The pandemic is a hard hit on all business industries, but especially with the creative entertainment industry. In this episode, Leo Saunders explains why he founded Tuneriver and how it opens up a new income stream for musicians like yourself. Tuneriver allows customers to order personalized songs from their favorite artists. The artists can personalize as much as 40% of their song’s content to cater to their customers’ personal comments. Result? A beautiful connection between the artists and their listeners and plenty of happy tears. Tune in to this episode to learn more!
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Writing Personalized Songs As A New Income Stream For Musicians With Leo Saunders
I am excited to be here with Leo Saunders of Tuneriver. Leo is a singer–songwriter, he started an awesome service called Tuneriver. Before we get into Tuneriver, which I know you are going to be super excited about as singer–songwriters because this is an opportunity for you to get involved and create another income stream, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I want to let Leo tell you a little bit about his background as a singer–songwriter, and then a little segue into why he started Tuneriver.
Thanks for having us on. It’s great to have the opportunity to reach out into your community and to connect with more artists. I was in a band back in the ‘90s on the Camden circuit called Lemonade Hand Grenade, it was a bit of an indie rock band. We did okay. We did a lot of self-finance stuff, and then later I went back into art and design college. From, there I got headhunted into design agencies. I worked with design agencies and worked with corporate companies. Eventually in 2018, I launched Tuneriver.com as a way to share the joy and delight of personalized songs for people as gifts, but also to be able to support artists. Throughout the previous decades, I’ve always kept doing music and kept playing music and experienced and met so many other songwriters that put their heart and soul into what they were creating only for it to end up on a variety of streaming services, not get paid for it. You get paid from a marketing perspective on streaming services, but not so much for the actual product. Tuneriver’s great way for artists to be able to generate some extra income from their songs.
What I love about this is it allows artists to be able to monetize music they’ve already created. I’ll let you explain how that works, but I wanted to go back to why you created it and that artists aren’t making as much on streaming as they used to on getting downloads or selling CDs. You came up with this before the pandemic happened, but what have you seen since the pandemic as far as being the perfect outlet in the situation that we’re in right now?Cultivate this tribe mentality that we're all in this together. Click To Tweet
Since the pandemic, it’s been wonderful to be able to support the artists that are on board with that extra income stream, all of the artists they’re onboard with Tuneriver.com. I’m a gigging musician. Every weekend, I would be out there playing gigs. That would be a big part of my income stream. I know, from complete personal perspective, how that has affected the income of artists musicians. Also, from a confidence perspective, I’m not sure how this has been translated in the US. Particularly over here, we had that period of time where the government were advertising for artists and people in the creative communities to retrain because they were labeled as non-viable. It was a non-viable career. I always challenged that because there are ways for artists to continue to make money without gigging. The only reason that the artists were in that situation where they were not viable is because they were complying with the rules and regulations about not being out there and entertaining. Yes, the pandemic has accentuated the possibilities for Tuneriver for supporting artists.
That’s crazy that your government was telling artists that they were non-viable. Typical governments, whether it’s UK or US or anybody else, they tend to be so small minded. One note, they’re not seeing all the possibilities that are out there. That’s one of the big things I want to do with this show is to show how many different streams of income there are for musicians. That’s one reason that I have you on right now. To have a government tell you that you are non-viable and try to get you to retrain is so disempowering. That’s terrible me to hear. Our government wasn’t any better.
In the beginning, it’s like, “We’ll give you support, paycheck protection program,” but only for people that work as traditional employees. We forgot about the entire gig economy and everybody that’s 1099–ed. I was so disheartened by that because this is a huge part of the economy, gigging people of all kinds of areas of work and they’re complete afterthought of the government. I’m so glad there’s people out there like you that are trying to build up artists and say, “This is valuable. You should be paid for what you do.” I want you to explain a little bit about what Tuneriver is. I know you mentioned that it was for personalized songs, but how does the process work?
This does dovetail into that whole conundrum about careers. We all know that a lot of businesses were affected by the pandemic, and the creative industry being one of them. The effort should be within how you can digitize your business, how can you present yourself online and offer online services, online products to be able to make an income. Tuneriver.com, it is a digital product. We are looking in the future for more tangible products, but it’s a digital product. When someone comes to Tuneriver.com, it’s a simple process. They select who the song is for, what the occasion is, and all the relevant songs populate under their choices and they can hear clips of all the songs.
