CD Baby’s mission is simple: they help musicians make money from their music. Today there are more ways to do that than ever before. Founded back in 1998 as an online CD store the company has grown to become the largest global digital distributor of independent music as well as the largest publishing rights administrator in the world. CD Baby represents over 650,000 recording artists, 100,000 songwriters and more than 7 million tracks that span 800+ genres which has resulted in pay outs to musicians that have exceed $500 million. In addition, CD Baby provides educational resources in the areas of distribution, promotion, royalties and more.
Well-known acts such as Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Twenty One Pilots, and Macklemore got their start on CD Baby, while others like Ingrid Michaelson and Gregory Alan Isakov have maintained independent and highly successful careers using CD Baby as a key partner for their music distribution. Rooney and George Benson are just two of the many notable artists who’ve dropped the old label system and turned to CD Baby to release music on their own terms.
CD Baby is a trusted industry leader so it was not surprising that their DIY Musician Conference at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville, Tennessee was a sell-out. The three day event was held August 25th through the 27th, 2017. In attendance was CD Baby artist Rich Lynch. This was Rich’s first year going to this comprehensive conference. He arrived around 10 am on Friday to register before finding a seat in the Ballroom to hear CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux’s welcoming remarks. He spoke about his company’s ability to connect artists globally as he reminded them that music is a business.
Now more than ever before performers have the freedom to craft their career path but that means there is more to it than just creating great music which is the most important step. Musicians today also need to understand how to build a team to assist with distribution, marketing, touring and more. They need to come up with innovative ideas to reach the world. Chance The Rapper whose name came up a number of times at the conference was a prime example. He started off giving away his mix tapes in an effort to expand his fan base. He built a buzz around his music so when Chance’s albums dropped they sold well. Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book won three Grammy Awards in 2016. It was the only streaming, independent release ever to win the prestigious prize. Chance was just one of a number of artists cited as using the changing times to his advantage. Mr. Maddux concluded his presentation reminding attendees that CD Baby is real people taking care of your music.
Lynch observed that the theme of changes in the industry was a major topic covered by many of the speakers at the DIY Musician Conference. Mike Fiebach founder of Fame House a digital marketing agency touched upon that as he outlined the services his company provides. Some of the tips that Mike shared was the importance of engaging listeners but also collecting data to figure out who and where your music is being streamed. This information will be key when targeting promotional campaigns. He encouraged artists to be honest and share their stories with fans via apps, e-mail, social media and emerging platforms. Mr. Fiebach recommended a number of resources such as MailChimp and add-on services affiliated with CD Baby. He finished up with a summary of some of the new technologies that Fame House is exploring that will benefit their clients in the ever-changing future.
Next, Rich checked out Ari Herstand an independent musician, author and blogger. Ari started on a positive note stating that he believes that there is enough for everyone in other words we can all be successful. Ari is the classic DIY artist who learned by trial and error how to succeed and he shares these tips on his advice blog Ari’s Take. “Things keep changing fast,” he observed. He recommended artists ask themselves why music because it is not an easy industry to break into – again the point is that art is also a business. He recommended the 50/50 rule which means 50% of your time and money goes into creating great music and the other 50% is allocated to the business of marketing. Obviously when you are working on an album your energy will be committed to the creative process but later the focus will need to go into promotion. He encouraged people to hold on to as much of their artistic rights as possible. Ari also suggested folks share their stories to attract fans reminding people that in many cases you are addressing readers and not musicians so avoid going to deep into the technical aspects of your music. Ari concluded with more tips about joining communities, building relationships and budgeting resources to creating and marketing your songs.
Between presentations Rich explored the main hall where various vendors were stationed. A number of Nashville service providers were there including Indie Connect a music management, consulting & training firm for independent artists. They are also the producers of Indie Connect Magazine and the Business Side of Music podcast. MusicStartsHere.org is Nashville’s community, city and industry sponsored initiative designed to help artists, songwriters, musicians, technicians and industry professionals simplify and streamline the craft and business of making music. As Rich was checking things out the music he heard at the conference was all by CD Baby artists.
Loudr is a licensing firm that assists artists with the all-important area of mechanical licensing with a focus on cover songs. At the conference they gave out an informative booklet on this topic. In a one on one session founder Chris Crawford explained to Rich how Loudr navigates artists through the complexities of the process insuring that everyone who should be paid is compensated. As musicians build a team a company such as Loudr can handle the paperwork of licensing so that the performers can concentrate on their craft.
Before the break Lynch attended a seminar on the value of getting good publicity paneled by Katharine Richardson and Craig Shelburne of Nashville’s acclaimed Richlyn Marketing. Their special guest Jamie Floyd told the room how she acquired a lot of press on her own by having a unique story – her’s being the fact that she won a Grammy while working as a full-time waitress. We also met Mike Stewart a one-man promotional force who was at the conference to teach DIY musicians the importance of getting the most out of digital marketing and website optimization. Click his link below to scratch the surface on the myriad of services he can provide.
After lunch on Friday Rich listened to Mary Gauthier and interviewer Kevin Breuner in a keynote address speak about the transforming times in music. They mentioned that the distribution formats have changed but what has not is feeling. The core of a great song is how it touches people. “Aim for the heart,” said Gauthier. Mary firmly endorsed CD Baby as she advised attendees that their back catalogue could have value so if possible keep the rights to your music. Mary shared some of her personal experiences again emphasizing the point of writing songs that speak to people. At the end of their discussion Mary performed two moving tunes. First Woody Guthrie’s still so relevant “This Land Is Your Land” and “Mercy Now” a compelling composition from Ms. Gauthier.
Another helpful seminar that Rich attended was CD Baby’s “The Promo Tools You Many Not Know You Have”. Two company reps walked musicians through CD Baby’s dashboard pointing out free and add-on services available to their artists. Throughout the presentation questions were addressed. Show.co, daily trending reports and more are some of the tools accessible to CD Baby members. Throughout the conference mentoring sessions by appointment were also available.
All three days were packed with informative forums touching upon such subjects as Building Your Presence on Spotify, The Keys To Building an Audience on Instagram, GigSalad Be Unforgettable, Earning $74,000 Using Facebook Live, The Anatomy of Major Music Marketing, Putting Your Music To Work, Your Blueprint for Production and Mixing, Building an Artist’s Team to Handle Business, Copyright Registration Workshop and much more.
In addition to all the educational opportunities after conference activities allowed artists to mingle with other musicians from different parts of the country and even the world. On Friday there was an Open Mic Night at BB King’s Blues Club on 2nd Avenue. Saturday featured a musical showcase at The Cannery Ballroom and on Sunday Viral Music Media hosted a roof top party at the Tin Roof on Broadway. Lynch attended an industry meet up on Friday where he encountered Mason Murphy of Pyrotek Special Effects Inc. The company is responsible for live music effects. Their clients include Taylor Swift and one of Rich’s personal favorites Trans-Siberian Orchestra. However, Pyrotek can also provide services on a smaller scale for indie artists. Also on site was local vodka makers Nashville Pickers who were serving flavorful blends. Rich enjoyed Pickers Vodka’s blueberry lemonade mixture as he chatted with folks including representatives from the Royalty Exchanges who enlightened him on the business of leveraging music for money so that artists can take full advantage of their royalties.
After CD Baby’s 3 day DIY Musician Conference indie rocker Rich Lynch came away inspired and better informed on what a DIY artist needs to do to be successful. He also has a greater understanding of the resources available to him as a CD Baby member. Lynch realized that he is a part of a community that is supporting indie artists while promoting music on a global scale and he meet some interesting people along the way.