The New Music Thieves: Stealing from Artists

There's a lot of new fraud out there hurting artists, and it’s our job to let you know about it.

We're lucky. Back in 2005, we built something game-changing, turning the music industry on its head by removing all gatekeepers and allowing every artist to have access to distribution while keeping their rights and getting all the money form the sale of their music.

But when you change the game, you encounter new kinds of scam artists and cheaters: with new technology and new business models come new thieves and new kinds of fraud. These are people who'd do anything to make at buck, no matter who or what they might damage. So here's a heads-up:

Stealing Someone Else's Song

From time to time, someone will knowingly steal someone else’s song and try sell it and pass it off as their own. I do mean stealing: if you want to give away your music, that’s fine, you have the right to do anything you want with music you control. But you should have the choice, and no one should be able to make that choice for you, either ahead of time or after the fact. 

For example, we had a customer steal someone else’s song, sell it on iTunes and not pay the person who wrote it. iTunes then got a legal notice from the songwriter, they in turn sent TuneCore a legal notice claiming copyright infringement (under the law, TuneCore can now be fined up to $150,000 per willful infringement).

Once this happened, we had to hire our lawyer at hundreds of dollars an hour to respond. This person paid TuneCore $9.99 and then stole another person's song, used it and did not pay them, but told TuneCore he did. We did call him to let him know what someone else was accusing him of and to defend him if necessary. He stated he knew he stole the song and demanded that TuneCore send him money or he would write articles and blog postings attacking TuneCore’s credibility (making it more insane was the fact that we did not have this money to give him, it had already gone to the actual songwriter whose work he stole). To top all this off, it became possible for TuneCore to get sued. 

In addition to these legal problems, threats and costs, there is also the damage done by this person with iTunes. We had to call up Apple and try to repair things, as this one person's actions might have screwed everything up for all other TuneCore customers.

True to his word (at least he is honest about one thing), this person began posting articles on the Internet accusing TuneCore of anything he could think of.

Frankly, it’s our job to deal with this kind of ridiculousness, but his actions also put iTunes, TuneCore and every TuneCore artist and label in jeopardy. 

Here’s what’s troubling: it’s not about a new-age techno-bully’s attempts to shakedown TuneCore. It’s about the damage being done to other artists whose work is being stolen. Songwriters and artists work hard, and yet they have to contend with RIAA board members calling their music “crap” and claiming they should not be allowed to have distribution. The last thing they should have to worry about is others stealing their song to make a quick buck.

To anyone stealing, we ask, why cheat the artist? Don’t they have it hard enough out there? If you thought their work was good enough and important enough to use, why steal?

There’s nothing wrong with using other peoples’ work, there’s dozens of ways to use it fairly. Wouldn’t you want someone to pay you for your work, if they used it? Artists are not the enemy. They’re trying to look out for themselves in a very complicated industry, they need help from their fellow artists and from their digital distributor.

The idea is to arm everyone with the knowledge that enables artists to make informed decisions, control their rights, make money and pursue their passions on their own terms. That’s why we created so many free guides, or our Ustream video broadcasts:  and our most recent Free .PDF, How Not To Get Screwed – The Six Legal Rights That Drive The Music Industry. These are free for anyone, even those who decide not to use TuneCore.

If someone stole your music, you bet we’d be there to make sure you got your money. And if it ever happened to you, we’d be there for you. If someone reaches out to TuneCore artist and accuses one of our artists of stealing, we’re going to notify you, fast. We’re going to help you reach out to this other party and find out what’s going on. This is the kind of honesty and protection artists deserve.

If It’s Too Good to be True, It Is!

Sometimes scammers use fraudulent credit cards to buy gift cards, and then they try to sell those cards to unsuspecting artists. Please, be careful!

If someone is trying to sell you an iTunes, AmazonMP3 or any other store’s gift cards or gift certificates of any kind below cost, it might be a scam, watch out. Even if you legitimately buy a gift card, Apple may see the purchases as fraudulent and not pay out any money from these sales. Things to look for: asking for cash, super low prices (like, five cents on the dollar), and using semi-anonymous selling venues (Craigslist and its clones)

So to fraudsters, scammers, thieves and others like them, if they want to reach out to TuneCore or our artists and make good, they can write us, we here, and we've always been here.

If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to us, we’re here and can get you pointed in the right direction or provide information.

It pains us when people stick their heads in the sand, lash out at TuneCore because they don’t want to face the consequences of their actions. They’re hurting artists, making it even harder for us to keep helping, keep opening doors, and keep changing this industry for the good.

