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CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux Knows What it Means to Do It Yourself

When Tracy Maddux—a passionate fan of live music—joined CD Baby, he decided he needed to see a show by each of the new employees he worked with. Nearly everyone at CD Baby plays music. It meant ...

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Tyler Volkmar
(812) 961-3723

The Indie Music Distribution Game Just Changed: CD Baby Launches CD Baby Free and the Only Streaming Player with 30 Second Samples and Direct-to-Fan Fulfillment

CD Baby, the world’s largest distributor of independent music, is changing the game for musicians. Sept 1, 2014, they unveiled CD Baby Free.

Artists will no longer need to pay a one-time sign-up fee to join CD Baby. They’ll be able to enjoy complete digital sales from the CD Baby store, as well as use many of the tools that CD Baby offers, but without any commitment, for a fee of 15% of the sales price (comparable to other, similar services like Bandcamp). Distributed CD Baby artists are subject to a lower revenue share of 9% on digital sales.

“We’re officially opening the retail site to every artist on the planet,” explains CD Baby Director of Marketing Kevin Breuner. “Artists who have previously used a different distributor and not been able to get their music on the can now tap into the customer base CD Baby has to offer.”

With 1.5 million unique monthly customers, the CD Baby store has a very dedicated audience of diehard independent music fans. Established in 1998, CD Baby is home to more than 350,000 artists. Some, like Macklemore and Bon Iver, began their careers with the company, and their catalog titles remain there. Others, such as Willis Earl Beal and Greg Brown, have left the old label system to take charge of their own careers with the help of CD Baby.

And CD Baby is making a huge addition to the tools it offers to artists to market their work with the introduction of the new CD Baby Player. With a click-through to purchase from CD Baby, the widget allows musicians to combine streaming with e-commerce on their site or on any website, including those of their fans or bloggers. The player brings control and versatility, even on mobile devices.

“Our new player gives artists the incredible flexibility when featuring their music online,” comments Breuner. “It was built off the feedback we’ve been hearing from artists for years. Whether you’re an artist or a label, this player was designed with you in mind.”

The CD Baby Player comes in three different sizes. The mini player, which will expand or contract in size depending on the area available, is ideal for artists to distribute music to press or fans, or use in blog posts. The album art-sized player offers a choice between just album art, or with the player nestled beneath, while the store-sized player is intended for the music page of an artist’s website. All the players offer share and buy links, so that fans can purchase with a single click. For artists distributed by CD Baby, physical album fulfillment from the player is handled by CD Baby, something not available with other players (where artists have to fulfil themselves, a challenge for many busy musicians).

All versions of the player are in HTML 5, and designed to function with all mobiles devices. Vitally, the CD Baby player offers artists the choice between streaming full tracks or just 30 second clips minimizing the possibility of pirating that exists with other players that only play full tracks. This is a feature not available by other music players in the industry.

It’s a tool that’s designed to help the artist. They can embed a player on the fly and put multiple albums in a single player. For customization, they can create specific playlists for each player, to target specific audiences. An unlimited amount of custom players can be saved, making it a perfect marketing tool for labels as well as individual musicians, and all sales that result from the player are reported to Soundscan. Together, these features set the CD Baby Player apart and make it unique in the industry

Setup only takes a few clicks, and it’s simple for artists to drop tracks from different albums into a player. Fans will be able to grab the player and embed it in their own blogs, too, helping to spread the word far wider than ever before. With 10-point tracking, artists and labels will be able to see the amount of plays a track or album receives, how long people listen, where the players are embedded, and more. Data will allow them to see where sales were generated and how many originated with the player.

CD Baby has been fighting for independent music for 16 years. With CD Baby Free, every independent artist can now access the marketplace with no risk. And with tools like the CD Baby Player, they can keep everything under a single roof and in their control.

“We’re excited to give all artists access to the music fans at and give them tools to help them sell more music,” notes Breuner, “tools that help them attract and engage with more fans.”