Boy oh (Tommy) Boy – 80% of you make music that is "crap"?

Yesterday, Tommy Silverman stated that:

“…80 percent of all records released are just noise — hobbyists. Some companies like TuneCore are betting on the long tail because they get the same $10 whether you sell one copy or 10,000,” he says. “Those are the people who are using TuneCore and iTunes to clutter the music environment with crap, so that the artists who really are pretty good have more trouble breaking through than they ever did before.”

He further, claims that “79,000 releases sold less than 100 copies last year.”

I think Tommy had a cameo in Hot Tub Time Machine as he sure sounds like its 1985 again.  It’s almost sounds like the old mean neighbor from next store telling those darn kids to get off his lawn!

Yes Tommy, 79,000 releases sold less than 100 copies last year, and to make matters worse, not one of them sold a copy of their release on 8-Track. This proves, ummm, well I guess it proves it’s not 1985 anymore. Not sure how else to say it, PEOPLE BUY MUSIC FOR DOWNLOAD BY THE TRACK ACROSS CATALOG”. So of course less “albums” are selling.

Anyway, there is a long previous blog posting about how Tommy has a lack of understanding on what is selling etc located here – so that answers that part of his statement.

In regards to his hey-you-kids-stay-out-of-my-industry statement that TuneCore Artists are “… clutter(ing) the music environment with crap, so that the artists who really are pretty good have more trouble breaking through than they ever did before” – we all owe Tommy a collective apology.

Apparently the fact that people are buying music from TuneCore Artists is stopping people from buying music that Tommy likes.  If Tommy could only control what music you get exposed to you would be more inclined to buy his music. It’s actually a brilliant strategy.  Limit choice, force the releases you want to sell down people’s throats, control what music is exposed by the media outlets (like Radio and MTV) and then take all the money from the sales that come in.  Oh wait, my mistake, that’s the way it was in the old music industry and 98% of what the majors labels released failed. I guess limiting choice does not make music sell.

Well then, lets attack this from a different angle – Tommy distributes his band “Flock Of You Gotta be Kidding Me” into iTunes and it does not sell.  OK, let’s take 79,000 releases out of iTunes, poof, gone.

Now let’s sit back and count the money that starts rolling in…wait, it’s still not selling?!  How is that possible, we took 79,000 releases out of iTunes.  Hmmm..

And with all due respect, we are talking about digital stores here.  OK, in the physical world he might have had a point in that if a CD was not on the shelf, it could not sell.  But in the digital world, how in the world does a song on hard drive stop someone from buying a song from “Flock Of You Gotta be Kidding Me.” It’s not like the person is walking down a physical isle and the album is not in the bin.  My release sitting on the iTunes server is not stopping nor blocking anyone from finding or buying FOYGBKM (going with the acronym now) – well, I guess it might if they hear my song, only have $0.99 and use their money to buy my song.

But philosophically, I disagree with the concept that one person, i.e. Tommy, gets to make the decisions for the rest of us – the world can decide what does/does not have value, not one person on my behalf.

What’s more ironic, this is the same person that runs/owns New Music Seminar.

I find it a bit odd that Tommy thinks 80% of the people he is trying to get money from by selling them a ticket to his conference make music that he thinks is “crap.” If this is the case, why take their money. Why not have attendees send you music so you can determine what is not “crap” and then charge them to attend the conference? After all, you would not want to take advantage of someone?  Why in the world would you want to empower these evil bastard musicians with information that let them get music out to the world and god forbid allow someone to hear it?

Even more odd, well over 95% of the releases on Tommy’s label TommyBoy records failed. So does just being “signed” make you good?  I would rather make that decision myself.

But ultimately, I take issue with someone attacking and delegitimizing artists around the world.

There is more music being created and recorded today then ever before in the history of humanity. Although the sheer volume of music creation does not make it good, the fact that more people are creating it certainly increases the odds. Hell, just having access to affordable gear and recording equipment (like your Mac) allows more music to come to life, both the terrible and the incredible.

What Tommy doe not seem to know, or acknowledge, is that the real “music industry” is that thing over in the corner main-stream media is not reporting on and not aware of.

