We’re CD Baby. And We Want to Fix the Songwriter Royalty Mess, Once and for All…

Please file under: ‘Solutions’. The following comes from CD Baby president Brian Felsen, who has an ambitious plan to help independent songwriters get paid on all their global activity.


Whenever music is used in TV, radio, internet, live performance, video games, film, and more — royalties are owed to the songwriter.  But signing up for a performing rights organization like ASCAP or BMI is not enough.

quotationmarksA seemingly endless number of organizations around the world collect royalties for songwriters.  The challenge is actually claiming your money.

Until now, it’s been virtually impossible for independent songwriters to collect all the royalties owed to them on a global level.  So we aim to remedy this with a comprehensive royalty collection service called CD Baby Pro. CD Baby Pro is designed to give independent artists the same royalty collection resources that major label artists have benefited from for years, plus the benefit of worldwide music distribution.

You can’t knock on all those doors yourself.  That’s why we created CD Baby Pro; we’re doing all the door-knocking for you.

How are we going to pull this off?  CD Baby has partnered with digital publishing service SongTrust to interface with performance rights organizations and collect royalties on the artist’s behalf.

Here’s an example: anytime you sell a download overseas, you’re owed mechanical royalties that can only be collected from the local performance rights organization.  Any time your music is played on streaming sites like Spotify, you’re owed publishing royalties in addition to the normal streaming fee you’re paid by the retailer.  Any time your music is placed in a TV show you’re owed performance royalties beyond the fee you’ve already been paid for the sync license. With CD Baby Pro, we’ll make sure you get paid every time.

Let me go into more detail.  CD Baby Pro includes 4 primary services.

(1) Worldwide music distribution (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and more).

(2) Songwriter affiliation/registration with ASCAP or BMI

(3) Song registration with ASCAP or BMI, as well as collection  agencies from around the world.

(4) Global Royalty Collection on the artist’s behalf.

Right now, CD Baby Pro is now available for all US-based artists.  It costs just $99 per album and $39 per single. This one-time submission fee also includes the full arsenal of CD Baby’s distribution services: sales on download and streaming sites like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, and more; physical distribution to over 15,000 brick-and-mortar record stores worldwide; CD Baby’s Sync Licensing program; and all CD Baby’s promotional tools, such as their MusicStore for Facebook app and their HTML Music Store widget.

For existing CD Baby artists, CD Baby Pro is now available as an add-on. The upgrade to CD Baby Pro takes minutes to complete and costs $59 per album or $39 per single.

I’m really interested in knowing what you think.  For more information, please go here.


– Brian

43 Responses

  1. clarify

    as far as i’m aware, ASCAP, etc collect performance royalties from int’l societies for play of song in a movie/tv show; for radio, etc.

    what is cdbaby providing that those prs don’t? (maybe the web plays?)

    • Ray

      ASCAP does not collect foreign mechanical royalties, or domestic mechanical royalties from streaming services like Spotify.

      The royalty equation is far bigger than performances and it’s only getting more complex. ASCAp and BMI are only part of the equation.

      A service like this also cuts out ASCAP as a middle man for foreign performance collections. That means they don’t get a piece of the pie.

      • ima dumb

        surprised that ASCAP, etc don’t do mech. royalties from overseas/domestic for streaming.

        but if i’m an ASCAP member already, and a Soundexchange Member, are there still mech. royalties out there to collect? (and can I do it as an indie?)

        cuz if so, i better get on that and get my 15 dollars ; )

        • Visitor

          Soundexchange only works with the master recording, not the underlying composition which is what this service does.

          • Kevin at CD Baby

            As “Visitor” points out, SoundExchange collects performance royalties for the owner of the master recording. That’s totally different from ASCAP whom collects royalties for the songwriter.

            To answer your question, YES! There could be mechanical royalties out there for you. If you have sales in other territories like Europe, or if you have Spotify streams in the US and abroad, there are mechanical royalties owed to you. ASCAP and BMI do not do collect mechanical royalties.

