CD Baby screenshot for review

review of CDBaby

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This is the seventh song sales tool that I’ve reviewed after getting lots of wonderful input from many musicians across Twitter, the blogosphere and the web. My main interest right now is direct sales of digital downloads of songs, so that’s my focus in this series: TuneCore/SmashSongs/RootMusic, CreateSpace, ReverbNation and Genuine Caring.

Like ReverbNation, CDBaby has a sort of direct sales tool, but has been equally focused on several other tools for musical artists. I can still remember when Derek Sivers set up CDBaby. It was so revolutionary that independent musicians would be able to market their own CD’s direct to the public in such an organized and centralized manner. While it’s no longer such a revolution, CDBaby is a major contender in the independent music marketing space. In addition to their version of direct digital sales (individual songs or albums) to listeners, CDBaby’s services include CD sales, digital distribution (to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and others), sync licensing, musician web site hosting, and more. Visit their site for more information.

CD Baby screenshot for reviewI really like CDBaby and I don’t think it’s just for the nostalgia. Their pricing on digital distribution seems more straightforward (than ReverbNation or Tunecore, for example) to me. Even with their recent price increases, most of their services are at least competitive with other similar services. (Some of the newer CD on Demand services could potentially give CDBaby a run for their money in that space.)

(As always, the pricing included here is current as of now, but subject to change at the vendor’s discretion … or whim.) Direct digital sales require an up front payment: individual songs are $9.95 and albums are $49.00 per submission. CDBaby also has a submission credits program that reduces this cost. Each submission of an album can include both physical and digital sales. The musician/band gets 75% of digital downloads. This means that each single sold for $.99 requires 14 sales before the submitter starts to make money beyond the costs. That should be achievable by any independent musician who is going to make any headway in this business, but it’s not going to allow you to quit your day job.

CDBaby provides ways to embed your store (which can be for both physical and digital sales) in a FaceBook page or a standard web site (such as a blog). These integrations seem to set up and work quite well. (I had better success with them than with ReverbNation which forces the buyer to go to the RN Store to browse, listen or buy). The FaceBook store is user friendly and CDBaby has continued to develop it, adding features such as the “Like” button for each song.

My friend Tracy Ready uses CDBaby for his Trace Relations release including the seamlessly embedded storefront. He was one of the people who mentioned CDBaby early in my investigation. Be sure to visit Trace’s sites and check out all he has to offer in music, video and other creative avenues.

All in all, CDBaby comes highly recommended. As long as the fees don’t scare you away, they offer great integration of some basic components of independent music marketing: from digital distribution to direct sales and loads more if you need it.

But there’s more to come. My two final picks turn out to be dedicated digital direct sales tools. And one of them may surprise you. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, feel free to comment. Your experience may vary from mine. If so, I’d enjoy learning about it!

Playful blessings,
Stan

CD Baby provides CD release and digital song services for indie musicians. This review is only of the digital direct sales feature.
CD Baby digital direct sales
Date Published: 03/09/2012
Though CD Baby's focus is on other avenues (CD sales, digital distribution, etc.), it is possible for independent musicians to sell songs for digital download. This review was complimentary, but did not choose CD Baby as a prime service. After this article was published, the author discovered (see the comment added on this subject below) a major mark against them because no Apple mobile (iPad, iPhone, etc.) can download MP3's from CDBaby.
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44 comments

  1. Stan,
    Great series of reviews of these online resources for digital music distribution! Very nicely done. Thanks for the mention of our project – Debut release from Trace Relations – Prosperity Street.
    Honored!

    All the best, Trace

    1. You bet, Trace! Always great connecting with you in the blogo/twittersphere. I hope that CD Baby is working out well for your distribution of your CD!