I have to suspect that Tommy has heard perhaps less than half a percent of all the music being released. But even if he did, who cares, finally the world gets decide what has value, and that’s the point. The industry has been democratized and set free from those that anoint themselves as the gatekeeper.

That’s why music downloads sales by unit are UP, not down!  That’s right, there are more songs/singles being bought by more artists now than at any other time in history. There is more great “rock”, “punk”, “dance”, “hip hop” “classical”, “funk”, “folk”, “country” etc etc than there has ever been before. And this is why IT IS SELLING.  Finally, artists have access to distribution and the general population can decide what they like/don’t like.

Since its launch, TuneCore Artists have generated over $70,000,000 in gross music sales . Some TuneCore Artists are actually outselling Top 40 artists – guess the Top 40 aren’t really Top 40 anymore.

And with all due respect, people ARE buying and consuming and stealing and streaming and listening to music. And more and more of them are becoming so inspired that they actually are going out to teach themselves how to “rock.”

So unlike Tommy who apparently has “the” golden ear and can tell all of us what is good and what is bad, most of us take the time to listen and/or make our own decisions.

He better quickly call Pandora/LastFM/MySpace/Slacker/Jango/iTunes/Amazon/Beat Port/Amie Street etc and tell them aside from a few artists, the other hundreds of thousands they play and sell are “crap.”

Jeff Price

  • Wow! That is some response! But, I totally agree with every word Jeff.
    I feel the need to go and make some more tracks if only to show how I’m free to upload something ‘terrible or incredible’! I’m free to do this, I’m willing to spend much time in the creative process trying, I’m willing to pay to display and, people are FREE to choose.
    ‘Democracy’, it’s a beautiful word isn’t it?!

  • Great Job Jeff!
    I found this comment as disgusting as you. Furthermore, the thing this major label dinosaur doesn’t get is that this noise is music to some people’s ears. I don’t think there is one person who is an avid music fan who hasn’t loved a song by an artist who has sold very few copies, which makes the demeaning term of noise a little repulsive. The funny thing is many of these artists who do make great music still are kept down by the gatekeepers it seems Tom is arguing for.
    Thankfully, with every day that we see Tunecore add new services to break down these gatekeepers power some of this “noise” that is indeed not noise gets a chance to shine through the nepotistic crap people like Tom would promote when they would sign the connected rather than the talented.
    I would return my ticket to New Music Seminar if I had paid to hear this fool speak. More like an old tired ideas seminar.
    Jesse Cannon

  • It always amuses me, the flailings of the True Artistes when forced to realize that the Commoners can make their own art now. It must be very difficult, carrying around egos of such massive size.

  • jim

    Unfortunately, Tommy is right.
    If 10 million artists each sell 10 albums, is that any good for music?

  • jim

    Tech companies keep saying artists never had access to distribution. THAT’S TOTAL BULLSHIT!
    Sometimes I feel the tech world could care less about artists and tech keeps spinning their own story of how the playing field is now level. It’s more “unlevel” know than ever.

  • Preach it, brother Jeff.

  • Phillip Jeffries

    The reality is: there’s a whole lot of people making music in 2010 that shouldn’t be. Thanks to Pro Tools being $300 at Guitar Center, there’s more crappy music being made in the present than at any point the past. And now we have TuneCore to thank for flooding retailers with hundreds of thousands of songs that are fucking terrible. I’m curious how often Jeff Price actually listens to the crap he distributes.
    To Jeff Price, music distribution is a volume business. TuneCore might as well be selling vacuum cleaners because Jeff Price has forgotten the value of art, and how easily it’s value is cheapened.

  • John Christiano

    I completely agree with Jee and what Jesse is say. The old school gatekeeps are still in the music industry and they are longing for the old days. However, technology has changed everything and transparency is key.
    There are lots of other distribution companies that are also helping to make Unsigned artists and Signed artists equal, such as:,, and more.

  • jim

    Musicians need to wake up. Tech companies DON’T CARE about artists.
    Find a great team who is passionate, not a tech company. They just want your money.
    Do promotional things that work like great promotions with radio, select internet outlets and of course, touring.
    Rise up, artists.

