Working with CD Baby

By Rock and Roll Wayne

The following essay is based solely on my personal experience with CD Baby. The Rock and Roll Report asked me to write this from my point of view as an artist whose music is sold through the company and it is in no way intended to be an endorsement. Nor is it an authoritative analysis based on any special knowledge of their business practices. It is simply one person’s opinion.

I’ve been selling music through CD Baby since the fall of 2003, and have so far been very pleased with the relationship. In exchange for an initial $35 set-up fee and $4 from each CD sale, they provide an artist’s page on their web site that includes purchase information, a brief bio, song samples, a link to the artist’s web site, and an opportunity for people to write brief reviews of the artist. CD Baby also processes orders and takes care of the shipping. From my standpoint as an independent musician, the money is well spent since I don’t have to process credit cards, convert foreign currency, or wait for checks to clear. CD Baby also frees me from the hassle of operating a shipping department from my house and worrying about packages sticking to the fingers of dishonest postal employees or disappearing in other ways.

Since late 2003, CD Baby has been making arrangements with a variety of music download companies to distribute the music of the artists they carry. Initially, they charged $40 to cover their set-up expenses and also keep 9% of sales. However, when the distribution process took longer than anticipated, Derek Sivers, CD Baby’s founder, felt that he had not kept his end of the bargain with the artists and refunded all the money he had collected for digital distribution fees–over $200,000. As someone who has found integrity to be a rare and precious commodity in the business side of the music business, I was stunned and greatly impressed by the gesture. It’s the only time anyone in the music industry ever voluntarily gave money back to me.

Since each of CD Baby’s digital distribution partners report sales at different times and in different ways, I do not as yet have enough information to know if the process is working as it should. To date, the only company that has reported sales of my music is Apple iTunes. They do so at the end of each month and CD Baby has posted the information to my account in a detailed and timely manner. The other companies either haven’t reported sales, or else (perish the thought!) they haven’t sold any of my downloads. According to statements by Mr. Sivers in CD Baby’s artist message boards, sales information will be reported as soon as it arrives. At this point, it’s still a matter of wait and see.

In conclusion, I have to say that I’ve been very pleased with the quality of service CD Baby provides. From what I’ve seen and heard, they also enjoy a very solid reputation with independent musicians and with harsh critics of the corporate music conglomerates who control the mainstream broadcast and distribution channels. However, I can only comment from personal experience and I would be very interested in hearing any solid evidence that would cause me to change my opinion.

Although it cannot be confirmed, ‘Rock and Roll Wayne” is rumored to be the pseudonym for one of The Mod-est Lads, whose CD, “Trouser Load of Love,” is putting Bladderpool, England back on the map.

1 Comment

  1. I have been working with CDBaby as an artist for a few years now. Yeah, they do what they say they’ll do. I, for one don’t consider this any amazing feat. It’s what I expect of any business. What irks me is the “cult like” vibe around anything having to do with CDBaby or Derek Sivers on the Internet. I’ve posted on the CDBaby message board only to find my posts removed because I would dare to question some vague details about something or other that everyone else seems to have just written off because, “if Derek says it, I have no reason to doubt it”.

    On top of that, all CDBaby communications are so “dipped in hip” that sometimes it’s unclear what the message is. If you’ve ever ordered a CD from there you get a way too long e-mail telling you how you’re CD was dipped in gold, prayed over & packed by monks who chanted your name gently while they danced in the nude to celebrate your purchase (or something like that). Then when you submit your CD to be sold on CDBaby you get a form letter e-mail “from Derek” about how much he likes chocolate, if ya wanna send him some cookies, and he loves you and hopes he can send you a thousand more checks or some other bohemian ego-stroking BS.

    Derek Sivers is a businessman in hippy’s clothing. (business man=WOLF; hippy=SHEEP).

    Like my post on CDBaby said before the webmaster deleted it:

    Remember what the 60’s taught us:


    No matter how cool they may seem.

    Know Thyself,

    John Walsh

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