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Music Distributor CD Baby Launches MCN for Artists

CD Baby, a company that lets artists sell their music directly to consumers, has come up with another way for artists to monetize their work — a YouTube multi-channel network.

Called Illustrated Sound, the MCN is a “natural extension of what CD Baby is already doing with respect to capturing as much revenue as possible for [its musicians’] work,” says Phil Bauer, the company’s director of strategic partnerships. In fact, the company has been using YouTube to bring in extra revenue for its creators thanks to YouTube’s Content-ID tool for the past couple of years. Even so, CD Baby believes that revenue from the platform is slipping through its musicians’ hands. “Through conversation and research, it was clear that CD Baby artists not only care about, but are also utilizing, YouTube to build an audience and engage with their fans,” says Bauer. “If those artists aren’t monetizing their channel content directly or through a network, they are leaving money on the table (even if those videos are being monetized by Content-ID, which would claim them as user-generated content).”

To pick that money up off the proverbial table (or force musicians to close their hands, if we’re sticking with that metaphor), CD Baby has launched Illustrated Sound to provide a true YouTube education for artists. In other words, the company wants to continue to work with independent artists, and YouTube serves as a great platform for creators who want to put out their work without the help of a larger label or studio — as long as those creators know the ins and outs of the video platform.

In addition to education, the idea is that cross-promotion will empower Illustrated Sound artists to build a fan base and monetize their content, as many music fans find new artists through the ones they’re currently listening to.

Still, Illustrated Sound isn’t ready to take on artists outside of the CD Baby base, yet. “We aren’t limiting this service to only CD Baby’s distribution artists, but we have a great high-trust relationship in place with them already and want to give them the first look at our new product,” Bauer explains.

You might be wondering, how does a direct-to-consumer music distributor just up and launch an MCN? “We established dedicated resources that have spent the past several months learning the ins and outs of YouTube and are here to support its members on a daily basis,” says Bauer. “We tapped existing CD Baby processes where appropriate (e.g., project management methodology), and created new roles that will allow us to run the network as an in-house brand.” CD Baby is not nearly the first company to launch a YouTube MCN specifically for musicians. Omnia Media boasts some really big music names in its network, like Tyga and Inna, and INDMusic’s network is also designed to help artists earn revenue from their work on YouTube. Then, of course, there’s Vevo, which is jointly owned by some of the top labels in the industry and produces original video with artists and aggregates music videos, and even Spotify, which is adding video to its music repertoire.

“We think it will be common practice for artists to use video as an integral piece of their overall audience building strategy,” says Bauer. “It’s tough to isolate any one thing and reliably turn it into a business as an independent artist, and it’s necessary to establish a presence across multiple platforms. The most important practice is to ensure that all of the efforts feed into an overarching strategy to engage with, and continue building, their audience.”

This, Bauer continues, will let individual artists start to think and act like their own production studios, not to mention give them a deeper connection with their fans. Music fans already have the tendency to feel closer and more connected to their favorite artists than, say, fans of TV stars, so this has the chance to amplify when that artist doubles as a YouTuber, particularly in terms of creating loyal buyers of an artist’s work.

There’s that, and the ability to bring concerts to a fan’s living room…or laptop, or mobile phone.