Zimbalam Challenges Tunecore

I was browsing some music blogs when I saw an article on Hypebot about a service called Zimbalam. This company is basically a flat-fee digital music distributor like Tunecore. The key differentiator seem to be cost (Zimbalam) is cheaper than Tunecore, and allegedly won’t charge you the annual fee after year 1 unless your royalties on the albums they’ve distributed are adequate enough to cover the costs.

This is interesting to me because back in 2008 I wrote a post explaining why I was distributing my latest release with Tunecore and not CD Baby. One of the main factors for me was that I didn’t want someone taking a % of my royalties, so I preferred the flat fee. But now I’m wondering, will I have to pay their annual maintenance fee into perpetuity just to keep my music on iTunes? What if my descendants in 2248 want to download my music? Will I have had enough music sales over the previous 240 years to justify keeping my music active on Tunecore? I doubt it…Also, I’m not sure if by not renewing with Tunecore your music is actually taken off of iTunes, etc or just taken off the servers at Tunecore. In either case, I’m not sure how you’d get paid, since Apple isn’t going to start mailing you checks if you stop paying Tunecore’s annual fee.

Anyway. Check out Zimbalam. I’d love to hear from people with experience using it. I’ll try to do some actual reporting on it soon.


16 thoughts on “Zimbalam Challenges Tunecore”

  1. I was using Tunecore up until about 2 weeks ago for my album Human. One of the principle reasons i stopped using them was because i got picked up by Believe Digital in Europe, who distribute to upwards of 80 stores, they only charge a 1 time fee of 25 Euros, which comes out of your royalties, and then you pay nothing after that, plus they do full promotion for you as well. Otherwise places like iTunes become parking lots for your music because it’s so difficult and expensive to pay for your own global promotion. Admittedly it is not easy to become selected with Believe Digital, but it’s certainly worth the shot at trying to get in! When i advised tunecore to remove my album from all stores, which amount to maybe a dozen or so, it was off the grid within about 24-48 hours.
    Believe Digital works on an initial 3 year contract with automatic yearly renewals unless you advise otherwise. It’s an incredible service and extremely successful. One of the largest digital distributors around. I recommend taking a look into it and making a submission if you’re serious about your music and want to do more than just rent parking space for it every year. Good luck to us all in musicland!

  2. Hey paul, thanks for mentioning Believe Digital. I’m going to check it out and will report back. It sounds like a great service…

  3. Nice to hear from you again, MS! I certainly hope you have many descendants in 2248 and beyond. 🙂

    As it turns out, Zimbalim takes almost exactly the same amount each year, they just “pre-take” it, gobbling your first $19.95 without you having any choice, each year. I don’t think that’s fair: if you’re going to charge a maintenance (which is only right), offer the charge or say, “Don’t want to pay? Fine, no charge, we’ll take it down.”

    I hope there’s an iTunes up in 2248. Unless they offer “iImmortality” sometime soon, I won’t be around to see it. 😉



  4. Thanks for the feedback Peter. I’ve been trying to get the Snob back up and running and am looking to do some more original reporting in the near future. Hopefully we can profile Tunecore since most of what I’ve written about is probably a little dated…

  5. Actually I was already with Zimbalam, some releases with them. When I found out about their change from NO ANNUAL FEE (10% cut) to 0% cut but an ANNUAL FEE.. I decided to leave and go with ROUTENOTE – COMPLETELY FREE to get distribution and they only take the same 10% that most others take.

    Routenote is cool because, for ex if you want to release a single track and it’s only ‘hot’ for a few months, then sales drop, well you only ever pay a cut IF you sell it but it’s out there ‘forever’. Tunecore are far worse, if you stop paying, they remove it – your internet music presence ends up looking shambolic and incomplete.

    Zimbalam have gone somewhere in the middle, allowing you stay ‘out there’ without worrying about sales or finding the money to pay the fees (which lets face it, over the years is going to add up to hundreds per year once you have a few albums and tens of singles out there).

    And that’s the problem, we really don’t want to feel held to ransome, worried about releasing things that are more quirky or experimental. With places like routenote (esp as it’s free except for the 10% cut) you simply get it out there and don’t ever worry.

