CD Baby Review: STILL a Legit Distributor to Sell Your Music?

cd baby review

Contrary to what its name implies, CD Baby does much more than CD duplication.

Founded way back in 1998, the Portland, Oregon-based company has adeptly reinvented itself multiple times throughout the years to help independent musicians share their music.

In the beginning of its life as a music distributor, CD Baby operated as a marketplace that sold CDs produced by independent musicians, but today the company is one of the biggest players in digital music distribution.

Signing up with CD Baby gives artists of every experience-level access to Spotify,  TIDAL, Apple Music, and all the other major digital music retailers. But how well does this company really work for independent musicians?

We released music through CD Baby to find out. In this comprehensive review, you’ll learn everything there is to know about CD Baby, from its pricing structure and music-uploading platform to perks and company background. Let’s dive in, baby!

 

->> Check Out the ULTIMATE Music Distribution Guide (Reviews + Comparison Chart)

 

Company background

CD Baby began in Woodstock, New York with a single musician and a desire to share music. Derek Sivers had the humble goal of creating a website to sell his music online, something that was quite a feat in 1998.

Sivers was also in the habit of selling the albums of his friends and local musicians, and CD Baby was born when a digital platform was built to sell physical albums. In the early days of CD Baby, every CD was listened to, but that policy was later abandoned. The company relocated to Portland, Oregon in 2001, and began offering digital music distribution as an early partner of iTunes. This prescient business decision put CD Baby more than a decade ahead of many of its competitors.

Noting the mass decline in the popularity of CDs, the CD duplication company Disk Makers bought CD Baby in 2008 for 22 million dollars. In 2012, the company was one of the first to offer artists revenues from YouTube, and a year later it launched CD Baby Pro Publishing, a service aimed at helping artists collect royalties internationally. In 2019, CD Baby was sold to Downtown, a New York-based global independent rights management and music services company, for 200 million.

Today, CD Baby’s sleek platform serves as a one-stop-shop for independent musicians trying to get their music out to the masses. CD Baby is one of the world’s most popular digital music distributors, but what sets it apart from its rivals is the seamless integration of physical music duplication and publishing administration services through its platform. The company hosts more than 350,000 albums and has distributed music from artists like Bon Iver, Sarah Barreilles, and The National.

As you’ve most likely noticed, CD Baby has stiff competition these days, especially from the growing number of digital distributor start-ups offering their services for free. Let’s take a closer look at CD Baby’s services and added benefits to see how well this company works for musicians.

What CD Baby does

CD Baby started out as one of the world’s first digital platforms to sell physical albums from independent artists.

Today, it’s one of the largest and most reputable digital music distributors around, and has grown rapidly past its humble origins in terms of services and reach. In short, if you’re an independent musician looking for a way to get music from your computer to platforms like Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, and TIDAL, CD Baby can help you do that and much, much more.

By “much, much more,” we mean that the company offers DIY musician resources, an in-house publishing administration, synch services, and integrated promotional tools from auxiliary companies. While some of the touted benefits on CD Baby’s platform won’t be helpful for every musician, most will want to take a look at the company’s publishing, synch, and physical music duplication services. More on all that later on in this review.

CD Baby’s reputation in the music industry

Since CD Baby has been around so long, it enjoys a trust and connection among independent musicians that most startups would kill for.

As we’ll see later in this guide, there are absolutely some downsides to consider when working with CD Baby, but the company is unmatched when it comes to its positive reputation in the music industry. Since it started doing music distribution long before its fiercest competitors, CD Baby reflects a “we’ve got this” attitude when it comes to distributing music well and to the places where it will make the most impact online.

This isn’t to say that all musicians are thrilled with working with this company. On the review platform Trustpilot, musicians complain about high prices, poor customer service, and other issues with the CD Baby Platform. However, it should be noted that CD Baby represents over 650,000 clients, so the 206 reviews posted on Trustpilot don’t tell the whole story. Since CD Baby continues to grow by leaps and bounds, it’s safe to assume that most musicians like the service and continue to use it for their releases year after year.

CD Baby’s pricing structure 

cd baby cost

In stark contrast with some of its competitors, CD Baby doesn’t charge annual fees (we’re looking at you, TuneCore).

