October 1, 2023

TuneCore vs. CDBaby (The Battle for the Independent Artist)


We’ve written before about the importance of independent distribution companies Tunecore and CDBaby, and how these are key to an independent artist getting their music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and nearly all other major players in the digital music game. We’ve also previously loved how transparent Tunecore is about sharing the amount it has pays to artists that use the service, as it gives us a good indication of the state of the digital music industry for independent artists.


Well, Tunecore is taking advantage of this openness again, and recently revealed that the company has paid more than $300 million to its artists since its inception in 2005.

“Hitting this $300 million earnings milestone is something to be celebrated, and we congratulate all our TuneCore Artists,” TuneCore COO Scott Ackerman said in a statement. “TuneCore’s mission has always been about giving all artists the opportunity to easily and affordably get their music heard anywhere in the world and receive 100% of the revenue from the downloads and streams of that music.”

Additionally, the company pointed out the significant growth in digital music streaming and downloading, reporting that more than 3 billion units are now being streamed and downloaded, compared to 1.8 billion through the end of December 2012. This is all obviously good news for independent artists, particularly as the debate rages on about how positive downloading and streaming is for the bottom line of artists.

Though it’s primarily already established artists that are complaining about royalty rates and compensation from downloading and streaming, since these rates can be lower than radio and physical sales, depending on the service. But independent musicians tend to find digital as a great way to not only create income they wouldn’t otherwise have, but also a way to increase their visibility.

As mentioned, Tunecore is a great way for artists to get their music on all the major services through a very easy process. For album distribution, the service charges $29.99 for the first year and then $49.99 for every year after that. Single distribution is $9.99 for every year. However, after these fees are paid, Tunecore pays everything it collects from each service to the artist (minus fees from each individual service).

This is compared to CDBaby, which offers essentially the same digital distribution service, but charges a one-time fee rather than an annual fee and then collects a percentage of net earnings. The amount the service has paid to artist is similar to Tunecore, and CDBaby reports paying out $250 million to artists since it began in 1998.

Since both companies provide essentially the same service, it really comes down to which best fits with the current needs of an artist as to which will be best (and pay the most) for the artist. Both services also have publishing divisions available, though artists are not required to use the publishing services along with distribution.

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