MondoTunes Pulls A Bait-and-Switch On Musicians

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Of course companies change their model. In the startup world it’s called pivoting. That’s all fine and dandy when you’re just playing with your investors’ money. But when it’s your loyal customers, that’s a completely different story.

The digital distribution company, MondoTunes, updated their terms this week. They now will allow artists and labels to distribute unlimited music with them for $40 a year (plus 10% commission). Sounds great right? Except for the fact that all the artists and labels who had previously distributed with them over the past few years were promised MondoTunes would NEVER charge them a yearly fee. Last month, their model was a one-time fee of $38 an album, $8 a single and made it clear over and over and over again that there were “No annual fees!”

But now, they aren’t grandfathering in their longtime, loyal customers, they have instead pulled the rug out from under them and are forcing this new annual rate on them. Your band broke up 2 years ago, but still want your songs on iTunes and Spotify to show your kids? Sorry! You have to pony up $40 a year now even though you quit music. Have since switched distributors? Sorry! You now have to pay MondoTunes $40 a year to just keep your one album up from 4 years ago.

On their new site, they exclaim over and over and over again that you can get your music “in the same online stores as U2, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Maroon 5, Pharrell” and they make it sound like these are MondoTunes artists! What MondoTunes doesn’t say is that they don’t actually do their own distribution. They outsource to INgrooves (which also distributes these artists – and every other artist under the UMG umbrella). Big deal.

That’s like saying, I’ve played the same stages as Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, The Roots, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson and John Mayer because we all have played The Hotel Cafe (200 cap venue in LA) at some point. Technically true, but come on! I’m not going to plaster that all over MY website.

Their sexy new promo video says flat out: “Your songs will be right alongside U2, Maroon 5 and all the other megastars” while showing images of Jay Z and Taylor Swift. However scrolling through their testimonials they don’t have one artist of note (no offense to the artists listed), but if you’re going to pretend that you’re going to make your customers superstars then you better have a track record to back that up with.

We are the Largest Global Digital Music Distribution Channel! MondoTunes.com

Posted by MondoTunes on Friday, August 28, 2015

 

I wonder how Jay Z and Taylor Swift feel about being used to sell MondoTunes subscriptions.

Of the 18 testimonials they list, not one artist (who hasn’t broken up) has more than 20,000 Likes on Facebook and most have less than 1,000. And of the 18, one has actually switched distributors to CD Baby! Now, there’s nothing wrong with low Facebook Likes – up and comers just getting started. Every artist on the planet started at 0 Likes, 0 Fans and 0 dollars. The problem is, MondoTunes is pretending that if you work with them you will be a superstar (like Jay Z or Taylor Swift). All you have to do is pay them $40 a year (and 10% commission).

+What The Number Of Facebook Likes Says About An Artist

It infuriates me. This is not something new in the music industry. I’ve gotten hit up by countless “promoters,” “managers” or “A&R” (used to be done via Myspace, now they scour ReverbNation and Facebook for their victims) telling me how great my song (that they listened to for 30 seconds) was and that I’m a star and all I need to do is pay them $1,200 and they’ll write my band bio, press release, get a photo shoot done, book me at a famous club, and then I’ll be famous. Because that’s all it takes.

It’s called preying on ignorance and naiveté. And it’s disgusting. And it happens WAY TOO MUCH in the music industry. Anyone who builds their business on shaking down struggling musicians and promises that they know good and well are completely unrealistic should be publicly stoned. Well, maybe not publicly, but at least in private, by the musicians they fooled.

I’m looking at you pay to play “promoters,” bookers, managers and anyone who calls themselves A&R but charges artists for their (pathetic) services.

If you don’t believe in the artists you’re working with (and I promise you, these “promoters,” “managers,” and “A&R” don’t), then why work with them? What are your dreams? What are your goals? Or have you completely given up on making a real difference in this world and just need the quick buck to pay rent? Because if so, get out of music! You’re doing more harm than good. Go prey on Wall Street. They could use a good shakedown. Not musicians who literally do not have the money for what you’re selling, but will find a way to scrape it together because they don’t know any better.

