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About

CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux Knows What it Means to Do It Yourself

When Tracy Maddux—a passionate fan of live music—joined CD Baby, he decided he needed to see a show by each of the new employees he worked with. Nearly everyone at CD Baby plays music. It meant ...

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Leila Grossman
(646) 921-0438

Current News

  • 02/15/202102/15/2021

CD Baby Brings on First Representative in Africa

Seasoned independent music advocate Sakhele Mzalazala will support artists across Southern Africa as CD Baby builds out its operations on the continent  

CD Baby is expanding its international artist services team to Africa, bringing on seasoned music business manager and independent music advocate Sakhele Mzalazala. Reporting to VP of International Development Heli Del Moral, Mzalazala is CD Baby’s first hire in Africa where he will be responsible for growing CD Baby in...

Press

  • Billboard, Feature story, 07/20/2021, Why Are We Still Measuring Artist Success With a Major Label Yardstick Text
  • Billboard, Mention, 06/07/2021, Revealed: Billboard's 2021 Indie Power Players Text
  • Your Morning Coffee Podcast, Mention, 07/26/2021, Episode 50 Text
  • Hypebot, Mention, 07/28/2021, YOUR MORNING COFFEE PODCAST #50: measures of success • best-paid artists • new vinyl records • more Text
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News

02/15/2021, CD Baby Brings on First Representative in Africa
02/15/202102/15/2021, CD Baby Brings on First Representative in Africa
Announcement
02/15/2021
Announcement
02/15/2021
CD Baby is expanding its international artist services team to Africa, bringing on seasoned music business manager and independent music advocate Sakhele Mzalazala. Mzalazala is CD Baby’s first hire in Africa where he will be responsible for growing CD Baby in South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, and Namibia. MORE» More»

Seasoned independent music advocate Sakhele Mzalazala will support artists across Southern Africa as CD Baby builds out its operations on the continent  

CD Baby is expanding its international artist services team to Africa, bringing on seasoned music business manager and independent music advocate Sakhele Mzalazala. Reporting to VP of International Development Heli Del Moral, Mzalazala is CD Baby’s first hire in Africa where he will be responsible for growing CD Baby in South Africa and other markets across Southern Africa, including Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, and Namibia. Based in Johannesburg, Mzalazala will spearhead strategic partnerships both locally and internationally, building networks with young and established artists in the process, as well as developing and implementing a number of programs to increase visibility and adoption of CD Baby services, and establish strategic industry relationships in the region. 

“African artists have impacted music around the world, and we’re thrilled to find the right representative to help them understand how CD Baby can support their careers and creativity,” says VP of International Development, Hel Del Moral. “This step is part of our overall vision to bring the best artist services and rights administration to independent creators worldwide.” 

Mzalazala has more than 20 years of music industry experience, including roles with Yourself Management, Xhentsa, and Koloni, working directly with artists Mahlatse Vokal and Lisa Good, and overseeing the publishing team at the prominent South African label Mathaland/Ghetto Ruff, where he worked with Zola 7, Dj Cleo, Pitch Black AFRO, and Morafe. With his own roots in the music industry as a an artist before transitioning to the business side, Mzalazala has a strong track record of supporting independent artists’ work, including a double platinum-release from Zonke Dikana’s Ina Ethe, the late Sfiso Ncwane’s multiple award-winning Gospel album Bayede Baba. He has also worked with Sizwe Zako, Tshepo Tshola, Lawrence Matshiza, and many more, experiences he has distilled into a guide book for independent musicians.

“Working for an international organization like CD Baby has been a dream of mine and I am very excited to have been given such a big opportunity, which in turn comes with bigger responsibilities,” Mzalazala says. “I look forward to impacting positively on the careers of independent artists and labels, where they will have full control and ownership of the works.I have always strived to do what is best for my artists and clients and CD Baby is just that and more. I am excited and cannot wait.”