  • With “old school” music professionals publicly denouncing independent artists as “hobbyists” this week, once again we see the manifestation of fear from those music professionals that lack the skills of coping with change.
    Its all to easy to play the blame game, and say that good artists get crowded by the mediocre. Quality indeed does sell, and the new tools available to musicians make it easier to get to market yourself if you have great music, just add the determination to promote yourself well, and constantly learn, grow and navigate, and you’ll get there.
    Concentrate on nurturing your own “A” game rather than constantly criticizing the world around you is good sound advice. Set your own goals and achieve them, don’t measure your success by others around you.
    When change happens, the status quo gets fearful, I can understand that, it’s a natural reaction, but change happens whether you like it or not. You can embrace it and take a ride, or sit on the sidelines and watch it run through a puddle and soak you.
    To be fair, I’d actually say the so called “music hobbyists” are actually entrepreneurs starting with what they have, getting in the corridors and growing like mad. We could have said that Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, and many more like them were hobbyists too. They were visionaries with a passion, and without creators like this the world would be a poorer place.
    More power to the entrepreneurial artist, dont listen to the naysayers, and never ever ever ever give up…
    Simon Adams
    N2R Media & MyMusicSuccess

  • @ Phillip
    I usually try not to get to personal – but with all due respect Philip who are you to make the judgement of what is good/bad for the world
    And to the rest of the Tommy Silverman’s of the world that want to control what we listen to, reduce access, decide subjectively which music is bad and which is good and control access, you have a much bigger problem than TuneCore allowing artists to have distribution.
    More music being available in iTunes does not do any harm. When you use iTunes, does it grab you and make you listen to music you do not want to? Does it stop you from searching for something? Does it stop you from finding something? When you go to buy something does it stop you and make you buy another song? Does it force you to buy a song you did not like?
    With all due respect, I do not want anyone telling me what to listen to and what I have the right to like/dislike and buy. I do not need the “Music Police” telling me what to like.
    For the Silverman’s of the world, the “problem” of artist’s making music and letting people hear it is much bigger than TuneCore. If not for that pesky Steve Jobs and his damned iTunes! Someone should contact him and ask for the job of “art” police. And MySpace, how DARE they allow a band/artist to upload songs for free stream without first making the decision if its good! And the evil empire of Amazon – why they just let “anyone” sell their music there!
    How dare an artist create/record/release a song that the self appointed Music Police do not like!
    If not for Apple allowing music into iTunes, indie labels, major labels, the internet, MP3 technology, broadband, mobile telephones, those bastards at Garage Band, Berklee School of Music, music teachers, CakeWalk, Pro-Tools, Roland BR Home Recorders, Rock Band, venues, Yamaha, Gibson, Jango, Slacker, DMCA compliance, webcams, any manufacturer of musical gear/equipment, DIs on your computer, USB ports that allow mics or guitars to plug in, any teacher of any instrument, any retailer that will just sell music gear to just anyone (without first checking if the music created now or in the future is “Art”) etc etc etc people creating and releasing music you do not like is just not going to happen.
    The bottom line is this, if your music is not selling its not because someone else distributed a song.
    No one makes you listen or buy anything
    There should not be the Music Police deciding who has access to distribution.

  • corey

    it would help if tunecore reported sales to nielsen, AND if nielsen published stream purchase counts from subscription services (data that they do have, but do not include in soundscan)

  • corey

    furthermore, can Jeff Price help Ted Leo? if so, then i’ll agree with his response

  • Ahh… read here:
    Discussion, not hype. We know what the game is, lets move the industry forward, not backwards. Civil Discussion and Forward Thought.

  • Soundscan get reports from the stores, not from the distributor

  • K Sandvik

    In the old days it took a decent investment to release something on vinyl, not that some bad music was released. Today it costs close to nothing to release bad music. So of course we are saturated with boring music.

  • Victor Lee

    Jeff posting took Silverman’s statement out of context. One can understand why Jeff is defensive. Isn’t what Silverman commented on Tunecore business model the truth?