However, it does take a digital and physical royalty cut, which many musicians won’t like. The company has two tiers of service: CD Baby Standard and CD Baby Pro. Through the Standard tier, musicians get digital and physical music distribution, as well as other basic services for just under $9.95 for singles and $29 for albums (this doesn’t include the cost of physical distribution. That’s a whole other ballgame). The Pro tier is essentially the same as the Standard option with PRO and global royalty collection services added in. Singles cost $29.95 and albums are $69 for this tier of CD Baby’s service. We were lucky and signed up for CD Baby during a sale, which let us distribute an album for $49 under the Pro tier.

How good of a deal is CD Baby?

Both options are quite affordable––unless you’re a musician planning on making a lot of momentum with your music.

CD Baby takes 9% of digital distribution royalties and downloads and $4 from every CD or vinyl record you sell through its distribution platform (CD Baby currently distributes to more than 15,000 record stores around the world) and on CDbaby.com. This pricing structure mostly geared at musicians just starting out in their careers or ones who make music catering to niche markets. For example, if you sell a few CDs and rack up a couple thousand streams in a year, giving up 9% isn’t that big of a deal. The company gets your music out there for a modest upfront fee, and you don’t have to pay steep annual costs. But if you plan on selling lots of music and generating tons of streams and downloads, that 9% could easily translate into thousands of hard-earned dollars lost every year.

Also, it should be noted that while the Pro plan’s publishing services are convenient, traditional PROs like ASCAP and BMI typically cover these needs pretty well on their own for potentially less money. For example, ASCAP offers memberships for both music creators and publishers. Each membership costs $50, and there are no annual fees. If you’re a career musician working without the help of a label, you can sign up for both memberships which will give you access to the same sort of international royalty collecting services that CD Baby offers. This makes sense if you plan on releasing lots of music throughout your career, but it won’t pay off if you only release an album every five years.

And then there’s the barcode situation that we need to talk about. DistroKid is the music distributor that usually gets criticized for luring in customers with cheap prices and springing last-minute fees on them, but CD Baby deserves a bit as well. Most distribution companies fold in barcode/ISRC services into their price, but CD Baby charges $20 for this and doesn’t tell you until you’re too far along in the process to turn back. For us, it wasn’t a deal-killer, but it’s an annoying, slightly pricey part of using the service we think you should know about. The company charges $5 for barcodes when you distribute singles through the platform.

cd baby payment

One of the best features CD Baby offers is its weekly payout schedule. The platform lets you set the price point you want to be paid at, and will pay you that amount every Monday (if your music generates the amount of your set price point, that is). The platform allows for payments to be directly deposited through your bank account, PayPal, or by check.

All in all, CD Baby isn’t a bad bet necessarily when it comes to digital distribution prices, but depending on your unique situation as an artist, paying for its Pro tier might not be worth it.

Here’s a rundown of CD Baby’s pricing structure:

*All prices are listed in USD

CD Baby Standard:

  • $9.95 per-single
  • $29 per-album
  • 9% Royalty split for digital streaming and download revenues
  • $4 per-CD or vinyl record

CD Baby Pro:

  • $29.95 per-single
  • $69 per-album
  • 9% Royalty split for digital streaming and download revenues
  • $4 per-CD or vinyl record

CD Baby’s platform

CD Baby might not be the flashiest digital music distributor in the game, but its platform is sleek and clearly designed to be as user-friendly as possible.

But don’t release a single or album through this platform thinking you’ll be able to get through the process quickly. CD Baby’s checklist is extensive, to say the least, and you should budget at least an hour to get through the process from start to finish. We selected the CD Baby Pro tier for this review, which came with extra PRO and royalty collection questions, so it’s likely the Standard process is a lot quicker and easier to get through.

cd baby distribution

One of the reasons the music-uploading process takes so long is because CD Baby asks you to provide not only a photograph for its online store, but also a bio and description of your new music to share with music platforms. This is an added touch most other distributors don’t offer, but it’ll take you some extra time to think of something meaningful to write about your work if you’re not prepared. Also, CD Baby might be sleek, but some of its features are glitchy. For example, we got stuck on the photo-uploading process for a good ten minutes. Instead of getting an error code, the picture we tried to upload just showed up as white until we had to try a different one altogether.

Another area of trouble was the page that asks artists if they want to opt in or out of sync services and social media monetization. When we opted in, we were sent to a baffling “No Internet” dinosaur page multiple times despite having full access to the Internet. We had to log out and back in again to finally be able to opt in.

cdbaby error

But frustrating glitches aside, CD Baby has a beautiful, intuitive platform that will ease you through the thorough uploading process confidently if you’ve never distributed music before.

