Digital Music Distribution – Simple?

I have another new album coming out and normally I would use Tunecore for my digital distribution. I have for all but one of my releases. I used CD Baby for my 2nd album to try something different.

But Tunecore’s recent 150% price hike on all new and existing album distribution has got me looking around at what others have to offer.

A Little Background

I wrote, recorded and produced a song a week for a year. During that year I released some download-only EPs. The at the end of the year I released an album with 13 of the best songs of the week. I also got some songs placed on TV that were neither on EPs or the album so I released them as singles.

So now I have 3 EPs and 4 singles from that project. At $49.99 per album (even a 4 song EP) and $29.99 per single, that’s a lot of money to pay every year for just over an album’s worth of songs. So I had to have a think.

Then, after being asked about releasing more of the songs of the week, I decided to take the best songs from the EPs, the singles and some never released songs, remix, rerecord and master them for Song of the Week 2. So 7 releases become one.

So that is why I started examining where to go for my distribution.

Tunecore’s Price Hike

My problem with Tuncore isn’t that is costs $49.99 per year to put up an new album. I think the price is reasonable for a new album. My problem is the price hike on existing albums. Albums that, over time, are likely to get less sales as the years progress. Albums, where the work to put them up has already been done. Albums that cost around a just a couple of dollars a year to host. It’s not is if we are allowed to modify or upgrade anything about the albums, yet they are costing us more.

They added new features like trending and widgets and bundled them together with the distribution but it feels a bit like they are saying “here’s a bunch of stuff you didn’t ask for, now you owe us more money”.

So the quandary for indie artists is that to take our business elsewhere means losing those precious stars, comments and ‘others that bought this bought…’. We need all the attention we can get.

By all means put up your prices for new business but don’t penalize old customers for something they can’t do anything about.

Attitude problem

And then there’s the attitude to those who were not overjoyed at the price hikes. I think they took take offence to the statement by CEO Jeff Price – “So we just said screw it, simpler is better”…  “Let’s give Tunecore customers all the things they asked for and not charge them for each and every new feature.” (from Digital Music News)

Simpler for Tunecore. I think customers would always prefer to chose what they are paying for. I have a feeling they paid for the development of these features and found that people weren’t as interested as they thought, so, as I said earlier, they have bundled them… for who’s convenience?


But enough bitching. I still have the problem of who to distribute through. There seems to be 2 basic options. Pay a fee each year but pay no percentage of sales (Tunecore, Reverbnation) or pay a one time fee and pay a percentage of sales (around 10%) (CD Baby, Indie Pool). I did a little research and came up with this chart so I could see a comparison between many companies now offering music digital distribution. It’s not pretty but it’s as simple as I could make it. (click on the image to see in detail).

The Indie Artist Dilemma

Now if you’re a well known artist it’s a no brainer. Selling a lot means that you are way better off with paying the yearly fee and keeping all the sales. But for less well known indie artists then it’s a gamble. Especially if you have a lot of CDs out there. It adds up. But if I get a song on a TV show, which happens from time to time, then my potential sales make it worth paying the yearly fee. If not then which is my best bet.

What’s Next?

I totally get that it’s all business. I do. And if this was my first album I would most likely go with Tunecore. They have a great website, make it easy to get your albums on iTunes quickly and your money from sales is easy to withdraw. But I have a bad taste in my mouth and I think that there is one simple thing Tunecore could do to keep the indie artists happy, if they really want to… and Tunecore are all about keeping things simple, right?

Leave existing albums at the yearly price that they were originally signed up for. Simple and fair. Those albums require no more work, only the storage cost.

For this new album, Tunecore may still be my best option. I would be interested in other’s thought on this.

To Loop Or Not To Loop?

Hello… I need your help. And please be honest! 🙂

As some of you know, I have a looper – a Boss Loop Station RC50 for the more tech-minded of you out there.

I do love my looper but I am also scared of it… a little. It’s like learning a whole new instrument and then some. However, I do feel the need to master it!

My quandary is, do I use it at important gigs… like the showcase I am about to do at Pacific Contact or when I go the Knoxville for We R Indie, or NY? Does it add or take away from the performance?

I am really interested to hear from others that use a looper and from those who have an opinion my own looping abilities. When I play without it I can just relax and sing. But the looper does add texture and variety, however, is it too much of a distraction?

I have put together a looper video from a concert I did last night with the lovely Hayley Sales. I need to know, does it add enough to put the extra work in to really make it work?

The video is at this LINK.

NEW Website is done!

So, after not too much bugging the husband… I have a new website and I love it!