  • Instead of all the emotional responses, let’s look at a few simple facts.
    First of all, the same thing was said about the original The Universal bought it and gutted it. Then came MySpace, another “sludge pit” according to the majors. But who owns it now?
    Socondly, the RIAA’s press releases say that 95% of what they release is unsuccessful, aka crap. If 80% of what Tunecore gets into the marketplace is crap, that’s still a success rate that’s four times better than the majors.
    In 2002, Hilary Rosen said that the majors released 7,000 new titles a year. Since then, about 2/3 of the artists have been cut from the rosters. I’m estimating less than 1,000 new releases for each major label a year now.
    That would work out to 200 successful releases and 3800 in the crap pile.
    70,000 of Tunecore’s releases sold less than 100 copies last year. If this is the 80% crap, then the other 20% added up to 17,000 worthwhile releases.
    Compared to the RIAA’s 200.
    So even if Silverman’s 80% crap statement were accurate, Tunecore is still kicking the RIAA’s ass by an 85:1 ratio. Once you know that, what Silverman has to say is barely even worth responding to.
    Tunecore releases anything submitted and has a 20% success rate. Silvermen’s label picks and chooses and is only on the money 5% of the time. He’s just whining because he’s jealous.

  • I’m afraid I’ve got to agree with victor. The guy is slating tunecore because their company mission statement seems to be: pay us. There is no care or initiatives to actually HELP artists. It seems very obvious (also from how they speak) that tunecore don’t know anything about musicians and are just a sales company. 
    BUT well done TC for challenging the article, musicians deserve respect just for trying so hard. And even the beetles were amateur at some point.

  • What’s great about being an artist these days, is that you don’t have to rely on someone at a big label to decide for you whether music is good or bad – as a fan, you get to decide for yourself.
    And sometimes one person’s crap is another person’s “musical soulmate.”
    With the latest wave of direct-to-fan solutions, artists can now easily build a strong web presence, make their music merch tickets and bundles available to fans, and build relationships with those fans in a way that they “have the potential” to support their careers — so they can do what they love to do, which is make and play music.
    Tommy is right – by making it so easy to record, distribute, and market music, the result is there will be music out there that “the masses” (and sometime, even their own mother or best friend) won’t care for.
    But, if you have a following of less than 50 fans, and you can now move that to more than 1,000 and fill your shows, that can be “success” – and, sometimes it takes a while for you to develop who you are as an artist, your music and sound and brand and performance style, and by enabling the career growth of these non-mass-appeal artists, you may be enabling a future superstar in the making.
    And Jeff is right – the “old music business” metrics of success probably aren’t relevant to a majority of artists. Probably because success is in the eyes of the beholder (artist), just like music is in the ears of the beholder (fan).
    So what if there’s great diversity in the music out there, and so what if there’s crap out there – fans and free markets will make that determination. But in the end, there will be more music, and more fans listening and passionate about the music, and more musical creativity being encouraged and explored – and isn’t that a good thing?
    Bob Cramer
    Chairman & CEO, Nimbit

  • Re: Jim, “Tech companies DON’T CARE about artists.” Wake up, TuneCore’s sole purpose is to distribute your music. If you want a company that promotes your music, hire a promotion company with the money you saved by putting your music online through a service like TuneCore.
    With the old system, you signed away seven records, got an advance, recorded something that – if you got lucky – got promoted, and after notoriously bad industry accounting practices, you’d be lucky if you saw a dime of your royalties if you were anything but a superstar. And at the end of all that, the label owns your music, and continues to make money from it. It’s a giant sham, but they got away with it because they controlled distribution.
    You can do all that yourself now – get a loan, record your music, distribute it online, tour and pay your loan off, and you not only keep the rights to your own music, but you keep the lion’s share of the profits.
    There has ALWAYS been garbage music to sift through. If you haven’t been stung by the price of a crappy album that you bought because of the catchy lead single, you’re probably young/lucky enough to have gotten into music AFTER the MP3 revolution.
    The world needs more TuneCores and Bandcamps and less Tommy Silvermans. If you think there’s too much crap out there, there’s obviously a need to filter that crap – and there’s potential revenue in that. There’s where your new ‘record label’ model may rise out of the ashes – labels will look less like the entertainment arm of a french water company, and more like a magazine or website (a la pitchfork, rolling stone, tinymixtapes, whatever)
    If you can’t roll with the punches, you’re going to get knocked down. The old industry missed the wave, and there’s no catching up. I just wish they’d quit whining (especially with their BS about being artist-friendly) and focus on music.