Which brings us back to MondoTunes. Where do you get off saying that your “songs will be right beside…all the megastars?” CD Baby, Tunecore, DistroKid, Symphonic, JTV, Zimbalam, and all the other digital distribution services could boast this too. But they don’t. Oh, so you distribute to MORE outlets? What outlets are you hitting of importance that your competitors miss? Really, can you name one? Just one of note. How about 500? Because you claim you hit 600+ stores. Do that many even exist? Well, I suppose if you consider iTunes US and iTunes Germany as two separate stores, then yeah, there’s 100 stores right there.

Because you and I know that it doesn’t matter how many stores you’re in. If your music is in a Russian digital download store, but not a single person in Russia knows you even exist, you’re just taking up bandwidth. No one is going to download your album just because you’re in the store. Or listen to you if you’re on a streaming service. There are over 4 million songs on Spotify which have NEVER been played. Not once. Spotify is available in over 60 countries. If you can’t get just one single play in 60 countries, what makes you think you’re going to get a play or a download if you could just get in MORE stores? You won’t. If you just distributed to iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer, you’d be hitting the majority of the world. If you’re going to gain traction you could do it with these three. You’ll make a little more money by getting in a few more stores and may gain a few more fans (the Rdio, Rhapsody, Amazon loyalists), but you’re, by no means, going to be a star because you get in more stores. Plain and simple.

MondoTunes’ competitors don’t mislead their customers, their musicians. They tell them exactly what they will do for them. Because they’re offering a service for which they are being paid. They don’t promise superstardom, they explain what they do, how they do it and how much it costs.

MonoTunes writes “Want to know the best part? You can upload as many songs as you’d like for just $39.99… No one else can say that.” Well, you’re right. Except that DistroKid does exactly this for $19.99 a year. So there’s that.

Their biggest competitors, CD Baby, Tunecore, Zimbalam, Symphonic and ReverbNation still charge their artists per release. Around $10 a single, $50 an album. That kind of thing. Some charge yearly fess plus the signup fee. Ditto now offers unlimited releases for $79 a year (or $30 an album), but DistroKid started the unlimited model two years ago and remains the cheapest option (however there are some serious hidden fees in there).

+Want To Know The Best Digital Distribution Company?

So MondoTunes completely revamped their website. Well done fellas. It looks quite brilliant, actually. That was one of my biggest critiques from my initial review back in 2013. Only took them 2 years to do this. But they haven’t changed their tone. I guess if you have the same people in charge, nothing truly changes. What’s that saying about polishing a turd?

Well this turd truly sparkles. But it still stinks.

 

Ari Herstand is Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

28 Responses

  1. Emusicpromo

    Hopefully artists are pulling all there titles from this company and going to Distrokid or Ditto, whom both have good reputations. The scams and ripoffs in this industry never cease to amaze!

    Reply
  2. There is something...

    I curious but, what are the “hidden fees” from Distrokids you speak about ?

    Reply
    • distrokid_user

      Not sure exactly what Ari is referring to, although I know last time I uploaded a record to DK there was an up-sell to get distributed to Shazam- about an additional dollar per track. They also have a 2nd tier that costs about 40 bucks that allows you to upload content by more than one artists- the 19.99 plan is unlimited songs by one artists. Regardless, I still really like DistroKid’s model, and I had a chance to meet the founder, Phillip Kaplan. Super nice guy, incredibly sincere about helping provide musicians with an affordable way to get their tunes out.

      The one rub w/ DK- at some point last year I upgraded to the 2nd tier, ‘musician’s plus’ or something- which allows you to upload content for up to 3 artists, which I ended up not using at all. Turns out there’s no way to downgrade, except to delete all of your tracks and re-sign up. That’s a little bunk.

      Reply
  3. Arthur J. Owens

    In many states (definitely NY & NJ), if a company makes a misrepresentation in the course of a sale to a consumer, that constitutes Consumer Fraud. Under the NJ & NY Consumer Fraud statutes, the company making such a misrepresentation is liable for treble damages, attorney’s fees, & costs of the lawsuit. These statutory penalties are designed to act as a deterrent against false advertising, so there is no requirement that the attorney’s fees be commensurate with the damages. Furthermore, the court has very little discretion in deciding whether to impose attorney’s fees & costs under these statues. In fact, in NJ there is caselaw indicating that even where there was zero damages, attorneys fees were mandatory under the statute.

