every stream, every dollar in most cases.
What it truly comes down to is how much you’re making from your music and where you are in your music career.
If you are making very little money from your music, small enough to not cover the annual TuneCore fees, then yes, commission-based services like CD Baby might be the better option.
However, if you’re making a ton of money from your music or you expect to do so eventually, then CD Baby’s 9% cut isn’t so glamorous anymore as commissions will perpetually eat into your profits with each sale.
This is especially the case when you could just pay the fixed annual TuneCore fee and be done with it, keeping what you earn week after week, month after month.
The fact that TuneCore’s fee is fixed also means you can plan for it rather than CD Baby getting more money the more your sales grow.
To add to this, I always encourage artists to consider all aspects of a music distribution partner instead of focusing solely on the money.
Yes, your money is important, but it shouldn’t be the only driving factor in your decision making process.
You need to take into consideration the other benefits and features being provided by each platform and go with what fits your needs the best.
Fee For Adding New Stores
With TuneCore, an added benefit is that you are able to expand the distribution of your songs to stores you are not currently utilizing via the TuneCore Store Expander.
These are typically platforms that weren’t available or that you may have skipped when you were originally selecting your list of platforms to distribute to.
In the image below, you can see that my music isn’t being made available to platforms like Peleton.
In this case, there is a small fee to add my music to these specific platforms, but there are cases where there is zero fees at all.
TuneCore offers a similar feature worth noting called the Store Automator.
You never know when the next big platform like Spotify or Apple Music may spawn out of thin air.
Look at the rapid impact of TikTok on the music industry and what that has done for musicians.
The Store Automator feature allows you to take advantage of stores you may have missed when you originally uploaded your music because they did not exist at the time.
This feature gives you the option of automatically distributing your music to new stores that TuneCore partners with as they come along.
Essentially, this means fewer missed opportunities and wider distribution. It also means you’re more likely to get your music on up-and-coming platforms first, giving you the chance to grow organic hype from the start.
Currently, Store Automator costs a one-time flat fee of $12 for each release.
I personally believe that this is a forward-thinking move on the part of both TuneCore and artists who partner with TuneCore since today’s ever-changing landscape of streaming platforms and digital storefronts can be difficult to predict.
Imagine if you had your music on iTunes from day one or that you were listed on Spotify from the moment the service went live.
You’d probably have had more opportunities to receive exposure, more opportunities to market your music, and more money in your pocket along with more fan and industry clout behind your name.
Take Down Costs
A concern some musicians have is that they don’t want to be hit with penalties for removing their music from platforms.
After all, things happen in music. Trust me – I get it. Maybe you aren’t too happy with a song or it’s become outdated and you don’t want it accessible to the public.
Perhaps you’ve run into a disagreement with a musical partner and need tracks taken down until matters can be resolved.
Whatever the case may be, you can find comfort in the fact that TuneCore will not charge you a fee to take down any music you have uploaded.
You simply submit a request to take down your music and TuneCore will help you through the process.
How TuneCore Processes Payouts
So, we’ve covered quite a bit about what TuneCore does overall, but I know what you really want to learn – how do I get paid?
Even the most passionate artist out there deserves to get compensated for their time and effort, so it’s perfectly normal to want to know when you’re going to make good off of your music.
When it comes to processing payouts, TuneCore has a really good track record from everything I’ve seen.
I’ll also add that I have personally never encountered an issue getting paid correctly and on time.
Now, I want to be clear that getting paid royalties from TuneCore can be a lengthy process if you’re not used to working against quarterly sales models.
What this means is that TuneCore pays out each quarter, and these quarters are divided as follows:
- Q1: January-March (payout in May)
- Q2: April-June (payout in August)
- Q3: July-September (payout in November)
- Q4: October-December (payout in February of following year)
I point this out because it’s important to know that payments in the music industry can take some time.
You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a distribution partner that is able to provide faster timelines than quarterly, and some that claim to offer quick payments are going to take a higher percentage for administrative fees.
Keep in mind that faster payments may also be considered advances, meaning if you don’t make that money back in sales during the next quarter, you could be on the hook down the road.