            In addition, another area where indie artists miss out is that they only register themselves as a songwriter and have no publishing affiliation. Even if they create a “vanity” publishing company, no one is really going out and collecting the publishing royalties (both performance and mechanical) on their behalf. This means they are missing out on all the publishing revenue from their songs. For some artists this could be a lot of money. Even if there is no money out there waiting for you, it’s about ensuring your music is setup properly to reap the benefits from all the available revenue streams.

            Also, CD Baby Pro is registering songs directly with collection agencies around the world (not just hoping money trickles through ASCAP). This ensures those agencies are truly collecting on your behalf.

  2. Sheezy

    Sounds like a publishing service for writers who are too lazy to signup and register their own works.

    BMI and ASCAP already have reciprocal agreements with overseas collection agencies. CD Baby just does the “policing” I guess. But you can do that on your own.

    I’m sure CD Baby takes a nice “publisher share” cut for this service as well.


    • Joker666

      dude they are only collecting performances though….i hope you realize you are entitled to more money and not just wat bmi/ascap collect. to me its a no brainer though…tunecore is soooooo much cheaper and i believe they are doin it themselves and not hiring someone else to do this. call me crazy dude but i would rather have consistency with my music.

  3. dhenn

    Well so far CD Baby is the only group that’s paid me, so I’m interested. ASCAP has yet to get their shit together and pay me my songwriting royalites despite repeated requests and proof that I’ve been paid for the recording side.

  4. how much

    Couple questions, probably dumb, but as an indie self-publisher whose works are streaming & being sold digitally, I didn’t even know about digital mech. royalties:

    1) how much is a mech. royalty on a purchased download?
    2) as above, but for a stream ( i know the perf. royalties are micropennies)
    3) as a self-publisher, is it even possible to collect the mech. royalties? (or, dare I ask, even worth it?)

    I’ve received mech. royalties from songs on hardcopy discs sold int’lly released by other labels… my own recorded works were never released in europe in cd form, only sold digitally (via iTunes) and of course on the streaming services, but “self-published”, so I thought I was getting all royalties… but seems it was just the performance side.

    feel silly even asking… but perhaps over a few decades even the mech. royalties from streaming will add up…

    • mike corcoran

      Some educated guesstimates for you, anyone please feel free to correct if you think im way off.

      1. Mechanical royalities = 9.2 cents per song or download, per U.S. Congress, for songs sold in the States. Overseas, every country has a different rate, but it’s pennies and not micro-pennies. (Mechanicals are only paid on sales, not streams).

      2. Spotify pays approx. $.0005, or half a penny for 100 spins. One million spins = $5000.

      -Of this 5k paid from Spotify, $750 of it goes to ASCAP/BMI, who passes it along to the songwriter only.

      -Of the same 5K, around $1800 is paid to SoundExchange (who splits it up as 50% to label, 45% to artist, and 5% to background musicians).

      -The rest of the 5k, about $2450, goes directly to the label, who pays the artist according to artist/label contract.

      2b. For a service like Pandora, I’m pretty sure you remove the $2450 payment to the label, since the service is not “on demand”. First two payments, to ASCAP/BMI and SoundExchange, apply.

      3. In the U.S., yes, absolutely worth it to collect mechanicals, as this is by far the most lucrative of all royalty payments. For int’l, it is still significant. But, since U.S. terrestial radio does not pay artists or labels for spins, many foreign collection agencies will hold all royalty payments, including mechanicals meant for American artists, out of revenge, i guess. (not totally sure on this one). They will pay, it just takes a long time. Or, you could just go thru the trouble of registering your songs with every country’s agency, and you’ll get your dough quicker.

      But, if you’re only selling overseas thru Amazon, CDBaby, and ITunes, you should be able to collect your mechanicals, no prob, via Tunecore, Reverb, CDbaby.

      • mike c.