    Bottom line: if there was a misrepresentation, it can be proved & the consumer can win a Consumer Fraud suit. The losing company has to pay attorney’s fees & costs, even if the damages in question are insignificant. Of course, if you group together a bunch of customers that got screwed, you’ve got yourself a class action lawsuit. As long as you have an NJ plaintiff, you’d be wise to file it there and gain access to NJ’s consumer friendly laws.

    Reply
  4. Jordan Scott

    Lets back up ok. Take away the inflammatory headline and sensationalism. Look at this for what it is.
    Ari and digital music news are not known for journalism. These are all sensationalised stories for click bait.
    The main crooks of this article seem to be that you don’t like MondoTunes, fine. Why are you taking the time out of whatever you should be doing to write such a biased personal attack on them?
    Tunecore doubled their subscription prices to people who signed up. A lot of music sites change their terms.
    You don’t like how Mondo Tunes sell their product…. I mean , so what?

    However they want to sell their product is up to them. You are not the gatekeeper for how people do business
    You write these articles so that you can rank for these companies search terms, giving one sided biased opinions and trying to make money from your own website. Which is a horrible, horrible thing to be doing with your life.

    You should be writing NEWS that people want to read. Not trying to make ad money by having personal attacks at companies. Honestly, what is wrong with you? What are you angry about?

    I am not from Mondo tunes, i havent even been to their website. But i know when someone is being a bully and you Ari are abusing what little power you have over these companies for the sake of a fast buck. YOU are the one who tries to get people to buy tracksmarts, who constantly wants donations. What are YOUR motives for these pieces?

    This is a disgusting article

    Reply
    • GGG

      Your argument would make sense if not for the fact that there are pieces of shit trying to bilk you out of money around every corner in this industry. The article was probably a little long just to shit on someone for not grandfathering in older clients, but fundamentally, he’s absolutely right to call them out on it.

      You sound like you’re a shyster’s dream.

      I’m a manager with solid connections, pay me $5000 and I’ll make you famous! Guaranteed!*

      *fame not guaranteed

      Reply
      • Nathan Strange

        I don’t get this article at all. In fact it confused the shit out of me to the point I had to go see the new site for myself. Let me understand this. They go from charging $39 for each album to $39 for unlimited albums with allegedly no hidden fees. And we have a problem here? Am I missing something? Did these guys steal Ari’s lunch money at school LOL?
        I loved his comparison chart and changed from Tunecore to CDbaby because of TC’s annual fees for each project. I would have joined the bashing party if mondo tunes changed to an annual fee like tunecore but this seems to be a pretty sweet deal for songwriters. So I disagree with this article 120% and can do without all the shit talking that lacks substance and discredits your viewpoint. Leave the shit talking on your own blog. Let’s focus on good music news here.

        Reply
        • KevinC

          It is an annual fee…its $40 a year…for 1 artist only. It was $40 per album FOR LIFE…and you could add more than 1 artist.

          Reply
        • GGG

          Unless Ari is incorrect, KevinC understands.

          Let’s say I released an album in 2012. I would have paid Mondo $40 and that’s that. NOW they are making those people pay $40 every year, or the music will be taken down. It wouldn’t quite call it a bait and switch, just a poor way of treating older customers.

          As for “let’s focus on good music news here,” hi, you must be new to DMN. Welcome.

          Reply
          • Nathan Strange

            I get what you’re saying but it’s a tale of 2 stories here. My day job has me responsible for Google adwords for a small business. You want to use words and phrases like “Slimy” and “Bait and Switch” then do so with Google. They change terms daily. Kid you not.
            But back to your point. I read their faq and it didn’t sound like you “paid $40 and that’s that.” Sounds like they had continuing administrative responsibilities which makes their former one time fee model foolish. Lets say I painted a house in 2012. If the owner expected me to service touchups indefinitely then they would be crazy and high and I would be hanging a “Going Out Of Business” sign. I don’t know if their solution is good or bad but I don’t see them trying to fuck people over. I see it as needing to adjust to a maintainable plan or get out and that would have really fucked their artists. As i said I love Ari’s comparison chart but have noticed how some companies can do no right in his eyes. Mondo Tunes and Ditto seem to be the hated. I concur with you that writing a whole piece talking shit is excessive and just smells personal. I would take in his opinion but do more research before deciding on what works for me. Look I’m a dad of 2 with a nagging wife and writing more than 2 songs a year would be a dream. Exactly why CD baby is right for me. But if I were a prolific writer or pumping out jams like dance or rap artists then I would consider an unlimited plan.