In the meantime, here’s a great list of free resources:


U.S. Based Performance Rights Organizations





Where To Register To Collect Digital Transmission Money



Where To Register Your Copyrights

United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress:


Where To Get More Information

ArtistHouse Music:

Future Of Music:

Other TuneCore Music Industry Survival Guides:


Find Us Online

TuneCore’s Twitter account:

TuneCore on Facebook:

TuneCore's YouTube Channel:


–Peter & Jeff


Reach us at:



  • Wingy_Tunes

    I’m glad to read this, I have noticed a lot of bad words and posts on twitter, and read blogs, about Tunecore running away with money.
    I rarely fall for those things but after a while I was looking around to see if it was the truth or not.
    I am glad to see a post about this and you guys explaining freud in these businesses.
    Also I was glad to have found out about the recent happenings, that the poster and all the bad mouthing about Tunecore was of artists who misunderstood facts of copyright.
    I really hope things get sorted properly, and I am grateful to be a tunecore costumer.
    Us artists would be nowhere with companies as you! Keep up the good work.
    Wingy ~

  • TuneCore

    Thanks, Wingy. Misunderstanding copyright is a problem, because some one winds up paying the price for theft, and far too often it’s the artist. If it’s done by mistake, okay, it’s hardly great news, but anything is fixable.
    But some people would rather lash out blindly than realize what they’ve done. And some, who know they’ve done wrong, lash out when caught. Either way, we’re here to protect the artists. It’s only natural–artists are our customers, why shouldn’t we help? Heck, just about everyone who works at TuneCore is a musician, we’ve all been there.
    For the record: whatever anyone might say, we never keep any artists money. Everything goes to the artist, the the owner of the rights. We have to account for every single penny, and that’s a good thing.

    • deborah wilson

      Hello Peter at tunecore.

      I am about to release my very first single.  I am my copyright registration number only.  I did not get my certificate as of yet.  As you know it takes a long time to get your certificate.  Can i load my music now or should i wait until i get my certificate.

      • Peter Wells

        Yes, Deborah, you’re completely free to begin now. Welcome aboard!


        • Jason

          Yeah but you won’t get any money without the certificate right Peter or whatever your name is? Oh and when you get locked out of your account but you keep collecting the money that’s also not a big deal because it’s one happy family huh? Thanks but no thanks.

          • Anonymous


            not sure what you are saying, but yes, if you steal someone else’s song then the money goes to the person you stole from, not you and not TuneCore
            You write: “One big happy family?”

            Let me get this straight, you steal from someone, you tell TuneCore you did not, we believe you, we distribute your music, then TuneCore gets a legal letter from a lawyer saying we are stealing from their client and a phone call from Apple saying the same thing. Then we have to pay our lawyer to respond. Then I have to call up Apple and apologize. Then we are required by law to pay any money earned from the sale of the song you stole to the artist you stole from.
            And you’re angry that we call you and say; “This person says you stole their song, can you please let us know if they are wrong. If they are, can you please send us a copy of the license you got to use their song”
            In the meantime, we absorb the legal costs of our lawyer, have to deal with pissing off Apple and hope to god TuneCore does not get sued because you stole?
            And then, to make matters worse, you start making blog postings stating we are a “big happy family” and suggest we “keep collecting money”?!
            You steal, threaten the livelihood of my company, piss off Apple, costs us hundreds of dollars in legal fees and potentially ruin things for every other musician that uses TuneCore and get angry at us?

          • Anonymous


            and let me add one more thing.

            Did you ever bother to ask us to help you? We will. If you called and said you did not mean to steal from another artist and asked you to clear this up, we would
            But you didn’t. Instead you posted this blog posting.


  •!/pages/SlipDisk-Entertainment/217719939122 Dj Kru

    Thank you so much for posting this, this is def a good heads up to the artists to be even more cautious in this age of digital piracy.
    TuneCore always is helping out the ARTIST, I can’t believe someone had something bad to say about it…
    Dj Kru

  • Don Shetterly

    Thank you for posting this guys. Amazing.. eye shocking.. Glad you’re there watching out. Amazing that people just don’t realize what a copyright means or that the proper thing to do is respect other’s work.

  • Stone E

    Good to read this from you.

  • A grateful Tunecore member

    Tunecore rocks.
    Sorry to hear you’ve been going through this.
    Hang in there, we’re with you.

  • Tam walker

    Sorry to hear you have had to deal with this! I had a great experience with TuneCore and think it’s amazing that we artists are able to take distribution into our own hands via yourselves!

  • Falik

    An individual stealing a song is heinous, but at least it’s out in the “open”. Companies steal, too, and hide behind contracts.
    Digital Distribution

  • Evan

    TuneCore has been nothing but awesome to me. I’ve referred them to everyone I know making music. They’re FAR from criminal. If anything, they’re one of the few white lights of the music industry.


    Thanks. I know of someone claiming that she wrote songs when she merely contributed vocals. By law, she has mechanical license rights to post those songs anywhere she wants and not give credit to the original song writer.
    If you have any insight how to prevent this person from using these songs on any site, it would be most appreciated.