Payouts and Taxes
Something else you need to keep in mind is that TuneCore (and virtually any other distribution service) will be required to process tax information pertaining to your personal situation when working out payments.
Your tax situation is unique to you, but many artists find themselves classified as sole proprietors or independent contractors for tax purposes.
Your local, state, or national government requirements may change your filing status, so I encourage you to speak with a tax expert, tax attorney, or government tax representative to understand how to handle your personal filing situation.
TuneCore does make it easy to send in required tax documents, and you will receive your own documents annually to submit when filing your own taxes.
Once again, this can differ based on location, but TuneCore’s support team is very helpful if you have questions.
Additionally, you shouldn’t run into issues with tax withholding blocking you from accessing funds like what happened with DistoKid recently.
However, again, you’re encouraged to be proactive and look into tax laws that pertain to your unique position and location to ensure you don’t get hit with any hidden surprises.
Payouts and Splits
TuneCore does offer payment splitting options, but only if all parties are signed up with TuneCore and all fees are current.
This can be tricky since I’ve run into situations where I’ve collaborated with artists who have different distribution plans.
I used TuneCore, they went with their preferred option. We had to work things out independently, and this means extra legal paperwork on everyone’s part, but it can be done.
Not exactly efficient, and this is one of the drawbacks of partnering with TuneCore. Of course, if you’re a solo artist, this isn’t going to be a concern.
Likewise, if you’re part of a small group, calculating splits may be a simple multiplication or division equation away.
When I’ve had the chance to split payments with other TuneCore artists, the process has been very easy and efficient.
We worked out the split, and TuneCore handled the processing when funds were dispersed.
Everything was documented for all parties involved, giving a level of transparency that I have a hard time finding elsewhere in the industry.
Now let’s jump into the fun stuff – actually getting paid!
Once you have earnings processed and in your account, you can withdraw your money at any time and do not need to worry about a threshold that some platforms impose on you.
TuneCore also provides you with three flexible options to withdraw your money from the platform:
- Via check
- Via electronic funds transfer (EFT)
- Via PayPal
TuneCore’s Direct Advance Program
Before we move on, there is one more payment feature that I want to touch on which sets TuneCore apart from other services.
TuneCore’s Direct Advance program allows you to access money that you haven’t made yet in the form of an advance.
You’re probably asking, “Well, where can I sign up!?”
Ahh, not so fast – The program is for select TuneCore artists only.
The selection criteria for artists is based on previous sales history and future forecasted sales. Essentially, you will have to prove that you have a solid track record of sales to be eligible.
It’s also worth noting that advances are not some type of magic money that comes from thin air with no strings attached.
An advance in the distribution and publishing industries is an advancement of funds with the expectation that the money will be returned in the form of sales.
If you don’t generate those sales, you’re likely going to be on the hook for the advance money. In most cases, accepting an advance means that repayment will be made through your first sales, meaning you won’t see a dime until your sales meet and exceed the advance amount.
An advance always sounds nice when companies start throwing around dollar signs, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Thankfully, TuneCore provides clear wording on what advances are, how they work, what obligations come along with them, and how disputes are resolved.
This eases my mind, and while some may tend to shy away from advances because they prefer not to hang on contingencies in the music business, they can be a convenient way to get funding for many artists who need cash now.
TuneCore Discount (25% Off)
Although we’ve already covered some ground regarding what TuneCore has to offer, I think it’s important to give a broad overview of the company’s features and benefits.
In a nutshell, TuneCore gets your music listed on streaming platforms and digital audio storefronts.
This allows you to earn money from streaming and digital album or single sales, and TuneCore handles all of the background administrative stuff in terms of reporting and payment processing.
Additionally, TuneCore offers a variety of promotional tools to help your fans find your music and share it with others.
This has become increasingly important as more music is being discovered and streamed using social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram.
No to mention, social networks like YouTube and Spotify are known for providing outlets to artists who want to stream their music to fans, receive feedback in the form of comments and analytics data, and attain viral status through shares and algorithm promotion.
We’ve listed some additional detailed information about some key features and benefits of TuneCore below:
Another aspect of digital distribution is publishing administration. I find that this function of a distribution partnership often gets overlooked, but it is usually one of the most vital functions in terms of ensuring you get paid for your work wherever it gets published.
