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Indie Millions: CD Baby Paid Out $80mil to Independent Artists in 2017


It’s been a banner year for independent music and the artists from all walks of life who make it.

Independent artists continue to make up an ever-growing share of the music business overall, with the proportion growing year over year (for 2017, it was around 40% of total industry revenue). CD Baby has seen similar growth, with its artists earning around $80 million payout on a catalog of more than 9 million digital tracks. CD Baby added around 1 million digital tracks in 2017 alone.

Much of the growth in the market for independent music comes from new platforms like Spotify and YouTube, where it’s easy to discover and listen to indie artists. At the same time, physical sales and downloads remain important for some styles, pointing to the diversity of models among independent artists. It all adds up to an increasingly vibrant scene that’s come a long way since CD Baby was founded twenty years ago.

The majority of this vibrancy comes from completely new distribution platforms: streaming services. “Just six years ago, iTunes downloads were the main source of sales revenue for our artists,” explains Kevin Breuner, VP of marketing at CD Baby. “Now, large amounts of money are generated by streams on Spotify and Apple Music. With this shift, we’ve seen revenue increase dramatically. The overall pie is growing, and indie musicians are getting their slices.” 

For example, in 2009, when earnings from Spotify made up only around 1% of artist revenue, total income from the DSP barely scratched $500K. Now, as that Spotify’s share of revenue has grown to 58% of total earnings, artists are taking home almost $47 million from the streaming service alone. 

We’re excited to see average artists’ earnings grow for a third consecutive year due to millions more consumers engaging in music discovery on streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora,” says CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux. “YouTube is also a playing field-leveling platform that is contributing hugely to artist royalty growth. We’re very optimistic about the trend as we continue to lobby for higher per stream rates.”

I’m so proud of what we see the artists in our community accomplishing everyday,” enthuses Breuner. “We’re committed to supporting and boosting their accomplishments.”

About CD Baby

CD Baby is one of the largest distributors of independent music on the planet, home to 650,000 artists and more than 9 million tracks that are made available to 100+ digital services and platforms around the globe. Artists on the platform are empowered to monetize their rights while maintaining control of their own careers, and have collectively earned over $600 million since the company’s founding. CD Baby’s Publishing Administration service allows over 140,000 songwriters to collect all of their publishing royalties. CD Baby has become the go-to partner for many icons in the new music industry. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Twenty One Pilots, and Macklemore had their start on CD Baby, while others like Ingrid Michaelson and Gregory Alan Isakov have maintained independent and highly successful careers while partnering with CD Baby. The CD Baby umbrella of business units also includes CD Baby Publishing Administration, CD Baby Licensing, distribution platform Soundrop, CD Baby Manufacturing, marketing suite, CD Baby YouTube Administration, multi-channel network Illustrated Sound, website host HostBaby, the CD Baby Store for downloads and physical sales, promotional tool HearNow. CD Baby is a division of AVL Digital Group, which is also the parent company of Disc Makers.