However, something you should know before going through the process is that CD Baby could do a much better job at being transparent about its fee structure. We got a pop-up advertising promotion services from one of CD Baby’s partners while uploading music, but nothing saying “Hey, if you sign up with our service, we’re going to take 9% of your streaming and download revenue.” If you’re a musician sharing music for the first time, it makes sense why you might be frustrated and bewildered to later discover that you’re missing 9% of your digital streaming and download revenues, and this could be one of the reasons this otherwise solid company gets complaints from time to time.

Something that’s a unique benefit to uploading music through CD Baby’s platform is its seamless integration of publishing and royalty collection services. If you’re signed up through the Pro tier, CD Baby registers your songs to over 50 international PROs, signs you up as a songwriter or links to your existing account on ASCAP, BMI, or SOCAN, and collects and pays you for all the performance and mechanical license royalties you’re entitled to. This is definitely a timesaver when it comes to getting all your publishing and royalty digital paperwork taken care of in one place when it’s time to release new music. We’ll review this part of CD Baby’s services in depth later on in this article.

Overall, CD Baby’s platform is sleek and extremely thorough. It’s designed well enough to stack up against the growing number of unproven, tech-savvy startups entering the digital distribution space, and it far exceeds some of its oldest rivals that still rely on old, outdated platforms.

Stores serviced

CD Baby distributes music to over 150 digital music platforms, which includes major music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, TIDAL, Amazon Music, Google Play, Pandora, and many others. You’ll easily find digital music distributors that work with more stores––some send music to as many as 600––, but the truth is that though 150 stores has become sort of a music distributor standard, that number is already a bit excessive. More stores serviced doesn’t equal to more fans for your music, in most cases. Some new digital music startups are even offering their services for free and keeping costs down by only working with major music companies.

Alongside other major music distributors like TuneCore and DistroKid, CD Baby’s digital store reach is exactly what it needs to be for most independent musicians. The company is also proving it’s able to keep up with the ever-evolving needs of musicians in terms of who they’re trying to reach and how. In the fall of 2019, CD Baby announced that it was partnering with Tencent, a major music streaming service based in China. That partnership gave CD Baby’s musicians access to millions of new listeners they couldn’t have reached otherwise.

Customer service and support

cd baby contact

Much of the beef musicians have with CD Baby comes down to its customer service. We had a mixed experience with CD Baby’s customer service and support features. During the music-uploading process, customer service was instantaneous and effective. We had a question about how CD Baby’s music sync services worked (more on that in a bit), and a friendly human being was there to chat about the details with us in less than five minutes.

But once money changed hands and music was uploaded, help was much harder and slower to find. We had a question about publishing services and had to open a ticket over email. At the time of writing this, it’s been a couple of days, and we haven’t heard back from CD Baby’s customer service team. Not a big deal at all because our question wasn’t urgent and it hasn’t been very long, but it should be noted that a small number of CD Baby’s customers take issue with their customer service team. Complaints range from help arriving too late to agents being unhelpful or uninterested.

This issue almost certainly comes down to the company’s incredibly thin staff. CD Baby employees just 140 people while representing music from over 650,000 artists. It’s safe to assume that CD Baby’s customer service team is inundated with more questions and requests than it can accommodate in a timely manner. This seems to be the case with most of the major digital music distributors, which is why it’s crucial to get the metadata details associated with your releases correct the first time instead of having to change them later. Whether you’re distributing work through CD Baby or one of its competitors, there’s no telling when or even if adjustments can be made to your music after it’s been released.

UPDATE: After almost a month, Cd Baby’s customer service team finally got back to us. The service was great, but we were surprised and disappointed in how long it took them to respond to our issue. If you need an issue resolved with your music quickly, CD Baby probably isn’t the distributor for you.

Speed

CD Baby is as speedy as they come when it comes to digital music distributors. According to the company’s website, it only takes 1-5 days for CD Baby to review new music. In terms of speed, our experience with CD Baby was excellent. However, the company recommends giving them a timeframe of at least two weeks to distribute your music to stores online. This is because every digital music platform has its own unique rules and timelines for accepting new music.

CD Baby could review music instantaneously and would still be subject to how long its 150 stores take to review music. We have no complaints when it comes to how quickly CD Baby distributes music, but it and every other digital music distributor can only work as quickly as the stores it works with.

