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Music Media

Amazon & TuneCore To Cut Out the RIAA Middleman 291

eldavojohn writes "So you're an aspiring band and you haven't signed with a record label. Maybe you've got a fan base interested in purchasing your stuff but you're not really into accounting? Enter Amazon's partnership with TuneCore, a CD printing and music distribution service. You want to sell a full album on Amazon of you brushing your teeth? $31. And you get about 40% back on sales, so selling nine digital copies of your CD will put you back in the black. There you have it, public availability on one of the largest online commerce sites for $31 — no RIAA involved!" TuneCore's CEO put it this way: "As an artist, you have unlimited physical inventory, made on demand, with no [sic] upfront costs and worldwide distribution to anyone who orders it at"
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Amazon & TuneCore To Cut Out the RIAA Middleman

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  • by Kurusuki ( 1049294 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:04AM (#28052255)
    I for one wait to see the lawsuit the RIAA is drawing up to bring down upon Amazon for squelching their draconian business practices by violating their 'copyright' on 'distribution of artistic works of an audio based nature'
  • Print on demand... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) for books, so why not CDs?

    I know several up-and-coming musicians, and putting out their first couple of CDs is always a financial adventure. If these guys can produce professional-looking packaging on a one-off basis, it could be just what struggling musicians need!

    The fact that it shows how irrelevant the big labels are becoming is just icing on the cake.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flitty ( 981864 )
      The "professional" look seems to be what's missing here from the Print CD's. It looks like you must choose from a set of "templates" to print your cd on, which are all on par with what local demos looked like at my Junior High School, I.E. Photo of random stuff with Super-Photoshop filters applied.

      The only other concern here, is what quality of sound is on the CD's. I've never used tunecore, so do you just submit MP3's of your music, or do you submit lossless files, and they convert them to mp3 for you?
      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:37AM (#28052813) Journal
        From the FAQ []

        "What format must my music be in, in order to upload to TuneCore?

        We have found .wav files to be the most reliable and therefore recommend them first and foremost. Remember that they must be set at a 44.1 khz sample rate, 16 bit sample size and the channel set to stereo. Not sure how to convert your music? - Check out our tutorial.

        What format must my artwork be in, in order to upload to TuneCore?

        Artwork can be in one of the following file formats: JPG, GIF or PNG. The image must be a perfect square and at least 1600x1600. All artwork must be in best-quality RGB Color mode (including black and white images) and must have a resolution of at least 72 dpi. You may not include: email addresses, URLs, any other contact information or any pricing information. You must include both the artist name and album title on the artwork and remove any stickers or other items from your artwork in case you are scanning it in from a physical CD."

        I'm certain that, because people aren't so bright, there'll be a lot of "CD containing audio derived from mp3s that came from ripping a burned CD that was produced from .aacs, that were compressed from the output of a ten dollar ADC connected to a microphone taken from a 'Barbie's Kiddie Karaoke' machine" stuff floating around; but it looks like the service itself supports perfectly sensible upload options.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hesiod ( 111176 )

          You may not include: email addresses, URLs

          Thanks for quoting that. Can't contain URLs, WTF? You can't promote your band's website on your own album? That's pretty messed up.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        The only other concern here, is what quality of sound is on the CD's. I've never used tunecore, so do you just submit MP3's of your music, or do you submit lossless files, and they convert them to mp3 for you? If this is a CD of mp3's burned to an album, this is the most useless idea ever.

        If the submission is in MP3, it could be LAME at 256 kbps ABR. Have you been able to ABX that against the lossless source?

  • Could this do it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:09AM (#28052329)

    I could legitimately see this as being the beginning of the end for the RIAA, and I've never thought that before. It makes sense that it would take a big media vendor with a well-established user community, combining manufacturing with sales.

    This would be fantastic if I were a musician. No inventory. No worrying about manufacturnig. And you get a percentage of revenue that you won't see anywhere else. The general Amazon community will make marketing a *lot* easier than it would be otherwise. All in all, it seems to make the RIAA meaningless. I really think indie bands might be able to make this work. I'm looking forward to shopping for music on this and know the RIAA ain't getting a dime.

    • by Chlorine Trifluoride ( 1517149 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:10AM (#28052351)
      Of course they still have meaning. We need them to maintain the RIAA equalization standard.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      and no marketing......

      It would be nice if this helps break the RIAA, but I think it unlikely. All this really does is create the ability to cheaply distribute CDs which are a dying medium. Artists already have the ability to self distribute digital copies. So what is the big deal ?

      Producing a quality product that meets a real need at a price that people are willing to pay is only about 30% of success. The other 70% is marketing.

      This service does nothing to help with marketing so there will be a million

      • by Marcika ( 1003625 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:53AM (#28053083)

        Artists already have the ability to self distribute digital copies. So what is the big deal ?

        I think it is a big deal for marketing to have a central platform - nobody would look up an artist's site and key in credit card info etc... unless they know and like the band already. An Amazon "indie" bestseller list, and a centralized storefront gives far more exposure to artists with far less work involved. (Just think of the software equivalent: selling on the iPhone appstore vs. a trying to sell the equivalent application for an equally popular Nokia phone from your own website...)