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

  2. hi!

    i like reading your interesting views and opinions, now im a music producer/ audio engineer and dancer myself and I had a question: if i sign up for reverbnation is it still possible to use another website as my publishing and selling channel or do I get in trouble with reverbnation then? So for example I sign up for reverbnation for extra exposure and then for my selling I sign with Tune core. Just as example 🙂 thanks in advance 🙂

    Guus

    1. Hey, Guus,

      Not sure what you mean by “get in trouble”. ReverbNation has no control over you. Only some level of control regarding what you do through their site. You could actually sign up for digital distribution with ReverbNation and Tune Core and CD Baby. Obviously, there would be multiple problems with this:

      1. You would have wasted the money on the 2nd and third distribution partner after you already paid for the first.
      2. You might be in violation of some of the distribution services by submitting your work twice. Check with their terms of service to find out.

      For example, I have a presence on ReverbNation, but have my CD and digital distribution through CD Baby.

      Many of the responses to my initial query about online sales recommended using multiple sites (e.g., ReverbNation, VibeDeck, Genuine Caring, etc.) to ensure as broad a distribution as possible.
      YMMV.

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

    1. Daniel,

      I know nothing about them except what I learned looking at their site and performing a search. As they state, on the surface their fees are less than the more established services. Some things to ponder:

      • They are they using a free web service (blogspot) for their web site.
      • On the first 4 pages in Google, every entry regarding ADE Distribution was posted by this company or an affiliate (mostly MakellBird which is “a division of A.D. Entertainment and Distribution”).

      Be sure to report back if you learn anything more about them.

      Good luck with your new release!
      Stan

      1. I chose Adedistribution for my 12/12/12 release …. and what big mistake i did . I uploaded the album and the data on my Google Drive , everything went smooth and … so frigin’ quickly … even though i had some misunderstandings with the Makell guy regarding the total amount that i had to pay. I was all happy and posting my itunes link to friends and fans, preparing more promo materials …until i had some youtube copyright claim… i nedeed the irsc codes from my new album , to prove that i’m legit. I’m contacting the Makel guy over facebook to ask for the IRSC codes of my new album. He’s replying that i dont understand the concept of digital distribution !!!!! but that i should read on his site about the conditions and rules… and that he CAN’T GIVE ME MY IRSC CODES , because that’s an copyright infrigment !!!!!! And if i have to prove something with those codes, he can sell me for 1$ a piece !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I obviusly requested my album to be taken down from his “distribution service ” who, by the way , appears in iTunes as my LABEL !!!!

        1. Ouch! That’s a scary story.

          It’s a good idea to check out these companies before you use them. Thanks so much for letting us know about your experience. It can definitely help other musicians avoid the same pitfall.

          I hope you don’t have any trouble canceling the distribution agreement.
          Let us know how it goes!

          And best wishes with all of your music-making…

          1. Fortunatelly , they where as quick with taking down the album, as they put it up . Now i’m happy that i have my work back, even though i lost time, money, disapointed fans and my professional look :(. But i still dont recommend them to anybody.

          2. Yes, fortunate. And clearly not acceptable. Even if the terms they used were hidden in the fine print of their agreement, not cool.

            Best wishes with finding better resources for your release!

      2. hi, thanks again. I’m looking at Ditto Distrib. and of course – Tune Core too. Let you all know. D

  3. You should just check out RouteNote.com. They are the only distributor to offer both a FREE and a premium service and artists can move between both. They are growing fast and adding lots of great new features and partners. They are by far the most professional of all distributors.

    1. Looks interesting. Of course, free comes at 15% off-the-top of the royalties. Distributors have to make money, too.
      Do you know of any reviews of RouteNote?

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

    2. “the most professional”
      Well that’s a joke. The Routenote site looks like it was designed in 1994. Their blog points to an office in a house in Cornwall and their artist list borders on embarrassing.
      3 staff is not enough people to properly take care of someones music

  4. CDbaby has some flaws that have become irritating. They do not post their hours of operation on their website. They also DO NOT answer emails. I have sent 3.. and I am a member. They do not answer. Also, their ACH system is flawed. They claim to be able to send money to countries other than the USA. However, in the field options, there are necessary fields that are missing that would be necessary to complete an international direct deposit.

    Frankly, I think their customer service is horrible.