  • Rob Mazurek

    Jeff, I hope you guys charge that idiot for “Exortion” as he was clearly trying to blackmail tunecore to extort money from you. I believe thats a “Felony” offence.
    Guys like that deserve no mercy and should feel the full extent of the law due to their own stupidity and greed.
    I hope Tunecore and your lawyers pursue these charges and financial damages against this idiot for legal fees and other compensation for damages (as he clearly potentially jeapordized tunecores relationship with Apple) incurred because of his actions.

  • TuneCore

    Ignorance is the real problem in this industry–has been for more than a century. People need not only to know how the business works, but their rights, how to use them, and their responsibilities, too. You’re absolutely right.

  • TuneCore

    It’s true, Rob, these are serious problems. But my impulse, always, is to fight fire with education. That is, let this be yet another example of why it’s vital we help our clients (and the world) understand their rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Ounce of prevention…

  • Red Joe

    Thanks for the info and support!

  • Nathan

    What a big cry baby. That’s like someone robbing a bank and demanding the bank to not call the cops after he leaves with the money. Then threatening the bank that he will write bad things about them afterward!
    Some people these days….. tisk tisk
    Tunecore is the best and tries very hard to keep things like this from happening yet somehow people manage to not go over the very explicit laws.

  • Borges Szforza

    Hi guys, The other day I was listening to a very old Brazilian album and found that the first 16 seconds of the song is the basis of a whole song by Jimmy Buffet Pirate Looks At 40 that is covered by Jack Jhonson (Nothing against Jack J.) . And I mean it’s exactly the same melody the evidence is overwhelming.

    There has been the stealing of songs from LatinAmerican artists. An example would be the  hit  song of Rod Stuart’s Do you think I’ m sexy that was ripped  off from   Jorge Ben’s song Taj Mahal . The  fact is that  music labels are the ones making all the money, because  the artist  only receives a very small percentage of  the royalties what should I  do? 

  • 3hirty0dd6ixent

    Fuck Tunecore!!… They Won’t Let Me Login To My Account!!

    • Anonymous

      we got contacted by a lawyer stating you stole music from someone else
      we are legally required to lock the account until you and the other party work out who controls the rights
      if we can help with that let us know, but telling us to go fuck ourselves does not allow us to do anything to help you
      contact artist support, tell them you want to respond to the person that says you stole from them
      we can help

  • wesleymccants

    We, the Macbrothers, Inc., released two songs at Tunecore, Priscilla & Egypt, over a year ago. We haven’t made a red cent on either song since the release date at the beginning of February 2011. In all the distribution outlets Tunecore is affiliated with you would believe confidently that one individual from the whole of the worldwide web would have bought a copy of one of the two inexpensive released songs: at least. Not so. Zilch. This smells of manipulation or favoritism on the part of Tunecore and whoever else is involved. We plan to elicit the succor of the U.S. Justice Department about the moral integrity of this online service for songwriters and musicians. I don’t believe Tunecore is as forthright as it boasts itself to be. In contrast, it doesn’t appear in the forefront to be shady, but when one plus one doesn’t equal two, as the Principia Mathematica teaches us, then one needs to check at the backdoor to find out what’s going on.
    Wesley McCants
    Member of BMI

    • Anonymous


      this is your second post about this. same as your last one.
      i have the same answer

      i am truly sorry your music did not sell, believe me, I wish it did

      But these sort of accusations are just nuts.

      You can certainly contact the digital stores and ask them to send you copies of any sales statements.
      Lets publicly post what they send you on this blog.


  • Philipryland

    I’m in a band called the rocket dolls based in the UK and we have used tunecore for our debut ep and our 1st single I just thought I would post because I actually received a payment from tunecore today we will be using you for our forthcoming album thankyou very much for all the good work your doing for the industry and hopefully this thief with the chip on his sholder will get what he’s got comin, also dude have U really got nothing better to do than slander on the internet, go and write a song, or at least get a girlfriend anyway you can’t be a real musician cause one of us wouldn’t spend nearly this amount of time posting on blogs, were too busy Trying to change the world :)

    Good luck tunecore

  • Jake

    Tunecore is a huge scam they take artist money with out a civil judgement. Check them out they are ripoffs 

  • Blade

    I think this is all crazy, but it is so true. I started a band called RAZOR some 30 years ago, but the name and many of our songs were taken by this Canadian band and there was nothing I could do about it. Boy was I mad. I am known as Razor B Sharp. People will ask me what the B stands for and I tell them Blade. Thus, most people just call me Blade. That name and many variations have been taken and used through the internet. But my point is, I joined Tunecore for one reason – I believe they are honest in their advertising. Tunecore was straight forward and honest about what they have to offer. I will stand behind them if it comes to that, because I want to succeed… Plug, I am Fatal Blow on Facebook. I have only one like – me. I follow tunecore on there and that’s good enough for me.

  • Guest

    Is there any system out there similar to Google Images to reverse check instances of an acoustic track somewhere online to check for this sort of fraud?