Southern Africa has long been a musical powerhouse, with artists like Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo shaping international music for decades. New generations of artists have continued to make an impact, including independent cross-cultural groups like Cape Town’s Freshlyground, who racked up billions of YouTube views worldwide. South African independent house DJ and singer-songwriter Black Coffee helped turn the world on to African techno and club music, winning Breakthrough DJ of the Year at the DJ Awards in Ibiza in 2015. Hip hop artists from the region like DJ Nasty C have gained international audiences and exposure. At the same time, other culturally important voices remain strong, including Gospel performers like Benjamin Dube and young torchbearers for traditional genres like Zulu maskandi such as Khuzani Mpungose. Though international music continues to dominate the market (80% of market share in South Africa), the independent sector is growing as the entire music market expands by 5-9% a year, according to data reported by Music Ally. 

“Independent artists' biggest challenges in our region are the lack of information or knowledge, lack of income from their works, and the long-term agreements they sign,” explains Mzalazala. “But artists are becoming independent by owning their masters and getting access to most digital platforms. There is a lot of reason for optimism now.”  

Mzalazala joins the 22-person CD Baby international team active in markets across Europe, North America, South America, East Asia, and South Asia.

 

Announcement
02/15/2021

11/24/2020, Independent Latin artists win big at Latin GRAMMYS
11/24/202011/24/2020, Independent Latin artists win big at Latin GRAMMYS
Announcement
11/24/2020
Announcement
11/24/2020
The 21st Latin GRAMMY nominees exemplified diversity; yet, fourteen of those musicians that evening shared one thing in common: they are all musicians represented by CD Baby, the largest digital distributor and retailer of independent music in the world, dedicated to supporting independent artists at every stage of their career. MORE» More»

The 21st annual Latin GRAMMY nominees exemplified diversity, from the virtuoso Flamenco guitarist in bustling Madrid to the school-teacher turned Peruvian folklorist 5,000 miles away.  Yet, fourteen of those hopeful musicians that evening shared one thing in common:  they are all musicians represented by CD Baby, the largest digital distributor and retailer of independent music in the world, dedicated to supporting independent artists at every stage of their career.  The fact that five of those artists now share another thing in common - a 2020 Latin GRAMMY - speaks to the success of those efforts.

“At CD Baby, we celebrate indie artists every day.  We celebrate their passion, their talent, and their thirst for opportunity,” explains Heli Del Moral, VP of International Development.  “Today, we congratulate CD Baby artists being recognized by their peers for their outstanding achievement.” CD Baby’s award-winning artists include:  Susana Baca’s A Capella as Best Folk Album, Antonio Rey’s Flamenco Sin Fronteras as Best Flamenco Album, Tina KidsCanta y Juega as Best Latin Children’s Album, Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra’s Puertos: Music From International Waters as Best Jazz Album, and Paulina Leisring and Domingo Pagliuca’s Eternal Gratitude as Best Classical Album.  

The recent achievements, however, have not come out of nowhere; over the last decade, CD Baby has pushed hard to support LATAM and Spanish-speaking artists, striving to pull Latin music from the corners of digital space (like YouTube and Pandora) to mainstream streaming services; streaming services are finally taking notice, adding tracks from CD Baby’s roster to cross-Latin playlists.  For example, one of the labels in this space, Deluxe Music Group, has quadrupled their streams since 2019, and the audience is responding.  Nielsen/Billboard data show that Latin music listening overall was up by 16% year over year in the first half of 2020.  

Yet, for CD Baby, it’s not just about selling music, but building careers.  “The Latin GRAMMYs are within reach for those making music from “el corazón” (the heart).  CD Baby is proud of our commitment to Latin artists around the world.  We have invested in creating a platform that educates and enables Latin artists to do much more than sell their music,” Del Moral explains.

