Article by: Jennifer Neily and Samantha Knight
Who says you need a record label? Don’t people realize how hard it can be to get one, simply because you are a new artist and the labels don’t want to risk taking a chance on you? Well, what then? You have no label, and therefore no way to distribute or make money off of your music, right? Wrong!
In 1997, Derek Sivers had the same problem trying to promote his own band, and decided to do something about it. Instead of whining and giving up Derek started up a website which he titled ‘CD Baby.’ This website holds one simple objective: ditch the record labels and have the website distribute and sell your music. It had humble beginnings but eventually enough people had shared through word-of-mouth that “Derek will sell your CD!” that CD Baby reached its tipping point. Today, CD Baby distributes over 360,000 albums and three-million digital tracks.
CD Baby is ‘the little guys’ road to internet music distribution. What started as a two-man operation by Derek Sivers in Woodstock , NY is now the biggest online distributor of indie music, with thirty five percent of sales from overseas. CD Baby recently opened up in Japan and Australia, and is looking to continue expanding globally. The appeal is universal – anyone can get there music online and out to the public with no need for help from a record label. Also, artists get paid more money! Instead of the typical $1 – $2 profit per album profit that an artist usually receives, artists get $6-$12 per album they sell on CD Baby, and they pay weekly.
The website for CD Baby is very professional, convenient and easy for customers and artists to use. Every album has its’ own page with sound files, a link to the artists’ website and e-mail information. CD Baby’s e-staff listens to everything so they can put recommendations on each title’s page for similar artists in that genre. Customers can also browse by genre and geographical location to find local acts. In addition, there is a new arrivals category, which is updated daily and is linked directly from the homepage.
CD Baby makes it convenient for the artists to see if their product is selling and to learn who is buying their product by acquiring the full names of their customers. Another key selling point for CD Baby is that CD Baby will not boot you off of their website or services if you are not selling enough product. The company is very understanding and does not mind if artists also use other methods of traditional distribution along with using CD Baby, in other words, they are non-exclusive. Your soul does not belong to them (what a new concept!).
When signing up for CD Baby you decide how and when you get paid. Artists can choose either Paypal or check. Then artists choose to get paid after their earnings have reached a minimum amount of money, which they choose (however, the lowest amount option is $10.00). When the artists’ profit reaches that minimum point, CD Baby mails them a check (or deposits money into their Paypal account) for that amount, that week (cha-ching!).
There are two ways to get your music onto CD Baby. First, you could upload your album directly to the CD Baby website, or second, you can send the physical product to CD Baby’s headquarters and they can scan it and put it online themselves. You can choose which format fans are offered to buy your music in, choosing from either MP3, FLAC or WAV. It usually takes one to two days for the team to edit content and put your product up for sale. For those of you who are curious, skeptical, or confused, CD Baby has recently posted an 8 part video tutorial that walks new users through all the steps from signing up with CD Baby, getting copyright protection, and pricing your work. The video tutorials each present a phone number and an e-mail address before each video promoting user assistance for artists who have questions about using CD Baby.
Step 1 in the CD Baby Tutorial Video Series
Next, the website asks for all your copyright information for the album or single you wish to sell. There is an option to add physical distribution as a service CD Baby provides for you, including CDs, DVDs and Vinyl. Another convenience CD Baby provides is allowing you to purchase a UPC code on their website for $20, which then allows your sales of physical product to be tracked (not just on CD Baby, for the life of the product, where ever you sell it). Also, if users need help acquiring copyright protection for their works CD Baby helps them for a $5 fee. This is especially helpful if you are a new artist who has not taken classes in copyright law.
CD Baby allows you to choose how much the album and singles will cost. Default for physical albums are $12.97, and CD Baby keeps $4 dollars from the sale of a physical album no matter what the price you set for it is. The default prices for a digital album sale is $9.99 and ninety nine cents for a single MP3 track download. If you need ISRC codes CD Baby will assign them for free, allowing you to track digital sales of your music. CD Baby has a partnership with nineteen MP3 Distribution companies, including I-Tunes, Amazon.com, Napster, Spotify, Limewire, Myspace Music, Rhapsody, ThumbPlay, MediaNet, LastFM, and more. Unlike CD Baby, these websites choose the prices at which they will sell your product, however it is a fantastic service to have one site put your product onto nineteen other ones for free.
Recently, CD Baby has begun branching out with sites such as HostBaby, CdBabyPodcast, and CDBaby Disc Duplication. All of these sites are aimed at musicians, offering an easy way to create a band website, print physical albums, and create a band podcast to keep fans updated and interested in your work. Truly a one-stop-shop, then isn’t it? However, CD Baby has also realized the potential out there in the non-music world, and has launched FilmBaby and Bookbaby. These sites offer places to buy and sell independent films and books! What will they think of next?
LexisNexis Academic Article – “Artist-Friendly CD Baby A ‘Musician’s Dream'”
LexisNexis Academic Article – “The Indies: CD Baby Grows Up”