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“In a digital world there’s no up-front cost to have infinite inventory that replicates itself on demand as a perfect digital copy and it only does that after it’s been authorized to do so, which is usually with a purchase. It has really been a shift from having infrastructure and access to distribution to just having access to distribution.” -Jeff Price

My friend Charlie McEnerney recently interviewed Jeff Price of Tunecore. Here is an excerpt. Listen to the complete interview here.

“As anyone who buys music knows, the way we are finding it and buying it has changed radically over the last 15 years.

For musicians, it used to be that if you wanted someone to release your music, you’d have to get the attention and approval of an artist and repertoire (or A&R person) at a label, work to sign a deal either big or small so that the label would then press up your product and work with distributors to get your vinyl or 8-track or cassette or CD to ship them out to record stores where the music fan could have access to them.

Now, all you have to do it is get some audio files online and instantly be able to have your music available to the current online global audience of 1.5 billion people, which is still just about 23% of the world’s population, so the potential for reaching new audiences continues to grow. As mobile devices get smarter, it’s inevitable that consumers will be downloading more music and playing it without a desktop or laptop computer even being involved, too.

As a result of the rise of digital download stores such as iTunes and Amazon mp3, the need has come for new companies to aggregate songs and distribute them out to all these growing online stores.

That’s where TuneCore comes in.

After SpinArt, Price went on to work with eMusic.com, first as a consultant, then as interim VP of Content Acquisition, and finally as the Senior Director of Music/Business Development. He contributed towards the creation of eMusic’s initial business model and created and implemented the first subscription-based music sales and distribution structure.

In 2005 Price started TuneCore, which is an aggregator which helps get digital music into online stores such as iTunes, Amazon mp3, eMusic, Rhapsody, Napster, Amie Street, Groupie Tunes, ShockHound.com, and lala.

TuneCore has also been in the news in recent months as some very mainstream acts have used the service to get their music direct to consumers, including Nine Inch Nails and Paul Westerberg. Just a few weeks back, it was announced that Aretha Franklin would be using TuneCore to distribute her version of My Country Tis Thee that she performed at the Obama inauguration.

TuneCore’s competitors are services such as IODA, The Orchard, and CD Baby and I discuss with Price about what makes TuneCore different from these services.

This episode includes music from a variety of independent music that has been submitted to be for Well-Rounded Radio.

Listen to the interview here along with some great new music.

(Friday Feb 6th, 2009) the digital distributor to college campuses Rukus shuttered its doors with this notice: “Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thank you,” That means lights out for a number of colleges, universities and students who had signed up for “free” ad supported music.

Ruckus, first hatched in 2003, was acquired by TotalMusic, a collaboration between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

TotalMusic itself (reported on here in 2008) is also now being shuttered, at least according to details shared by Vice President of Product Management Jason Herskowitz in Digital Music News.

“I regret that we didn’t get to show you guys more about what we built – but in these extremely hard economic times it’s hard to blame them for pulling the plug on a still-highly-speculative offering,” Herskowitz offered. “I only hope that someone else figures out how to crack this music-on-the-web nut in a way that is a win for everyone in the value chain,” Herskowitz continued. “The problem is that to make a music service a win for everyone, all of the famished participants have to sit at the table – and be content to let all the others have a little bit to eat, even though they are still hungry themselves.”

It is clear that protected music locked up in a highly controlled service is just simply not what the consumers want anymore, if ever. Continued pursuit of a rights-managed solution that attempts to preserve the status-quo of copyright holders controlling the distribution of music is futile. No more money needs to be wasted on looking backwards.

Instead, lets all come together and help to create systems that embrace frictionless distribution of music and respect the desire of the music consumer to select what they want to listen to. If we make it easy for them to find what they want, more will come. If we make it cheap enough so that the music appears to be free, move will come. If we make it possible for people to spread the word on a new service that suits their needs, more will come. We need to look forward, not backwards and admit that the old game is over and a new game has begun.

I met with Derek Sivers this past weekend (founder of CD-Baby) and asked him what he thought about the recorded music business and the decline in CD sales. He said “well I’m not quite sure what you mean Dave, as sales of indie music at CD Baby have increase at least 30% in 2008 over 2007.” What CD Baby does is provide a way for indie artists to sell their music online in CD form, to sell their music online in digital form and to provide distribution for artists who had none. Many of these artists are thriving now because Derek was willing to think different.

TuneCore is another service that lets artists put their music online for distribution through iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, eMusic and other services for a small up-front fee. This is a radical business model that looks forward, not backward, and pushes indies artists ahead on their journey.

New companies such as Lala, iLike, TopSpin, ReverbNation, SonicBids, Nimbit and many, many others are taking radical new approaches to indie artist promotion and distribution that will change the way that the music business functions. Connecting artists directly with their fans in a meaningful way that respects that relationship and lets it thrive is the way of the future.

Artists need to band together to assemble the knowledge and power that is required to propel them into the future. Watch this space for much more on this subject in the coming months. It is time for a revolution in thinking about music commerce and sustainable models for artists and their fans to connect and engage and prosper and interact. This is what the future of music is all about.