When they’ve chosen a song that they liked the sound of, they go into a process of ordering that song by putting in the personal comments, and then the artist will receive the order. They would take their song and then personalize the areas of the content. Usually, it’s up to about 40%. Sometimes it’s not as much depending on the amount of content we received from the customer, but they’ll adjust parts of the song to make it personal for that person, for the customer receiving the song. There’s such beauty in it. It touches my heart each day when we hear comments back from customers of the positive way that we’re impacting people’s lives. That’s great for the artist as well, because not only are they getting paid, but they are also getting the response from the customer, hearing back how wonderful it is, or quite often how it made them cry. We’re dealing in happy tears most of the time.
That is so awesome, especially as musicians, to be able to know that your song is affecting people, is playing a role in their life that is moving and meaningful for them, and you, as a musician, getting to experience that directly with the person. Versus, we put our music out there on Spotify and maybe people are listening, maybe they’re enjoying it, but we don’t know because a lot of times they’re not connected with us on social or email. They’re not letting us know. There’s that great feedback for the artist, and then of course the people that are buying it are also experiencing the awesome experience with having this artist sing their information into the song. That’s such a cool connection. You’re probably making a fan for life as the artist when that person now has your song as a big part of their life and their experience.
It reminds me of the super old days of when people were maybe making cassettes and selling them out of the back of their car and then they would start taking special requests and putting people’s name into it. This is a digital version of that. Back then, maybe you were selling your cassette for $5 and then you were personalizing it and it was $20. It was so cool to have this person have your name and your information in the song. I love that idea and that you’ve come up with a digital way to do it.
When I think back, I was involved in something like this about several years ago, way before its time. The world wasn’t ready for it. I can’t remember the name of it. It was all done by email. It wasn’t as streamlined as what you have, and it didn’t catch on, but it was fun to do it, especially because I had some love songs and it worked well with that. I love that you have set up a system, so it’s easy for the artist and the people that’s ordering it. Can you give people a snapshot of what happens? When somebody places an order, what happens on the artist side since we’ve mostly got artists listening?
It’s straightforward. From the artist’s side, they get the email, they also get a text from me, which I will always text them relevant to their time zone. If there’s someone in America and it’s early morning in UK, I’m going to wait until later in the day, and likewise, the other way round. I ask them to text me back because I’m one of those people that if I haven’t had that message back, my mind’s thinking, “Have they got it?” That’s a responsibility from the artist’s side to get back to me and say, “I’m on it.” The orders, we turn around within 72 hours. That’s one of the commitments from the artist’s side, is to have a home recording set up or access to a recording studio where they can achieve that 72-hour delivery for the customer.
I do ask the artist to get back to me within 48 hours to make sure if there are any kinks that we need to iron out at the end of the process. That hardly ever happens. It’s a quick turnaround. They need to record the vocal overdubs, send me an MP3, unbox it from their site and we are done. There’s a bit of automation info from the ordering process. For example, the name they provide usually gets automated within the lyric sheet that the customer receives, but it’s still a bit of work from on the backend, from the web for loading things up and making sure everything’s perfect, hence me asking for the 48-hour turnaround from the artist.
That sounds like such an easy process. I love that you text, because sometimes you’re not reading your email, you’re out, but you know, “I’m on this, I can get it done.” If you’ve got a home studio, it’s super easy. It probably takes you fifteen minutes, because you’ve already got the song setup and you go in and you know the spots that you need to change, and it sounds super easy, and you do get a decent amount of money for this. Do you want to let them know what do artists make from this?
To respond, it doesn’t take fifteen minutes. It would be lovely if it took fifteen minutes. I put the prices up because I found the artists were spending a lot more time. I was originally aiming for about an hour to turn around the rewrites, the overdub and get it back. I spend time connecting with each of the artists and finding out how it’s going for them, what we can do to help them. When we revisited this, I found out that I was spending more time on it because it was so important for them to deliver the highest quality product that they could manage, that we could manage. These are their babies going out into the world, personalized babies. They spend their time on their craft. They make sure it’s mixed properly and that is going out at high quality. In fact, we did put our prices up to reflect that to support the artists. The personalized songs, at the moment, in the US they retail for $197, and in the UK that equates to £147, and for Europe, €167.
What percentage does the artist receive?
The artist receives 60%. This is another thing that we altered. As we put the prices up, we gave them the extra percentage because it’s a big part of what I’m doing, is to support that artist. That’s important to me. It’s important to our customers as well, because when people buy gifts these days, there’s this whole term out there called responsible giving. We have so much choice these days. Quite often, we buy with our values and our beliefs. I want music lovers to know that they are supporting artists. When they get their final confirmation email, they get that personal message from me saying, “Thank you for supporting artists. Here’s the artist’s information for you to check out just in case you want to follow them and be part of their community.”