Between the lovely photos (McKinnon Photography) and my very clever husband, I have a colourful website where the pics re size with the window. It is such a nice way to show off Karen’s skills and my ability to look broody…

I hope I have made it easier to listen/buy/look around etc and hope there aren’t any errors, although that is doubtful after my typo fiasco!

I hope you like it and thanks again Karen!

Going Loopy!

Three weeks ago my new Boss Loop Station RC-50 arrived complete with a bible-sized instruction book. As you probably know, blondes and instruction manuals just don’t mix well so I went to Youtube and found a vid that saved me hours of reading!

The timing is perfect for this new learning curve. My Song of the Week is done, the chosen songs for the CD are being mastered and I have time on my hands for something new.

This is like learning a new instrument and separating your left and right brain at the same time (or driving a car with 6 clutches…). I have had to take my songs apart and put them back together again in a way that really utilizes this machine.

I have decided to use the multi play mode, which restricts me from switching between verse and chorus, but allows me to be way more creative with layering. And those restrictions can sometimes produce and unexpected surprise in the song.

So last night I took my looper for a test drive at a local jam run by very patient people Judy and Bruce Wing. It was very different trying to perform using the looper rather than using it at home. And didn’t help that they were a raucous, but lovely crowd. Trying engage with a crowd while looking down for the correct pedal at a precise moment lead to lots of laughter!

But I got through it, go some great feedback am ready do it again tomorrow. Like with all new things, just keep doing it until it gets easy… could take a while 🙂


I joined Taxi just over a year ago. The news of my new membership was met with some disdain from other musicians and words like ‘rip-off’ and ‘wasted money’ were bandied around.

At the time a lot of my friends had decided to go back to school to be nurses/therapists/rocket scientists etc. My youngest was now in school full time and knew that this was time for career decisions – I had already had a 20 year career in comedy and it was time for a change. I just didn’t feel funny anymore, ask my friends!

What caught my attention about Taxi was an email I received from them with the story of an artist who spoke about how hard work and perseverance, along with listening to Taxi’s critiques had brought him success. This really struck a chord with me. I am from the school of “if you work really hard at it you get good at it”. And I wanted to get really good at writing songs.

So I looked at Taxi and decided that it was WAY cheaper than going back to school. I already knew that writing and singing were the two things that I was really passionate about, I got the ok from the bread-winner in the house and I went for it. 

So as soon as the kids left in the morning I worked solidly until I had to pick them up – I LOVED every minute of it. The first critiques I got were nice enough, but very fair and I had lots of work to do. I had started out wanting to write for others but what I quickly gleaned from the critiques was that it was my voice that stood out from the songs. (I discovered that writing Country was SO not my thing!)

The critiques gradually led me to write in a way that I had never written before, simple, quirky pop songs. And what was weird was that I was finally writing the music that I actually listen to. Now I was getting critiques I could be proud of. Here is a recent one from a Taxi forward.

“Helen – Put quite simply, I love your stuff. It sounds extremely distinctive, in part because of the charismatic vocal performances, but also because of the way in which you’ve chosen to illustrate the arrangements. In terms of melody, the songs are simply irresistible. After hearing just one verse and chorus it feels as if I’ve known the songs my entire life. I am more than pleased to forward both of these wonderful songs for this listing, and I look forward to hearing more of your material in the future.”

After gradually getting more and more forwards I have just signed 2 publishing agreements.

The money I have spent on Taxi has been invaluable because it has shown me that I know what I want to do and that I am capable of doing it.

How do you grade yourself?

I have been spending some time on and finding out some interesting things about my own music.

Broadjam isn’t just a site to pitch music and enter contests, it is a site where peers can review each other’s music as well.

So I dug in a started reviewing some music (you have to review others to get your own music reviewed). You have to grade things like arrangement, vocals, lyrics from 1 – 5 and then substantiate your marks with positive and constructive comments.

When you start to pick apart other artist’s music it makes you look at your own music. One of the main constructive comments I have given is that a lot of the music needs more dynamic variety and, in giving this advice, I had to step back and look at my own music in the same way.

So I have started reviewing my own music in the same way. Not a comfortable thing to do but, I think, a necessity.

Valuable Lesson #1

When I first joined twitter I was unsure of what use it would have and then I read a day changing bit of info (which I think came from artistshouse, who are a must to follow if you are an independent musician):

“Be interesting and interested”

I had to ask myself… ‘am I either’….hmm, interesting question. So I started with the ‘interested’ part.

As an artist it is sometimes easy to get stuck up one’s own bum, but once you pull your head out and look around for interesting things it’s amazing what you find and, by becoming interested, I found that I had become interesting (if RTs and #followfridays are any indication).

So once I had become interested (and met some interesting people along the way) I felt much more comfortable about putting my interesting stuff out there.