  • To me this is more of a looking at the cup half full or half empty situation here.
    The biggest mistake you can make is focusing on what you feel is bad music and put yourself into a mental space that this is a hinderance to your business model or even art itself.
    It’s arrogant and presumptuous and a recipe for failure.
    Me as a musician (who also has a brother who’s a multi-platinum recording artist, which means i have a bit of insight on this) who’s about to release product through tuncore, the last thing i’m worried about is how much crap music is out there. Just like in the past, whether it’s wack or good but not presented and promoted properly, it aint gonna sell regardless and nobody will pay attention to it anyway so why worry about it?
    People aren’t weeding through crap music to find what they like. Most of the time when they go to iTunes they know exactly what they’re looking for ANYWAY!!!
    Bottom line is you have product that people want to listen to and buy or you don’t plain and simple. I don’t care how much crap is out there.
    So i’m gonna focus on putting together the product that people wanna hear and buy…..not a buncha numbers and stats to throw out there and justify some arrogant and cynical stance on the business.
    Also, art is in the eyes and ears of the beholder. Even the worst thing on iTunes that sold 2 downloads has artistic value to someone so all that talk is moot.
    Far as i’m concerned just put together some HOT SHIT and put it out there and keep it movin and let the cream rise to the top.
    That’s the bottom line.

  • Ian

    Lets not listen to the old industry people here. It’s pretty normal that they react, but it has been a long time coming. The major labels probably wont stay around for long. It’s quite funny that the only part of the old business that really generate money is publishing these days, havn’t we all handed over rights for our songs at some point in time?
    I think now is the best of times for the music industry, we do things ourselves, see if it works, if it does we do more and so on… and the best part is that its actually getting fun again.
    Regarding our setup, we’ve been on our thing since early spring, havn’t thought about shifting units until now, but now we are about to start, lets see how it goes, but we get many many hits already in th etrial face. Pretty shure it will work out well in the end.

  • I am an artist who makes shit music. This is because I do it on my computer, I do not play an instrument and I’ve only been at it as a hobbyist (with Logic 9) for a year. (You can see the results so far at
    This article single-handedly sold me on using TuneCore for my first release. Thanks for the attitude guys! I love it.

  • Sorin

    One point of the initial statement is plain and simple and solid. If you have a collection of 100 songs, it’s easy to identify the one good song from the garbage. If you have a collection of 1,000,000 songs, you’ll identify the good song(s) only by pure chance or *never*. While companies like TuneCore open the doors to good “poor” musicians, they also open the doors to a lot of garbage from “artists” who don’t know the 1st thing about music. Garbage is not good, it pollutes the environment, it chokes the crowds.

  • I agree with Jeff and Bob — Let the fans (consumers) decide what is good and what is “crap”…and not a major label sampler. If 79,000 releases sold less than 100 copies last year, that is not Tunecore’s fault for better or for worst. We’re (Mateo Medina – and Kitarah – on pace to well surpass that because consumers are buying our brand – it’s called marketing.
    Luis Medina
    CEO, KutRoc

  • GavCaz

    Are you actually misunderstanding what Tommy said or are you just being obtuse because the controversy will drive traffic to this page? I have been an independent artist for 17 years. I would like to tell you it is much harder to be heard now with the open system than it was with the closed system. I say that being fully aware of all the benefits that the open system has given me. With the current system, every single human in this country has the means to be an “artist” at a very very low cost… and I mean “cost” not only in regards to equipment, software, phone-bills, and distribution but also talent, rehearsal, and the massive financial and emotional sacrifice that it takes to be a full-time performing artist. If you want to be daft and point out that having lots of “bad” songs in iTunes doesn’t physically obstruct one from purchasing “good” music on iTunes, then pat yourself on the back, Captain Obvious. But insinuating that Tommy’s comments were a critique of the iTunes or Tunecore search engine is silly – the problem he’s citing is how the sonic drivel prohibits listeners from discovering the “good” music in the first place, especially if their hunting is as uninhibited by filters as you suggest it is. Yes they can easily purchase anything they want if they like it, but sifting through the garbage to find what they like is much harder than it used to be, because of the sheer volume of it.
    Face it, a culture who does not make the time to invest in culture will always need filters and aggregators, it’s just a matter of which ones do the best job. So even if you’re right when you say that major labels did a crappy job of filtering (I tend to agree with you), the current system, where Pitchfork inflicts a system based on snobbery and irony is not necessarily an improvement.