Publishing administration is the process of keeping up with when and where your music gets used, streamed and downloaded.
When it comes to digital music, it’s far too easy to lose track of how many streams or downloads a song or album has, and this can mean you’re leaving money on the table every single day.
TuneCore provides a Music Publishing Administration service to help artists in this area.
While many of you may be familiar with Songtrust, TuneCore’s publishing team leverages Sentric’s Rights App Technology to monitor the uses and plays of your music around the globe.
This then allows TuneCore to collect and distribute these royalties to the artists who are entitled to them.
This partnership also gives TuneCore the flexibility to work with rights collection agencies from around the world to make sure that no matter where your original music is being played, you receive your royalties for it.
Once again, digital music can very easily be shared across the Internet, and keeping up with each stream and download can be a huge undertaking. Using publishing administration services from TuneCore, you’re more likely to get paid for each usage of your music and less likely to miss out on revenue streams.
Another nice benefit of Publishing Administration through TuneCore is that you can purchase this as a separate service, even if you don’t distribute your music through TuneCore.
I personally feel that you’re going to see a bigger benefit by utilizing both services through TuneCore, but the option is available if you just want the company to handle your admin.
In order to utilize Publishing Administration services through TuneCore, you will need to assign exclusive sync rights, but this is done to protect your interests as TuneCore states that:
“TuneCore maintains exclusive synchronization rights to Compositions only. This is to your advantage as it avoids confusion in the marketplace and having too many parties representing the same rights can result in higher licensing fees based on our extensive sync negotiating experience.”
At its core, TuneCore’s Publishing Administration Service helps to collect the royalties that Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SOCAN can not or do not collect. See the breakdown of what your PRO will collect on your behalf vs. TuneCore’s Publishing Administration Service below:
Sync & Master Licensing
Through TuneCore’s Publishing Administration service, they also boast that they will go to bat for you and pitch your music to film, TV, commercial media, video games and more.
This is because they have a designated sync team on the ground in Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris working to solicit sync placements. While this sounds great in theory, you also have to consider how many artists use the TuneCore platform.
Everyone’s situation will be different when it comes to landing these kinds of placements. If an artist is hoping to secure a sync placement, then they should be providing TuneCore’s sync reps with the necessary tools in order to maximize the potential of securing a placement.
For example, ensuring the music is of high quality, ensuring high resolution files are available, ensuring instrumental versions of songs are available and knowing what the rights picture looks like (if there is outside ownership of publishing rights).
It is entirely possible that your track could be featured in the next Hollywood blockbuster or viral commercial spot, but competition is stiff, so set your expectations accordingly.
TuneCore Publishing Administration Pricing
Pricing for TuneCore’s Publishing Administration service is listed as a one-time $75 setup fee which allows you to submit as many compositions as you like. This would be pretty good if it weren’t for the commission fees.
With any royalties you make from publishing, TuneCore takes a cut of the profits. This used to be 10% but has since increased to 15% as of July 1st, 2018. With regard to any sync licensing that you are able to obtain, TuneCore keeps 20% of all the revenue you generate.
Note: This is not to be confused with music revenue as TuneCore does not touch that. This only applies to publishing.
YouTube Sound Recording Revenue
As previously mentioned, TuneCore provides you with opportunities to monetize your music through YouTube.
This is a service TuneCore provides to help you track down and collect revenue when your sound recordings are used anywhere on YouTube.
As you probably already know, this is incredibly important as YouTube can be a passive income generator if your music finds its way onto the right channels and videos.
Through TuneCore, you get to decide which of your tracks you want to collect money on and monetize.
Once these tracks are submitted to YouTube, the content ID system identifies where your music is being used on the platform.
If your music is used in a video, YouTube offers the ability to claim copyright, and you may be owed a percentage of the ad revenue from any videos using your music.
Artists pay a one-time setup fee of $12 for the service, and TuneCore takes 20% of any revenue made.
The setup fee covers all current and future releases, which is good, but the 20% commission needs to be factored in with the fact that you are still only going to receive a portion of the ad revenue from YouTube. YouTube takes its cut as well for supplying the platform for the advertiser.