          • GoblinWarchief

            It isn’t about your productivity or how an annual fee for unlimited releases is better than the same fee per one album. Mondotunes LIED to me and other artists when they charged a ONE-TIME fee and now they suddenly want more.

    • GoblinWarchief

      >You don’t like how Mondo Tunes sell their product…
      It’s not about enjoying the service. It’s about a scam. Promising to keep your release for one-time fee forever and then switching you to annual subscription is a dirty thing to do. The new product is good, but I didn’t buy it. I bought another product and now they’re telling me I have to pay again, and then again.

      Imagine you buying a camera, and then in a year or two Canon suddenly tells you that you have to pay an additional fee per every picture you take. It’s exactly that. No matter how good the pictures are, and no matter that some competitor had always been charging their customers that way, it’s a scam.

      Reply
  5. J

    Pretty interesting to me that this character spends so much time personally attacking companies if they question anything he says. Look up “characteristics of a narcissist” and you will understand what i mean.
    The Ditto guy told him to get bent and suddenly Ari hates their service. And don’t we get to hear about it.
    He gets into an argument with Mondo Tunes about a year back and now is constantly berating what they do.

    I find it hard to believe anything written on this site at all when it’s written so one sided.

    Reply
    • KevinC

      Well to be honest…you shouldn’t believe ANYTHING on ANY site without fact checking anyway.

      What he said was true. I have 3 singles with Mondotunes, signed up there for the exclusive reason of ONE TIME FEE, like many others and now that’s been cancelled. It would’ve been better if Mondo keep their existing customers on their old terms, or worst case, gave them a year free on the new deal.

      Reply
  6. GoblinWarchief

    I switched from Tunecore to Mondotunes just because they had a one-time fee. Now they’re making me pay for something I had already paid for (because they promised to keep my albums online FOR LIFE). That’s a scam.

    Reply
  7. Giovanni

    It’s a matter of if this information would have made you make a decision when going with this distributor in the first place. When originally surveying options, the one time fee for life was very attractive to me and is the fact that ultimately swayed me to Mondotunes. If I had known in a year they would switch to an annual model I might not have chosen them in the first place…Sure, they can do what they want with their business model (I guess), but it’s going to upset the customers they already have and create a poor reputation for their business.

    Reply
  8. Ray E.

    It’s about the deal.

    You state what you will do, how much to do it.

    I agree, pay, and 4 months AFTER the deal is done, you change the terms to a new “deal”, without even a hint beforehand.

    New deal next time, will always look at it. But, the deal I accepted last year is DONE, stick to it!

    Not even paying me for sales right now, and the want to change the deal?

    Reply
    • Chester E.

      It’s not that bad Ray. I emailed and learned that everything from before is automatically included as part of the unlimited uploads package. and you’re still safe for at least a year if you decide not to distribute anymore songs. I loathe change and having my routine jacked but you can’t talk shit on improvement. It looks like they’re trying to help indie musicians. But Artists get a bad reputation for all the bitching and you have to consider that it is sometimes deserved. You can’t expect an organization to never change their terms, just look at the heat FB is taking.
      I’m in agreement with some of the other users here and it appears the writer and the site seldom like MondoTunes. I’m fine with the change

      Reply
  9. Tanya

    I am one of the people mondotunes suckered in with their ‘no annual payment ever” offer, and someone who was a pretty big fan of their company until now.

    I am seriously unhappy with the new subscription model, and will most likely be leaving soon for another company. I am as yet undecided on which, but I can guarantee it will be one with no annual fee.

    For those of you who are not aware of the difference, it may sound awesome to have unlimited albums and singles for a yearly fee, until you think it through. Unless you are super prolific and are able to release a ton of music every year (that people actually are willing to pay for to listen to), you will probably end up paying way more than you will ever recoup. And the minute you stop paying, they will take your music down.

    Personally, I don’t release enough music to warrant the cost, so the “one-time” fee model just makes way more sense for someone like me (and it is absolutely the reason why I chose to go with mondotunes in the first place).

    I have been emailing back and forth with their customer service trying to get them to honor their original sales pitch, and keep my music up. I feel like if they won’t, then they should refund my money (to defer the cost of re-releasing elsewhere). It remains to be seen whether they will honor the promise of their original sales pitch. So far? Not happening.