        As for the marketing bit - the RIAA sponsored artists are also _statistically_ unlikely to succeed unless they are one of the handful that get picked for payola and million-dollar ad budgets... This just makes the non-top-100 album, which was previously pretty much a loss-making proposition for RIAA artists, a viable avenue. And if you look away from M-TV and ClearChannel, there are oodles of niche magazines and subculture sites which could easily push an unknown artist to 2,000 sales - previously not worth the effort, now generating a year's salary.

      • You seriously underestimate that thing "intertubes" ;)
        Just wait for Pandora and such but only for RIAA free music. It will take time, but it will happen. There is a big chance it will even happen with Amazon's blessing, just by checking a box when uploading music "I agree you to use my music for marketing purposes". Amazon get's a big fat cut from selling not RIAA music as they don't need to pay RIAA anymore.

      • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:06AM (#28053247)

        Artists already have the ability to self distribute digital copies. So what is the big deal ?

        Amazon. Now it's being sold through a site (Amazon) that people actually go to, as opposed to some no-name. Another difference is that Amazon has the money to possibly decide "You know what? We want to become the new music cartel, which we will do by actually treating musicians well." If bands get the idea that Amazon could actually market them, that might be more attractive than a label contract. What bands have to do is decide that long-term freedom and profitability are better than the lure of the advance they'll get from the label.

        You're probably right that the CD itself is less important than the distribution, but if this works I expect they'll figure that out.

        We'll see how it plays out, but if they start using their massive data mining capabilities to sell new bands to people the same way they sell new books...seriously, this could get interesting.

  • It's not cheap at first glance, but it couldn't be more obvious that it is cheap, if you take everything involved into account. I'm just a bit afraid of the response from RIAA. They proved time and time again that they start suits with or even without a solid reason, so I guess it won't take long before they will say that this service should be taken down immediately.
    Which would be a shame.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:10AM (#28052347) Homepage

    There are lots of elements used in the "Music Engine." One of those crucial elements is radio play. Another is wide-spread marketing. And still another is hiring girls to scream during performances. (Didn't you know? Get a handful of girls to scream during a performance causes other females to start screaming and they begin to believe they "love" this music and/or the performers. I know this flies in the face of common sense, but it works.)

  • Already been done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Silverlancer ( 786390 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:17AM (#28052471)
    Japanese amateur (doujin) artists have been self-publishing professional-quality albums for years now. No RIAA, no middlemen: they set up a booth at a convention and sell it. And then, afterwards, they sell extra copies from their website. It seems to work well enough: some single fandoms have produced hundreds if not thousands of albums [].

    Isn't it amazing what you can do when you prioritize actually making music [] over trying to get rich?

    And don't think that the Japanese have it easier with regard to music copyright enforcement: the problem is actually so great there that file-traders have been forced to use anonymous P2P systems like Share and Winny.
  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:18AM (#28052491)
    Who's going to feed all of these underprivileged lawyers once they stop being hired to sue students, 10 year old girls and dead grandmothers? Think of the henchmen! Won't somebody pleeeeeeeeeeease think of the henchmen!
  • From TFA (Score:2, Informative)

    by storkus ( 179708 )

    The $31 is per YEAR, basically setting up an account like you would with some of those "work from home" outfits, but for a reasonable price. The TFA states that "all other costs are passed on to the buyer". What those costs work out to I don't know, but if you can sell a stamped CD at $10 and still make a buck or two minimum, then you're not doing bad.

    What I want to know is how a major stamping operation can retool so easily between different CD's that they can still do this economically?

  • Done years ago (Score:5, Informative)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:19AM (#28052515)
    Used to be called

    Aside from that indies have been around forever.

    I've always said that artists who cry about this have options but they're too lazy/too talentless to do it for themselves. Oh well.
  • If you RTFA you see that the 31 dollars is per-year handling of your disc, you set the prices for your prints and get commision based on that... sheesh guys wake up
  • if Apple would do something like this with digital distribution on iTunes, where artists could upload their music and get the same 70/30 split as devs get for iPhone apps. The whole RIAA/ASCAP/BMI paradigm needs a good hard kick in the pants.
  • by atrocious cowpat ( 850512 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:37AM (#28052807)
    From the TuneCore-FAQ []:
    "What format must my artwork be in, in order to upload to TuneCore?
    [...] You may not include: email addresses, URLs, any other contact information or any pricing information."

    Is this a common (or acceptable) limitation?
    • by hesiod ( 111176 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:55AM (#28053115)

      No it's not common, it's BS. You can't promote your band's website on your band's CD? WTF.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rary ( 566291 )

        You can't promote your band's website on your band's CD?

        You can't promote your band's website on the front cover. Think about it: Does iTunes want you to use them as a means of spreading the word about your band to the masses, only to have the album cover image on iTunes direct iTunes shoppers to the band's website where they can buy it for cheaper through something like Nimbus? Not likely.