TuneCore Rewards – Expert Advice
TuneCore also gives artists exposure in the industry as well as access to expert advice through its new rewards program.
One example of this is through TuneCore Tuesdays, a feature that showcases artists, and gives you the chance to let listeners hear new music.
Masterclass education and info sessions are also offered by TuneCore to help newcomers learn the truth about some of the music industry’s biggest questions and best-kept secrets.
We really love the investment into artist education that TuneCore provides because the industry as we used to know it was rarely this open to sharing information.
In addition to the education artists receive from masterclasses, artists can earn points for participating and even gain access to exclusive VIP sessions where they have a chance to receive personalized advice from industry experts.
All of this is part of the TuneCore Accelerator program, through which mentors are paired with artists to aid in professional development.
TuneCore Cover Art
Even though music has largely moved from the physical realm into the digital space over the years, cover art remains a key ingredient in marketing an album or a single.
Your covert art provides a visual way to tell a listener what they can expect from your project, what the story behind your musical journey has been, and lots of other information that can only be conveyed through visuals.
Even though you may not be designing cover art for a physical CD or record that will be placed on a retail store shelf, your digital cover art needs to be visually appealing and must conform to different standards according to where the music is released.
For example, some digital stores do not allow promotional material to be included with cover art. This means that you can’t put “Now available on iTunes and Spotify” on the cover of your release, especially if the album is released elsewhere.
This is to ensure that everything looks professional and standardized, but it’s also to protect cross-promotional opportunities.
TuneCore offers guidance for cover art for various stores, but it also provides tools to design your own cover art if you don’t have graphic design options available.
You can upload your own images, utilize simple design tools, compare your work against various guidelines and create covert art that not only looks awesome but is also more likely to get accepted without a hassle.
Spotify & iTunes Artist Pages
Apple Music and Spotify are arguably the biggest distribution destinations for modern artists, so TuneCore offers its clients the ability to create iTunes and Spotify Artist Pages as an added bonus.
Artist Pages on these platforms offer a way to engage in brand reputation management, marketing, and promotion as well as engagement with fans.
All of this is vital to professional success in the digital age, and while the Artist Page option is currently only available for these two platforms, TuneCore may open up more opportunities in the future.
Public Band Page
Having an artist website is a fantastic promotional tool, but many up-and-coming artists find that getting the resources together to craft the perfect site can be challenging.
To help, TuneCore offers all clients a Public Band Page that can serve as a website when you want to direct fans to find you on the web.
This is a free service offered to all TuneCore clients, and we believe that it provides excellent opportunities for artists who don’t want the hassle and expense of website design, development, and maintenance.
TuneCore Social offers a feature set similar to other social media management tools on the market like HootSuite or Buffer.
The service provides you with social media analytics and allows you to streamline your posting process through post scheduling.
I’ve found that this saves time, but it also gives artists the ability to craft marketing campaigns around releases, specific themes, seasonal events, and more.
There is also an app called TuneCore Social Pro that you can use to monitor and post everything from your phone. This is available as a Free option, but there is also a Pro option for $10.99 a month or $118.99 a year (10% savings).
This app can provide you with convenience depending on your needs, but I should point out that there are other tools on the market that I believe are superior and you can check them out here.
If you become a TuneCore Social Pro member, you also gain access to the company’s exclusive linkShare option.
Using linkShare, you can easily create and share a link that serves as a landing page for your music across all storefronts and services to which TuneCore distributes your work.
This gives you the ability to not only promote your music across virtually any web-based application, but it can also increase sales since your linkShare landing page already includes direct access to stream or purchase your music on all the top sites.
Pro Master & Instant Mastering (After Master Audio Labs)
Although TuneCore’s main services focus on marketing, distribution, and tracking your music after release, you can also take advantage of some production services when you partner with TuneCore.
TuneCore provides two options for artists who need mastering services: Instant Mastering (much cheaper) and Custom Engineering (more expensive).
Instant Mastering provides you with a technology-based approach to mastering that utilizes sophisticated algorithms and comprehensive audio tools to analyze tracks and make adjustments to volume and balance. TuneCore boasts top quality, lossless masters available in seconds with its Instant Mastering option.
