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Last Updated: January 2023
In this post, we’ll get into everything you need to know to make a good decision in choosing your music distribution partner.
You’ll learn what TuneCore is all about, how much it costs, what’s included in the service and more.
Let’s get right into it…
TuneCore is a pretty big name in music distribution, and it used to be the more expensive option for releasing your music.
But with their new pricing plans, it’s solidified it’s place as our #1 choice for getting your music out there into the world.
We highly recommend independent music artists choose TuneCore as their music distribution partner.
This is because they’re a trusted brand that offer a high quality experience – they’ve got great customer service, are easy to use, have the best payout structure, constantly evolve and are now CHEAPER than their biggest competitor Distrokid.
If you’re an independent music artist, who you choose to release your music with will be an important part of your marketing and distribution strategy, so it needs to be a top-tier provider.
In our opinion, Tunecore is just that.
Table of Contents
- 2 Cost, Features, Pros + Cons
- 2.1 TuneCore vs. the Competition
- 2.2 More About Payouts
- 2.3 What’s Included and How it Works
8.4/10 Stars Overall
Key Decision Making Factors
- Pricing – 10/10 – subscription based for unlimited releases, now cheaper than biggest competitor
- Customer Support – 10/10 – highly responsive, quick turnaround, very helpful, dedicated team for artist support
- Perks and Bonuses – 7/10 – decent amount of perks – career opportunities (placements, etc), career help/guides, artist rewards,
- Exclusive Features – 5/10 – not a ton of exclusive features – includes pre-schedulable release dates, cover art creator.
- Artist Payouts – 10/10 – work directly with stores to collect royalties/payments and give 100% directly to rights holder – no middle man taking a cut
Should you Subscribe to TuneCore: YES, if you have music you want released on Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and other streaming services and digital stores around the globe, we think TuneCore is hands-down the BEST option from all of the digital distributors out there.
Even when they were the most expensive option to release music, they were still our preferred choice – but now that they’re the most affordable choice as well as the best, using them for your music releases is a no-brainer.
Wait One Second…
“You’re partnered with Tunecore, of course you’re going to recommend them!”
That’s not entirely accurate. We’re also partnered with DistroKid and have received offers from other companies to partner with them too.
Our partnership doesn’t mean we can’t offer our objective opinion on which service we think is best. You can check out our full look at DistroKid to get an idea of why we feel the way we do.
More About the Company
The company has been around for years and years – they’re one of the oldest names in the indie music distribution game. They’re also one of the biggest, often cited by the rapper Russ as part of the reason for his unbelievable success in the music business.
Simply put, they let you easily release your music everywhere that music is available online (see just how easy in our guide on getting your music on Spotify).
TuneCore has a reach of over 150 stores/streaming platforms and give artists 100% of their store payouts. (That’s an important point we’ll get back to later).
They also have some decent perks and bonuses for artists that use their service to release their music.
The biggest downside to using TuneCore USED to be that it was expensive – between $10-50 PER release. But in 2022, they completed changed their pricing structure to a yearly subscription model for UNLIMITED releases. No more pay-per-release. Beyond that, they’re also now the most affordable option – even having a free tier (which is unfortunately very limited).
So now, the biggest downside to TuneCore is they don’t have a couple of interesting features that some of their competitors do – specifically I’m thinking of DistroKid’s ability to upload master-quality audio for platforms like Tidal Hi-Fi.
But in terms of the overall service offering, customer support, and payout transparency, TuneCore is definitely our go-to recommendation when asked about who to distribute music with.
That’s because TuneCore ALSO has some value-added perks/features that you won’t find elsewhere, and their customer service and support is unmatched.
Unlimited Releases for All Plans: (Get 20% OFF Your First Payment Here!)
- FREE TIER: $0 – release music to all social platforms (no Spotify, etc)
- RISING ARTIST: $14.99/year – release music to all streaming/social/stores (including Spotify, etc.)
- BREAKOUT ARTISR: $29.99/year – includes advanced features to customize releases
- PROFESSIONAL: $49.99/year – best for labels, releases from multiple artists possible
- Music Publishing + Sync Licensing: $75 lifetime fee
- Gets your music on 150+ platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, TikTok and more
- Collects royalties/sales money directly from stores – no middle man taking a cut
- Pays out 100% of royalties/payments collected
- Provides comprehensive sales data and analytics
- YouTube monetization included in all plans
- Social media tool helps with music promotion
- Artist Rewards – VIP Sessions, Marketing Opportunities, Priority Support
- Ability to pre-schedule release dates
- Most affordable option for releasing music
- Trusted brand with proven track-record/history
- Top tier customer support (better than the competition)
- Collects money directly from stores – 100% revenue payout to artists
- Continually evolving their service offering
- Not a “bare-bones” company or service
- Best exclusive features compared to competitors – specifically Music Pub + Sync Licensing
- Has a handy cover art creator online
- Free tier only gets music onto social media platforms
- Currently no option to release Master/MQA (hi-res) audio (I’ve been assured they’re working on it)
Who Tunecore Is Best For
- Any independent music artist looking for a rock-solid partner for distributing your music
- Anyone who wants to release a large amount of music regularly
- Artists who want TRULY 100% of your store earnings paid out to you
- Artists that need a fast support response time and not wait for days to hear back on issues/problems
- Up and coming artists who want help advancing their careers
- Established artists who want to be able to manage and track their growth in-depth
How They Stack Up Against Competitors
There are quite a few options out there for releasing your music. It can be hard to figure out which service to use, but with a company like TuneCore you have a reliable, long-term partner that has an established track-record of success for artists.
Two interesting features the company has that other competitors don’t is a cover art creator and Music Publishing and Sync Licensing services. Those are both pretty huge benefits that others just don’t offer.
