Posts Tagged ‘CD Baby’

How much do musicians make online?

October 28, 2011

How much money do musicians really get paid in this new digital marketplace? Is it enough to live on? How many CDs would you have to sell to earn a living? How many iTunes downloads would you have to sell every month? How about albums or downloads on CD Baby, how about Spotify?

Someone has taken the time and the considerable effort to research this and present it in a stiking visual way. In addition they are making available all the numbers in a spreadsheet arrangement here. To see a sharper (readable) graphic image, click here for the original post.

Note: these figures do not include publishing royalties (paid to composers of songs). The full spreadsheet of data does though. You can see all the numbers and sources here:


One of the best hours you’ll ever spend

July 3, 2011

Derek Sivers has written a book called Anything You Want. If you’ve ever read his blog or heard him speak in person, you know what a sharp thinker he is. And you know how supporting independent musicians has been his main gig, starting with his founding of CD Baby.

So it should be no surprise to see that his book is full of useful, practical (even if sometimes philosophical) info for musicians. What surprised me is how much of his advice would work for other startup businesses, not just indie musicians.

I also liked learning more of the CD Baby back story, including how it was sold for $22 million, but Derek didn’t get the money. Who did? I won’t give away the answer here.

Read this book review by Michael Ellsberg of Forbes magazine.

The day Steve Jobs dissed Derek Sivers

November 12, 2010
Steve Jobs announces iTunes in 2003

Steve Jobs announces iTunes in 2003

I have to share this amazing story. In his recent post, Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, recounts how 2003 was a huge turning point for independent artists.

Read it here.


In May 2003, Apple invited me to their headquarters to discuss getting CD Baby’s catalog into the iTunes Music Store.

iTunes had just launched two weeks before, with only some music from the major labels. Many of us in the music biz were not sure this idea was going to work.
Especially those who had seen companies like eMusic do this exact same model for years without big success.

I flew to Cupertino thinking I’d be meeting with one of their marketing or tech people. When I arrived, I found out that about a hundred people from small record labels and distributors had also been invited.

We all went into a little presentation room, not knowing what to expect.

Then out comes Steve Jobs. Whoa! Wow.

He was in full persuasive presentation mode. Trying to convince all of us to give Apple our entire catalog of music. Talking about iTunes success so far, and all the reasons we should work with them.

He really made a point of saying, “We want the iTunes Music Store to have every piece of music ever recorded. Even if it’s discontinued or not selling much, we want it all.”

This was huge to me, because until 2003, independent musicians were always denied access to the big outlets. For Apple to sell all music, not just artists who had signed their rights away to a corporation, this was amazing!

Read the rest here.

Countdown to your album + 11 ways to increase sales

September 15, 2010

This summer Electronic Musician magazine published an article titled 10 Things you should do before you put out your next release, subtitled Countdown to Your Album. The same list also appeared recently in Echo, the newsletter from Disc Makers.

Turns out these are 10 extremely important steps and they’re all fairly easy to do. For example, step 9 tells you to get an ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) for each of the tracks. It also tells you how and why in one short paragraph. I told you it was easy. If you don’t know what an ISRC is, read the article to find out. Step 2 tells you how to make track names and artist names automatically come up in music players (including iTunes and other computer-based music players).

If you use CD Baby to sell your CDs and mp3s online (and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to know the 11 ways to increase sales on CD Baby. Again, this is not brain surgery, but it helps to have a checklist.

Just doing these 21 things (you’re probably already doing at least some of them) is a painless (and relatively easy) way to advance your music career.

How to become a singer

June 15, 2010

Always inspiring and always in a new way, Derek Sivers, the musician who created CD Baby, has once again hit the nail on the head, this time about becoming a singer. OK, becoming a singer is only the surface of what this post is about.

Read his latest blog post.

Accept credit cards offline

May 26, 2010

Until today, I thought I had found the best solution for indie musicians who want to accept credit card payments for CDs and merch at shows: CD Baby.

CD Baby has a sweet deal, way better than any merchant account you get from a bank. And my band, Soulpajamas, has been using CD Baby’s credit card solution for years. It works and it’s a fair deal. Check it out for yourself.

But today I read about a slick new player in the market, called Square. It’s also geared toward small businesses that can’t afford minimum monthly fees.

With Square, you get a tiny card reader that plugs directly into any device with an audio input jack (like your iPhone). No monthly or hidden fees, no contract or merchant account required. The buyer signs on the touch screen of your smart phone. Receipts can be emailed to the customer.

Don’t get me wrong, Soulpajamas is still selling our CDs and downloads online using CD Baby. They offer great services for independent recording artists and we have no plans to leave. But for credit card payments at gigs (and anywhere else we sell CDs in person) we’re now testing Square.

Why isn’t every indie musician doing this?