There is perhaps no better example than GRAMMY winner Susana Baca.  As the first Peruvian woman to receive a GRAMMY, Baca is regarded as a central figure to the revival of Afro-Peruvian music.  Far from being a talented singer-songwriter, Baca has been called a poet, a historian, and an educator, founding the “Instituto Negrocontinuo” (Black Continuum Institute) to foster the preservation and creation of Afro-Peruvian culture, music, and dance.  Much like the culture that produced it, Afro-Peruvian music had previously been little recognized; yet, with the explosion of Baca’s international popularity, both the Afro-Peruvivan culture and its folk music traditions have gained widespread recognition and respect across the country.   

This dedication to elevating diverse independent voices and traditions is central to CD Baby’s mission; from the north of Mexico to the southern tip of Chile, local reps open doors for the next generation of Latin artists.  For international artists like the 2020 Latin GRAMMY winners the Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra (based in New York), Spanish and Portuguese speaking staff are on-the-ready.  As Heli Del Moral concluded, “Parabéns to this year’s CD Baby Latin GRAMMY winners.  The results of your efforts are inspiring to all Latin artists pursuing their dreams.” And thanks to CD Baby’s efforts, so many more Latin artists will have that opportunity, no matter their background, country, or community.

Announcement
11/24/2020

10/19/2020, CD Baby Publishing Collections Now Exceed $10MM
10/19/202010/19/2020, CD Baby Publishing Collections Now Exceed $10MM
Announcement
10/19/2020
Announcement
10/19/2020
CD Baby’s music publishing service, CD Baby Pro Publishing, has collected more than $10MM on behalf of its songwriters and performing artists. Powered by sister company Songtrust, CD Baby Pro Publishing now manages 1.7MM songs. MORE» More»

The leader in independent musician services fosters true creative freedom by collecting every penny due creators, worldwide
 
CD Baby’s music publishing service, CD Baby Pro Publishing, has collected more than $10MM on behalf of its songwriters and performing artists. Powered by sister company Songtrust, CD Baby Pro Publishing now manages 1.7MM songs. 
 
The millions of dollars in royalties is money music creators would otherwise struggle to collect in full on their own. The company’s global collections infrastructure supports an increasing number of artists and songwriters who strive for true independence and want to forge their own careers with complete creative control.
 
“It is extremely important to be collecting all income sources as an independent artist, especially if you write or compose your own music,” explains Jon Bahr, VP of Business Development & Licensing at CD Baby. “The time has come for all artists, no matter what their career stage, fanbase or geographic market, to get paid promptly and fairly for their work.”
 
CD Baby and Songtrust have pushed hard to create the conditions allowing independent and self-managed artists and songwriters to collect all publishing revenues earned by their work, something remarkably difficult for a music creator in the past. Songtrust’s publishing administration goes beyond simply collecting royalties and paying them out to creators, but also analyzes global pay source statements to ensure that all money is being properly collected and paid out to the rights holder. Songtrust’s catalog database can efficiently  ingest tens of thousands of new songs a month, and collects royalties from its pay source network that spans more than 215 countries and territories; the largest open-access royalty collection network in the industry. 
 
“When CD Baby Publishing launched a few years ago, we were the first music distributor to bring Publishing Administration directly into the distribution process,” Bahr notes. “Publishing is complicated, fractured, granular and global. As our hundreds of thousands of songwriters from dozens of countries know, CD Baby Publishing allows them to focus on their music and career growth while we proactively collect what they’re owed.”
 
One of these artists, Peachy!, released an RIAA and NMPA gold single (“Falling for U,” the track that launched buzzworthy vocalist mxmtoon) while still in high school. Prolific and creative, Peachy! benefited from CD Baby Publishing’s business expertise. “Before I started collecting publishing income with CD Baby, I didn’t really understand what publishing was,” he explains. “With their services, I not only began collecting more than I expected, but with ease. Every project I’ve released with CD Baby has collected publishing income.”
 
