I’m Jeff Price. And I’m Ready to Talk About My TuneCore Departure…

It’s been months since the TuneCore Board abruptly and unexpectedly fired Jeff Price. But the cofounder, former CEO and all-around identity of this company has now agreed to disclose considerable detail about his departure to Digital Music News.  This is our exclusive interview with Jeff in Los Angeles.


Digital Music News: On stage recently at Digital Music Forum West, you mentioned that you were extremely unhappy with the current situation at TuneCore.  What’s going on?  What’s the problem?

Jeff Price:  I have absolutely no idea.  That’s why I have no faith in its ability to succeed.  I don’t know who the CEO is.  I don’t think there is one. I don’t know if there’s an interim CEO, or if there is, no one’s communicated it to anybody.  From what I understand, it seems that a banker with zero experience in the music industry, with no understanding of the nuances of the sector, is running the company.

What’s the vision?  Where is it going?  Where does it want to go?  I mean, a company needs a vision.  What is it?

Digital Music News: So, are you describing a company that is getting run into the ground?

Jeff Price: That’s my concern.  I mean, I’m literally at the point where I believe the company is going to be run off a cliff.  I don’t understand it.  It is staffed with great people, the COO, the CTO, the controller, the artist support staff, the finance team, the President of Publishing Administration, the head of Product Development, everyone’s great.  The whole thing’s been setup, it just needs a leader.

…the story up until now

Digital Music News:  So explain to me, why did you get pushed?

Jeff Price: I wish I could provide a simple clear explanation, I can’t.  It’s getting close to half a year since [cofounder] Peter Wells and I were pushed out and still no real reason has been provided.  As far as the three original founders, advisors and investors know, there is no new CEO, no interim CEO, no plan, no vision, no leadership and no innate understanding of the music industry or the needs of artists at the top of the company.

From what we can tell, a venture capital banker with no true, solid experience in the music industry, no experience in digital distribution, copyright, licensing, digital music services or the overall emerging digital music market place is running the company.  He has few or no connections or relationships with anyone in the industry and can’t speak to and understand artists.

Digital Music News: There’s the emotional tug of being the company’s cofounder.  But there’s the very real string of being an investor.  How much do you own?

Jeff Price: I own 13% of TuneCore.  Peter invested the money left to him by his father to help get it launched. The original founders and team invested a lot in both money and sweat. We have a lot at stake and a lot of reasons to want it to succeed.

That said, due to a confidentiality agreement that TuneCore wants enforced, I can only say limited things.  Also, as an ex-officer and director I also have certain restrictions imposed on me by the legal system that prevent me from speaking my mind.

But here’s what I can say, and I thought it might help if I provide some context:

In the middle of 2008, I met with Gill Cogan.  According to the Opus Captial website, Gill is the founder and a General Partner at Opus Capital.  He convinced me to allow Opus to invest $7 million into TuneCore in return for owning a percentage of our company.  We issued a press release around the investment.

Move forward four years to 2012.  According to the Opus and TuneCore websites, Gill is still an active sitting board member and General Partner of Opus and, since the investment, is a board member of TuneCore.  At the beginning of 2012, there were certain things that occurred internally at TuneCore that I didn’t expect or authorize.  It was these actions that, in my opinion, severely jeopardized TuneCore’s existence.

56 Responses

      • Visitor


        Wow, just wow. Jeff seems so confused and out of touch it’s no wonder they let him go. This is a guy that doesn’t even understand how Soundscan works, so I’m not surprised by this turn of events.
        Jeff never understood that TuneCore is a glass ceiling business aimed at hobbiests – and as more and more of them don’t recoup the money they pay to TuneCore to keep their bedroom demos active, that reduces the revenue base.

        All you can do at that point is try to upsell people into more services that are staying, and/or drop the cost of the service to be more affordable.

        For all of Jeff’s talk about “Artists Rights” the musicians he most frequently speaks and acts against are the interests of actual Proffessional Musicians.

        It’s ok to build a business around hobbyists, but just admit it… brings me to my last thought… Jeff was such a cheerleader for a the company he was their greatest asset because he fundementally beleived a lie… how ironic.