    They have good rates, but you pay for it in other ways.

    1. Hey, Ed,

      Thanks for sharing. Sad to hear that you found them unresponsive. Are you trying to reach them about international shipping or another issue?
      What are the options missing from their shipping information?

      Thanks and hope you find a resource with the services you need!

      Stan

  5. This is Makell Bird from ADEDistribution. The guy who commented about us earlier on here (subnoiz) (artist name: Subliminal Noize) did use our service. However, he isn’t giving the whole story. He probably won’t tell you about how he CONSTANTLY harrassed me. First, he harrassed me on FaceBook asking me to provide distribution for FREE. He tried to convince me he “deserved” free distribution. Keep in mind ADEDistribution is a BUSINESS and we charge everyone. Even though it’s only $5 a month (or $45 a year), apparently this was TOO MUCH for him.

    Also, he NEVER would tell me WHY he wanted the ISRC codes. The fact that he was cited by youtube has NOTHING to do with us. It was (more than likely) an ID feature set up by a previous distributor he used. We don’t do the content ID crap because we know it frustrates people when youtube randomly removes or blocks their content.

    With all that being said, I am GLAD he decided to STOP using our service because all he ever did was give us a hard time. We try to communicate with everyone who uses our service to resolve any problems. We pride ourselves on our pricing. I welcome all musicians to try our service… just as long as you don’t send us tons of CRAZY e-mails like “subnoiz” did.

      1. Hahaha ,what a joke….. First of all, Makell Bird, from aded…. i started Dance 4 Syria project, an artist organized benefit compilation dedicated to help the people of Syria.Acts like Ascii disko, psy’aviah, caustic, ethan fawkes , cold therapy, and more are participating in this together with me.It’s normal for me to try to get as many people involved in it …. even you… I dont think asking to participate in my project is harrassing…
        Second, i have sponsors who trust our efforts, and have been willingly providing their services and products (see SugarBytes, Camel Audio,OhmForce, Softube, to name just a few). It is obvious i’m not a harrassing person, since i paid for your services(ergo- you agreed to my “harrassing personality” when you took the money)
        Third, “ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording, independent of the format on which it appears (CD, audio file, etc) or the rights holders involved. Only one ISRC should be issued to a track, and an ISRC can never represent more than one unique recording.ISRCs are widely used in digital commerce by download sites and collecting societies. An ISRC is also permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments. ” I have worked with other digital distributors, big and small , and every one of them has granted me rights to my IRSC codes.People, wake up!
        Forth, I wish you a Happy New Year ( yes, even to you, Makell 😉 ) and let’s hope this year we all be fun, creative and rich!
        P.S. Makell dear, thanks for listening to my track over last.fm Rock on! BTW,i bought my new album (released with aded) from itunes…… didnt receive zilch.Oh, well… atleast i have a super-collectors digital edition of my new album… 🙂

        1. EVERY distributor is obligated to provide you access to ISRCs and UPC codes. If they cannot give you your ISRCs, its because they are most likely a scam!

          ADE Distribution is a scam site people! Makell Bird is known for ripping people off. Don’t forget to spread the word about this criminal. People need to be mindful of who they choose as a distributor!

          1. “obligated”? Not so sure about that. I think they can write a TOS that would exclude those. Are they helpful in certain types of marketing and sales tracking? Absolutely.
            Your saga with ADED is well-known. Have you found anyone else with a similar story about ADED?

  6. I’ve been a CD baby member for many years. It was fairly new when I signed up. But since Derrick sold the company, I’ve been dealing with disappointment after disappointment.
    The first big issue was I Opted in to their sync licensing program through Rumblefish. Seemed like a cool feature and thought I had nothing to lose. But they didn’t really explain it well in my opinion. All of the sudden I got shared content warnings on my 25 You-Tube videos and they started posted commercials on my videos. If I would have known that I never would have Opted in. I was offered a partnership from You-Tube and passed on it for the same reason. Anyway, Opting in to the program was as simple as checking a few boxes. But Opting out was very time consuming and a pain in the ass. Never seen a penny come in with the program but I’m sure someone’s making money on it or they would have offered it.

