To many in the music business, TuneCore is the standard-bearer of the anti-label movement, since nearly all of the artists who use its digital distribution service are unsigned.

But TuneCore's recent marketing partnership with Universal Music Group indicates that the company is also interested in giving its clients the ability to tap into the services of a major label.

It's the latest sign of TuneCore's aspirations to move beyond its core digital distribution business, which charges artists a flat annual fee to get their music on iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers.

The company recently struck a deal with Live Nation under which TuneCore artists who sell 200 songs within 30 miles of a House of Blues location can get a guaranteed gig at the venue for a minimum payment of $100. It also partnered with Guitar Center to give away a downloadable compilation of 20 TuneCore acts. And TuneCore founder/CEO Jeff Price, a former label executive who was co-founder/president of the now-defunct SpinART Records, is eyeing potential marketing partnerships with major consumer brands.

TuneCore remains a relatively small player, responsible for $41 million worth of music sales in the last two years. But with such acts as Nine Inch Nails and Aretha Franklin distributing their songs through its service rather than through traditional label deals, the company has already become a contender in the digital music landscape.

Price sat down with Billboard to discuss the Universal deal and TuneCore's long-term goals.

What was the goal behind the Universal deal?

Over the past two years, there's probably been about 20-30 bands [using TuneCore] that got signed—everything from Medic Droid and MGMT and Tapes 'n Tapes and Soulja Boy, Zac Brown Band, Drake. Artists wanted to be able to have an "in" to the record labels in the event they wanted to go that path. TuneCore is about providing opportunities for musicians to make choices, giving them access to things that perhaps they wouldn't otherwise have.

But part of the implied pitch at TuneCore is that artists don't need labels to distribute their music. How do you feel about the artist-label dynamic that's at work these days?

I've never been anti-label. What I am [against] is the idea of someone giving up their rights or their revenue without somebody else giving them an equitable service back for that.

Record labels make people famous. That's what they're really good at. And then they monetize that fame. The problem is that the correlation between fame and music sales is broken somewhat. It's a confusing time out there because distribution used to be the domain of record labels. The one thing an artist could never do on their own was distribute their physical product nationally with tens of thousands of record stores.

But I think labels still do things that the rest of us can't. They have pipelines into films and TV shows for mass-use licensing, and they do have a pretty good stranglehold on the pipeline into commercial radio, which still does influence music sales. But how are record labels going to make money in the long run? It's still being sorted out.

Click here to read more about what's next for TuneCore, how its flat-rate model works, and whether it'll become more like a label.