If Musicians Spend Thousands on Gear, Why Won’t They Spend Anything on Digital Distribution?

It’s a riddle the entire DIY space has yet to figure out: Why will musicians pays thousands in gear, fuel, airline baggage fees, and recording costs, but balk at something like $50 a year for digital distribution?

This was a lesson TuneCore learned the hard way last year when they attempted to raise their rates to that level, a decision that put then-CEO Jeff Price (and the entire company) in a defensive hot seat.  People were screaming bloody murder, rivals were swooping in to sign the malcontents, musicians were storming the gates!

In fairness, the increase came rather suddenly, from a dirt cheap price of $19.99. This could have been handled a lot better.  But, $50 a year, less than $5 a month, for distribution to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rhapsody, et. al.?  This was roundly judged to be extravagant by the musician marketplace, which is why in 2013, TuneCore is hoping to undo some of that damage.

According to a promotional email shared with Digital Music News this morning, TuneCore is now dropping its annual distribution fee from $49.99 to $29.99, a 40 percent drop.  They aren’t doing this out of charity, that’s for sure.


Not only that, they probably can’t afford this in all reality.  Which is why after the first year, the price goes right back to $49.99.  And, prices for ancillary services like publishing administration and ringtone distribution are going up substantially.  Because if you’re the kind of musician that cares about mobile and publishing aspects, you may be willing to pay real rates for it (or so the thinking goes).


But this story gets worse, because digital distribution into places like iTunes is a frontline, critical service for musicians.  It’s the most in-demand of offerings, according to details shared by several distribution services over the years.  The rest, which spans everything from analytics, social networking, and tour tracking, has proven a far tougher sell.