    Zimbalam really disappointed me with this switch, they have a great service and a nice admin area but I hated not having the choice that’s right for me. Unless you are selling massive amounts of downloads a month the 10% cut is way fairer, you lose a small amount only IF you sell. With the new way, if you only make £20 a year (for a single that’s no longer hot) then it ALL goes to zimbalam, add that up by all the artists that are bound to sell barely anything and zimbalam are on a nice little earner there. They also favour artists they ‘groom’ for their A&R and frankly it’s all starting to feel too much like the old record label tradition (artists get less and less and middle man gets more)

    I emplore you to really do the maths over a 5 year scenario, being realistic about your sales posibility for ALL of your releases great and small and tell me, unless you expect to sell thousands/millions, how is a SMALL 10% cut worse than a BLANKET £30 a year (that’s £300 paid to Zimbalam over a decade – there are absolutely NO need for maintaining fees it’s BS).

    Once it’s on iTunes the only people who maintain it are apple. Effectively anyone could send direct to iTunes if they had enough artists on their books, that’s what these companies do. They don’t pay apple anything like what we pay the companies etc. They earn money off artists who ‘need’ them to get on iTunes, and rather than being content with earning that 10% they realised the vast majority don’t sell enough so instead have made this blanket change to ‘you owe us each year regardless’.

    Even the ‘we won’t take it if you don’t make it’ line doesn’t wash. The point is a lot of release will just scrape by and earn the yearly admin cost, and of course they will take it.. you get nothing. The way it was, they got £2 you got £18.. now you tell me which is fairer? Considering you already paid them more than enough to get it to itunes etc (and still do).

    So many short sighted people worrying about a 10% cut without realising how liberating it is to be able to know your stuff is out there forever, and you don’t have to continually pay a renewal fee each year.

    I would definitely avoid tunecore, you must be made to buy into that model.

    Routenote, Recordunion and if you are desperate (now) Zimbalam. I dont’ know what Zimbalam switched without even sending out emails to it’s artists, and why they think it’s ok to lure them in with the old system then swap it once we are on board. It doesn’t speak well of them for future… this is someone out to make money more than worrying about artists. It’s almost as bad as the recent CD baby changes (who I was with before zimbalam, I thought I could trust zimbalam but now I’m not so sure)

  6. I forgot to add, I think the annual fee is only ‘taken from earnings’ starting on the second year. Which means they are now cleverly hiding their total cost.

    U.K it states

    single £19.99
    album £29.99

    (and a recurring fee different for both types)

    You have to add that fee on for the initial setup so those fees go up higher than other services. Again routenote don’t charge a single penny to upload and get on itunes, you could have a field day with releases, upload singles all the time, albums without worry.. a very liberating feel. and pay… NOTHING.

    If you sell, you give just 10% as most services always were (except those also charged you for initial set up too, i.e CD BABY!).

    It’s also very interesting to note, I posted similar to this over on the zimbalam blog and they didn’t publish it! This shows me they are hiding genuine customer feedback and working on ‘appearances’, now as bad as cd baby has become it always offered the chance to speak your mind and warn others.

    Something is off at zimbalam and if anyone from there is reading this and would like to take TIME to explain to me how the ‘average’ artist is ever expected to make money using the new system then please do. I’m all ears.

    Zimbalam is turning elitest, they only seem to want mega sellers which is why they switched, because big sellers don’t like paying 10%, but wake up people (true indies) are not selling massive amounts per release.

    Now maybe a total account admin charge a year I could handle but not this, it’s just punishing the prolific. Get 30 releases up with zimbalam that only sell ‘decent but not amazing’ and see basically ZERO come back to you – all would go to Z.

    I now i’m ranting now, I appologise but stuff like this really annoys me, especially when it’s not able to be discussed in public on their website.

