Review of CD Baby Online Music Distributor

For independent musicians, CD Baby offers distribution alternatives

Album Art Mosaic Part 11
Natalia Balcerska / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

If you're an independent musician, you know how hard and expensive it can be to get exposure for your music.

CD Baby is a good choice for bands and labels who want to get their music out there. It is one of the best known online record stores, so music fans go there in droves to look for new albums. Also, the staff is stacked with music lovers who listen to every album they sell, so they can advise their customers.

If you are willing to completely take on the task of promoting your releases, then this distributor can be a great choice.

CD Baby says it has more than 300,000 recording artists across a wide variety of genres. It can sell songs and distribute royalties-- all the things a record label would traditionally do. The company calls itself the "anti-label" for musicians and has a library of more than 400,000 albums and more than 3 million tracks.

According to an article in The New York Times, the company claims one of every six songs on iTunes ended up there because of placement by CD Baby.

Pros of Using a Platform Like CD Baby

CD Baby can do for an unsigned musician what a record label does for its clients. It can be an easy route to distribution for unsigned artists who are just getting started, or who don't want the bureaucracy of a record label.

Especially for an upstart label without a proven track record or a band working on their own release, finding a distribution deal can be next to impossible.

Generally, distributors want to see some kind of assurance that they'll be able to shift your music once they take it on board, and when you're getting started, that kind of proof is hard to give. CD Baby gives distribution to anyone who wants it, which means making your music available is easy. Availability is only part of the battle, however.


Strong selling points for CD Baby: Musicians get a larger percentage of the profits than through typical distribution deals. The staff listens to everything, so they can make recommendations to users, and albums can be bought in physical or digital form.

There are many chances for potential fans to stumble across your music, including "sounds like" categories that allow users to look for bands that sound like their favorites or a tool that allows people to shop for music by mood.

Is Exposure Without Promotion Enough?

Promotion is the key to getting people to buy your music in any large numbers, and when you sell via CD Baby, you'll have to be especially proactive in promoting your releases and making sure people know where to find them.

This is probably the biggest drawback to going with CD Baby versus a traditional record label: You won't get the in-house promotion machine that labels give their clients. And with such a vast catalog on CD Baby, it's a big pond, and it can be hard to get noticed.

All that said, CD Baby lets you keep a much larger portion of your profits than traditional distributors. Best of all, deals are non-exclusive. 

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