Tunepatch is an experiment, and it's free for you to use.

I built Tunepatch because I wanted a simple solution to package digital downloads with physical music merchandise. While selling merch with a band I tour with, I'd been noticing that fans at concerts were growing less interested in CDs, and even with all the hype about vinyl, it wasn't in demand enough to earn it's weight in our checked luggage. However, fans still loved looking through our tshirts, stickers, and other merch items. The big debate was always whether they would buy the music, or buy the item they wanted.

I decided to figure out the quickest way to merge physical merchandise with cloud-hosted content.

The test case for the experiment was a tshirt. Unfortunately, tshirts can't really contain audio data unless you embed data storage with something like a USB memory stick. Somehow, that seems like a bad idea for those of us that like to wash and dry our clothes. Instead, the easiest solution was to print something on the shirt, and then rely on the connectivity of our phones to instantly access cloud stored MP3 files, similar to those digital download cards.

I've never been enthusiastic about digital download cards. It just seems clumsy to go through all the required steps when I can stream anything for free on services like YouTube or Spotify. The solution would have to be simpler and not require typing; music needs to be streaming within the first interaction, and downloading within the second. Without reinventing any wheels, I found the best option to be QR codes. In addition to being completely free to use for anyone with a camera phone, they drastically reduce the steps required to access digital content - and there's zero typing to create that important, first interaction.

Within a single interaction, fans are instantly directed to a content portal with two buttons: Listen and Download.

I'm aware that using QR codes to promote music isn't exactly a new concept, but in order to use them, you have to learn how to generate the code and also build a website feature to handle the response. I wasn't able to find a service that made it simple to use; so I decided to build it.

After digging in, I realized the options extended far beyond tshirts. For example, QR code "patches" could be printed on the back of CDs to allow fans to stream albums before buying them.

Use Tunepatch to preview CDs

It's also a powerful marketing tool. Tshirts and other band merchandise that people like to buy have usually been focused on creating "brand" recognition for your music; what if they could also be used to distribute your single.. or entire album? Tunepatch provides curious minded fans the ability to connect within a single interaction.

Use Tunepatch to market your band

There's also the option to use it strictly for promotional purposes. Smaller bands and labels usually give away hundreds of CDs to reviewers, promoters, booking agents, venues, etc. That's potentially thousands of dollars in merchandise that you give away for free, and sadly, most of it ends up directly in a trash bin. Why not generate a Tunepatch code, print it on 500 cheap business cards, and reduce your promotional manufacturing costs to about ~$10?

Use Tunepatch for promotional copies

Ultimiately, I built Tunepatch because it provides a service that I wanted to try out. I'm a touring musician, I've performed and recorded on a lot of albums, and this is a service I can use. It's also an experiment, and that's why I've published it for bands to use for free. At this time, I would enjoy nothing more than to have enough bands join up that it forces me to build a bigger server. Sign up for free, write me if you have any questions, and let me know @tunepatch if you come up with a cool use for the service and I'll feature your idea on the Tunepatch blog.

Caleb Dolister
Tunepatch was built by Caleb Dolister. He is the drummer for The Kandinsky Effect, and is an active musician and composer based in New York City. He also runs a micro label, SNP Records, which helps creative music projects get off the ground, and works on web development and technology projects.