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06/03/2015

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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

World’s Largest Indie Music Distributor CD Baby Launches Illustrated Sound: The Multi-Channel Network for Independent Music

CD Baby, the go-to distribution company for independent artists, has found another way to help musicians promote their work and boost their music-related income: by creating its own multi-channel network (MCN) on YouTube, Illustrated Sound (illustratedsound.com).

YouTube has become very choosy about who can launch an MCN, but CD Baby was the perfect candidate for creating a cool, positive place for music and musicians: “We’ve been an indie artist advocate and platform for nearly two decades. We bring scale and we have a track record of doing right by the artists,” explains CD Baby Director of Strategic Partnerships, Phil Bauer.

MCNs do more than simply aggregate YouTube channels; they advise channel owners, cross-promote, and allow users to optimize their revenue earning potential. CD Baby will build on its customer service finesse and DIY expertise to help musicians hone in on more effective strategies and to help musicians hone their revenue-maximizing strategies. An artist, for example, who is still building her fanbase will see a payout from YouTube’s ad programs sooner as part of a MCN, instead of waiting to earn her first $100.

Illustrated Sound’s initial focus will be on artist education, including guiding artists to improve their channel’s earnings and chasing down answers to complex questions. “CD Baby’s YouTube catalog grossed $3.6 million in 2014, so it’s clear that a large number of our artists are using the platform, and some do it with real savvy,” says Kevin Breuner, CD Baby VP of Marketing. “But we've identified many that have yet to follow even the first round of the simple suggestions laid out by YouTube to optimize their channel.There is an enormous amount of missed revenue because artists have not approached YouTube as its own platform. We're going to educate artists, and by bringing them into the network, we'll really have the opportunity to partner with them to drive more money for their content.”

To do this, CD Baby plans to tap into its strong customer support team. CD Baby operates the largest phone bank for digital distribution and promotion in the music industry. “YouTube offers many resources for users to make the most of the platform,” explains Bauer, “but they tend to be scattered in a lot of different places. We have ambitious plans for what this could develop into, but first we want to capitalize on core competencies. The first step will be distilling all the advice and best practices into actionable pieces that artists can use, which in turn will help them make more money from the platform.”

The CD Baby-powered MCN will also take advantage of the promotional potential afforded by CD Baby’s huge and wildly diverse catalog. “Illustrated Sound’s forum will give artists a place to interact and connect,” Bauer comments. “We hope to set up genre-specific channels. And our popular retail platform will allow us to target buyers by genre.”

The MCN will be open to artists who do not use CD Baby. Launching with a dozen channels, the company hopes to grow the network’s offerings to a thousand channels in the first year or so. “This is what we do really well,” notes Bauer. “We take a complicated process and scale it up and bring it to more artists.”