The departure of Tune-Core CEO Jeff Price this summer, just months after the exit of co-founder Peter Wells, shocked the music industry, but the online distribution company insists it remains on course and retains its grand vision as it prepares to open up shop in Japan.
"Our vision and mission is exactly the same," COO Scott Ackerman says. "That is why we are growing internationally and continuing our plan to be in every market possible in the world so that all [indie and/or known DIY] artists can be successful."
But the departure of a high-profile executive like Price, who was never afraid to voice his opinion loudly on behalf of artists about the lack of transparency and other industry issues, creates a big void at the 7-year-old company.
TuneCore and rival CD Baby helped revolutionize distribution for DIY artists by providing them access to digital download stores like iTunes and Amazon as well as digital services, all for the price of $50. In the case of CD Baby, that is for perpetuity, while for TuneCore $50 is an annual fee.
Indie distributors typically charge both indie labels and artists with their own label 18%-25% of album wholesale costs, or revenue. In addition to working for some well-known artists, TuneCore has provided DIY acts access to large accounts, something that was almost impossible in the brick-and-mortar world.
While Ackerman is quick to praise Price's accomplishments at TuneCore, including his strategic vision, he adds that despite the perception from outsiders, "TuneCore was not only Jeff Price."
Ackerman says he cannot discuss why the board fired Price and describes his departure as "an internal and private matter."
For his part, Price tells Billboard he's bound by contract to not discuss TuneCore, but insists he's unsure why he's out. "If I did something wrong or bad, I should take responsibility," he says. "If somebody else did, it should come out. I believe in transparency, and we should all be responsible for our actions."
Price says that while the board may have executives with music industry experience like Guitar Center's Marty Albertson and former Bug Music president/ co-owner Fred Bourgoise, it appears that Opus Capital managing partner Gill Cogan is running the company. While he's qualified to run an investment firm, Price doesn't believe he's qualified to lead a music company.
"It is concerning to me to have a non-qualified individual running the company," Price says. "There are great people there, including Ackerman, who is a great COO. But TuneCore needs leadership and if it's not me, [the company needs to] get somebody in there that understands the sector." TuneCore is one of Opus' numerous investments.
"Scott is running the company now," a TuneCore spokeswoman says. "TuneCore is comfortable there are qualified music industry people leading and managing. There are also business experts; a good business needs both."
Indeed, Ackerman says the company is following Price's vision to build something that will be "more successful than before."
He says TuneCore will continue to provide better features and functions for its artists and plans to grow its publishing business as well, noting that Jamie Purpora, president of music publishing administration, is still in place executing the publishing plan. In fact, he says the company has just implemented a friends program to drive more artists to sign on to let TuneCore represent and administer their publishing rights.
While Ackerman is running the company and says there aren't any current plans to replace Price, he does acknowledge that at some point in the future the board may move to hire a CEO.
Whatever happens, Price says he's still in the rooting section for TuneCore, if only because he still owns 13% of the company and wants it to maximize value.••••