It’s almost like adopting an artist or being a patron like the whole reason behind Patreon, to be a part of keeping that artist being able to make more art. That is an important part of the price of that gift. They could get them a nice gift for less than that, but that’s not the point. The point is we’re supporting this artist, we’re also getting an amazing gift and then the person that we’re giving it to also knows that gift is supporting the artists. That’s a good point. I know it’s such a big mission for you to support artists. What I also love is that all boats rise with the tide. When you get artists on board with this, part of the mission is we’re all going to help support Tuneriver by getting the word out so more of the artists on Tuneriver are going to be making more money. How do you get behind that with the artists to get the word out? We’re doing that right now, but the artists on their end.
We have a WhatsApp group achievement for artists. That’s taken a life of its own. I encourage this as well, is that the artists might have a release coming out like a new video or something that they want the artists to get behind and they share that, and we all jump on it and share it. We live in this digitalized algorithm world that you need that community aspect behind things to be able to do a proper launch. That’s a great aspect of it. The other thing I’ll find as well is that when we have meetings, when we all get together, they will share tips and I will be learning stuff all the time.
Back to the early days, I learned about this SumUp device where you could take card payments when you’re at gigs, so you can sell CDs, you can get tips with people tapping their card on the device and away you go. That came through the artists. The live streaming, we’ve all been sharing tips and tricks on how to do that in the most effective way, constantly sharing ideas with each other. That’s the great thing about musicians particularly I’ve found in the last several years. Several years ago, it used to be healthy competition, but quite competitive and little bit like people were slightly against each other. In the last several years, what I’ve noticed from a musician perspective is that there’s this tribe mentality that we’re all in this together. Musicians do tend to be so helpful because they have to work so hard. Why not help out your brothers and sisters?
That is a huge value of mine and a huge reason for my show. I’m so glad that you’re creating that kind of community with Tuneriver. Artists that are reading, I know you’re probably super excited to get involved with Tuneriver. We have a special code that we want you to let people know that you’ve heard about it from us. Our code is NOBILITY, and all you need to do is email Leo. If you want to get involved, Leo@Tuneriver.com and he’ll make sure that you’ve got what you need to be able to be a Tuneriver artist as far as your setup and being able to produce the right songs and have the songs that are going to work for the personalized songs that they do there.
There’s a little vetting involved of course, because that’s how it is with any great service. If you email Leo, let him know that you heard about it here, use the code NOBILITY, and you’ll be on your way to possibly being a Tuneriver artist. If anyone here wants to buy a gift for someone on Tuneriver, I highly recommend it. All you have to do is go to Tuneriver.com and everything is right there. You can check out the different songs that you can use to personalize and all the artists that are involved. I know that more artists are going to be getting on board. I especially want to encourage female artists. I’m a big champion for female artists. You’ve got some great female artists on there, but we need more so contact him.
We do have a great bunch of female artists, but we are looking for more. Yes, please do get in touch. I‘d love to hear from you. It’s always an absolute joy for me listening to new music. I love hearing new music and I love being turned on to new artists and being able to support them.
It’s always great when the person that starts a company related to music is also a music lover because they’re going to have a special appreciation for what the artists are doing. Is there anything we didn’t cover in relation to Tuneriver, anything you want to tell potential artists?
No, that’s pretty good. Good job.
That’s the goal. Thank you so much, Leo. This has been fantastic. I know that when artists hear that, they’re going to be super excited to get involved. Go to Tuneriver.com to check it out, email Leo@Tuneriver.com and use the promo code NOBILITY, so he knows you came from this show. I’m so glad that Leo reached out to me to tell me about his service and what he’s doing for artists. I’m super happy that you are creating another income stream. That’s what we’re all about here on this show.
About Leo Saunders
Leo Saunders is a singer-songwriter, musician, recording artist, performer and entertainer. Leo started out on the London Camden indie circuit in the 90s with the bands Lemonade Hand Grenade and Glycerine, and has wowed fans with his more recent band The Holy Sinners. From 2019 Leo has entertained audiences and shared his music as ‘Leo Live’ and continues to write, record and perform.
Since launching tuneriver.com in 2018, Leo delivers personalised songs to people as gifts and is building a network of songwriters to be featured as Tuneriver promoted artists, helping them reach new audiences and be paid for their work.
He is passionate about supporting artist communities and providing them with an extra income stream that sits alongside their career and family life.