    I have 5 CDs listed with CD baby. Now this morning I got an email from them notifying me that I’m over stocked on one of my CD’s. There are 4 CD’s in stock. Once upon a time you were aloud to send them 5 CD’s for stock. And if you run out they hound you to send more immediately! They want me to pay to return 3 of the CD’s or they say they will be recycled! WTF???? Then when they run out I have to pay to send them more!!!!
    Not to mention they keep upping the “submit a CD” price now almost $50.00!!!
    Once again human greed prevails. I’m about to tell CD baby where to stick it!!!

    I also have been having my music pressed by Disc Makers since 1995. They were once a great company to work with too. I referred them to many artists! But I had major problems with them on the last two CDs and will not use their services again. Mind you that are owned by CD Baby or vise versa.
    Time to find some new independent companies that know how to treat their people.

    1. I’ve been hearing/reading more of these stories over time. Thanks for sharing yours. Let us know if you find another resource that provides these services in a better, more hassle-free manner.

  7. A friend of mine went to purchase a digital download of my CD from CDBaby and found that she could not get the files while on her iPad. So I checked the CDBaby FAQ and sure enough:

    “I’m on an Apple device. Can I still download digital songs and albums from CD Baby? How do I access my music?
    You can buy music from CD Baby on your Apple mobile device, but will not be able to immediately access your downloads onyour Apple mobile device (iPhone, iPod, iPad). However, all music you buy from CD Baby can be downloaded at any time on non-Apple mobile or desktop devices. Once you download your music, you can import it into your iTunes Library and sync to your Apple device.

    When you are at a desktop computer, or on a non-Apple device, log back into CDBaby.com and download your music from the Digital Downloads section of My Account. In most media players you can import music by simply dragging and dropping the MP3sinto your music library. Just open both iTunes and the folder that your music is stored in. Select the files you want to transfer and drag them to the “Library” in iTunes. Alternatively, you can click “file.” If you’re having trouble, check your player’s help section for specific instructions about how to import audio.”

  8. Avoid ADE Distribution and Makell Bird at all cost! Makell Bird is known for lying, stealing, and cheating artists. He steals people’s royalties for a living and he has a FAKE site to promote his fake distribution company. ADE actually stands for Angelic Destroyer Entertainment (which he tried to change to Artist Development to fool people to join his service).

    If you’re looking for real distribution go to sites like CD Baby and TuneCore.

  9. I have been with Cd baby for a number of years.However,i think since Derek Sivers left its not been the same.I am also finding that alot of my physical Cd’s that were on cdbaby have appeared on lots of other retail music stores,that are not directly associated with Cd baby,which I find odd,as I have had all my physical Cd,s returned to me, and now just use digital download service through itunes,amazon etc.So,for a few years,the cd’s that were for sale on cd baby are now for sale on other sites but there is no stock with cd baby,if you get my situation.I never made contract or supplied these 3rd party stores with physical Cd’s but they remain for sale!

    1. Yes, there are many stories of trouble with CDBaby since Sivers left. Really sorry to hear of yours. Keep making music and enjoy the ride…

  10. Want some really straightforward pricing? Check out recordJet. I’ve been with them for over a year, highly recommended.

  11. I’m having trouble with CDBaby’s digital distribution service right now. My project is an album of obscure classical music, which I recorded reading from ancient hand written manuscripts. The album has been live on CDBaby’s own site for weeks now, but an auto-generated email message keeps telling me they are refusing to submit it to iTunes, Amazon, etc. because my supposedly “incorrect” title formating “may delay” distribution by their digital partners. They tell me I did not include catalog numbers in the title names. I explained in several unanswered emails and phone calls that no numbers exist for these pieces because they were never published or cataloged. There are, however, many similar albums (including my own previous recordings) currently available through all kinds of digital distributors with the exact kind of title formatting I used.