        “2. Spotify pays approx. $.0005, or half a penny for 100 spins. One million spins = $5000.”

        my bad, the decimal points got the best of me…

        On Spotify, 1 play is approx. half a penny, 10 plays = a nickel, 1000 plays = 5 bucks, and 1Million plays does equal out to five grand

      • thanks, stull dumb

        thanks mike. but a couple clarifications pls. (i still dumb):

        1) the mech. royalties, (9.2 cents) don’t apply, as i’m the publisher/label for my own albums mech. royalties are paid from sales by the label. so i in the case of iTunes/Amazon, i’ve received full payment on the sale. So for all sales via Amazon, iTunes, etc overseas, I think there’s nothing to collect. (for example, if i had another songwriter on the album I’d then have to pay them 9.2 mech roy. from the payment on sales I received.)

        2) streaming mech. i do believe i can receive (but won’t be much due to micropennies)

        3) there are mech. royalties for foreign radio spins, as well as for foreign tv plays (or are the tv plays only performance)?

        anyway, it seems that it’s the foreign/domestic mech. royalties for streams are the only ones i haven’t collected (ASCAP captures all the performance ones worldwide, and Soundexchange all the web performance ones) as an self-publisher.

  5. Paul

    This is the strategy Jeff Price started working on at Tunecore a couple of years ago. He pioneered this idea for indies and CD Baby is following in his footsteps. You should interview him about it.

        • pioneer

          jeff price is as far from a pioneer as is possible. an unethical hypocrite of the highest order. if you believe otherwise, you need your head examined.

      • TarHeel

        That’s great, but TuneCore’s service does not actually register the artist works with ASPCAP and BMI. The follow up email you get after signing up with them is that you have to do that yourself.

          • Joker666

            Absolutely untrue! tunecore does register your songs with whoever you are affilaited with….us writers just have to be a writer at one of these places. They register you worldwide!

    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      It’s not an advertisement, but yes, CD Baby is selling something. That shouldn’t disqualify it from being a guest post, especially something that proposes a solution to a complicated industry problem.

      • Guest


        I should not have to explain to you the difference between a guest post and an ad for digital distribution. The guy talks about price per album distributed, what stores he will put it on etc, etc. The “New” service is clearly just an excuse to write about their main product. You are the editor. so its on you to keep our trust and protect your integrity. this one did not really do that.

  6. Visitor

    Er, but that’s just a TuneCore rip-off…

    Here’s what TuneCore does:
    Publishing Administration

    We register your songs with hundreds of societies around the world to help you claim your publishing royalties. (Pssst! If you don’t claim your money it gets paid mostly to major music publishing companies.) Ready to fix that and get what’s rightfully yours? This service is for you, if …

    You have written songs and/or have publishing rights to songs
    You know what percentage of each song you own (a.k.a. your “split”)
    Music you wrote is being sold, streamed or licensed for other uses


      • Visitor

        OK, I didn’t know that.

        At any rate, a comparison would be interesting.

        It is interesting that CD Baby actually charges a flat fee, while TuneCore takes 10% (plus a minor fee).

        On the other hand, the 10% may motivate TuneCore to work a bit harder.

        And again, I don’t think TuneCore should boycotted by this nice 🙂 website just because they don’t want to discuss Mr. Price.

      • Joker666

        that may be but tunecore perfected it by having the metadata available on distribution…songtrust does not have this.

        Jeez, this is seriously a no brainer. Why not have it all under one house…why put your music everywhere for different things.

  7. danwriter

    I’ve been a BMI affiliate for decades. As with ASCAP, it costs nothing to join and they collect royalties from overseas PROs.

    • Kevin at CD Baby

      ASCAP and BMI are only collecting performance royalties, which is just a piece of a much larger revenue puzzle in the digital world. Most indie artists do not have a publishing company working for them, so they miss out on the publishing portion of performance royalties. Not only that, without a publishing company working for them, indies cannot get mechanical royalties from sales oversees. Basically, in every other countries, the retailer is required to pay these royalties, but if they don’t know who you are (you don’t have a publishing company), that money just sits there. Potentially a big chunk of money for artist who sell well in Europe. We’re also getting mechanical royalties for foreign and domestic Spotify streams. If you have a lot of streams on Spotify, this could also add up fast. The idea is to make sure you’re setup properly to take advantage of all available revenue streams for your music. Sadly, most artists think if they affiliate as a songwriter with a performing rights organization like ASCAP, all of this is taken care of for them, but it is not. That’s why there is a big value for CD Baby Pro. Let us know if you have any other questions! Check out this link for more info – http://cdbaby.net/pro.