        • nope

          Lots of major industry artist hating trolls on here. No one real buys it…
          TC got 5% of market share, EMI at 7.5%. That’s impressive and shows a popular artist base. Who exactly is a “hobbyist” and who is an “artist” to you? Independents are hobbyists because even though they make more than artists who might be more popular and have signed their rights away, they don’t have the majors’ hands in their pockets – and that makes them unprofessional? Get a life.
          Smug industry assholes make me sick. Your days are numbered and you know it, all you can do is fire your fake credibility around to try and put others down. Scum.

          • Visitor

            @ Nope… uh dude… you need to study like some math…

            what % of that 5% if from legacy bands from the label system releasing new albums, like Trent Reznor and NIN and how much of that is actual bedroom musicians?
            but don’t take my word for it, here’s a break down using Jeff’s own stats from TC:

            BOTTOM LINE:
            ” a average title gross of $277 dollars per year. for all but the top 14 Artists”

            yeah… way better… LOL…

            I know I know… math sucks.

          • nope

            uh dude, you need to like figure out how to make your own posts instead of copying and pasting the wrong info from an incorrect gearslutz forum post.
            i’ve seen the numbers in spreadsheet form when they were released from TC not too long ago. There are hundreds if not thousands of artists on there making $1000+ off their releases, more than enough to be taken seriously and more than enough to easily recoup the distro costs.
            and, the point remains, why should someone have to give up all their rights when access can be granted at low cost?
            your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

          • Visitor

            @ nope

            sorry dude… the facts don’t change just cause you want them to, there’s a saying… denial is not just a river in egypt.

            the gearslutz posts link back to jeff’s own numbers at tunecore…FAIL

  1. Visitor

    It’s surprising — and sad — that Mr. Price needs to slam the door like this.
    I really thought he wanted to do good things to the industry. And now it seems he just wants to hurt as many people as possible.
    If I were him, I’d move on.

  2. lifer

    Haha. Major labels have always been in the business of “merely dangling hopes and dreams in front of artists’ eyes, when the reality is almost none of them will experience success.” Very dark accusation indeed.

    So, uhm which major did you say will be picking up Tunecore?

    Listeing to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes on vinyl

  3. Small Label Owner
    Small Label Owner

    Whether you disagree with Mr. Price or not, one has to wonder if there aren’t major monied interests invested in Mr. Price’s exit and the described lack of “vision” at Tunecore currently.

    Could larger companies desire and actually be seeking the demise of DIY’ers like Tunecore in order to reclaim (read: Control) the music release “funnel” once again.

    This sort of behavior certainly isn’t new to the business world. See: Hearst’s push against hemp fiber paper to protect his timber-origin paper. Oil companies’ frequent push back against alternative energies that could harm fossil fuel demand. On and on.

    The music industry is arguably one of the most cutthroat in the world, so is this really beyond the scope of reality?

    Intriguing for sure. My 2 cents.

      • Mark F
        Mark F

        That’s a totally and completely asinine statement… spoken by someone who is completely out of touch or just landed here in their DeLorean from 1986.
        There are many great artists signed to indies or self publishing – seriously, where do you get off with that kind of statement?
        I know artists that are extremely successful and ones that are just getting started, and the quality of their music and devotion to craft make them real artists.
        Of course, without proper marketing and distro, there’s no ability to connect to the market – and though a major can help that happen, it’s not the only way.

