The Hot Seat: Jeff Price

Published  in The Music Network


Jeff Price is full of enthusiasm. The former spinART Records president just oozes it. It’s the stuff of people who are on a mission to change the world. And that’s precisely what this 42-year-old executive is trying to do. Back in January 2006, Price and two colleagues established the digital distribution service TuneCore. For a flat fee, the N.Y.-based venture will take an independent artist’s music and land it on the likes of iTunes, eMusic, Amazon MP3 and Napster. And the copyright owner takes all profits from the music sales. “It literally democratised the industry,” Price reckons. In the past 22 months, Tunecore has facilitated more than US$42 million in music sales. Price will share his enthusiasm with the Australian music community when he delivers a keynote speech at the August 20-22 AustralAsian Music Business Conference in Sydney.


Why does the world need TuneCore?

The gatekeepers who have popped up call themselves digital distributors, and they go by the nickname aggregators. They worked under the old business model but in the new world. When a record ships, the physical distributor takes a percentage of the money that the store pays for the CD, because they earned it. If a retailer buys it for $10, the distributor would take 25% of that, the band would get the $1.50 they do here and the rest goes to the label. In the digital world, they were doing the same thing. But all they’re doing is moving a file from point “a” to “b,” so why in the world should they get unlimited amount of revenue from the sale of music? That was the original crumb that got TuneCore going. Let’s create something where anybody could go, there was an upfront flat fee, and let people be their own record label.


Conventional wisdom has it that the only money these days is to be made from live performance, and releasing records is just a labour of love.

“That’s just wrong. A couple of million dollars went out last month to TuneCore artists and it’s not chump change. Its US$20,000 here, US$50,000 there. We have Australian bands who don’t tour here, do not do any traditional marketing here, and they sell music and they’re walking away with thousands of dollars. There are literally thousands upon thousands of artists that make tens of thousands of dollars on a quarterly basis. You’re getting a rising middle class of musicians. It used to be that you were all the way to the left where you were eking by, or all the way to the right where you’re multi-platinum. I’m watching on a daily basis artists generating thousands, something tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue just by uploading a song.


The naysayers reckon CDs are dead? Is there life left in the disc?

“I don’t think a physical medium delivering music will ever go away, but the marketshare it has will significantly reduce. In the U.S. the writing is on the wall. We have very few national chains left (that sell music). There’s limited shelf space. Next year, as bad as it’s gotten this year, there will be a significant drop in retail space available for physical CDs and I believe the majority of music will be consumed digitally. I think it already is, just there’s no metric to measure it.”


What do you make of the Australian music scene?

“From an American perspective, the Aussies are cool and the music is great. A friend of mine in college came back from Australia where he spent a semester abroad and introduced me to a band called TISM. Some of their tracks from “Great TruckinSongs of the Renaissance” made it onto my college radio show. I then ended up releasing You Am I on spinART records. I don’t think anybody can quite list of a huge number of fans, but you get the association that it is really fucking cool.”