CDBaby vs Tunecore: Where Do I Sell My Music?

CDBaby vs Tunecore: Where Do I Sell My Music?

by

CDBaby vs Tunecore: Where Do I Sell My Music?

by Andre Gonsalves

by Andre Gonsalves

I don’t think it’s an accident that companies like CDBaby and Tunecore make their pricing so confusing. If CDBaby say charges $49 to sell your music and Tunecore charged $38 to sell your music, most budget conscious musicians would probably choose Tunecore. The thing is these music selling middle-men, differ in many ways. In this post, I will point out in which ways they differ, as well as say which I think is the better choice for you. Keep in mind, I have used both services for a number of years and know many artists that have used both services and am familiar with the pros and cons.

To keep things simple, I’ll compare album and single sale options. But before we begin let’s ask ourselves a more philosophical question:

Should I Even Sell My Album?

For most musicians all that will matter is iTunes sales and Spotify streams as those will likely provide the most income to unsigned artists. In fact it is likely, you will make more from people streaming your songs on Spotify than you will on iTunes as the majority of albums on iTunes don’t get bought. Bet you didn’t know that 94% of songs on iTunes (that’s about 7.5 million songs) sold less than 100 copies? So the chances of you selling more than 100 copies is very slim. Just to make things even more depressing, 32% of songs on iTunes sold only one copy! That’s it 1 sale: a lot of proud moms.

So basically if your music is not getting any traction. Meaning you don’t have a music video with over 1 million real views, there’s no point putting your music for sale. Sure it may feel good to say go buy my album on iTunes but the truth is nobody is buying your album, not because it isn’t good, but because nobody knows about it. And it’s financially impossible for you to market your album to the masses. Why?

For simplicity purposes, let’s look at our friend rapper Drake. Drake’s Facebook page has 31 million likes. So it is safe to say 31 million people in the world have heard of Drake’s music (otherwise why would they like his page?). Now look at Drake’s album sales. Did his recent album sell 31 million copies? No. Will it ever sell 31 million copies. Hell no. Drake’s album sales for “Nothing Was The Same” clocked in at 1,129,000 as of November 24th, 2013. It’s still an impressive number but in percentage terms it is only 3.64% of the total amount of people that like Drake that bought his album. Only 3%! And Drake is a superstar! He’s the most streamed artist in the U.S. on both Spotify and iTunes Radio (Sidebar: Macklemore is the most streamed artist in the world on Spotify). For unsigned artists who only have say 2000 Likes, how many sales are they are going to do? Most likely under 100. And even more likely 1 copy.

I don’t want to sound all gloomy and shit but album sales are are following the typical 80/20 rule, or now the 99/1 rule. Just as we know that 1% of the world controls 99% of the wealth, 1% of musicians sell 99% of music. In fact, in 2007 out of album 8000 songs released on iTunes, only 102 albums sold more than a million copies. This trend is never going to reverse and will likely get more pronounced. So before you decide to sell your music, it may not be a bad idea to just give it away on Soundcloud until you have more traction.

But Andre how will I know I have more traction?

The most important metric today is YouTube views and YouTube subscribers. If you do not have a growing amount of views and subscribers everyday, you are not developing your fan base. Your music is just not connecting with the right audience as you are not marketing it to the right audience. Trust me, you’ll know your music is gaining traction when your Twitter mentions don’t look so bare, when you have more than 500 real comments on your YouTube video, when it becomes almost annoying how many pretty girls are messaging you. And the thing is you’re not even a tenth of the way there where you’ve reached that point.

Okay I get it! Nobody will buy my album except my mom, but I still want to sell it because I’m a crazy artist. Who should I go with CDBaby or Tunecore?

The Pros: CDBaby

The thing I like about CDBaby is that they only charge a one time fee of $49 to sell your album. They do have a $99 option to help collect your royalties but if you live in a developed country, your country should already have an organization that does this for you. Also they state you’ll need to pay an extra $20 if you’d like to be assigned a barcode, which is required if you want digital distribution, in-store distribution and SoundScan reporting.

Another thing I like about CDBaby is that they were founded and owned by Derick Sivers, an independent musician who sold it for $22 million in 2008, and gave the proceeds to a charitable trust. While this May sound trivial, I believe this is the reason
CDBaby really cares about independent artists.

The Cons: CDBaby

The main thing I dislike about CDBaby is that they take 9% of all your royalties to pay for admin fees. The good thing is 9% isn’t a whole lot if you’re not selling very much, which is likely the case. For this reason, I would recommend going with CDBaby as you will actually be saving money as opposed to using Tunecore (which we will review right now).

The Pros: Tunecore

The first thing you’ll notice about Tunecore, aside from its modern web design, is that it appears to be much cheaper than CDBaby. For only $29.99 you can sell your album through Tunecore. However, there is a catch this is a yearly fee. And next year and every year after you’ll be paying $49.99 per year just so they can continue selling your album. The reason they have an annual fee as opposed to CDBaby is that Tunecore doesn’t take any royalty fees. So clearly an advantage of Tunecore is that you don’t have to give a percentage of your royalties away.

Another pro of Tunecore is that you can use your earnings to pay for services on Tunecore such as the annual renewal fee, which although a small thing is kind of convenient. Tunecore also always seems to have little promos such as 200 free radio plays when you sign up now. How beneficial this is I really have no clue, because (a) I don’t know anyone that has signed up for this additional service and (b) Tunecore was very vague about what radio station would be playing your song (my guess is that it’s an internet radio station nobody listens to).