  4. Jim Griffin
    Jim Griffin

    On behalf of the Pho list and its many diverse voices, none of them “entrenched old school,” I’m here to refute Price’s claim about WWIII with us insisting ISRC codes (he called them IRC codes) are required for digital music distribution.
    Apple’s iTunes requires ISRC codes, clearly and unambiguously: http://bit.ly/jmGnZ3 — read it yourself and decide if he’s correct. Nielsen requires them too, as do others; Those that do not require them desire them.
    While we’re asking questions about Price and ISRC codes, add these:
    1. Why did Price simply make up his own codes that look like ISRC codes?
    2. When he made his up, he used TC as a prefix, assigned by the International Standards Organization (ISO) to Turks & Caicos. Why take the code belonging to another country?
    3. Why did Price formulate his own codes in the form of ISRC codes if he wasn’t emulating them and didn’t think they were required?
    4. As with ISWC for songs, and ISNI for artists, without a unique global identifier, how will we track sound recordings? Jeff claims he agrees, but offers no solution other than his examples of either ignoring them or making them up.
    5. How will countries with different languages and entirely different character sets (China, Russia, etc) identify artist, song title, album name in an acceptable way? How can we identify theirs without a unique ID? Brazil requires ISRC for sound recordings for these reasons and others.
    6. Price says he’s consulting SOCAN on these issues. Has he read SOCAN’s CEO’s solid support and position on the need for ISRC and other key identifiers? Here it is, from July of this year:
    This list of questions could go on, but these are enough. We aren’t the only people asking these questions — search using his name and ISRC.
    No one pretends ISRC is required everywhere. We realize the current system relies too much on artist name, song name, album title, etc. It is one of the key reasons music money fails to reach its proper recipient. It was once good enough, but it no longer suits a global digital economy.
    ISRC codes should be improved, especially with the database and verification system now in progress, but they have decades of use, certification by the International Standards Organization (ISO), many distributors offer them free, and ISO limits the revenue from them to cost recovery only. There are ISRC agencies in more than 40 countries and growing.
    There are now more than 50 million ISRC codes evolved over more than twenty years. We aren’t going back. No one on Pho thinks artist name, song title and album title isn’t the past and an unfortunate remnant in our present system, but neither do we think the digital music present and the global future unfolding can work without ISRC as a unique global ID for sound recordings.

    • Louis Winthorpe III
      Louis Winthorpe III

      Why are you so INFORMED about ISRC codes. Do you work for some ISRC company or something? You just typed up this whole article in the comments sectionin defending ISRC codes hahaha.
      While I understand the need for ISRC codes, they are STILL just another MIDDLEMAN wanting money and standing in between the artist and the stores

    • Random Londoner
      Random Londoner

      I don’t hate CD Baby and appreciate any company that offers services to the benefit DIY artists, large or small. I love the competition in the market here as it allows companies and artists to pick what’s best to suit them. However, Jeff is partially correct here. While the competition wasn’t “gone”, as he stated, Tunecore did differentiate itself from other DIY distributor’s.

      I’ll state openly that I have a bias towards Tunecore. That being said, there are two primary reasons I believe CD Baby will never attain Tunecore’s “status”, even if/when it attains Tunecore’s numbers.
      Firstly, Branding. The name “CD Baby” conjures an image that is not consistent with the statement, “I’m a professional artist.”

      Second, CD Baby takes percentages of song/album sales. This is a boon to artists that make high-value, high-selling music, driving them to companies like Tunecore, where it’s one fee per year and done, whether they sell 100 copies or 100,000.

      In short, while a generalisation, it’s fairly safe to say that in the eyes of most industry folks I interact with, “CD Baby is for DIY weekend warriors”, while “Tunecore is for DIY’ers with serious goals”. Both are good and have their purpose, but are for different crowds on the whole.

      No disrespect intended. Just what I’ve witnessed over the past several years. Cheers.

      • Tony van Veen
        Tony van Veen

        There’s no doubt that Tunecore’s business model is different than CD Baby’s. Their 0% model with $50 annual fee is attractive to many artists, and they are a worthy competitor who we respect as one of the few ethical operators in the space.
        Our model is different because we take a modest 9% admin fee on digital sales, and since there’s no annual fee we never have to kick our artists off iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc. if their credit card expires (or if the annual revenues on their catalog titles drops below $50 per year). That has value for many, many artists.
        But we’re so much more than just a digital distributor. We also have the largest all-independent retail store. And we’re the only guys where artists can also sell their CDs (including on Amazon, and through our partnership with Alliance). We also offer widgets for artists’ web site sales, and a Facebook MusicStore app so artists can sell music on their FB pages. Not to mention web hosting at HostBaby. Taken together, these are serious tools for serious DIY artists.
        All those services combined have allowed us to accumulate the largest independent song catalog in the world, and we continue to sign up record numbers of artists each year.
        As for the name… Well, that’s what it was originally called, and we wear it proudly. Artists know us as CD Baby, so we’ve chosen not to change it. In the future… well, you’ll have to keep watching us.
        Tony van Veen

        • Louis Winthorpe III
          Louis Winthorpe III

          No one gives a fuk about CDBaby dude. Why are you even here? DiscMakers bought out CDBaby from Derek Sivers for $22 million. I’m surprised you aren’t buying out your smaller competitors like ADEDistribution. Hell, you could even buy them out for $10 million and erase the competition.

