TuneCore CEO Andreea Gleeson has mapped out her plans to grow the DIY music specialist's disruptive influence even further in a new interview with Music Week.
The independent digital music distributor, which is a division of Believe, disclosed last year that its artists have earned in excess of $3 billion since the company’s inception in 2006, achieving a combined 500 billion streams and 700 million downloads in that time, boosted by direct deals with all the DSPs.
Gleeson joined TuneCore in 2015, rising to CEO in 2021, and was named International Woman Of The Year at the 2022 Music Week Women In Music Awards.
Speaking in the latest issue of Music Week, Gleeson gave an overview of the company's ambitions.
“Our goal is to have zero artists at zero streams," she said. "We don’t want a bunch of artists that are releasing through us and not growing and driving success. Our number one focus is: ‘Are we actually helping artists grow?’ Are they making that step from zero streams to 1,000? And from 1,000 to 2,000, and 2,000 to 200,000? How are we helping them do that? That is how we measure our KPIs."
We are doubling down on things that are going to simplify our artists’ lives, help them make more money and build their business at scale
“Ultimately, if I had to summarise our three areas of focus this year, they would be helping our artists become better known, helping them make better music and making their lives easier," she continued. "We are doubling down on things that are going to simplify our artists’ lives, help them make more money and build their business at scale.”
Gleeson, who initiated key strategic partnerships with YouTube, Facebook and Spotify, spearheaded the introduction of a new pricing plan last year called Unlimited, which gives artists at any stage of their career control to release an unlimited number of tracks, singles and albums for one flat annual price.
TuneCore went on to roll out Social Platforms - a new service for artists to distribute music directly to social platforms, enabling them to target platforms such as TikTok with new music ahead of wider distribution to DSPs and download stores.
Then, this March, it introduced royalty splits for self-releasing artists to facilitate “seamless collaboration between music creators”. Gleeson described the services as the three "cornerstones" of the business.
"Social Platforms, where artists can distribute for free to the social media platforms before they release to all the main streaming and download platforms, happened because we were seeing artists tease their music on social media before they were releasing it," she said.
"The reason we went to Unlimited was because we saw the artists that were successful were releasing consistently and frequently. The algorithms reward that, but paying for each release was deterring people. And then with Splits, we want to encourage collaboration because it helps artists cross-pollinate their audiences and can also help get capital. Let’s pretend you don’t have the money upfront to pay that producer to help you with your songs, why not give them a split? That way, they’re invested in it with you.”
Now that we have these three cornerstones, we are building things that don’t exist in the market
Gleeson added that the new features had seen "very early adoption", and had instantly found favour with clients.
"Our growth has been fantastic and our financial results are showing that," she said. "The [number of] artists using us since we launched Unlimited has grown exponentially. Likewise, since we launched Splits, it’s brought new users to TuneCore but has also reactivated some artists and labels that were formerly using us. Now that we have these three cornerstones, we are building things that don’t exist in the market.”
Self-releasing artist Lauren Spencer-Smith, scored a Top 5 single in partnership with TuneCore in early 2023 with the TikTok hit Fingers Crossed (535,531 sales, Official Charts Company) peaked at No.4, and the company made waves in early 2023 with the surprise appointment of Papoose as its new head of hip-hop.
According to a press release, the legendary rapper will “lead the company’s Artist Ambassador programme for hip-hop and rap, scouting rising talents on behalf of TuneCore, overseeing artist education and career advice workshops, and acting as a brand advisor for TuneCore’s new programs and innovative technology launches”.
Describing Papoose as "incredible", Gleeson elaborated on his suitability for the role.
"If we’re so zeroed in on artists’ success, I need to have artists in my executive team," she said. "I need that visibility and understanding because we’re looking at it more from a, ‘This is what we think artists need, and this is what we’re seeing through data,’ [perspective], but you need that more anecdotal perspective of someone who’s sat in that seat.
"He’s somebody who was on a label deal and more recently, he’s been creating and releasing independently. In 2021, he released one album a month for a year, so he was a good person to put as the face of our Unlimited campaign! He’s the poster child. He works with really big artists like Lil Wayne and Fat Joe. Hip-hop has its own ecosystem and needs, so it was very important to bring in somebody who understands what it takes to be an artist, but also understands the community.”
TuneCore also recently renewed its agreement with independent UK publishing platform Sentric, expanding services to offer songwriters more flexibility and a new publishing interface. Believe acquired Sentric in March as its first move into building a digital-first music publishing business.
"We’ve had a publishing business since 2012 and have paid out over $100 million in that timeframe – 80% of that since we launched a joint venture with Sentric – and we really are leaning into modernisation," said Gleeson. "Right now, about 23% of TuneCore distribution clients are also using publishing administration, but we think that can be higher and there is money being left on the table. I think that us building simplicity around publishing will be huge.”
Subscribers can read the full Music Week Interview with Gleeson here.