Shelby Kennedy On How TuneCore Can Level The Playing Field

Shelby Kennedy

Shelby Kennedy

Shelby Kennedy has traversed many segments of the music industry during his career, including stints as a songwriter and publisher, time at performing rights organizations BMI and ASCAP, as well as four years as director of the now-defunct Lyric Street Records. Now his priority is reaching out to the Nashville music industry as the local representative for music services company TuneCore.

Brooklyn-based TuneCore began as a distribution company, and now also offers music publishing, mastering tracks, CD duplication, social media services, monetizing YouTube and Facebook for artists, and distributing music to more than 80 digital stores, including iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. TuneCore also aids artists in getting songs placed in television shows, films and commercials. “We are trying to figure out the services that help someone be as autonomous as they choose to be or have to be,” says Kennedy. “I’m trying to be a liaison to find out what things we need to include, in order to meet the needs of artists, managers and other clients.”

TuneCore’s service model seems to be working. It has more than 1 million registered users, and a team of approximately 50 employees.

What drew you to TuneCore?
There’s not many entities in the digital music space that make you feel warm and fuzzy. I thought, “What artists are not here who need instant presence, acceptance and outreach in their first 30 minutes?,” because that’s what TuneCore would provide. And with TuneCore, I felt this is a solution for what is going on in the industry right now.

As an artist, you can choose the stores you want to be in, the territories you want to be in. It gives artists a lot of choice and a lot of control. They aren’t losing any of their rights, and they aren’t losing any of their sales revenue. That’s a no-brainer for me.

How is the TuneCore model different?
Most distribution companies participate in the artist’s revenue by taking a percentage of it. TuneCore is a subscription model, so you can pay a small fee and have the music out to all the digital outlets around the world. You renew the subscription every year. We don’t take a penny of the sales revenue. None. So if someone’s selling thousands of units, it’s the same at TuneCore as if they sold tens of units. It’s not about riding the backs of the artists and labels. To me, that’s awesome. TuneCore’s mission statement is to provide equal access that’s an affordable price to the channels of music distribution.

If you do a single it’s $9.99 for a single song. Next year, when you renew it’s the same price. As soon as you don’t renew, the songs come out of the stores—Spotify, iTunes, all of them. If it were an album, it would be $29.99. Every year, it’s $50 to keep it there. But every penny of revenue goes to the artist.

Who else is using TuneCore?
Publishers are starting to use this and that’s what I’m having fun with. Publishers are starting to realize it’s a tool to develop and break new acts. Exhibit A would be Logan Mize and Big Yellow Dog. They sold around 80,000 of the single and Arista now snagged him. AristoMedia uses it, and management company Red Light is going to do a couple of things. It’s like everybody’s empowered now to not sit and wait for somebody to pick him or her to come play in the superdome, if you will. Everybody is in the stadium. They can play the game.

How does TuneCore help level the playing field for aspiring artists?
Some of the biggest acts that we have in the industry, every label passed on them with the exception of one. That’s how it’s gone, and as we’ve consolidated down to a few labels, those labels are not there to be the one. They rely more on very predictable artists. I’m thinking that’s where TuneCore can help. There’s so much talent that doesn’t get into the “predictables” category. That’s the stuff that really changes our industry, and we need to figure out what gets these artists launched. That’s purpose for our industry as a whole.

We know music is the creative part of the industry, but we’ve entered the time where the business part has to be just as creative as the music. If you’ve got a toolbox, the process of choosing the right mix of tools to use is extremely creative, but I want all the tools I can possibly get, just to have the choice to use the ones I want to use.

What is your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is that digital space is static. People don’t know what TuneCore does, versus a Grooveshark or Songza or other tech spaces. So right now for me, awareness is job number one.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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