TuneCore Is Evil

So, after a lengthy process of deliberation and uploading, I’ve finally got my album ready to go for digital distribution through TuneCore, compiling original songs from my first two physical albums. So I click onwards to complete the deal, ready to pay them 50 USD to distribute my album digitally to various online outlets, when I see this message under my purchase in the shopping cart checkout:

Your album will be live for one year. Renews annually for $49.99.

I haven’t seen any mention anywhere on their site about an annual renewal fee. I saw it briefly mentioned on a forum by a couple of guys, but never really got it confirmed, and TuneCore’s FAQ didn’t say anything about it. So I figured it was just the one time fee after all, and that maybe they’d changed their policy or that these guys had gotten things mixed up. 50 USD is a lot of money, and I’m not sure if I feel comfortable having to pay that amount annually as I doubt I’d make it back again through sales. And it makes me curious, what happens when someone doesn’t pay the renewal fee? Will those who’ve bought the album no longer be able to download / access it through whatever retailer they bought it from? If not, that would be pretty rotten for the paying customers.

So I’m considering if maybe I should go with CD Baby for digital distribution instead. But might be they have an “annual renewal fee” as well, and they don’t distribute to iTunes, which is the leading all-digital music store. Maybe it’s because of iTunes that TuneCore have to make their fee an annual one? Regardless, it’s something they should mention upfront, in big bold letters, rather than on the last page of the album uploading process. That’s just rude. In fact, you might say it’s a bit evil. But probably good for business.

UPDATE: Turns out CD Baby actually does distribute to iTunes. Very weird, as I remember browsing their websites and being surprised at not finding iTunes listed among the stores they distribute to. I guess I must have just missed it, perhaps due to having no idea what the iTunes logo looks like.

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5 Responses to TuneCore Is Evil

  1. Kevin says:

    Hey there,

    This is Kevin from CD Baby. Saw your post up above. Just to clear a few things up, CD Baby DOES deliver to iTunes. We were actually the first company to deliver independent artists to iTunes. We can get your music up on iTunes super fast.

    Also, we have no annual fee. We do take a 9% cut of your digital sales through our retail partners, but we will keep your music up for sale no matter if you sell 0 or 100,000 copies.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

  2. Peter Wells says:

    In at least one way, Eivind, you’re right: if that renewal fee wasn’t visible early and clearly, it should be. We’re proud of it. We’ve done a lot of redesigning around the site, and I’m going to look into it and see if it doesn’t say more prominently that it’s $49.99 a year for an album (and that it says $9.99 a year for a single or a ringtone, too).

    It’s an extraordinary proposition, revolutionary in this industry, to offer a flat fee and not take any of your rights, your masters, or even a single penny of your earnings. You’re right, it takes a lot of work to maintain an album over the course of a year, so we have a flat annual fee.

    There’s a lot of communication between us and the stores, and passing that data (and your earnings) back to you. We charge the annual to cover that (and to do much more, including offering tremendous features free for all), but it’s never mandatory: if you don’t want to renew, just tell us, we’ll let it expire and then it will come down from the stores, no questions asked. It’s always been about choice, and making sure the artist has the power of their own music.

    No one gets short-changed. If someone purchased your music as a download, they have it. Your renewing a release with TuneCore has no effect on that.

    I’m going to talk to the team and see what we can do to make sure no one ever misses our rates when they come to our site. The idea isn’t to surprise anyone.

    Thanks for the heads-up. Feel free to write me with any questions, even if you decide to use another service.


    • Eivind says:

      Hi Peter, and thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog entry! Would certainly be great if it could be made more clear that it’s a yearly fee, and not a one time fee.

      While I’m writing, there’s another thing which, to me, seemed rather unreasonable. So I decided to give your services a try, and found that the renewal date on the album was set to what I’m guessing was the day I created and started uploading the album, and not when I decided to distribute it; it was distributed on April 26th, but the renewal date was listed as being April 23rd. Had I known that, I might have deleted and re-uploaded the album just to get in the few more days.

      Eivind Kirkeby

  3. Pingback: Ingen Liker Eivind Kirkeby « Kirkeby Kritikk

    • Artie Barnes says:

      Nobody should go with OR trust Tunecore! They ripped me off of 500 dollars 2 years ago, and it took a VERY time consuming 5 month fight to be paid MY money that they stole. It’s a long story (but can be found on the internet… just type in my name and Tunecore…). I’ve been with Cdbaby for about 7 years now, get checks almost weekly (!) and have had NO problems with them. Giving up a tiny 9% is no problem at all, especially compared to Tunecore’s annual renewal fees! Cdbaby is the way to go. And NO, I don’t work for them!

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