    One more thing you should know…as of this moment, not only are they not grandfathering in their original clients, they are also currently not paying out any royalties. I haven’t received a statement in months, and who know how (or if) they are doing proper accounting.

    What is the good of being in 600 digital stores (or a million), if you aren’t getting paid for your downloads and streams? Keep in mind, you are not just paying mondotunes (or any of the digital distribution companies) to get your songs up on iTunes, Amazon, etc – you are also paying to have them collect your royalties for you (unless you are just doing it to give your parents something to brag to their friends about).

    Anyway, sorry about the long rant, but I just wanted to add my 2 cents as someone who is experiencing the mondotunes BS firsthand.

    PS it’s nice to hear that I’m not the only unhappy camper – from their email blasts, you would think everybody is jumping for joy at the change.

    Reply
    • Ben

      I’m in the same shitty position- I really can’t understand anyone defending mondotunes on this one. Blatant false advertising. They should honour their original promise on one off fees. Fair enough if you want to change it ‘from now on’ but it is not on to break the original deal…

      Reply
  10. Rob

    I totally agree with the article, I put some songs up recently with the assumption that my fees were paid. How ridiculous to think I could need to pay $40 annually for 3 songs online! Realistically, how many artists release more than 1 album a year anyway? I would think very few. Besides the fact that it’s completely misleading to take customers’ money with the promise of a one off cost, then suddenly change policy and demand annual payments. I would think/hope that they lose a great deal of business from this dishonest and greedy decision.

    Reply
    • Tanya

      I’m sorry you got misled, too, Rob…have you written mondotunes for a refund yet? I think if enough artists/writers put some pressure on them (or they get enough bad press), they may decide to grandfather in everyone who were paid in full up until they changed the rules.

      As far as I’m concerned, they can feel free to go ahead and do a subscription only model from now on, but I won’t be signing up for it, and I wouldn’t have signed up with them in the first place if that was the offer.

      Good luck to you with this mess…

      Reply
  11. Peter

    (1) You neglected to mention: when submitting music, we must pick a genre from their extensive list. There’s over a dozen subcategories under Rock. I’ve tried asking them for help, as there’s no examples (ie i have a song using jazz guitar and samples of street sounds like tapping on bike rack, bench, traffic cones, etc. what do you call this kind of music?) then just say “you know your music best, you decide.” (2) Back when i compared companies, CD Baby said they only take submissions of 2 physical CDs, no uploading via internet.

    Reply
  12. Andre

    Article sounds very emotional, like it was bankrolled by a competitor.
    I like Mondotunes and will continue use them. this guy must have never had a Verizon Wireless, I had an unlimited data plan but used 16 gigs of data every month without fail, broadcasting all the time via Foxfi. Now the plan is an additional $20 a month for unlimited data. Bitching about a $40 dollar a year for the Mondo Unlimited plan is weak.

    Reply
  13. Kristi Bride

    Hi Ari, I ran across your article and was actually laughing at the Russian commentary. I’m a indie artist who distributed through Mondo Tunes in 2012 and I STILL get quite a few downloads/streams in Russia every month (as of Novemner 2015)! I’ve done no marketing through Mondo Tunes nor in the US and quite honestly I get a kick out of it. I’m not attributing it to Mondo Tunes but I can tell you the majority of my streams and downloads come from Russia and Northern Europe, especially Sweden, Norway, France and Great Britain.

    Now as we all know it’s pennies but still it’s fun to see people all over the world playing an unknown obscure artsy indie artist whose done no marketing! Also I haven’t received any notice from Mondo that my music would be taken down if I didn’t pay a yearly fee and I’m still getting royalty reports. I hope that doesn’t happen! They have been really good to me and actually called me back during the holidays last year when I found another band claiming my music though one of their distributors. They were on it between Christmas and New Years when most of entertainment is shut down!

    I agree their marketing is a bit cheesy with the “become famous” but I figure if that is all you care about as an artist your going to get suckered in and learn a hard lesson. So I can’t say anything bad about them in fact I am extremely happy I switched from TuneCore where I had no support and no sales. With Mondo at least I know where I’m touring in Europe next spring/summer!

    Reply
  14. Nice Haircut Turd

    Ari, do you really expect anybody to listen to this shit when you have ads for CDbaby all over the page? This sounds like sour grapes, you’re really coming across like a whiny little bitch.

    Reply

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