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CD Baby Celebrates 20th Anniversary, Paying $600M to Indie Artists Since Its Founding

This year, music distributor CD Baby celebrates its 20th anniversary and says that, in those 20 years, it has paid out $600 million to independent artists, with $80 million of that being in 2017 alone.

Independent artists continue to make up an ever-growing share of the music business overall, with the proportion growing year-over-year. According to CD Baby, for 2017, it was around 40 per cent of total industry revenue. CD Baby has seen similar growth, with its artists earning around $80 million payout on a catalog of more than 9 million digital tracks. CD Baby added around 1 million digital tracks in just 2017.

Much of the growth in the market for independent music comes from new platforms like Spotify and YouTube, where it’s easier to discover and listen to indie artists. At the same time, physical sales and downloads remain important for some styles, pointing to the diversity of models among independent artists. It all adds up to an increasingly vibrant scene that’s come a long way since CD Baby was founded 20 years ago, says the company.

“Just six years ago, iTunes downloads were the main source of sales revenue for our artists,” explains Kevin Breuner, VP of marketing at CD Baby. “Now, large amounts of money are generated by streams on Spotify and Apple Music. With this shift, we’ve seen revenue increase dramatically. The overall pie is growing, and indie musicians are getting their slices.”

For example, in 2009, when earnings from Spotify made up only around one per cent of artist revenue, total income from the DSP barely scratched $500,000. Now, as that Spotify’s share of revenue has grown to 58 per cent of total earnings, artists are taking home almost $47 million from the streaming service alone.

“We’re excited to see average artists’ earnings grow for a third consecutive year due to millions more consumers engaging in music discovery on streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora,” says CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux. “YouTube is also a playing field-leveling platform that is contributing hugely to artist royalty growth. We’re very optimistic about the trend as we continue to lobby for higher per stream rates.”

“I’m so proud of what we see the artists in our community accomplishing everyday,” enthuses Breuner. “We’re committed to supporting and boosting their accomplishments.”