Physical music distribution 

Alongside its publishing and royalty collection services, physical music distribution is something that sets CD Baby apart from its competitors. The company distributes CDs, vinyl records, and cassette tapes to over 15,000 stores around the world. For independent artists, music has never been easier to share digitally, but access to physical music distribution is a different story. The company keeps $4 from each physical sale, and it manufactures CDs and vinyl records in-house.

But just because CD Baby can theoretically distribute physical music to thousands of stores across the globe doesn’t mean your music will show up in them. There are a few things to think about here. Stores will only order your CDs, tapes, or vinyl records if there’s a significant demand for your music. The company recommends promoting work strategically to music stores to drive demand.

Also, CD Baby forces its customers to not only pay to manufacture physical music, but to also cover shipping costs to stores. In other words, physical music distribution is expensive. Don’t let that scare you if you’re an ambitious artist considering sharing your work physically. Ultimately, the value CD Baby brings to the table here is the convenience of streamlining physical and digital distribution services. CDs and vinyl records are still hugely important in the music industry, and, like its namesake eludes, CD Baby does physical music distribution well. It should, after all. It’s had over 20 years of experience.

Reports and analytics

cd baby analytics

Keeping in step with the rest of its fashionable platform, CD Baby offers some excellent analytic and reporting features. You’ll find the standard financial reports here that you would with any other digital distributor with some extra schnazzy features that make CD Baby’s costs seem a little more worthwhile. The company’s reports are split into three categories: Sales & Accounting, Music Player Statistics, and Trending & Analytics.

Sales & Accounting conveniently puts all of your CD Baby earnings into one place, from physical music sales, to streams, downloads, and sync licensing royalties. The Music Player Statistics reporting page breaks down where the streaming and download portions of your CD Baby revenue streams are coming from. A small but frustrating note, when we tried to access this page, all we got was a never-ending grey loading symbol of doom:

cd baby sales

This probably happened because the music we uploaded had just hit stores that day and there was no data to report, so it’s not a big deal. CD Baby’s Trending & Analytics page is a unique asset the company offers to both its Pro and Standard users.

It gives you detailed reports from Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes with information like top tracks, location, user age, devices listened on, top playlists, and both play and traffic sources. Spotify and Apple Music both give artists loads of data about their listeners, but neither offer clues as to where they might’ve clicked online to discover your music. That last detail turns CD Baby’s analytical offerings from something convenient into a notable asset in our book.

cd baby fans

However, there is one caveat to consider here, which is that CD Baby considers their gathered audience statistics as estimated and therefore unverifiable. To get information that’s completely accurate, CD Baby instructs users to visit the in-house reporting pages post on Spotify and Apple Music.

Distribution verdict:

How does CD Baby stack up? Out of 25 points, this is how we ranked it:

Stores serviced: 4/5

Platform and ease of use: 4/5

Price: 3/5 

Reputation: 4/5

Reports and analytics: 4/5

Total: 19/25

As you probably already know, CD Baby does a whole lot more other than music distribution. From sync placements to music promotion, let’s take a deep dive into all the non-music distribution services this company has to offer.

Added services and benefits

Publishing and Royalty Collection

Other digital music distribution companies offer publishing services, but CD Baby is unique in the way it seamlessly integrates that wing of its services into the overall experience of releasing music through the platform (this only applies to CD Baby Pro users).

During the music-uploading process, you’ll encounter a page that asks you to fill out publishing information for your work, such as how many songwriters contributed, whether you use samples or not in your music, and if you’re currently affiliated with a PRO.

How much benefit you’ll get from forking over the extra cash to pay for CD Baby Pro’s publishing and royalty services is really worth it or not entirely depends on your unique standing as a songwriter, but if you’re already signed up as a songwriter and publisher through a PRO like ASCAP (yes, you can do this), there’s honestly not much of a benefit to be found here. ASCAP charges a one-time $50 to become a publisher through its platform, and they have the resources and experience needed to discover where your music is being played around the world and pay you accordingly. It currently costs $40 more to release an album through the Pro tier than it does through the standard one, so unless you’re a one-and-done kind of band, paying for CD Baby’s extra publishing services might not be smart for you or your project. If CD Baby can collect and pay out royalties better than organizations like ASCAP or BMI, it doesn’t say so on their website.

