History of musician-friendliness
Largest user base of independent musicians among similar companies
Fair pricing, particularly for emerging musicians
No annual fees
Track record of customer satisfaction
For artists making thousands of dollars from distribution, the 9% royalty share is prohibitive.
CD Baby's sync licensing and publishing options are geared for beginners, not established professionals.
CD Baby is an independent musician institution. Founded by Derek Sivers in Woodstock, NY in 1998, it’s fair to say CD Baby was the democratizing force in music distribution at the turn of the century. Long before TuneCore became a household name in music distribution aggregators, CD Baby was retailing the music of tens of thousands of independent musicians on a platform accessible to all. It now boasts a catalogue of over 350,000 albums and continues to grow.
Discmakers bought CD Baby for $22M in 2008. Since then, CD Baby has evolved, much like TuneCore, to become a one-stop shop for all things related to music monetization. In addition to digital distribution to major (and niche) digital download and streaming services, CD Baby offers help with sync licensing, PRO registration and royalty administration. Their parent company Discmakers strongly ties in merch production and media manufacturing — but thankfully, the parent company has kept relatively separate from CD Baby, allowing them to mostly do their own thing. CD Baby has a history of musician-friendliness that seems to continue to this day.
You’ll pay $14.95 per single or $59 per album for distribution. If you opt for the pro package — or $34.95 per single or $89 per album — you’ll also get registered with the PRO of your choice, and CD Baby will administrate your royalties. One thing that sets CD Baby apart is that it’s not bait-and-switching users with an introductory price that leads to a long-term annual commitment. There never will be any annual fees with CD Baby. However, they do take a 9% royalty on digital downloads and streams. For beginning musicians, this can still be much cheaper than paying an annual fee for each album or single.
CD Baby’s other flagship services include sync licensing and PRO registration/royalty administration.
CD Baby uses Rumblefish to facilitate sync licensing. Rumblefish has done much to make licensing accessible to all, however you will give up a significant chunk of your royalties and may be blocked from monetizing your song on sites like YouTube. This is really an opt-in partnership with Rumblefish that CD Baby is marketing and taking a cut of, so do your research on Rumblefish (and alternatives like Pump Audio).
For publishing (i.e. PRO registration and royalty administration), CD Baby uses Songtrust, a respected company in publishing administration.
If you want to make the CD Baby vs. TuneCore comparison for distribution, sync licensing, and publishing, check out this in-depth article of CD Baby and TuneCore by music coach Ari Hernstand, who interviewed officials at both companies for his research, and does a far better job that we ever could explaining how it all works.
There are even more things CD Baby can do for you — retail physical media, issue UPC codes so your sales are tracked by SoundScan, and more. We recommend checking them out.