Friday, May 22, 2009

TuneCore Scores Spot at Amazon

TuneCore is one of a handful of companies (including CD Baby and ReverbNation) offering digital (and in some instances physical) distribution for the DIY musician. For a relatively small fee, artists using these services can get their tunes in all the major digital music sellers (iTunes, eMusic, Rhapody, etc.) — which means a coffeehouse strummer can be in the same "store" as BeyoncĂ©. Pretty cool, huh? CD Baby will also handle the warehousing and mailorder for your physical discs, and most of these services provide referrals for custom-batch CD manufacturing.

Today, Digital Music News is reporting that TuneCore has made a deal with Amazon to have a special section within Amazon's MP3 store:

The TuneCore-branded environment will live within the broader AmazonMP3 site. Additionally, artists can offer custom-crafted CDs through Amazon partner CreateSpace. The action starts June 1st.

TuneCore already direct-ports downloads into a number of stores, including Amazon, iTunes, among many others. The store-within-a-store builds upon an existing partnership between TuneCore and Amazon, as does the CD-pressing component. The expansion helps TuneCore to expand its value proposition, though it also allows Amazon to breathe some life into its CreateSpace acquisition.

You may be familiar with CreateSpace, which grabs DIY by the long tail (ha!) and lets users self-publish books, music and movies to be stocked and sold through Amazon. We think it's great that more artists are able to use new services to get their creations out there, but if these services continue to take off, there will be that much more stuff to sift through. The question then becomes, what mechanisms can effectively facilitate discovery? Or to put it more simply, how do fans find what they like? Do they just randomly stumble upon it? Does the burden of marketing and promotion rest solely on the creator? How can developing artists most effectively cut through the noise?

In the past, labels handled much of an artist's promotion (PR firms also assist), but the game is changing for any number of reasons — the erosion of the physical CD market, unauthorized filesharing and the uncertainty around new models (like ad-supported and subscription services) — to name a few. For now, this could mean fewer acts get signed to traditional labels, and less money is available for promotion. It could also mean a future where industry entities become "all-in-one" services that provide a combination of marketing and promotion, live booking and tour management, recording and distribution and possibly even rights administration. The so-called "360 degree" deals that are popular with some superstar artists could represent a step in this direction.

But what about all the other artists out there? How will they cultivate and retain audiences? It's one thing to be able to make your stuff available, it's another to get the right people to find it. Magazines and radio have always acted as a kind of filter, but restrictive commercial radio playlists and the financial struggles of print (and online) media combined with the ever-increasing amount of music makes it tough for most artists to attract listeners. Obviously, reaching audiences was a challenge even back when the business of music was dominated by a system of bottlenecks and powerful gatekeepers. But there are new hurdles now that creative content is seemingly ubiquitous.

We're curious to hear your thoughts about the future of DIY and marketing in the digital age — feel free to leave a comment below. . .


Joy Foster said...

I think the "noise factor" is one of the big hurdles of the future. Although I appreciate that people have the freedom to create music I think that as a result of having no guidelines for being a professional musician/artist the quality has diminished in many ways. Therefore it's more difficult to get people to listen to a new artist. I still think eventually the cream rises to the top in most cases.

What I think is missing is a period of artist development and a team of people that help build careers so that the artist can get support and build visibility over time. We are such an immediate society that the thought of having the artist's visibility gain over time seems wrong when I think it helps to build a solid career path.

For example our pr service likes to work from the ground up on projects to not only do the promo but to educate artists on how they can help themselves. We think of it as a collaborative process then just doing the artist's work.

As always the most persistent and dedicated will reap the greatest rewards. I think that finding reliable labels, pr companies, management, etc that care about the success of their clients will be the most effective way to sustain visibility.

Mike Pitzer said...

"The question then becomes, what mechanisms can effectively facilitate discovery?"

This is a great point. In this era of DIY, it really is up to the artist to make sure his/her music is out there enough for people to discover it. The thing about AmazonMP3 and even iTunes is that people don't there to discover new music. So, in essence it really is just an e-commerce website.

Fans will discover music in whatever way (most likely music blogs nowadays) and will likely head to the artist/band's website or MySpace for more info. Since they're going there anyway, why not allow the artist to be able to sell their music and merch directly on their site as opposed to redirecting them to Amazon, Tunecore, or iTunes?

This is why I love a company called Audiolife so much. Their on-demand model is much simpler than CreateSpace AND you keep more of the revenue from a sale. There are truly no up-front costs - no $20/year "maintenance" fee per album or $.99 per track fee - and you really have the opportunity to monetize off your fans in the most efficient way. Direct-to-fan should be as direct as possible, and for most artists with websites and social networks, it doesn't get any more direct.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great write up!

A note about "getting heard." It's a huge issue--being in a store is great, it's a required step, but then how do you get people to find you? I helped start TuneCore because I wanted to level the playing field, let anyone into the same stores as the "majors" and let their talent and hard work do the talking.

But there are ways to get noticed, ways to get ahead with minimal expense, and smart ways to spend your money to get noticed. There's also knowledge about the industry and how it works. We're strongly dedicated to that, and provide pages and pages of info.

More: if a band or artist is hard-working, we provide opportunities, like gigs and endorsements and exposure. It's a "meet folks halfway" strategy that's really working out well.

It's no substitute for hard work promoting yourself, but it shows a pathway.

Thanks again!