Thanks for the reply, jkn,
I am on bandcamp for over a year now and I like the service, but I'd also like to be on iTunes and some other places, and the only option is to choose third party distributor, and now have to decide between CDBaby and TuneCore (as it offers 50% discount for first year, that is only 25$).
So I am only concerned about digital releases so CDBaby's physical CDs do not interest me and I highly doubt that in far future I will change my mind. I checked some other distributors too, but so far, I like best what TuneCore and CDBaby has to offer. What I dislike about CDBaby (and bandcamp) though is that they take percentage of the revenue, and this percentage is much higher if an album is bought directly from CDBaby. On top of that, when they promote their service, they mention only 49$ per album in their ads, but they do not mention, that artist will have to pay additional 20$ for barcode, one only discovers it when tries to sign up. So that changed the rules of a game for me.
While TuneCore, even with annual charge of 49$ offers free barcodes, plus lets you keep all your revenue.
I did a math:
Either way, an artist has to sell at least tens of albums (more than 10) in a first year so that they would pay off for him, same with CDBaby, same with TuneCore. So imagine if an artist fails and his music doesn't interest other people: on CDBaby he loses 49+20=69$, while on TuneCore it's 49$ (ignoring the fact that until Aug 22 they offer 50% discount). Only plus, that on CDBaby they stay forever, so it's possible for them to start magically selling after few years...
Furthemore, I disagree with your point that if an artist is selling smaller numbers CDBaby is better, I think it's quite the same with TuneCore. Depending on what number we are talking about, if it is less than 10 albums per year, he practically doesn't earn anything with CDBaby (at least comparing the first year for both distributors). If we remove the 69$ fee for an album (when CDBaby states it's only 49$ which isn't true) and add 9% of commission, the profit can barelly pay off that one time fee. Yes again, album stays on CDBaby and other stores forever, that's a huge plus. But now compare with TuneCore: if an artist sells less than ten albums in a first year, he doesn't lose, but doesn't win either, as the revenue will cover his first years fee only. So in that sense they are very similar distributors. It's easy to lose with either of them.
But the reason I am on a fence is that for now the first album will cost me only 25 dollars, so I think it's worth the risk. If by the end of a first year I will see no progress, I will terminate the contract and they won't take money from me for the second year. I will lose only 25 dollars, but that's unlikely, as some people expressed interest in my music being sold on iTunes (mostly americans).
(feel free to correct me where I am wrong, because I really wanna make an informed decision)
P.S. I would agree, that for a record label CDBaby is better choice though.
P.S.S. so over all, until august 22 (few hours left) I have a pretty good deal for a first album. No commissions plus 25$ or 9 to 25% plus 69$.
But yeah, if I decided to upload my full discography, I would choose CDBaby over TuneCore, but I don't have that much money and if I did it wouldn't pay off even in a second year or third year probably. I would be interested in the experience of the other artists though.