DistroKid does definitely have a couple of cool release options we wish TuneCore had as well, but in my opinion it isn’t worth the benefits of using TuneCore. The biggest difference-maker is the transparency behind the payouts each company gives to it’s artists. Both pay out 100% of the money they collect, but there’s an important distinction we get into more below.
Beyond that, the TuneCore plans actually include a few features that you have to pay extra for with DistroKid – like pre-scheduled release dates or YouTube monetization.
Another thing we noticed about Distrokid, is their addon services can really add up. Just as an example, if you released a project with DistroKid and wanted all the add-ons (some of which are included at no extra cost), it would cost you $64.87 for a single and $112.78 for a 10 track album – PER RELEASE. And that’s on top of the subscription fee. Their text-message marketing tool also costs $12.99 per month.
United Masters is a newer player in the sphere, and is also the more expensive option now that TuneCore has changed up their pricing structure. United Masters costs $59.99/year for their select plan and doesn’t offer as much as other options do.
They only release your music to 38 different stores/platforms. Beyond that their YouTube monetization feature is limited to Content ID only and costs an additional $59.99 fee.
This is probably the biggest reason we recommend TuneCore over other options – even when it used to be the more expensive option out there.
Although everyone will tell you they payout 100% of the revenue they receive, it’s not entirely accurate. The key words are usually “revenue they receive.”
Tunecore is a big enough company that they’ve got direct partnerships with the stores they distribute to. Some of the smaller competitors have to deal with middle-men, not with the stores directly.
That middle-man actually takes a percentage of the revenue before they pay it out to a company like DistroKid. DistroKid then pays out 100% of the revenue from your music that they received from their middle-man partner.
It’s a small, but important distinction to know about.
And, interesting note, Tunecore has paid out over $2 billion to artists in their history. That’s a genuinely gigantic number. Especially for the independent music game.
What’s Included and How it All Works
With TuneCore, you sign up for an account and when you’re ready to release music you can choose the plan you’d like to go with.
Once you’ve paid you’re able to start a new release project – whether it’s a single, an EP or an album.
With the new pricing structure you are able to release unlimited music – so if you want to follow the “Russ method” of releasing a new song every week, you can do that affordably.
We’ve got an entire guide walking you through a release, step-by-step right here.
Once your release is ready to go, it will be release to 150+ platforms, including all the major streamers like Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal.
Your music will also be on social platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, etc. As for YouTube monetization, TuneCore DOES take a 20% commission from that.
If you’re on the Breakout Artist plan ($29.99/year) you’ll also be covered if new music stores/platforms pop-up, with the Store Automator – your music will automatically get released to the new site.
The company also offers Spotify and Apple Music artist verification (get that checkmark!) and if you need, you have access to an album cover-art maker to design your music’s artwork – an important part of any release.
Finally, they also offer music publishing and sync licensing services for a one-time fee of $75.
The Evolution of TuneCore Over Time
TuneCore has been around for a long time. They are one of the OG independent artist focused music distributors in the game. And they’ve evolved over time to remain one of the top companies in the space.
They’ve always been well-known in the industry, but they really became a household name after rapper Russ would always credit them (along with his work ethic) for his success. He used TuneCore to release a new song every week for several months at a time, and he did that more than once. The result was being able to collect more than 6-figures in royalties every month from his catalog.
That, no doubt made TuneCore a household name for artists around the globe.
TuneCore used to be the most expensive option for releasing music yourself – charging artists every time they wanted to release something new. In mid-2022, the company shifted their pricing model to be more in line with other companies in the industry. Now they offer unlimited releases to artists for a small yearly fee.
And now they just happen to be the most AFFORDABLE option, not the most expensive.
Beyond that, over the years they’ve constantly rolled out new and different features to help the artists that use their platform grow their careers.
They offer help and advice, but also try to provide artists with opportunities that will help them gain more exposure and revenue. At one time they had an “artist accelerator” program, at other times they had publication opportunities on big blogs and they’re always trying out new things to help their community thrive.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, absolutely. Tunecore is our pick for the best choice to release your music. It distributes your music to all of the major platforms, allows for unlimited releases for a yearly fee and is also the most affordable option available today.
Yes, Tunecore as a company has been around for a very long time and has a stellar track record and reputation in the independent music world. They’ve paid out billions in royalties to their artists and continue to push the industry further.
If you want to get your music onto premium streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music, then yes you will need a paid plan from TuneCore. However, they do offer a free account that allows you to get your music on social networks very easily.
Tunecore is a company that works alongside music stores and streamers to get the music of independent artists onto these platforms. The company charges a yearly fee for membership and allows artists to release an unlimited amount of music through it’s service. Once you upload your track(s) and track details, TuneCore does the rest for you, and then reports on how your music is performing and where it shows up online.
Tunecore gets started on your release right away, but the lead time needed for each of the different services they release your music to varies widely. Some stores will only need a few days to get your music online, others will need a couple or a few weeks. It’s best to start the release process at least a month (maybe two) before you want the music to be available on stores and streamers.
I’m a big fan of the service. And I’m confident once you try them out, you’ll love them too.
Full disclosure – I’m a fan of DistroKid as well and have used them to release music in the past. But TuneCore just makes more sense for the future with their new pricing.
In most cases, if you’re a serious independent music artist you’re likely better off with a company like TuneCore. Their offering is just better suited to musicians who are serious about growing their brand and their music careers.
Thanks for reading this full review of TuneCore!
Other Music Business Articles:
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- How to Get People to Care About Your Music
- Desiigner’s Panda Has Royalty Lessons for You
- How to Promote Better on Snapchat
- Are You Ever too Old for Music Success?
- Promoting Music on Twitter
Resources for Music Artists: (affiliate links)
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