Press Clipping
Faster Than Sound: I’m Just Not Into Labels

CD Baby brings DIY Musician Conference to Austin, Sidewinder won’t be ready for SXSW, and PledgeMusic withholds Fastball campaign funds

Relocating from Nashville, independent music distributor CD Baby imports its annual gathering to Austin for the next two years. The DIY Musician Conference promises three days of practical artist education Aug. 16-18.

"At other conferences I go to, the biggest problem is industry people just talking to the industry," shares CD Baby Marketing VP Kevin Breuner. "They're not giving information specific to helping artists move their careers to the next level, like how you get a manager or book your own tour."

Breuner jokes that the 20-year-old brand now abbreviates "Completely Digital" Baby. After making its name as a go-to online CD store, the Portland-based company successfully pivoted to digital music distribution. Exclusive deals with Spotify and Apple Music boosted the platform's artists, who earned over $100 million last year. That represented a 25% increase from 2017.

Their DMC convergence previously pulled a majority out-of-state audience, tapping local recording studios, businesses, and artists for programming activities. Further details coming in April, the Austin weekend lands at the Downtown Hilton Austin with evening performances at Cheer Up Charlies.

Representing Gibson guitars at California's sprawling NAMM Show, local performer Gina Chavez phones in to describe CD Baby as "an extra team member" helping navigate streaming. The bilingual local's career track includes an NPR Tiny Desk performance and tours as a U.S. State Department cultural ambassador, all endeavored without a label or management.

"I don't see [streaming] as income, but more as engagement," says Chavez. "If a fan is on Spotify, they should be able to listen to me on Spotify, because that provides a longer-term relationship."

San Antonio hip-hop trio Third Root splits its upcoming album, Trill Pedagogy, into four EPs in an "experiment" to boost online traffic, which they track on CD Baby and additional platforms like Bandcamp. Known onstage as Easy Lee, MC/poet/educator Charles Peters describes the bite-sized outputs as "this continuous promotion leading to a big vinyl piece" in March. Both Peters and Chavez sold physical copies on CD Baby in the early Aughts, making the platform a natural choice over other popular distributors like DistroKid and TuneCore.

Last year, local duo Mikaela Kahn and Jordan Burchill responded to an Instagram post by cineaste Spike Lee requesting song submissions from independent artists. The folk-pop duo's debut single, "Lion Eyes," ended up in the acclaimed director's Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman. Without a label, Kahn says navigating the legal details of mainstream film placement proved "really confusing." They use CD Baby's add-on Pro Publishing services to collect international royalties for the song.

"We both went to a great music school, but I wish they would talk more about monetizing your work," admits Burchill, a University of North Texas alumnus. "Now, we're doing research and figuring it out on the fly."