    • Visitor

      Oh dear, then they’re not interesting at all…

      TuneCore takes 10%, plus a $75 one time fee.

      Compare that to CD Baby’s $59 per album and $39 per single.

      • mdti

        are they both giving exactly the same service ?
        what are (will be) the comparative results ?
        Which one has the bigger international reach or legitimacy ?
        Going always for the “cheap” option can be come more expensive in the mid term than paying the right price.

        I have the impression that they can’t be compared as of today in this respect ?

      • Vis-i-tor

        cd baby can also license your masters to anyone without consulting you but they “promise” to pass along whatever fee they may collect

  8. 15 %

    So I’m a member of ASCAP, getting my perf. royalties. I get both halves (songwriter, and publisher) which I see on my statements (% is shown — 100%; a couple songs have a subpublisher, and those show up as 50%.) I see perf. money from obscure countries (even Croatia, etc).

    I’m not getting streaming mech. royalties (from retailers abroad, like iTunes) nor from Spotify.

    While there’s quite a few digital plays from abroad, the mech. from it are so small that it probably won’t add up to much. At 9 cents per for the digital sales mechanicals, that won’t add up to much either, probably.

    So looking at the CDbaby contract, if you are a member of ASCAP already, you can still join. But it seems that you have to give CDbaby a 15% admin fee when you transfer administration to them. So that includes my perf. royalties, which are by far my biggest generator.

    So it seems in my case, I’m transfering 15% of my overall royalties each quarter to them for a few more dollars (hundreds?). I think they’ll make more money from being admins to my royalties (due to the perf. royalties) than I will from their collection of mechanical royalties. So I might just join a mechanical royalties collection society…

    • TarHeel

      What you may not be collecting at all is the publisher share, unless you have also registered your works with ASCAP as the composer and publisher. In terms of a performance royalty, ASCAP remits these directly to you, the composer, whether you’re registered with TuneCore or CD Baby for their Publishing services. As far as Publishing royalties, the other half that you may not be collecting, that’s the part that CD Baby would take 15% of or that TuneCore would take 10% of. As far mechanicals and publisher’s share outside the U.S. that may not be finding their way back to you, that’s where the 10% or 15% fee gets applied – not your domestic performance royalties or composer performance royalties collected in other geographies by ASCAP. Confusing, but there are essentially two different copyrights on the work – belonging to the Composer and the Publisher. A lot of artists who don’t have Publishing companies and haven’t registered their works with ASCAP are collecting none of the Publisher share. That’s what services like CD Babys and Tunecores aim to do.

      • but

        actually, i’m a member of SOCAN. whenever i register a song, i am registered as the writer and the publisher. (some songs i have a copublisher. those read as 50%). in the US i believe you have to have a separate publishing co. (even if self-owned) but not Canada.

        what i would like to know is is there any way to check to see if there is monies from publishing/mech sitting out there unclaimed.

        Is one able to contact the PRS for, say, England and Germany and check on it? or search their databases re: mechanicals?

        • JTV Digital

          The thing is with these collecting societies, they really like to hold your money as long as possible.

          Do services like the one here (which is an exact copy of the TuneCore one) really help?

          Why would a company like CDBaby or TuneCore have more strength in convincing collecting societies to finally pay what they are supposed to anyway?

          Since you are a registered member from one of these collecting societies you are supposed to get your money, at some point.

          The reality is that collecting societies will do anything they can for not paying you (based on my own experience) or your representative (CDBaby, TuneCore…)


          JTV Digital | affordable digital music distribution

  9. Dayv

    I’m new to cdbaby, but I just noticed that my songs have been registered again with SOCAN but with a 50/50 split between me and cdbaby. I’m feeling a little concerned about this. Does cdbaby keep this 50%? I don’t recall agreeing to this and I’m wondering how this will affect my collecting rights?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Verify Your Humanity *