The Instant Mastering option also lets you chose between a variety of presets, including Powerful, Radio-Ready, Bass Enhanced, or Vocal Enhanced.
These presets have been designed to meet the needs of various genres and use cases across a variety of mediums.
You get to preview the mastered tracks before purchase, and the price for Instant Mastering starts at $9.95 per track.
Custom Engineering, on the other hand, will start at $75 and offers a more hands-on approach.
Your tracks will be mastered and quality-checked by a professional sound engineer, and the turnaround time is typically three business days.
While this option is more expensive, I find that the difference in quality can be massive when comparing a track mastered by an algorithm to a track mastered by a trained sound engineer.
Even though the main focus of a service like TuneCore is digital music distribution, CD duplication is still a very viable and necessary option for getting your music into more places for sale.
Even though consumer CD burners are available relatively cheap these days, the process of burning your own CDs is time-consuming, and it can also get expensive.
This becomes an even bigger ordeal if you plan to print onto the CD-R itself and print your own jackets or jewel case inserts.
TuneCore can handle your CD duplication needs, usually within a week or two, and the service provides options for everything from CD-R duplication in simple jacket containers to full 8-page spreads in jewel cases.
Additionally, you can get DVD duplication done through TuneCore as well as vinyl duplication for 12” releases.
Each order comes with a customized quote, and I find that physical merchandise is a great way to supplement your digital distribution efforts.
TuneCore Fan Reviews
While I believe that music should always be made from the heart for your own enjoyment first, feedback is important if you plan to make music your career.
To solve this, TuneCore offers several different review services that are designed to help you make writing and production decisions.
In a nutshell, TuneCore Fan Reviews is a service that allows you to pay for independent feedback on your music.
TuneCore offers three different packages which provide you with real reviews, analytic comments, and pointers on your music.
Each package includes real reviews and also provides data points that can help you to see where a particular track can be improved upon.
TuneCore’s Distribution Credits feature allows you to pre-purchase distribution services for future releases. This could be an option for someone who knows that they will be releasing a lot of music through the platform or even a label managing multiple artists.
For those who want to save on the single or album fee that TuneCore charges, this is a way to do it by purchasing in bulk and getting a discount. This option doesn’t make sense for everyone, and the upfront cost is a lot higher, but over time, you are more likely to save money.
Analytics & Reporting
The reports and analytics provided by TuneCore are some of the best and most comprehensive in the industry in my opinion.
If you are not taking advantage of all the analytical data being provided to you by the likes of Spotify, your distribution platform, social media and other sources, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.
This is the secret sauce, folks!
Analytics and reports tell you everything from which tracks are selling, or when certain sales trends are taking place, and even what your fan demographics look like.
All of this information should be driving your music career and guiding your business decisions when it comes to planning releases and looking for new distribution platforms and opportunities.
TuneCore provides you with data on your releases, songs/albums, the stores you’re in, and much more as can be seen below.
TuneCore also provides you with information regarding the performance of your YouTube videos which isn’t the case with many other distribution partners.
TuneCore allows you to see how your music is performing on streaming sites as well as the data behind the downloads of your music. This should be used in combination with the streaming data provided to you by the platforms directly.
Spotify, for example, has an amazing platform that shows you a ton of useful data. This information can be used to determine where you go on your next tour, what songs are popular and so much more.
So when shit hits the fan, how well is TuneCore at coming to the rescue?
Pretty good to be honest.
Now, we’ve all been there and experienced unanswered emails, rude customer service associates, and simply just a lack of care for your concerns.
However, I must admit, my recent encounters with TuneCore’s customer service team have been very positive.
Not too long ago, I filed a dispute as I was trying to get one of my singles approved. There was an issue with my artwork that I did not agree with, and TuneCore’s service team went out of their way to make sure it was resolved.
The support team will usually get back to you within a day of contact and are open Monday through Friday, 10 am – 6 pm (EST). I’ve found your best bet is to reach out via email first and begin the conversation that way.