CD Baby’s expertise will guarantee the continuity of artist and songwriter revenues as the US prepares for a major transformation of its music licensing and royalty distribution regulations with the implementation of the MLC. “In 2021, with the launch of the MLC in the United States, CD Baby Publishing’s songs will already be registered and earning,” says Bahr, “as we continue educating the tens of thousands of unpublished songwriters on the value of collecting every penny of song royalties.”

Announcement
10/19/2020

09/02/2020, Show.co’s Interactive Ads Can Quadruple Fan Engagement
09/02/202009/02/2020, Show.co’s Interactive Ads Can Quadruple Fan Engagement
Announcement
09/02/2020
Announcement
09/02/2020
CD Baby’s marketing and promotional platform Show.co has found that its new interactive ads get 4x the engagement compared to static ads. MORE» More»

CD Baby’s marketing and promotional platform Show.co has found that its new interactive ads get 4x the engagement compared to static ads. This new offering in the Ad Builder tool lets you create an ad automatically from Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, or YouTube links, making it easy for a busy artist to jump in and get the word out about their latest release or weekly livestream. These ads reach real music fans targeted based on genre interests. They display on music sites like Billboard, Pitchfork, Paste, and Rolling Stone.

Artists can simply head to show.co, choose Interactive Ads, add a link, choose their genre and basic audience characteristics, and figure out where they want fans to go. The ad is ready to unleash on music-centered sites, including popular media outlets and blogs. Bonus: each stream or view based on the ad’s link contributes to an artist’s income. 

“Ads can get really complicated, so we worked hard to make it as simple and straightforward as possible to create and launch an ad campaign,” says CD Baby’s SVP of Marketing, Kevin Breuner. “We wanted to provide just what artists need, putting their music in front of music fans at the very place and time they’re online searching for new artists to check out.”

For artists, the problem isn’t just how to create an ad or set up a campaign. It’s evaluating what garners the right kind of attention, finding potential fans where they are most likely to listen. Though artists have long relied on social platforms and apps for advertising, these places are not necessarily ideal for music-specific campaigns. 

“Most people look at an ad’s performance and see the clicks, and think the one with more clicks wins,” Breuner explains. “But that’s not accurate. For example, some people clicked but never bothered to go to your page, which happens on mobile a lot. You can look instead at the data for a streaming song like the ones used in our interactive ads and the key metrics are the bounce rate and watch time. If someone sees your video in passing in their feed, social platforms will count that as a view, even if it’s only lasting one second.”

Interactive ads lead to longer watch times and more genuine click throughs to an artists’ page. “We tested this feature extensively and found real differences in performance,” notes Breuner. “In the ads we've been running, the watch time percentage is huge compared to what a more expensive ad on a big social media platform would get,” one of the other main options for musicians looking to advertise to fans. The overall result: around 4x the engagement compared to similarly placed static ads at far lower cost than a social campaign.

This may sound like a minor deal, but for independent artists struggling to reach potential fans with their recordings, every cost saving and quality connection with a music lover can make a difference. “Promotion tools that make life easier for artists feel very important at a time when artists need to rely on recordings to keep afloat,” Breuner says

Announcement
09/02/2020

01/06/2020, Share the Mic: What we learned from building a more global team
01/06/202001/06/2020, Share the Mic: What we learned from building a more global team
Announcement
01/06/2020
Announcement
01/06/2020
In a recent piece I contributed to Billboard, I had the opportunity to talk about why we need to think differently about globalization. It’s a conversation we have been having at CD Baby and AVL for years, one that culminated this year in a rolling set of announcements about our expansion into new markets. MORE» More»

Appeared in LinkedIn

In a recent piece I contributed to Billboard, I had the opportunity to talk about why we need to think differently about globalization. It’s a conversation we have been having at CD Baby and AVL for years, one that culminated this year in a rolling set of announcements about our expansion into new markets. 

I feel like I covered the principles guiding this big global year pretty well in the Billboard piece, but I also think the nitty gritty of translating these principles into concrete business decisions is interesting. So in true DIY fashion, I’m going to share some lessons we learned here in more detail.

