Making music is one thing, but how do you get that music out to prospective fans? Enter TuneCore: a distribution service existing at the intersection of artist education and empowerment. The TuneCore platform acts as a pillar in myriad indie artists’ careers. Artists like Taylor Bennett and Witt Lowry have used TuneCore to get their music to the masses, fund their creative pursuits, and help them maintain ownership over their careers. If you’re an independent artist looking to stay indie, TuneCore is one of the best platforms on the market.
“When we found TuneCore, we instantly knew that it was the application we needed to further my music career,” Taylor Bennett told us earlier this year. “I distributed the project with TuneCore, and on iTunes, it was one of the top five projects. It was next to Drake. For me, as an independent artist, to be able to see my music next to Drake’s music... that’s when I fell in love with TuneCore.”
So, we know TuneCore works for artists, but how does the platform put in that work? Who is working behind the scenes to make sure artists are getting their dues for their music? To answer these questions, and more, we spoke with Kevin Cornell, TuneCore’s Content Editor. In talking with Cornell, we get a greater sense of how TuneCore exists to empower and educate artists—and make creatives’ dreams come true.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What’s your favorite part of working at TuneCore?
Kevin Cornell: I’ve been here for five years now. The company’s just been growing and going positively in the right direction. I would say we hire good people, smart people, tech people, music people. People get along here for a reason. I don’t think I’ve ever worked somewhere where people are good in and out of work. The common goal is to help artists. The combination of those two things: Being able to support artists as a company, and being able to do it with smart, forward-thinking people, is big.
What would you say is the basic TuneCore value statement?
We benefit from being trusted by independent artists. Independent artists having the ability to get their music online without a label, or a more traditional distributor, has only been a thing for so long. We know that when we make changes or communicate with artists, we’re building educational content with the artist in mind. They know how to use our platform and why they use our platform. But being able to offer them more is important. Being able to get artists’ music out to stores, out to streaming platforms, and making sure they’re getting paid 100 percent of what they earn is a big part of that value statement.
Tell me about the “more” of TuneCore.
Aside from just doing distribution, I have to harp on the fact that we offer music publishing administration. With our YouTube Sound Recording service, we’re using Content ID to collect artists’ revenue whenever their songs are being used across YouTube. So if your song is being used across YouTube, you’re getting paid for that. The “more” is also the support level. We have an office here in Brooklyn, full of people—real people—here to help you out. In the entertainment relations capacity, we have boots on the ground [in] Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, and Nashville. We have people who are dedicated to helping artists in those territories grow and utilize TuneCore better. But it’s beyond that. Our Entertainment Relations team members are holding networking/educational events and artist consultations, giving artists a chance to network with each other and people in the industry.
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So [artists] may come to learn more about TuneCore, but they may also come to learn more about radio promotions, PR, and publishing. Stuff that is so much more in the hands of the artists these days. It’s all about connecting the dots and providing a platform for them to learn. You access a lot of great information online, and there’s so much an artist can teach themselves these days, but it’s overwhelming. So we’re looking to be a thought-leader with our “Artist Advice” hub by providing blog articles, Survival Guides, podcast episodes, and more. It’s not easy trying to reach a huge artist base across genres and levels of success, but we’re trying to hit on all those notes and provide as much real-world advice and education—that isn’t behind a paywall. You don’t even have to be distributing music yet to get access to it!
Talk to me about the empowerment component of TuneCore, the “boots-on-the-ground” aspect of it.
Our Entertainment Relations team is ready to offer support to artists, managers, and small labels that use TuneCore. They’re on the ground to be a resource for people. It’s giving artists access to information in one central location or throughout one experience using TuneCore.
When you’re using TuneCore, it’s more than uploading your music. You’re taking control of your distribution and publishing administration, which is stuff you couldn’t do [before]. It’s underrated how much control you have. The ability to plan. The ability to put a release plan together and build out campaigns on your own… This is, to me, what empowerment means. You can market your music across all platforms. You can find out where your fans are in the world and what platforms they’re using.
With TuneCore’s distribution to over 100 countries worldwide, your releases can truly have a global reach, and that’s a huge door-opener for a lot of artists. You might be based in Pennsylvania but have a huge following in South Korea. You might be based in London, but find you have a huge following in South Africa. That’s the coolest. You can get your music everywhere and see where people are listening, and that can impact your tour selection.
For artists looking to use TuneCore, do you have any quick best practices, so they get the most out of the platform?
Number one: Planning and timing. TuneCore can get your music onto platforms pretty quickly, but if you’ve spent all this time thinking about this project and you put off the actual delivery of it to the last minute? You set yourself up for potential issues. Too many times I’ve seen artists do this and say, “Oh I’m just gonna upload it 72 hours beforehand.” No, no! That works for some artists, obviously, but just like anything else, newer artists should be treating this like anything else when they’re managing their music career: with careful consideration and preparation. You’re not going to start your PR campaign a week before the release. You need lead time. Treat your release like a label would. It’s the best practice to get into when you’re managing your career.
Every release is an opportunity to learn. What did your stats look like? This can influence the way you market your music on social. If you’re gonna look at your Facebook post engagement, you should look at what’s going on with your last release. Going back to the global reach that TuneCore provides artists, you can start experimenting with marketing to new territories. Why not start looking at those London blogs? Everyone harps on the fact there’s never been a better time to be an indie artist. I don’t disagree with that at all, but we overlook the time, research, and planning that goes into a good release campaign. TuneCore offers a suite of Artist Services that can help with that.
What’s the best part of being the facilitator for artists’ dreams?
That is such a heavy title! People are genuinely appreciative of what we do, and that’s awesome. I’m an indie music fan, living and working in Brooklyn. If I were an accountant at Yelp, I’d still be listening to indie music and going to shows. To me, this is an opportunity to take what I care about outside of work and think about it at work.