        Go ahead and put whatever you want inside the CD jacket, though. Who the hell wants their URL on the cover anyway?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Andy_R ( 114137 )

      Actually, that's an iTunes restriction that tunecore are passing on, and it only applies to the front cover artwork of the album.

  • Hey RIAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C_Kode ( 102755 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:37AM (#28052823) Journal

    Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Goodbye.

  • While I'm not myself, a good number of my friends are activly producing music.

    This actually looks brilliant, I will definintly recommending.

  • Ok, here the fixed cost is $31 and you get 40% of the sales.
    What are these values when using RIAA middle man? If there it's also 40% or less of the sales, they got pretty much owned. If you get more % of the sales, then there's a point where it's more profitable to use RIAA than Amazon :).

  • TuneCore is great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kulaid982 ( 704089 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:26AM (#28053529)
    In law school, a bunch of us formed "The Learned Hands" and laid down some tracks. I had seen an ad for TuneCore somewhere on the web, so we uploaded our album for distribution. Sadly, having graduated school, the band no longer exists, but it's cool to say that our original music has been heard in Germany and the UK (Someone streamed "Ten Point Buck" and "Sleepy Hollow").

    My experience with TuneCore was great! The initial costs were very low - I think it's like a dollar per track, and a dollar per online music store. And what do you know, our music is available on iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, eMusic, all over the world! Depending on the vendor, you get one or two cents every time the song is streamed, and for downloads, it's usually 65% or 70% of the purchase price. Uploaded the tracks in FLAC format too, actually, and everything turned out swell.

    This is the type of innovation that is changing the music industry, and I don't think the RIAA knows how to, or even can, keep up.

    1. Record your album in your garage/basement
    2. Upload your tracks to TuneCore for distribution
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

    The problem for my band has been step three, since we no longer officially exist (Singers are in CO and Philly, bassist in VT, and I'm moving to BFE), but we did sell 3 copies on AmazonMP3 and a few tracks on iTunes, plus about $0.76 worth of streaming on Napster and Rhapsody.

    In conclusion, TuneCore allows Joe Sixpack to (sort of) achieve his rockstar dreams, at least in terms of getting the music out there and making it available.
  • This is not entirely true in Europe, where licenses are still restricted by the artist copyright agencies. I've got my music distributed through Tunecore, which is an aggregrator [] and still I am missing a lot of income because my artist rights are not fully defended through exclusive contracts via a private company...

    This is managed by Sabam, our RIAA in Belgium, which demands exclusive contracts like many others in Europe. They demand everything or nothing; which will limit the artist to promote and distribute his music without paying blood money [].

    • IF we sign up (Sabam, really for the common? []):
      1. Our Creative Commons licenses would cost us, artists, creating the works.. money!
      2. Any distribution would cost us money, copy to cd is a minimal license of 150 pieces limited to the cd which you have subscribed for;
      3. Copy to USB key would cost money too with a minimal amount of blood distribution money;
      4. Free licenses wouldn't really be free, because they will collect royalties on the ARTIST NAME (in other words: there is no such thing as free music!);
      5. The artists creations will all belong to this agency, even after death ;)
    • IF we don't sign up: we won't be defended for the music we create, loosing a lot of income which gets paid through Sabam ..
    • Sabam collects royalties on parties anyways, also on Creative Commons works of artists having a contract with them!

    Without our artist agencies backing up true royalty rights of the common artist; Tunecore (or any aggregrator); on-line store or physical sales and sales agreements will limit the artist for full coverage. Billboards, radio rights, artist representation, cd pressing and copyrights are being repressed from the common people as we speak. Children are being limited with their creative ideas [] because Sabam deletes their creations! It has to stop somewhere ....

    By loosening up the copyrights a bit, the artist can choose his own distribution model and domains, while still getting royalty incomes from radio, television and cd-sales; also new artists will have a lot more chance to get on the bandwagon of the media industry. Maybe that's why they are so afraid of it, accepting such model; I don't know...

    I've been writing about this extensively in previous linkings and: Music Industry, Wake up call for alternative licensing! []. A very good read about this from Jam Young [], this article [] (in dutch!) and many more available through google how they operate ...

    In the meantime, I'm still forbidden of using Sabam because I don't want to sign away exclusivity contracts without end or real support towards the artist except limitations ...

  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:00AM (#28054009) Homepage Journal

    While this looks good for low quantities, a lot of people don't like burned CD-Rs which these will probably be (but I'll hold off judgement on that until the service is launched).

    If you are selling 1000CDs, the deal isn't so great. If you go direct to a pressing plant you can get 1000 CDs made for $999. If you match Amazon's $8.98 price, your profit will be $7,899 minus postage costs, which will be zero if you sell at your live gigs, or at most $4,000 if you sell them all through a distributor like CD Baby.

    In comparison the Amazon deal would give you just $3590 profit (with postage paid), but you won't have any stock to sell at gigs or mail out for promotion unless you buy it at retail, you're limited to just the packaging they support (no gatefolds, digipacks, free postcards, signed copies, 2CD sets etc.), and unlike mailing them yourselves, you don't get to build up a mailing list of fan's addresses, which can be invaluable later in your carreer.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.