There are various ways one can discover new music. It could be a random song that appears on a Pandora channel or the music chosen for a hit television show’s closing montage. No matter how one consumes the music, the point is that its out there for people to hear, and for the past 20 years that is what CD Baby has been doing for musicians without a push from the major labels. “Our main focus is helping artists monetize their music anyway possible,” says Kevin Breuner, CD Baby’s VP of Marketing. “We’re a service here to help artists get their music out in the world,” and in music’s digital age there are multiple ways to achieve that goal.
“Back in the day there was no way to access the market,” recalls Kevin, who has spent over 20 years working in the music business, both as an artist and an industry professional. “If you didn’t have a record deal, you weren’t even going to be able to make a record. [CD Baby] was a way to facilitate artists getting their music out to the world, helping them make money from their music without having to sign away their rights. Without having to go through a gatekeeper that’s going to decide whether or not their music is any good.” Now, thanks to CD Baby, up and coming artists who might not have been able to get their music to the masses have the same opportunities as their counterparts signed with major labels.
On top of helping musicians with publishing administration, sync licensing, and digital distribution, CD Baby recently acquired a music marketing platform geared towards getting people to take a specific action called Show.co. Through this new marketing tool, CD Baby can now help musicians create and maintain social media campaigns, follow-to-enter contests, curate a YouTube channel, connect fans to their social media profiles, sell merchandise online, etc. “A lot of people use it to drive Spotify follows and ads,” Kevin explains. “But we just launched a new feature with [Show.co] that allows you to do a Spotify pre-save.” In the download world, you had iTunes pre-releases, but in the streaming world you have ‘pre-saves’ which means that fans can pre-save and album not yet released to their music library, and it will automatically appear in their collection the day it drops. ‘Pre-saves’ are now a data point used to track the success of an album after it’s released, and another tool in CD Baby’s arsenal.
Another avenue CD Baby uses to share their artists with the world is through television. Ingrid Michaelson, an artist who has achieved international success and still uses CD Baby for distribution, first made it big with her hit song “Into You,” which appeared on season 9 episode 1 of the hit show Grey’s Anatomy. The folks at CD Baby knew they had a hit on their hands when all of Ingrid’s CDs sold out, and more had to be ordered. Ingrid’s downloads also started selling like digital hot cakes. CD Baby helped Ingrid capitalize on her newfound success by getting her song “The Way I Am” featured in an Old Navy commercial that got played on all the major networks. “It started out she was just an independent artist that hadn’t had anything happen,” according to Kevin. “[Ingrid] had someone pitching songs for her that had placement potential, and it landed and worked, which then exploded her career.”
Ingrid’s success story is just one of many from CD Baby’s 20 year history. Although famous acts like Macklemore, The National, and Bon Iver found super stardom through CD Baby’s model it’s the lesser known artists who have benefited most from the platform. Mary Ann Kennedy’s music about horses likely would have been ignored by the major labels, but thanks to CD Baby’s ability and willingness to give her music the attention it deserves Mary Ann is now a Grammy nominated hit songwriter. Michele McLaughlin, a full-time solo pianist making a living from her streaming royalties, uses Pandora and Spotify to drive repeated engagement with her songs on digital platforms. These are just a few examples that demonstrate how deep the indie music market can go. If you can tap into a community, then you can see some big success, and CD Baby gives artists the opportunity to tap into these niche markets; thus, helping them make a living off their art. Gone are the days where egotistical record executives hold the keys to the kingdom. Now we live in an DIY age where anybody can create and share their art with the world. Despite the music industry’s evolution over the past two decades, CD Baby’s focus since its inception, according to Kevin, has never strayed, “if you want to make music, and release it to the world, we’re not going to stop you.”