  7. Hey Guys

    We ( http://www.dittomusic.com )are the second largest digital distributor worldwide and charge just £27 to get onto hundreds of stores. That’s more stores than both Tunecore and Zimbalam for a much cheaper price. Zimbalam now charge you £50 just to release 3 tracks to their stores. And Tunecore and Zimbalam BOTH charge you over $20 to remove your music.
    We have no removal fees, no hidden charges and we have loads of extra services like chart registration, SMS keywords, pre release.
    We have so far had 7 UK top 40 singles, all with unsigned artists, and we are always looking for more,

    It would be great if you could check us out



  8. I’d just like to say cheers to Doozer, having become properly cheesed off with cdbaby, it’s been doing my nut in trying to figure out who’s currently offering the best deal to put out my new projects.An i was lookin at Tunecore ditto & zimbalam thinking possibly the latter might have the edge.
    But you’ve cleared that one up nicely for me mate & releived the headache – always great to read an astute appraisal like this from an independant artists perspective. Thanks muchly, i’m off to checkout routenote !

  9. Meh, they dont quite do what they say…

    On the webpage it shows that they distribute to more sites than they do for example they say theyll send your music to play.com, this isnt true any more as play dont take submissions from Zimbalam now.

    The only meaningful sites they will get you on now are Amazon, Napster and iTunes, the others are worthless.

    Also if you dont sell enough records to cover the resubmission they will charge you for it, thats an error in your article, if you make enough money they deduct it from your royalties.

  10. tunecore also just advertised that until 12/31 their fees for albums are $19.99, but they where also sneaky in desclosing if that was only if you just joined, or it only applies to one cd., my friend uploaded 2 EPS and the second one was $49.99, wtf!

    Zimbalam is a joke, their site fails to recognize any media if you happen to change your mind about audio or graphics forget it, i heard from several friends who said they put their records up on Zimbalam, 4 weeks past and when they finally seen it none of the stores they picked and not picked where correct, the uadio files and titles where shuffled, all wrong, the art work also was not the same last final artwork, to top that off Zimbalam refuses to communicate with anyone and instead asks for 29€ to remove instead of fix anything THEIR OWN SYSTEM SCREWED UP,

    I believe all these music sites are criminal organizations run by song sharks who prey on naive musicians, Trent Rezner should know he was ripped off once, i still wonder why he trusts tunecore, maybe he owns it, i cant see the reality here

    all i can say from what ive seen with my own eyes is YES you get music online, cool, but hidden fees, copyright scams, digital crimes are at the highest, if you make little to barely enough for yourself to get by it will be stolen some how, if you make allot and get famous be ware they will bargain legal fees,

    I say the best thing to do is copyright your material, put Secam, Ascap, BMI etc, make sure you understand they dont chase down digital revenue but performers,dont get your hopes up with digital distributors, they are by far worse then politicians., THIEVES!

  11. I had a good and bad experience with zimbalam my last single released was not listed in some of the online stores like agreed and they refuse to put my song on there out of lazyness and am left with a very nice looking app displaying online stores that have nothing to do with my song like my other releases.

  12. I was with tunecore and did not know they covered europeen stores, and so we made the biggest mistake of joining Zimbalam who charges to remove content and never fixes any errors their own site is responsible for, we know its the site or some one because our payment slip for example shows the price of the record we decided to sell it for and they changed it and ignored us when contacting them, this is still going on , STAY AWAY FROM ZIMBALAM, bunch of arabs

  13. Can anyone explain to me the math surrounding how royalties are calculated? These digital stores say “keep 90% of your royalties”. Based off what number?

    If you sell a sinlge on Itunes at one dollar, what is the royalty?


  14. Believe Digital’s new business model is to take licensed Apple loops that they don’t own, and steal the creative property of film producers by uploading Royalty-Free content to YouTube’s content matching system and forcibly replacing advertising content on other people’s original works that they had nothing to do with creating.

    They are criminals, says the un-signed independent artist community.

    You know… not everybody who produces music does so to make music. Not everyone who monetizes a video does so to make money. Sometimes it’s to re-coup a FRACTION of their creative expenses. Believe digital DOES NOT “believe” in playing by the rules. They don’t have exclusive ownership rights of the works they represent. I guess you’d better get them to represent you before they steal your content as well.

    It’s out of control, and they are criminal in their behavior just like every other record label. The recording industry has been stealing from artists for a century already, why should they change? Their new business model is greedy, and a desperate attempt to remain relevant when people need them less and less every day.

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