YouTube, FaceBook, and Dubset monetization 

cd baby monetization

During the music uploading process, CD Baby asks you to opt in or out of YouTube, Facebook, and Dubset monetization. Opting in gives CD Baby permission to pay you when your music is being used on Facebook, Instagram (Facebook owns Instagram), and YouTube. However, this service isn’t cheap. Musicians who opt in for the service part ways with 30% of the royalties they earn through those platforms. Dubset, a service pays artists when their music is being sampled, is even more expensive with a 40% royalty split. These services can be found for cheaper elsewhere, but CD Baby counts on customers accepting high fees because they often don’t have the energy, time, and interest to shop somewhere else. The world of royalty collection is tedious and endlessly complicated, which is why CD Baby feels justified in charging such steep prices for musicians who opt in for these services.

Sync services 

Most artists will love CD Baby’s sync services.

As opposed to pitching music, music supervisors and managers approach the platform searching for specific genres of music. When someone expresses interest in an artist’s music, CD Baby allows musicians to negotiate prices and other terms for the placement. For every song placed, CD Baby takes a 40% cut of the artist’s profits. This might seem steep, but it’s actually more or less in line with comparable companies, and is actually a much better deal than some of the other platforms out there that exclusively offer sync placements.

It’s not clear how many CD Baby artists currently benefit from its sync placement program, but it shares lots of “success stories” on its blog and podcast. The truth is that music is more saturated now than it’s ever been, and that musicians need to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way. Not every musician will benefit from this added service, but it’s a nice bonus for signing up with CD Baby. You never know who’s listening.

Tools and promotion

Similar to its biggest competitors, CD Baby offers an impressive-looking suite of marketing tools.

At first glance, this looks like a great deal for artists, but lean in a little closer and you’ll see that many offered tools are from other companies that will charge you to use their services. Very few of CD Baby’s promotional tools are free, and even fewer of them are actually offered by the company itself. Click on the “Bandzoogle” link, for instance, and you’ll be redirected to Bandzoogle’s website (it’s a company that builds band websites). The “Merchly” icon led us to their page as well. This led us to believe that most of CD Baby’s touted promotional services actually benefit CD Baby more than its artists through paid sponsorships. Working with Bandzoogle, Merchly, or any of the other companies CD Baby recommends isn’t necessarily a bad bet for artists, but they can’t really be thought of as included benefits because they’re not free and they aren’t services CD Baby provides.

CD Baby does offer a couple of promotional benefits, however. It gives artists an easy way to gain access to their own verified YouTube Channels and Apple Music analytic profiles, a proprietary embeddable CD Baby music player, and a customizable music profile to sell music through its online store. These perks aren’t stellar, truth be told. With a couple of minutes of research, most artists can sign up for a verified YouTube channel and Apple Music reports. And CD Baby’s store isn’t going to win over audiences if an artist is unknown and doesn’t have any fans. This is an area where CD Baby decidedly doesn’t shine.

Tools and promotion rundown:

-Bandzoogle (website services): Recommended by CD Baby, Bandzoogle is essentially Squarespace for musicians. No discount is offered to CD Baby members. 

-YouTube (video services): CD Baby provides a free, easy way for artists to get their own official video channels on YouTube. 

-Apple Music for Artists: CD Baby provides a free, easy way for artists to access Apple Music’s artist services.

-Spotify for Artists: CD Baby provides a free, easy way for artists to access Spotify’s artist services.

-hearNOW (music promotion services): This company is owned by CD Baby and offers its users simple One Page websites to promote their music for $2.95 a month or $24 per-year. 

-Show.co (music marketing services): Powered by CD Baby, Show.co gives independent artists the power to create audio and banner ads that appear on major music platforms. Fees vary by plan, and there is no discount for CD Baby members. 

-Radio Airplay (radio promotion services)- Radio Airplay “guarantees” that artists who work through their service will get their songs played on Internet radio stations. CD Baby members who sign up get 100 free plays as a bonus. 

-CD Baby Music Player: CD Baby gives its artists the power to create and customize their own embeddable music players. This promotional tool is free. 

-CD Baby Link-Maker: This free service allows artists to add buttons to their websites that link back to their public CD Baby profiles.

-CD Baby Artist Profile: CD Baby’s artist profiles are free, customizable, and designed to help musicians sell music through the platform.

-Merchly (musician merchandising services): Merchly is a platform designed to help artists create, customize, and deliver merch. No discount is offered to CD Baby members. 