DistroKid Vs TuneCore
DistroKid is another music distribution service that I feel adds a lot of value in the industry. While I personally prefer TuneCore for a number of reasons, DistroKid has a lot to offer depending on your needs.
I find that DistroKid is a bit scaled back in what it offers compared to TuneCore, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you’re just getting started and you’re looking for a simple, affordable way to get your music distributed to top platforms across the web, DistroKid is an efficient, affordable solution.
If, however, you’re seeking a more robust solution that places a strong emphasis on artist development and promotion, TuneCore is likely going to serve your needs better.
CD baby Vs TuneCore
CD Baby is another option for online distribution, and the company has roots in the industry that extend back to the early days of online CD sales and promotion.
CD Baby was one of the original service providers in allowing artists to independently sell their music online in physical form. Over the years, the service expanded into the digital audio sector and now includes a full suite of distribution services.
The thing with CD Baby is that it charges a 9% commission on distributed works. We touched on this earlier in the review, but the commission-based model isn’t for everyone.
It can work if you like the idea of low or no upfront fees or annual membership fees that have to be maintained, but commissions also cut into your profits each time you make a sale or earn money from streaming.
TuneCore has upfront fees, but in most cases, you keep everything you earn, so in the long run, this is probably going to work out better for artists with large catalogs or artists who expect to put out new music on a regular basis.
United Masters Vs TuneCore
United Masters is a relative newcomer to digital music distribution, so it doesn’t have a long track record to speak on.
One thing that sets United Masters apart is that the company provides a free tier and a paid tier for distribution. When we say “free”, however, we’re not actually talking about free.
This is because the “free” tier means you pay a 10% commission on your sales. So, while there aren’t any fees to have your work distributed, you are paying a decent chunk for the service.
The paid tier costs $60 per year, but there are no commissions. The paid tier also includes access to more platforms and potential placement for your music in various media, but once again, the competition is stiff, so there are no guarantees paying more will get you any closer to making more money.
TuneCore Testimonials from Artists
Boston Born MC - Michael Christmas
U.S. Based Rapper Russ
Final Verdict On Our TuneCore Review
When it comes to TuneCore, I have used the platform and think it’s solid for distributing your music.
The service excels in so many areas, and what it lacks, I find that it more than makes up for in net gains.
In my personal experience, TuneCore gets the job done with minimal hassle on my end, and I can always count on TuneCore’s reporting and support services to give me straight answers.
I know that pricing can be a touchy subject considering the annual fee model, but I think this approach serves a purpose for many artists who prefer to keep more of their earnings based on sales.
Annual fees don’t amount to much if you’re selling a lot or you’re earning top dollar through streaming, but again, this will largely depend on your reach, your audience, and your goals.
TuneCore Discount (25% Off)
Can I Distribute Cover Songs, Remixes, Mixtapes or Mashups With TuneCore?
Copyright in the music industry is serious business, so if you’re planning to release a cover song, a remix that includes samples from another artist’s music, mixtape content that includes work from other artists, or basically anything that is not your 100% original audio, you need the appropriate licensing.
Mechanical licenses are usually what you’re looking for when releasing cover songs, but different licenses may apply to situations where you’re only using samples.
This can get complicated and is beyond the scope of this review to get into, but I simply want to point out that yes, you can release cover songs and remixes through TuneCore as long as you have the legal authority to do so.
Can I Submit a Work That Contains a Sample or Interpolation of a Copyrighted Composition?
In keeping with the above answer, you can release songs that contain samples, but you have to have the right license to do so.
Sample licensing is fairly common in the music industry, but you might also want to look into beat licenses depending on the source of the beat.
Royalty-free content can be used without a copyright, but it’s important to draw a distinction between ownership of the sample and ownership of your creation.
If something is royalty-free, this means that you don’t owe any royalties if you make money off of the creation when it is included in your original work, but you do not own the actual copyright to the sampled content.
Are There Any Perks For Using TuneCore?
TuneCore provides a variety of additional perks on top of the company’s great distribution and promotion services.
In particular, TuneCore users can receive discounts when purchasing products and services from TuneCore partners like Feature FM, Bandzoogle, Qrates, and more.
TuneCore is always adding to the list of partner brands, so I expect to see more perks in the future.