CD Baby’s CEO: Please, Stop Hating on My DIY Artists

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Most DIY artists make very little, and a sizable percentage can be termed “hobbyists.”

And so what?  “I never understood why there are so many haters out there on the DIY artist,” CD Baby head Tony Van Veen commented in an earlier, contentious thread.  “Is a ticket bought to a local club and a beer at their bar less of an entertainment dollar than a ticket to an arena show?  Is a guitar a local band buys at [Guitar Center] less of a music spend than one bought by an act on a label?”

Indeed, hobbyists spend money on equipment and sites like CD Baby, all good news for the industry.  But the broader industry debate focuses on the promise of pure-play DIY approaches.  Most DIYs stand to benefit from a structure that gives them 100% of revenues, yet they also typically find themselves battling against the extreme elements of clutter and task overload.  Perhaps the real question is whether this is a workable model for success, or if artists should ultimately strive to emulate more complicated – yet still relatively independent – approaches from bands like Arcade Fire.

And what about the Long Tail?  Looks like the debate is still alive after all.  “The fact is that these artists don’t refute the Long Tail, they are the epitome of it,” Van Veen continued. “We can debate all you want whether a $174 average is close to zero, but an aggregate of $40 million this year is a substantial amount.”