        • Visitor

          Pretty sad that you use this article to promote your own business that is about as pathetic as they come. I have to laugh at your “modest 9%”. Wow… that says it all!

          • ADEDistribution + Makell Bird
            ADEDistribution + Makell Bird

            ADEDistribution is a scam! Makell Bird is a well known scam artists and he built a scam distribution site that users blogger to trick people into signing up for distribution. If you are serious about your music, you should just stick with CD Baby, TuneCore, RouteNote, or ReverbNation. These guys are true at what they do!


          • Hello Steven
            Hello Steven

            And Steven Finch from Routenote is back again. How do we know? No one else has heard of Routenote and Steven uses words like ‘scam’ a lot for SEO 101.
            Makell Bird bad-mouths competitors to try and build customers for his one-man show ‘ADE Distributon’. It doesn’t work for him and it doesn’t work for you Steven.

          • Steven Finch
            Steven Finch

            Please check with DigitalMusicNews, because the comment above isnt me and didnt come from our office. Thus, im sure it has a different IP address. RouteNote helps over 14,000 artists and 1,000 more ever month.. really .. No one has heard of us? hmmm

  5. Ina Hut
    Ina Hut

    A fascinating read! Spurious & Spuriouser. Dumb & Dumber as far as TC’s board goes. Good luck Jeff – those that know, know only too well the amunition you have and the fundamental flaws of the industry, that actually you were starting to considerably unravel and rebuild.

    • Louis Winthorpe III
      Louis Winthorpe III

      Yeah… WOW… that is crazy cause in reality TuneCore is making 100,000 a MONTH at least.
      I was more impressed that Jeff actually got a $7 million investment for TuneCore. Imagine what a smaller company like ADEDistribution would do with an investment like that!
      The thing is, with venture capitalists and investors they EXPECT a return much greater than their investment… so they were probably pissed that they didn’t make $7 million in 1 month like they THOUGHT they were going to do. So, then they take over and want to run it like a bank. Mark my words there is some financial trickery about to play out at TuneCore. They have to recoup $7 million. Don’t be surprised when they HIKE the price up AGAIN or if some royalty statements come back shorter than you expected.

  6. Adam

    I still don’t understand why people are hating on this guy for creating a service that cuts out that ridiculous upfront percentage that DIY artists have to give away to other companies providing similar services. If it is true, and I beilieve it is, that most small bands or artists, especially those just starting out, do most of their own marketing, their own career managing and their own publicity, why would it make sense for them to give a percentage up to another company? Just like Jeff says, they are too big – what are they going to do to market you in the sea of thousands of other arstists? Nothing. That’s something I learned from experience. Maybe Tunecore isn’t going to be the entire industry, in fact we all know this model wouldn’t REPLACE the current model entirely. But for you all to say that this model doesn’t make sense or to knock him for his ideas – you are all short sighted. These ideas and this company not only has a place in the future of the business, they have a place now. And it is important to recognize that he does care to be giving more back to artists, and that should be the first thing everyone looks at. Here’s a guy who wants to cut a lot of the BS out and keep the labels and publishers from taking rights and then taking huge cuts out of the revenue stream for providing absolutely nothing. And instead he wants to offer artists an opportunity to keep their rights and take a much smaller cut for providing… barely more than the nothing that everyone provides, but for WAY CHEAPER. Why is this not a great idea for music and for artists? Well the problem is it isn’t great for that business. If he only takes $50/year from artists how will he keep growing his business… but then again, the point here is that maybe you DON’T just go on growing and growing, you simply provide a service for those who want to partake for a fairer price than the others do. No reason to hate on him for that… And whatever you heard from someone else who “knows” what they are talking about, musicians as a whole made less money years ago, generally never recouped their expenses, and fundamentally not that much has changed – the reality that art is not a guaranteed income situation needs to set in for everyone in this business. You are not owed anything, you are not guaranteed to make good money as an artist, and you are guaranteed to go through a lot of hell to get possibly nothing out of it. If you aren’t ready for that the business isn’t for you anyway.

  7. Jon

    Interesting interview, for sure, but I’m still chuckling over the transcription that produced “disenchanting us” for “disingenuous.”

