4 Billion: How TuneCore Artists Make Money on Spotify, YouTube, and More

In 2022, TuneCore artists earned 2.5 billion dollars in total residual revenue; by 2023, they had earned an additional billion. 

A year and a half later, three became four. 

This isn’t an article about math – it’s a deep dive into why and how TuneCore artists are making more money at an increasingly rapid clip. That’s an essential topic for discussion because making more money on streaming platforms is an increasingly rife proposition. Streaming fraud is rampant. The National Music Publishers Association President, David Israelite, told Billboard that some DSPs are “attacking the very songwriters who make this business possible” through their ever-evolving royalty payout models. 

There’s no sugarcoating Isrealite’s statement, and pay-for-play bot farms, which artificially inflate streaming numbers for a fee, aren’t going anywhere. That’s why we wrote this guide. TuneCore artists make more money because they – and we – favor artistic development and actionable steps over get-rich results.

Let’s set you up for success in the long run. Here’s how TuneCore artists make more money on Spotify, YouTube, and more.

Header Image: TuneCore artist Snow Tha Product

Blacklite District 

Minecraft and hustle culture have one thing in common: Kyle Pfeiffer, also known as Blacklite District. 

No, the hook-drenched nǔ-metal Pfeiffer's has released for thirteen-plus years doesn't seem with the thirteen-year-old, block-heavy sandbox game. But both are independent commercial triumphs, endeavors that made money on Spotify, YouTube, and consoles worldwide by leaning into and not away from artistic specificity.

"The fact that I can go in and just create what I truly feel and not have to change it for any sales pitch," Pfeiffer elucidates, "and just put my art out…and that these fans attach themselves so much to it and interpret it in their way, to me, that is the ultimate freedom of being an independent artist."

Counter-intuitive as it may feel, step number one of earning more as an independent artist is leaning into who you are as an artist and reflecting that through the music you make. That is the number-one way to begin fostering an audience and a body politic that advocates for your voice. It won't necessarily raise the ceiling of your earnings, but it may – and likely will – lift the floor. 

"We don't have to follow trends. We get to have our community, whether it's a small community or a mass global thing," Pfeiffer says, "and that gives the independent artist a level playing field."


Kenzani, indeed, does it all. 

He's the founder of Groovebird Records. His mission to restore Indian electronica involves creating jams steeped in his country's aural history. That's ambitious, and Kenzani makes it sound as easy as breathing.

What's the secret to his success? Keep evolving. 

"So much new evolution has happened in music because of the indie music moment," he explains, "and I really felt like I was a part of it when 'Saawariya' charted; that was a major moment for me."

That song hinged on marrying sitar instrumentals to a disco house backbone and became the DJ's signature, so—it hadn't been before.

The takeaway is to keep experimenting with new sounds, especially when you're just starting. Music is full of successful artists whose breakthrough single is a sonic outlier for them (think Queen, Sugar Ray, and Katy Perry, to name a few). The public will tell you what is or isn't working for them. 

It's an excellent strategy to listen to them.

Mix Fenix

Spend any time listening to Mix Fenix, and it’s no wonder audiences connect with her.

The Philippines-based singer-songwriter pens transparently soulful jams but has succeeded as an Instagram content creator. That social media following garnered Fenix listeners and opportunities.

“I wouldn’t have exactly been known [as a musician] if people didn’t see me on social media as a content creator,” Fenix offers, “There are different ways to jump into your music, but this is the path I’ve chosen.”

Fenix’s story offers an important lesson: artists can make more money through being multifaceted.

We rarely get to choose what path, skill, or song will bring us success. By connecting her songwriting to her Instagram presence instead of keeping them separate, Fenix found a more extensive listening base, meaning more robust commercial prospects.

Your music is only one critical part of who and what you are. 

Use all of it.

James TW

James TW burst onto the English folk-music scene with vulnerable anthems that were equally catchy and compelling. 

So it's no surprise his read on making waves in the music industry is empathetic towards indie artists:

"That independent artists have brought in 4 billion dollars through TuneCore is very empowering," James says, "we want to have freedom in our release schedules and creativity…and the fact that this is becoming a viable option for a career for so many is incredible."

James mentions release schedules off-hand, yet strategically marketing your music on your terms is a tactic that can pay off handsomely for indie artists.

When you're independent, you can be in charge of your marketing. That means:

  • Understanding your target audience

  • Crafting a compelling PR kit

  • Networking smarter, not harder

If you’re new to that, no sweat – we covered the best music marketing strategies for indie musicians here.

Theo Junior

Everything about Theo Junior's viral "Ups and Downs'' video reveals luxury. There's an island resort. Junior wears a hype-worthy wrist piece while lounging on a pristine speedboat. It's all impeccably high-end…until it isn't. That's by design and one of many reasons Junior's clips cut through the proverbial noise of the internet.

Ups and downs are phases Junior is familiar with, having navigated the rollercoaster of Germany’s rap and R&B scene for many years. 

Great fans have made that journey easier.  "I actually found out two people started dating because of my song," Junior laughs, "and that's incredibly inspiring."

Purposely engaging with fans can do wonders for your motivation and revenue streams. Host exclusive listening parties live on Instagram. Offer sneak peeks of your latest music video. Find time to respond to stories like Theo did.

It's a small gesture that can pay off in spades.


Odisseo's highlight-laden career is a study in patience. 

The rock group emerged in Mexico's vibrant music scene and has steadily moved through sonic influences and festival billings since 2012. You might think it happened overnight, but it didn't. 

To hear the band tell it, the moment they started making money as musical artists felt nothing less than transformative.

"[That moment's] like crossing over to the other side," says Odisseo frontman Juan Pablo López, "[you realize] this is a job, and I can do this for the rest of my life."

Odisseo guitarist Daniel León suggests that moment is now for more artists than currently realize it.

"The time we're living in [made us realize], 'yes, we can make a living out of music with independent efforts like aggregators."

In other words, use legal tools to accelerate your career. 

We've written about streaming fraud and its damage to musician's goals and legacies. But there are legitimate ways to boost your numbers on DSPs or grow your following on social media. There's TuneCore Accelerator for the former. There's Sprout Social for the latter. 

Hard work is the most consistent way to advance, but technology can be your ally. Embrace it.

Start Earning More

There are actionable ways to start earning more money in the modern music industry.

The first is distributing your music online. 

If you’re not sharing your music on social media or DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music, now is the moment to begin. It starts with you and continues with us. All the artists in this piece have been with TuneCore for years. 

Begin your journey to earning more today.