Transcoding and TuneCore

Saul Williams and Trent Reznor know what they’re doing.

You can get Saul Williams’ new album for free at 192 kbps MP3 or you can pay $5 to have 2 other options: 320kbps MP3 or FLAC.

And the FLAC download comes with a .cue sheet to aid CD burning if you need it. If you’re still skeptical about the integrity of the FLAC file, it also comes with a fingerprint you can check against. It’s like they modeled the download after an underground lossless audio BitTorrent site.

It’ll be interesting to see how well self-distribution works out for people, but for audiophiles or anybody who cares about sound quality there’s a lot of gray area right now.

For instance, TuneCore – a well-known digital music distributor, has walkthroughs for musicians who need to deliver their files to them. These are the Master files that Tunecore will use to send music to the digital music destinations; iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, etc.

But read the tutorials closely. For iTunes users it recommends ripping files at 320kpbs AAC. For Windows Media Player users – 320kbps MP3. This should raise a red flag to most everyone who understands how ripping works.

Every file distributed by TuneCore is likely transcoded from a lossy file. They take their 320k file, give it to a service, and the service encodes it however they please. And since the file they got was already lossy encoded, customers are giving up more sound quality than a 128k or 256k rip strips. In the face of this, iTunes Plus or LAME 3.97 means nothing when it comes to sound quality.

I applaud TuneCore for giving artists a way to make money without a middleman, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality either. If musicians are going to get involved in digital distribution, they’re going to need to get their hands dirty and understand what a lossless file is.

Like Saul Williams and Trent Reznor.

3 thoughts on “Transcoding and TuneCore”

  1. Hi<br/><br/>Thank you for the kind words about TUneCore<br/><br/>A quick note – TuneCore accepts uploads in lossless formats ( WAV, FLAC). Our FAQ has been updated to state that to have your music delivered to Apple you must upload in a lossless format.<br/><br/>Its our goal to make sure TuneCore customers have options to chose from. If they would like to upload in losless, they can. If they prefer to upload thier music in a different format we support that as well.<br/><br/>And – we just launched our new delivery of music videos to iTunes today (Monday)<br/><br/>Thank You<br/>Jeff Price<br/>TuneCore

  2. That’s excellent news Jeff. I hope the ripping tutorials reflect this change shortly.<br/><br/>TuneCore has an interesting position in that it has to do what’s best for their customers (musicians), but also their customers’ customers. The space and bandwidth requirements for lossless files aren’t convenient for musicians, but they’re in the best interest of their fans.<br/><br/>I have been on the fence about purchasing a TuneCore distributed album through iTunes for this very reason. There’s simply no way to know if the tracks were originally encoded from a 320k file or a lossless file. Now that TuneCore is requiring higher quality encoding for iTunes distribution this will trickle down to other music services and reduce the occurrences of transcoding from lossy files.

  3. Testing out tunecore today, I noticed the ripping section does not reflect the acceptance of FLAC and still recommends 320kbps AAC. I uploaded in FLAC anyway and am awaiting the verification results. I suppose a lot of people probably still lack the bandwidth to upload FLAC without concern that it is taking so long to complete.

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