|Founded||March 10, 1998|
Woodstock, New York, U.S.
|Headquarters||Portland, Oregon, U.S.|
|Industry||Digital distribution, music publisher, online music store|
|Products||Digital distribution, promotion|
|Parent||AVL Digital Group (Downtown)|
CD Baby, Inc. is the largest online distributor of independent music in the world. The company has been described as an "anti-label" by Tracy Maddux. CD Baby is the only digital aggregator with top preferred partner status with both Spotify and Apple Music, and it is home to more than 650,000 artists and 9 million tracks that are made available to over 100 digital services and platforms around the globe.
For its clients, CD Baby offers digital music distribution, worldwide publishing rights administration, monetization of music use on social video platforms, sync licensing, music marketing and online advertising, cover song licensing, and physical distribution and order fulfillment for CDs and vinyl records. By opting into their online distribution service, artists can authorize CD Baby to act on their behalf to submit music for sale to online retailers such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora Radio, and 150+ other streaming services.
The company also hosts two annual conferences for independent musicians looking for education, networking, and performance opportunities. Described as "the only music conference geared specifically towards the needs of independent artists in charge of their careers," the DIY Musician Conference took place in Chicago in 2015 and 2016, Nashville in 2017 and 2018, and is scheduled in Austin for 2019 and 2020.
In 2018, CD Baby paid over $100 million to its artist community (a 25% increase from 2017), bringing its total artist payouts to over $700 million. In addition to the services the firm offers under its own name, CD Baby also now owns and operates HearNow, Show.co, Illustrated Sound Network, and HostBaby. HostBaby closed in 2019.
CD Baby was founded in 1998 in Woodstock, New York, by Derek Sivers. Sivers was a musician who created the website to sell his own music. As a hobby, he also began to sell the CDs of local bands and friends. Sivers originally listened to every CD he sold (the company later employed people specifically to do this, but today, CD Baby no longer listens to every submission). Sivers eventually hired John Steup as his vice president and first employee. Currently, there are one hundred or so employees of CD Baby whose work ranges from warehouse work to programming to business development to customer service.
Although the majority of artists who use CD Baby are North American, about thirty percent of orders for CD Baby are overseas.
In 2001, the firm moved to Portland, Oregon, where they remain headquartered today. In 2004, CD Baby began offering an digital music distribution and became an early partner of iTunes.
In August 2008 it was announced that Disc Makers, a CD and DVD manufacturer, bought CD Baby (and Host Baby) for 22 million dollars following a 7-year partnership between the two companies, according to Sivers.
In 2013, CD Baby Pro Publishing was launched as an add-on that assists independent songwriters in administering their composition rights and collecting global publishing royalties. The service is now available to songwriters in more than 70 countries and territories.
In March 2019, Disc Makers sold CD Baby (as part of the AVL Digital Group) to Downtown for $200 million. AVL's physical product divisions, Disc Makers, BookBaby, and Merchly, were acquired in a separate transaction by the Disc Makers executive team as part of the newly-formed DIY Media Group.
Until 2009, CD Baby ran on PHP and MySQL. Sivers announced in 2005 that he was rewriting all the systems in Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL. After about two years of work, he felt that the rewrite was still less than half done, and he threw the new code away and rewrote it again in his original programming language, PHP, and database, MySQL. Sivers noted that "Rails was an amazing teacher" but he concluded that PHP was up to the task once he had learned the lessons Ruby on Rails taught him.
CD Baby relaunched the website with major infrastructure changes (using ASPX) to support future growth, including redundancy that protects the original material on the site in a way that initially was not available to the artists. The website is no longer being run with the original or revised PHP. The new site experienced significant glitches initially, but this did not prevent the company from continuing to pay its artists as sales were reported to CD Baby by partners and others, monies received, and artist-chosen payment points reached.
CD Baby and musicians
Notable artists at CD Baby
CD Baby has a catalogue of more than 350,000 albums and over nine million downloadable song tracks. Music created by these acts, ranging from part-time hobbyists, to full-time musicians with successful careers, spans all genres, from avant-garde to world music. Dave Matthews has an album for sale on CD Baby, recorded with Mark Roebuck before the inception of Dave Matthews Band, released under the name Tribe of Heaven. Other notable artists releasing their music via CD Baby include Ingrid Michaelson who has used CD Baby for digital distribution for every release as well as Twenty One Pilots, Aloe Blacc, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heads and the Heart, Bon Iver, Sarah Barreilles, and The National. American country acts Mary Gauthier, Gretchen Peters, and Tom Russell; blues musicians Harmonica Hinds, Jeremiah Johnson, and Liz Mandeville; American Italian pianist and composer Richard Aaker Trythall; Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe; the UK duo Nizlopi; and Italian-born, American classical violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Music Director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra; Iranian Pop Star Mohsen Yeganeh; Russian American opera singer Elena Zoubareva; and Big Sur. American singer-songwriter Grayson Hugh sells his music on CD Baby, as well as on his website. Grammy Award-winning artist Janis Ian, a pioneer among independent musicians marketing online, sells her CDs on the website as well as through her own website. Indeed, CD Baby has served as the distributor for dozens of Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning titles.
Norwegian singer/songwriter Stig Gustu Larsen, have released two top charting EP's through CD Baby. The latest EP "Lifelines + Echoes" debuted at number one at the Norwegian iTunes charts.
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