Artist resources

While CD Baby’s promotional tools are mostly nothing more than thinly veiled sponsorship opportunities for the company, the company seems to devote quite a bit of attention to its blog, comprehensive digital guides covering everything from touring to music promotion and podcasts. CD Baby even throws an annual conference for musicians called the “DIY Musician Conference.” If you’re new to the music game and are looking for tips, CD Baby’s artist resources will be a nice bonus for signing up for the service. If you’re experienced, what the blog and podcast cover will be stuff you almost certainly already have heard before, save for the music industry news CD Baby covers. But regardless of what your experience is with making music, it’s clear that this company makes a genuine effort to educate and empower musicians, and for that we give it high marks in this area. The rest of CD Baby’s artist resources is a different story.

They include a page urging artists to copyright their music with a company called Cosynd, a link to the Berklee College of Music’s online classes, and another to the Indie Bible. Every musician can benefit from music education, but copyright services and help from the Indie Bible will only help some independent music creators. Essentially what Cosynd does is register albums for $30 a pop through the U.S. Copyright Office. This adds an extra layer of legal protection, but it’s by no means necessary.

The Indie Bible is a digital directory of music industry contacts. For some musicians, this is a nice perk, but it will be useless for others and expensive for anyone who signs up. Today’s music industry moves faster than ever before, and there’s no way a registry like the Indie Bible can keep up with the perpetual revolving door of all blog, music supervisor, venue, and label contacts out there. CD Baby touts this as another “tool” to benefit its artists, but it’s really just another sponsorship that’s most likely designed to bring in more revenue for the company.

Cover Song Licensing 

easy song licensing

More and more of the major digital music distributors are handling cover licensing in-house, but CD Baby still relies on a third party to handle that complicated piece of business. They use a company called Easy Song Licensing.

Full disclosure: we haven’t used this company, but by the looks of its website, it doesn’t look anywhere near as modern and sleek as CD Baby. Compared to CD Baby’s biggest rivals like TuneCore and DistroKid, going through an unreputable third party to handle cover song licensing will probably be a headache for most artists. The company used to handle these transactions itself, but ended the practice in 2016. For career artists searching for distributors that have cover song licensing services streamlined into their platforms, this may be a deal breaker.

Artist services rundown:

-Cosynd (musician legal and copyright services): Cosynd offers legal and copyright services to musicians. CD Baby and Cosynd have a partnership, but CD Baby’s members don’t receive a special discount for this company’s services. 

-Berklee Online (music education services): Berklee enjoys one of the best reputations in music education. No discount is offered to CD Baby members for Berklee’s online music courses. 

-The Indie Bible (music industry contact directory): The Indie Bible’s comprehensive music directory features contacts for sync agents, music managers, venues, and more. Special discounts such as $20 off their Spotify Bible package are offered to CD Baby members. 

-Easy Song Licensing (cover song licensing services): CD Baby stopped offering cover song clearance services years ago, and now recommends its users try this company. No discount is offered to CD Baby members. 

Music Mastering 

CD Baby doesn’t master music, but it has partnerships with three companies that do: CloudBounce, the SoundLab, and LANDR. We were mystified why and how LANDR was still one of CD Baby’s partners––the company now offers free digital distribution services to its subscribers who pay to have music mastered through their platform––until we clicked on the link and saw this pop-up:

cd baby mastering

Looks like LANDR and CD Baby had a bad breakup. CloudBounce and SoundLab are both mastering companies, but they’re quite different. Like LANDR, CloudBounce masters music digitally through a mastering engine, but SoundLab offers human-facilitated “world class audio mastering” for $49 a song. Most of CD Baby’s partnerships range from tedious to downright annoying, but mastering is an area many musicians will find helpful. It’s essential for serious musicians, and having easy access to different services who do it is a nice perk.

Security and ad innovations 

We’ve already mentioned how CD Baby’s platform is thoughtful and stylish, but we should also talk about how it approaches security.

If you leave the site for an extended period of time, it will automatically log you out. We found this annoying, but also comforting. It’s a feature that shows the company takes digital security seriously. If your music is successful, you might have tens of thousands of dollars floating around CD Baby’s platform at any given time, so this is an important issue.

And lastly, let’s talk about Show.co, CD Baby’s new in-house marketing system. Show.co is new and relatively unproven, but it could turn into a massive benefit for independent artists. Essentially, the platform allows artists to place audio and banner ads on Spotify, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and other major music sites. Giving artists of all experience levels and audience sizes a way to advertise their new music to so many people could be a huge asset––for those who can afford the service, that is. It should also be noted that while CD Baby calls Show.co their “marketing system,” anyone can use it.