    After several weeks, someone finally got back me saying that I needed to look the numbers up on Wikipedia(!). They certainly aren’t there! I should know: I have a PhD in this field of musical studies, and I spent several years researching every aspect of this project. It has been like trying to argue with a donkey!

    I am beginning to think that CDBaby may intentionally be sitting on their hands to drive up traffic to their site. Sad, because I have wide exposure coming up via a national radio broadcast and it looks like my new album will only be available through CDBaby. Very frustrating!

    Anybody else getting these vibes?

    1. I can see why you’re suspicious of their motives.

      Have you checked with any other digital distribution services? Or asked for your money back if CDBaby doesn’t complete the distribution?

      Best wishes,
      Stan

  12. I have been composing for centuries, but only recently decided to go the digital download route. I chose CDBaby as my first try after reading some good reviews on the service.

    I started with just a single at normal fees as a test.

    My issues with them began right away, as their adverts say that your download song will be available on iTunes and Amazon within a couple hours. It has been four days now and the song is not available at either outlet.

    I also have run into the problem of unanswered emails about this issue – that is two days now.

    I will make sure to update you if anything improves or deteriorates.

    ~Willy Whitten – \\][//

    1. In my experience, 2-4 days is not long enough to show up in some of these services. My recordings took 11 days to be searchable on Amazon. Don’t recall on iTunes, so it may have been even longer.

      Good luck!
      Stan

  13. CDbaby customer service is a total disgrace. they DO NOT answer to artists emails. 2 of my releases are stuck in their system for weeks and seems like I will never get it sorted. I would recoomend everyone to stick with Record Union. I have used them for few years however got tempted to switch to CDbaby since they offered youtube partnership where a lot of my music is being used. this was the worst move ever and worst spent money ever too. I think I will end up with 2 releases stuck which I will eventually need to forget about.

  14. CDBABY are not reliable, not to be trusted and highly over rated.
    My experience with cdbay was good, NOT!

    I submitted a album with them i use to think they was great, but boy how wrong was i….

    They list genres wrong that was not even specified by the artist, i submitted a ticket to staff which they said they could not change it. i had to contact them again later on in time to get it changed, staff lie and only do things when they feel like it, lazy!

    My album i ended up recalling it, as i got sick of their service but they can’t even recall albums right! -They did not remove it from ”tradebit” in fact its still going on for sale, as if they have ownership over the artists work still, when it sates nothing of this in their terms and conditions, kind of illegal if you ask me.
    I contacted staff via ticket about it heared nothing back.

    Also my track is on myspace music still, one staff member said it will be removed, i noticed over time it was still on myspace music so i contacted a staff member about it i was told back that they are no longer partnered with myspace, so i will have to take it up with them. – What a mess…..

    In all i strongly beg you not to use cdbaby’s service if you are a artist or band, or composer, i am suffering with constant migraines trying to have my album taken down, and sort this mess thanks to cdbaby. I guess you sometimes don’t pay for what you get.

    When i used catapult i got nothing but good service ”catapultdistribution”.
    I recommend you also check out these services instead of cdbaby you can mix and match them too, far much better than cdbaby; Venzo digital (iTunes no payment threshold) ”venzodigital” (i spoke with founder kevin rivers great guy), “loudr fm” (i also spoke with one of the founders of loudr fm very friendly also working as staff”, Routenote , Createspace (for physical cds) more environmentally friendly than cdbaby. Also you can even go directly with Google Play> ”Google Play Artist Hub’

    I don’t blame Derek Sivers, the founder of the old cdbaby i heared good things when he was around. i blame the company that bought out CDBABY and took over, with their bad customer service that sucks so low to a standard of horse manure.

    CDBABY failed me as a customer and some others as customers, they should be as shamed to be called a distributor, because they are made up from hyped up nonsense.

    Musicians be warned about cdbaby now! Stay away! Well away! You can do better! I beg you!

    1. This review is from 2012, so keep that in mind. There is no one pick for everyone. Even if you read my reviews and all the others on the web, you’ll still need to make your decision about what works for you. Best wishes with that!

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