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TuneCore’s Guide to Independent Artist Best Practices in 2021

“You gotta keep working, keep evolving, and find your voice! Test and learn, and don’t give up.”
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Well, 2020 is finally over. We made it, team. While indie artists battled and shone through this hellish year, TuneCore helped acts like Snow Tha Product, Kota The Friend, and more follow their dreams and control their careers. In the spirit of giving, we linked up with Andreea Gleeson, Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Head of TuneCore, to discuss best practices for 2021 and break down how TuneCore is helping artists establish themselves for a healthy first quarter in the new year.

The key takeaway? Planning is everything, and practice and perseverance are essential. Nothing is overnight, but if this is your passion, the grind will have been worth the wait.

Our interview, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

How much of your day-to-day at TuneCore, as CRO, is focused on helping artists?

The motto I set for my team is: If our artists are successful, we’re successful. Everything we do as an organization is set around the mission of helping artists. We put the emphasis on them, and as a byproduct, we are successful. A big part of everything I do, throughout every day, is about helping artists. We focus all of our initiatives and efforts around them.

How has the customer experience at TuneCore evolved over the last 12 months, and are you proud of these changes?

It was a crazy year! We’ve been self-reflecting. Artists, because they tour, they have a whole revenue stream that is on pause. Artists had to make a big shift. For us, we saw this happening back in March. We put out a tremendous amount of educational content: “Life During Quarantine.” We put this content together to offer tips for what artists can do from home. Setting up a home studio. Engaging fans. Livestreaming! We knew it was gonna be a shift, and we wanted to bring the best practices for our artists as soon as possible.

We did a Live Session, which is a webinar, around home recording. We knew artists had more time to make more music. We’ve talked to numerous artists that were supposed to go tour during this time [who] spent that time creating new content. We wanted to arm our users at different levels of their career with how they can [record] from home since going to the studio safely was not possible.

We prioritized getting as many of our store partners as possible featured in our Live Sessions. We got the head of music from TikTok. We got the two team members from Instagram and Facebook that are leading music to do one about their platforms. We did one on Spotify! We wanted to educate our artists.

The other thing we did was a bunch of mentoring sessions with our Artist and Partner Relations Department. We provided one-on-one support where we could! Really, key things to respond to the quarantine meaningfully.

On a bigger scale, we did a lot of key things based on what’s important to our artists. We survey our artists all the time. They say to us: We want to share our music with the world and make money. Those have been the two things [and] we’re meeting those needs. During this period, one thing I’m proud of is TuneCore hit this milestone of 2 billion dollars that artists have earned, which is phenomenal. We hit 1 billion back in 2017. No other distributor has hit anything near to that. We pay straight to the artist. Even through quarantine, artists have continued to make money through their music. We’re paying an average of 1.2 million [dollars] each day.

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To add, we worked hard to launch a lot of new stores. We launched 10 new stores (Joox, NetEase Cloud Music, TIMMUSIC, UMA, Hungama, Zed+, Resso, Gaana, WYNK Music, Triller) to get music out to other parts of the world. We’re proud we’re able to make our artists’ music available more internationally. We expanded internationally, too. We hired more team members globally—doubled the international team.

Lastly, is how much of a focus we put on customer care. Our artist support team has been an area of focus for us. Better training, speeding up our times. We have a team out in Europe now. We respond to almost all tickets same-day, even within 30 minutes, a lot of times! We reach artists where they’re at. If they’re on social media and have questions, we make reaching our artist support team through direct message available.

TuneCore is a data goldmine—artists plan their tours based on TuneCore stats. What’s one piece of information more artists should be paying attention to in 2021?

If you can’t plan your tours, that doesn’t mean you can’t still use that information. You get a lot of geographical information, like, “Oh, I know I have a lot of fans coming out of Scandinavia; let me go tour there!” You could still use that! One thing that’s been wonderful to watch is how the live-streaming space has blown up. The digital explosion over the last nine months has been phenomenal. You can participate in the concert! What’s happening in gaming is exciting, too. I’ve seen artists get creative and do things online.

You can use that data to reach your audiences. Are you doing your stream at a timezone that makes sense for your audience?

From your perspective, what are some of the best practices artists can adopt in Q1 to ensure a fruitful year revenue-wise?

We are focusing on helping artists jump-start the year. We will be launching a campaign with some tips at the top of the year. But, really, I cannot stress enough: plan. Utilize the first quarter, think about your year thoughtfully, plan out your release strategy. Get your music out early, so you’re set up for success as we move more into the summer season. You should be utilizing your first quarter to get your release plan set up and get your marketing plans together.

When artists don’t plan and just ship out their projects in January, my heart breaks.

The other part is to be proactive! I’m blown away by how the stores have added so many more tools. So many amazing live-streaming and concert tools available. All the platforms are available to artists. Artists need to be more educated, and we try to curate that and take out the guesswork. But be curious! Have fun and learn. If you’re waiting for life to “go back to normal,” you’re missing out on what you could be doing now. Also, when things “go back to normal,” it will be different than before.

Mindset matters, too. What would you say to artists whose 2020 has them discouraged going into the new year?

Good things come in waves, and bad things come in waves; don’t give up. Being a musician is an uphill battle. Independent musicians wear so many hats! Think about the music, the marketing, be your own entertainment lawyer, you know? Independent artists, at the beginning, are weekend warriors. What they do is not easy. But the biggest thing is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Russ, one of our TuneCore artists, who’s been using us since 2012, was using us for years before he started getting traction. Having releases that don’t get traction is perfectly normal. You gotta keep working, keep evolving, and find your voice! Test and learn, and don’t give up.

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