  • Here’s some irony. When I poll folks asking why the music business is falling off, and these are folks that buy the music, not the people in the industry trying to sound like experts.
    The #1 Reason….Crappy Music…..Coming from THE MAJOR LABELS….not lil indie artist payin to throw there stuff on iTunes.
    The Majors!!!
    They turn on their radio, look at BET, VH1, and MTV, (not the main channel, the offshoots and they hear crap music.
    So i’m not really registering this idea about a bunch of crappy artist, that nobody knows exist, being able to get their music on iTunes as a hinderance for you to get heard.
    The only crap music we get subjected too is from the Major Labels.
    If you’re putting your own stuff out chances are you’re not on the radio or on BET or MTV so if you don’t have a good marketing strategy and good product nobody is gonna pay attention enough to be distracted from your “Diamond Music” anyway.
    Again, doesn’t matter how much stuff is out there… either got hot music and a good plan or you don’t and that’s what’s gonna determine whether you get heard or not.
    Cliche as this sounds, it’s true……”Cream Rises To The Top”, no matter how many cups of coffee with no cream are on the table.

  • Aaron Burr

    Clearly the criticizer is not open to criticism – looks like a few comments have been censored/removed. How ironic.

  • Obviously both business models are out to make money off of the artists success BUT if the artist has limited success which model leaves the artist broke and owing hundreds of thousands of dollars? At least TuneCore’s model is not promising the world and enslaving the artist financially for years to come. Not to mention practically stealing the artists rights to their own music in the process. There is hardly anything to compare here. I have no sympathy for the Majors when they whine. It’s like a carjacker complaining about the disc the owner left in the player…

  • F the majors and all the vampire leech family idiots. How dare someone complain about their pockets getting thinner after they screw and mislead these poor bastards who just had a dream and a will and passion to express it. Exploitation, and mind control every genre has its leeches it’s time to put them on blast you can reach me at we’ll lead the way.
    And to my fellow artist (soldiers) keep creating if you’ve been in a writer block..your comrades need you to pick your pen up, or pick your instrument up, or pick your mic up and get busy! WE NEED YOU. PEACE

  • Although this Tommy fellow comes across a bit harsh, I could understand how a peice of his frustration might be accurate in a catalog or genre specific context. We do have a community that pays particular attention to a specific genre. Whatever it is, in that specific genre today, growing artists release every and anything next to selective content. It sometimes takes longer to filter through flak just to find something in the genre that you really like.

  • There’s no such thing as CRAP music. End of story.
    Er…but that’s just my opinion of course.
    Go Tunecore. The numbers tell us everything we need to know.
    Keep rocking!

  • Clyde

    There’s no such thing as crap music, there’s preference of music. But there is defiantly some crap mixed in there such as Mike Macharyas. (His that guy who just says a famous persons name repeatedly over a back track.. that’s not music but crap)

  • Jeff, you just became my hero for the day.
    I am so thankful that I live in this day and age and have so many opportunities to publish and distribute my own music regardless of what the “gatekeepers” say.
    go tunecore…not top 40 🙂
    -Cj Runner

  • Hey,I am 12 and I released my first album using TC. BTW my ‘CRAP” music is getting the best reviews from all over the world.

  • Now thats what I’m talking about. Just give us little people a chance to make it in this industry. Mad props goes to TUNECORE. I studied this new music game plan and its just like they promised….a chance to run with the big dogs of this music industry. Whats that ole saying? “There’s a new sheriff in town” …. Tunecore?

  • rockguitarplayer

    “So i’m gonna focus on putting together the product that people wanna hear and buy.”

    I’ve got a better idea: form a real BAND and write and record the kind of music YOU WANT TO MAKE. Have total disregard for who buys it or what anybody thinks of it. I’d rather listen to mediocre original band music than highly polished manufactured “product” any day.