Another advantage of Tunecore that I haven’t found with CDBaby is that if your music has a prior history of selling (meaning your last release sold decently) or you have a good amount of media coverage/video views you have a better chance of being featured in various sections of iTunes or Apple Music or Spotify. For example, Apple Music has a “Recent Releases” section, which placement in is highly coveted for obvious reasons, I’ve known artists who’ve got their music featured on there just by going through Tunecore, I can’t say the same for CDBaby.

The Cons: Tunecore

Tunecore has a much more user friendly design than CDBaby but it seems to be only to make it easier to get you to part with your money. I could easily upload a song as we’ll as cover art without having to fill in nearly as much info as required by CDBaby. While this may seem like a good thing, when I can’t buy a barcode or don’t have to provide one, I feel I’m being duped. Where CDBaby shines over Tunecore is that there is a lot of helpful easily accessible information when your uploading your album. If there is a term or option you don’t understand, just click on the question mark icon and in easy to understand language an answer is presented.

Final Verdict

It should be pretty obvious I favor CDBaby over Tunecore because while they do provide similar services, CDBaby seems to be more in touch with the needs of independent musicians. Let me know in the comments who you think is better and why?

Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering. When he's not in front of a mixing board with his eyes closed, he's having impromptu dance parties with his son and daughter: ages 2 and 4.

21 Comments

  1. Don’t agree with article as I have actually sold my own physical CDs in my town. Not in the millions. But I hardly have any views on my youtube videos. I tried CD baby who is selling one album but has never seen any earnings on it although the report I have sold some tracks. One of my CDs has about 10 tracks on it.

  2. Tune core takes 10% of your royalties. It takes 20% if they secure a sync fee from a TV or film placement. They also take 20% of all Youtube money and charge you $9.99 a year to keep collecting Youtube royalties. Just read this today off the Tunecore site.

  3. I guess the difference is between Distribution and Publishing. They say they keep nothing from distribution. The figures I’m referring too are under publishing. Which ultimately is where the money is. I’m not saying they’re bad or good. They’re providing a service and u hv to see if it’s ultimately good for the artist on a case by case basis. Here are the links. On this page look at the asterisk by the 90%.This refers to publishing. http://www.tunecore.com/index/publishing_administration?_ga=1.160209786.619522169.1470699583 Here’s the link on the Youtube fee and royalties. http://www.tunecore.com/index/pricing?_ga=1.203176022.619522169.1470699583 I think this is interest. On this link Tunecore says “Tunecore keeps absolutely nothing from your music sales. You keep it all.” But right on their pricing page they say you keep 90% or 80% if they secure a sync placement. So obviously they’re keeping some of your money. Mainly on the publishing side. http://help.tunecore.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/66/kw/keep%2090%25 Hope this helps n sorry for any confusion.

  4. And doesn’t CDBaby have a matching “hidden” deal? If so, where can we look to find it? On the other hand, if not, the choice becomes quite clear.

  5. I am unsure of what to do. Now that my intense semester is over I am working hard to complete my Christmas EP and I need it to be out by monday 12/19/2016. I was prepared to work wit tune-core of Cd Baby, but it appears they may not even be able to get it out onto ITunes or Spotify in time. I was planning for the EP to be free of charge in efforts to gain exposure. I need High traction fast! What do you suggest?

    • Just put it on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. And next time give the whole release process waaaaay more time. I’ve had times I completed my album and it took a year to get released by the label!! Really frustrating.

  6. Tunecore are scum. Only an idiot would trust their dough to losers like them. Tunecore will steal your money and lower your sales. Stay away from tunecore.

  7. CD Baby is not able to handle 24 bit files for iTunes and they cannot facilitate uploading a digital booklet to iTunes. That sucks. I’m checking tunecore for my iTunes upload only. Also anybody know about emu music? Thanks!

  8. I decided what the hell, let’s try & get some of this music out on different platforms besides bandcamp which is the only thing I have been using. It has gone ok, the sales aren’t great but I am tired of trying to hustle CD’s. Nobody buys them anymore lol. So long story short I put up 2 albums on Tunecore for a year each. If it sucks I will just find something new & better hopefully

  9. I’m already a member of PRS. I know there’s publishing administration for £55 one off fee that I’ve seen with Tunecore. Is it worth having this as I have PRS anyway who could collect any royalties owed? If the selling of the CDs goes up to a substantial number do you think it’s worth then looking at this publishing administration at a later date? i would like to try something new though to see where it goes. Was tempted with Tunecore. Going to look more into CD baby. On balance though CD looks a better way and there is no annual fee

    The other thought was my co-writers would the publishing agreement be needed or as long as they’re all registered with PRS. It does make me think they’re trying to take your money for something you’ve already got in place.

  10. Great article, but loads of grammar errors. I have a simple rule for using Tunecore. Each song I post has 1 year to “prove” itself before I have to pay the $10/annual for single. If it makes up that $10, then I continue with that song. I haven’t posted a song for 8 years, but I do have one song that is paying for my gas money for my “day job”. Who knows, if I get ambitious and get enough songs to pay for my gas money, I may be able to quit my day job.

  11. I am going to release a charity song. I-tunes is the obvious place to put it, but I would prefer Amazon as I think more people will have an Amazon account than an i-tunes account. It will be a one-off release. I am considering using cdbaby or tunecore. On the surface, tunecore seems more attractive as the fee is less and I get 100% of the money (unless I’ve missed something). The reviews here seem to favour cdbaby. I’m in England. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

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