First and foremost, you have to share the mic with those different from you (speaking from the perspective of an American CEO). This can’t simply be a blunt export strategy, with policies or products dictated from afar, reskinned for what you think new customers might want or brought into basic compliance with local law.

We’ve learned that globalization is really localization, and that localization needs to get deep. At the most basic is the interpersonal level, you have to learn to listen and take people seriously who come from a background different from yours. This is a bit of a platitude nowadays, but to actually do it requires conscious, humble effort to look at the structure of conversations and actively encourage, include, and lift up people with strong local or community knowledge. Diverse voices don’t magically appear, if you just sit back. There needs to be an active process in place to turn them up in the mix (to take the mic metaphor a step further).  

Part of this process means hiring. You should be hiring in new markets, even if it means hiring on contract at first. But you have to hire people who are there, not people who travel there but live outside the local culture and scene. No matter how awesome an entrepreneur or business person you are or how cosmopolitan your team, you simply can’t execute a impactful strategy in a dozen markets remotely. 

Hiring is one of those things that’s easy in theory and challenging in practice. It’s challenging to identify and retain people who are the right fit for your business in a market where you’re just getting off the ground. Given some of the strictures around hiring in some countries, it can be really difficult to hire in general. But it’s essential. As as a business leader, doing as much of it as you can in person it critical, even if, like me, you don't like getting on a plane and being away from home.

It’s also great for business, we’ve discovered, boosting our sales by several times in countries where we have on-the-ground representatives. This makes it more than worth the effort of hiring, and shows what empowered local reps and employees can do, if you give them the right tools and listen to them.

About these tools. There are deep localization strategies to pursue on the product side, as well. Language localization is simply not enough. There’s a cultural component that only local knowhow and vision can shine a light on. In CD Baby’s case, we needed to figure out how artists create music in a specific place and how they experienced our service. An artist in Colombia may experience our platform differently than an artist in Mexico, though they both speak Spanish as a first language. The experience artists are having, and our local representatives are sharing with them, has to be relevant.

We’ve found the easiest way to find out how people are experiencing our service is to talk to them directly, by opening up regional contact centers for key markets. We opened our first non-US contact center in the UK this year, and were able to recruit representatives that speak multiple regional languages, such as French and Italian. In 2020, we’ll be opening our first South American contact center in Colombia, offering support in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

There’s one other element we’ve found is important to localization. When you’re working in a market, you have to spend time there (again, speaking as an American CEO). Even with all the tech out there, you can’t build good working relationships remotely and you can’t learn all you need to know via video chat. Heli Del Moral, our incredible VP of International Development really proved this point at our recent summit for international reps in Mexico City. He and our colleagues in Mexico City put together an experience that could never have been conveyed via conference call. 

We got to meet two very different artists in person and hear how their careers have gone. One was a pop band refugee who had launched a solo career and was working extremely hard to put the pieces together. For example, he struck a deal with a fashion house to sponsor a very professionally produced video, trading product placement within the video in exchange for the video's cost of production. The other artist was a transgender Folk performer who channels a specific subgenre of regional Mexican music. They told an incredible story about how their career in art evolved along with their understanding of self. To really get what made these artists and their situations unique, you had to be there, interacting with them and other professionals in person. It was great to have 25 members of the extended AVL and Downtown teams there in person to engage and understand.

So, in short, immerse yourself and encourage your core team or lead people on certain projects to do the same. They need to know first hand what their colleagues are talking about. 

This sounds fun, but it can really suck in reality. It’s hard to leave home and family obligations for the time it takes to make this work. I myself clocked 200,000 or so air miles outside the US in the last two years and frankly, I’m not looking forward to getting on an airplane again as we start the new year. That said, I am eager to keep engaging with and listening to our representatives, artists, and partners around the world, and excited to watch our localization approach mature. The impacts to our business and personal growth continue to be outstanding.

Announcement
01/06/2020