The Verdict

CD Baby has its flaws, but it’s a sleek, thoughtful company that seems to make a real effort to understand and cater to independent musicians.

While major digital distributors like TuneCore who run on annual fee structures are geared towards musicians who consistently bring in money, CD Baby’s manageable one-time fees are great for new and unestablished musicians. There is a pesky 9% royalty sharing agreement and barcode fee to consider, but compared to forking over $50 a year for as long as you keep an album digitally distributed, musicians who don’t earn much money from their original recordings (most musicians) will gladly give up a small portion of their royalties for CD Baby’s services, which include digital and physical music distribution, publishing, sync placing, and others.

This company’s rivals offer many of the same services, but CD Baby does an excellent job of walking customers through the music-uploading process in a way that explains how its platform can benefit musicians from start to finish. Customer service can be hard to find at this company––we’re still waiting for our question about CD Baby’s publishing services to be answered––, but the company shines in plenty of other areas.

Its section of “tools” is not one of them, save for a couple of assets some musicians might actually use. But aside from partnerships that appear to benefit the company more than the musicians it represents, CD Baby offers a great digital distribution experience with plenty of solid perks to explore for a reasonable price.

 

Check Out the ULTIMATE Music Distribution Guide (Reviews + Comparison Chart)

5 thoughts on “CD Baby Review: STILL a Legit Distributor to Sell Your Music?”

  1. My experience with CDBaby has been nothing but frustration during the submission process. Now that some of my classical music CDs are finally accepted and out for distribution, I am ANGRY!
    As a concert pianist I needed to release some CDs which were previously distributed by a now defunct label. The submission process was new to me, so I had a learning curve, obviously, regarding the specified formatting of text, artwork and audio.
    The website is totally user-unfriendly and awkward to use (reminds you of DOS!). Information that has been entered and saved is not necessarily stored, but some of it might disappear or shows up in an older, incorrect way. The formatting of titles, movements, opus or catalog numbers is not in the customary format; the website does not self-correct mistakes or automatically formats entries into CDBaby’s required system. There is nothing intuitive about that submission form, and you have to work continuously in order to avoid starting over again! Very clumsy.
    The information about how to enter the specific requirements for classical music is not very helpful with complete samples.
    What is worse is the lack of customer service: VERY slow to respond (excuses for VOVID 19 come in easy!), every time I had a chance to speak to someone, that person was not competent in their own arbitrary submission requirements for classical music.
    What really topped my list of complains is the fact that now my finalized CDs show up on various of their partners with missing composer’s names on tracks, making it impossible for listeners to choose what they want to hear or to identify pieces. THAT IS UNPROFESSIONAL DISTRIBUTION SERVICE and arrogant to their clients. Now I have to salvage their incompetence. I don’t know about their financial trustworthiness, making money with submitting my recordings are not the main goal. But I hoped for a professional alternative to music labels. Very disappointed.

  2. My experience with CDBaby just a few months ago, releasing GallopAway Music’s third CD, was very positive: effective, responsive and enjoyable. The online data entry chore (there being lot of it) was finicky (required redoing portions at times), but ultimately I give the programming team good marks, as a successful execution of a difficult task (so many logical branches!) … from my perspective as a programmer and website designer. I figure it’s a work in progress and improving with time like good wine. Customer service was always there when I needed them, friendly and knowledgable. Clearly, it complicated my effort that the CD, of originals and covers, encompasses an extremely broad range of musical styles, from a light jazz soup recipe to a simple children’s song to solo classical piano to an echo study inside a million-gallon water tank to a middle-eastern fantasy quest to a gringo’s rendition of an old field holler. It was a re-learning curve, having done it with CDBaby for a previous project years ago, and the reward did not disappoint. I will use CDBaby again and I do recommend them without reservation to my friends.

  3. Is there any distributer for independent musicians that provides telephone customer service? (I am a senior ‘girl singer’ with a very low computer frustration level.

    Btw, I found Easy Song Licensing wonderful to work with because they do provide ready phone service.

    1. That’s where I take issue, too. So much quicker to just talk than have to submit tickets and go back and forth. Especially with a simple question or two. I was all set to use CD Baby (and did many years ago for actual CD’s) but now am not so sure.

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