Ok, that does it. I have to write a post about this whole Tunecore / Universal partnership-thingy that has been going on since the release of the official news last Thursday. For those of you who aren’t aware of this historical event, here’s a quick summary.
Tunecore= low-fee digital distribution platform for bands, that places their music on sites like iTunes, eMusic, Amazone and others. Tunecore launched in 2006 and since then has become one of the most prominent and active digital distribution models out there.
Universal=largest behemoth record label on the planet. Is known to engulf record labels, and many other things.
Since July 9th, Tunecore+Universal=first ever partnership where a major record label offers services instead of offering contracts to indie artists (that I know of).
Since my synopsis might have been unclear, I’ll let Jeff Price, CEO of Tunecore, explain: “In a nutshell, in addition to regular old TuneCore.com, we will also be hosting and serving websites for Universal labels that provide artists distribution while taking none of the artists rights or revenues. At these label portal sites, you not only get distribution but also extra things from each label. We do not yet know what the “extra things” are as each label will be creating their own. These extra things could be musician services, marketing, promotion, information, opportunities etc.“
Here’s also an extract of the Ars Technica review on the matter (recommended read): “any artist (big or small) can sell music through iTunes and Amazon for $9.99 already with the help of TuneCore, but now artists can choose to “sign themselves” to one of UMG’s labels—assuming the label is agreeable—for more marketing and distribution opportunities for a separate flat (and affordable) fee. [...] Each label within UMG will have its own package of offered services, providing many different choices for the discerning musician. Price said that the individual labels will set up portal sites that will outline what they can do for artists, like finding a similar band to open for you at your next show. “The labels are going to do this without pre-signing or tying down the artist,” (first services should open-up around October 2009)
So now artists have the possibility of signing themselves to a major record label. Historical indeed.
Actually UMG and Tunecore have been in partnership since last year – Tunecore bands have the possibility of ordering mastering sessions from Universal’s studios for only $50 a song. Forum discussion confirmed that the quality was pretty amazing for the price. But this new deal is something else. What does it all amount to for both the artists and UMG’s labels? Well I haven’t been able to find the catch yet and I find myself seduced by the greatness of the initiative.
Is this the model the established record industry needs to follow? Outsourcing its services and know-how to the indie market? Artist can now be DIY and DBSE (done by someone else), keep their rights, and have a steady foot in the door of big time players’ facilities and services. From Universal’s standpoint, such a deal amounts to one big A&R operation without the hassle of actually sending out scouts. If there is no blatant catch here, Tunecore artists will be working side-by-side with a major engaging in a healthy B2B fashion. Really sounds like a win-win.
So seriously, what’s the catch? Is there a possibility that there might be no catch? I have been so brainwashed and accustomed to pointing fingers at major labels that I feel there must be one. As cited above, this might be one the solutions we all need right now, because even in the event where a consolidated band gets approached by UMG to sign whatever sort of contract via this system, I have a tendency to think that the whole process would be different, that the exploitation could come to a halt. Why? Well for different reasons, and for me the most obvious one would be because otherwise this whole new relationship UMG will be developing with the indies would crumble. They would get smacked by music communities in not time if they were to abuse their rights. And they know it’s time for a change.
Although this is still business and not some care bear inspired scenario, and although all of this might only be wishful thinking, such a deal has the potential of re-instating mutual trust between majors, unsigned bands and the public, and this might as well lead to music of a more experimental nature to reach a new, long lost level of popularity and properity, since it will be the artists themselves that will intiate the financial risks.
So catch, or no catch?