Sell single song downloads

May 13, 2010

I am a recording artist, and if you’re reading this you are too, most likely, or aspiring to be one.

When we released our first EP way back when, we wanted to sell it online, but the internet was new (insert joke here about how dinosaurs still roamed the earth) and there weren’t many options. So I did my homework and learned that CD Baby was the best, by far, and certainly the best fit for me. They had a great reputation then and they still do.

With each subsequent CD we’ve released, I’ve done the legwork again to make sure that there wasn’t a new upstart doing a better job than CD Baby. There wasn’t.

Now CD Baby has introduced a new capability. Artists can sell single song downloads on CD Baby, not just the physical CDs and full CD downloads (as in the past). Read the CD Baby DIY Musician blog to see how this small shift can help you promote your music more easily and more consistently and generate some revenue in the process.

See Soulpajamas, my band’s CD Baby page.

PS. Required reading – free advice for musicians from Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby. Here’s a sample:

Proudly exclude some people

Proudly say what you’re NOT: “If you like Celine Dion, you’ll hate us.” …and people who hate Celine Dion will love you, or at least give you a chance.

You can’t please everyone in this world. Recklessly exclude people.

Almost like you’re the doorman at an exclusive club that plays only your music. Maybe you wouldn’t let in anyone wearing a suit. Maybe you wouldn’t let in anyone without a suit!

But know who you are, and have the confidence that somewhere out there, there’s a little niche of people that would like your kind of music. They may only be 1% of the population. But 1% of the world is 65 million people!

Loudly leave out 99% of the world. When someone in your target 1% hears you excluding the part of the population they already feel alienated from, they’ll be drawn to you.

Write down a list of artists who you don’t like, and whose fans probably wouldn’t like you. Use that.


August 6, 2009

Laskow Sivers

I received this email from Taxi president, Michael Laskow. It contains a plug for Taxi, of course, but more importantly, it is a message for songwriters that I think many of us need to hear. It’s been a few years, but the message it just as true today as it was in 2004.

Full disclosure: I am a paying member of Taxi and I get no compensation or benefits from reprinting this email.

Dear Passengers,

I had dinner last night with Derek Sivers from CDBaby. We’ve been friends for years, and get together one or twice a year to just hang out and talk about our companies, our lives, and musicians in general. It’s always refreshing…for lack of a better word.

Derek and I are part of a very small group of people on the planet who deal with large numbers of indie artists and songwriters. Therefore we understand what very few others on Earth would even be aware of.

I think I monopolized the conversation for a while, speaking about my deeply felt frustration that every musician/writer/artist that I’m in contact with isn’t “successful,” when the majority of them could be. Of course, it depends on how each of you defines success.

One thing I’ve come to learn over the years is that most people really don’t have the expectation that they can be a multi-platinum rock star. Some of you do, but not the majority.

Just by staying in touch with you, I’ve come to understand that most of you want some sort of validation that your music is as good as you think it is. That “validation” might be in the form of TV placement, a cut on an album, an indie label deal, and for others, the elusive major label deal.

All those options are wide open, and as you’ve come to know from my letters, Film and TV placements are the easiest. So, why don’t more of you just go for it? We’ve got a fair number of members who’ve belonged to TAXI for years and never submit a single song.

We’ve got huge numbers of people on our “not-yet-members” list who keep thinking about taking the plunge, but they don’t.

We’ve all joined a gym at least once and petered out quickly, but this is MUSIC. You love to make music. Recording music shouldn’t make you sweat, and it won’t give you sore muscles!

I know it’s easier to just do nothing, but in the back of your mind you’re always going to wonder “what if?”

It’s a new year, and it’s becoming a new music industry. Don’t be a brick! Do something. Make forward movement. Take a chance. Take several.

If not TAXI, then form a band, play a gig, or write a song. Don’t be a spectator. Life is SO short. Please don’t spend yours just existing day to day. Accomplish something. Leave some sort of legacy. Feel good about yourself.

I’ve finally gotten this off my chest — whew. Welcome to 2005 kids!

Talk to you soon,


Reprinted with permission from TAXI: the world’s leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows.

© 2004 TAXI. All rights reserved.

Have you looked under the chickens?

May 26, 2009

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, and champion of indie musicians, is someone I respect and admire. Every time I hear him speak or read his stuff, I’m amazed at how on it he is. Here’s his latest post, where he suggests we don’t overlook the simple answers.

Sometimes, we make it too complicated. In my day job, I fix computer and networking problems: wiring, software, hardware, protocols, blah blah.

Yes, computers are complicated. But it never hurts to look at the least complicated solution first. Like, check if the thing is plugged in, if it’s turned on. Often that’s the fix.

The same applies to songwriting. I’m guilty of looking for the most complicated chord or riff for a turnaround, for example, when sometimes a simple major chord is the best solution.