  8. Don

    Makes me very nervous about Tunecore. They claim they are still the same business and were all safe, but if someone that knows the industry is not running the show, its kind of like an airplane without a pilot. I hate that the legal system prevents people from talking about what is going on, because left hanging in the wind is the artists. If Tunecore wants artists to stay they need to convince us they are operating in our best interests and do is ASAP!

  9. Visitor

    It is amazing just how all of these people who comment appear to be experts and seem to have the only word on the subject. If all of you that post all the hate were as successful as you were, I doubt you would be wasting your time on this post. Instead, you show your vile and ugly inhuman side by spewing the contents of your mouth, rather than your brain.

  10. Visitor

    Jeff, $1,000 a month for a band IS peanuts. Especially when that sort of figure represents the top echelon of earners.
    While it’s true the vast majority of TuneCore’s dilettante clientele would have made nothing under the old system, the ~$200 the average TC user makes now (per annum!) is still in “rounding error” territory.
    The old, pre-Napster model earned more musicians a liveable wage than an army of TuneCores ever could (which is to say nothing of all the millionaire musicians it minted)
    If you want to lower the bar until it clanks against the floor, fine, but don’t you dare call it “progress”.

  11. Visitor

    As a band member and music producer, I was one of the early users and champions of Tunecore. I referred them to many fellow musicians, and it seemed like the fairest business model for digital distribution at the time. They seemed pro-artist. Then they–whether it was Jeff Price or the investors–literally changed their tune overnight, and decided to become another Discmakers–a one-stop shop for distribution, promotion, duplication, etc. Bad idea. By raising the annual fee to a prohibitive amount that discouraged most musicians from joining, and offering a plethora of services they would not really use, it didn’t give us the choice of whether we wanted to use them without in essence “paying for the priviledge to have them offered to us.” And in reality, it was very anti-artist. I understand business models need to make money; we all want to profit from our creativity. But raising the price from $9.95 to 49.95 per year–for a one-time digital distribution event — clearly shifted the priority to the investors, and away from the artist. It was basically a big F-you to the bands. Bait and switch, whatever you call it, it felt crappy and deceptive. Whatever happenend between Jeff and Tunecore, I don’t really care, or need to know the details. But something went very wrong and now Tunecore stinks. And I am shopping for alternative digital distributors as we speak.

  12. Armando

    Dear Jeff, leaving TuneCore would be like giving up something you love. Do not forget that Jeff is “the father” of TuneCore. Probably without him, many musicians would still be anonymous …Barry Denicola Realty

    • Visitor

      Dear Jeff, you are a winner and winners can not give up!
      You have to take the contrio in your “soul company”…

  13. Gordon Withers
    Gordon Withers

    When the heads of 3 independent distros are arguing with trolls in the comments section of an interview with a 4th who got fired, I weep for the state of the tools available to independent musicians.

  14. Doing It Yourself
    Doing It Yourself

    Aside from what the article is about, the comments section says a lot about (to me anyway) the need for Artists to educate themselves in the business side of “The Music Business” as much as crafting quality songs. Promoting, Target Marketing, Manufacturing, Etc..
    Tunecore, CDbaby, et al are offering you services in exchange for your dollars, they are businesses trying to earn money. Nothing wrong with that. But the rest is up to you. And not only do they tell you that, they also try to teach you to do better too.
    It never ceases to amaze me how little my artist friends are willing to learn about a business they want so desperately to be in and then get upset when they fail. Yet there’s never been a better time for those who are willing to wear both the hat of the Artist and Entrepreneur.
    Good Article!


      I enjoyed your comments and your position. This is about music and it is about the business of music. If you are good, someone else is always willing to exploit you. Therefore, get off the pot and learn the business and maximize your full exposure and potential.

  15. Martinna

    TuneCore, co-founded and run by wild Jeff Price, had a singular vision of doing everything to make life better for musicians.

  16. Cosmos guy
    Cosmos guy

    Although TuneCore San Francisco is one of the largest companies, there are several other companies that provide the exact same type of service at different rates.

  17. Norellia

    Dear Jeff Price, what do you think about Music Piracy? It is one growing phenomenon or not? Does internet influence this fact?

  18. Jdie

    Have you noticed that plots within the horror movie often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage, commonly of supernatural origin, into the everyday world.


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