CD Baby’s Publishing Division Quadruples But Still Trails TuneCore


Up until a few years ago there weren’t many options for independent songwriters to collect mechanical royalties. Performance royalties were (relatively) easy to get. Simply sign up (and register all your songs) with a PRO like ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN (in Canada). But mechanical royalties are tougher. What are mechanical royalties you ask? You’ve heard that 9.1 cents is owed to the publisher/songwriter for every download or sale for the mechanical royalty, but what about streams? And International mechanical royalties are handled differently altogether.

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Mechanical Royalty breakdown in the US for subscription streaming services

In America, the Harry Fox Agency handles the reporting, collection and payments of mechanical royalties to publishers. Traditionally, publishing companies worked with international collection agencies to collect mechanical royalties. Mechanicals are built into the digital download sale in the US, Mexico, Canada, India and Pakistan.

But everywhere else, they’re not.

And with all the new independent artists hitting digital stores over the past 10 years (many of them charting) there has been quite a large batch of mechanical royalties that have amassed with no one able to claim them. So, they’ve been sitting in foreign collections agencies’ accounts waiting for the proper publisher to come aknockin’. But after enough time, those royalties typically get thrown back into the pot and distributed to the major publishers that know how to collect.

That’s why the publishing administration company Songtrust launched in 2011 by Justin Kalifowitz of Downtown Music Publishing. TuneCore Publishing followed shortly thereafter, spearheaded by Jamie Purpora formerly of Bug Music Publishing (now BMG). (Purpora left Tunecore Publishing this past December) And in early 2013, CD Baby teamed up with Songtrust to launch its own publishing division: CD Baby Pro.

Both services have pros and cons and I outlined them in my full report on Ari’s Take (which I try to continue to update as features and numbers change).

These companies will track down all mechanical (and performance) royalties from around the globe and pay their songwriters – keeping a small commission. These are just admin pub deals and they do not maintain any ownership over the compositions.

CD Baby just announced that they now have 54,000 writers signed up to their “Pro” service with over 246,000 compositions registered. They administer these compositions in 92 countries. This is separate from their distribution service. Writers who sign up for CD Baby’s digital distribution service get the option to “upgrade” to the Pro service for an additional $30. CD Baby will then register the songs with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN) and start collecting international mechanical royalties. CD Baby takes 15% commission for all publishing royalties (mechanical and performance). CD Baby allows bands to add additional songwriters to the catalog for $10 each. CD Baby Pro is only offered to residents of US and Canada.

CD Baby’s new Director of Music Publishing, Rob Filomena, explained to me over the phone why it’s better to have CD Baby collect international performance royalties (when ASCAP and BMI already do it and take a lower commission), he said that it’s all about the speed, “with the PROs that money could show up 2 years later… we’re seeing foreign performance (royalties) get paid within 6 months.”

The new TuneCore Chief Creative Officer, Joe Cuello (who took over for Purpora) said in statement to Digital Music News that TuneCore Publishing now has 22,000 songwriters with over 286,000 compositions. They administer these compositions in 60 countries. Songwriters can signup for TuneCore Publishing (without having to distribute through TuneCore Publishing) for $75. TuneCore keeps 10% of all publishing royalties collected. Unlike CD Baby, TuneCore Publishing is open to any songwriter in the world.

+Want To Know Who The Best Digital Distribution Company Is?

TuneCore Publishing started working with InDmusic to collect YouTube composition royalties – over a year after they launched their publishing program and forced an opt in for all current clients. This came with a bit of an uproar as many of these songwriters were already working with outside Digital Rights Management companies to collect YouTube revenue.

+An Artist Finally Gets The Guts To Stand Up To TuneCore

CD Baby uses Rumblefish to manage their YouTube monetization. And unlike TuneCore Publishing, it’s opt-in (not mandatory).

Neither TuneCore Publishing nor CD Baby Pro take any ownership of publishing rights, however TuneCore Publishing requires exclusivity when it comes to synch licensing – meaning, if you work with them you cannot also work with another synch licensing company. CD Baby Pro songwriters can opt into the (non-exclusive) synch-licensing program (carried out by Rumblefish). Both companies claim they are actively pitching their catalog for film, TV and commercial placements.

**A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Music Reports Inc. handled reporting, collection and payments of mechanical royalties. They just handle payments and licenses. 

About The Author

Writer, Musician, Whiskey Drinker

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business (Dec 2016 - Liveright / Norton). He has been a DIY musician for over 10 years, has performed over 600 shows around the world and released 4 studio albums and 2 live albums. He has had songs featured on multiple TV shows, commercials and films and has shared the stage with Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, Eric Hutchinson, Milk Carton Kids and Ron Pope. He created the music business advice blog, Ari’s Take in the Spring of 2012 to help DIY musicians navigate the independent world of music. Herstand was born and raised in the Midwest and got his start in the Minneapolis music scene. He rose to prominence locally and consistently sold out the 800 capacity Varsity Theater. He became the go-to musician in the scene for music business advice before he moved to Los Angeles in the Summer of 2010. Currently residing in West Hollywood, Herstand still spends a good portion of his time on the road touring. When at home he splits his time writing music, writing articles, writing his book (out December 2016 with Norton Publishing), playing shows at the Hotel Cafe and acting in TV shows (see him in his co-star appearances on Mad Men, 2 Broke Girls, Aquarius, Transparent, The Fosters, and others)

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10 Responses

  1. andrew

    Ari, you research and writing is incredible and nuanced. Though I’d like this to be an easier decision! 😉

    If I may ask, what would you do if you were an ASCAP member in the US with an indie record coming out primarily in the US but with hopefully some Int’l/Euro play. Would you sign up for CD Baby Pro? Or just let ASCAP and HFA collect performance and mechanical, albeit more slowly?


    • Ari Herstand

      Well, unfortunately HFA doesn’t collect international mechanicals. So if you want those you’ll need to sign up with CD Baby, Tunecore or Songtrust. If you’re distributing with CD Baby go with them. If you’re distributing with Tunecore go with them unless you want a licensing deal.

  2. Chris H

    Are these services writer only? If you own your own publishing, is that included in your definition of “writers”?

    • Ari Herstand

      These are for songwriters. If you own your own publishing you’re fine. CD Baby or TuneCore will be your admin pub companies – collecting on behalf of you (and your vanity publishing company). You can even have your publishing company registered already with your PRO and CD Baby or TuneCore will contact your PRO and get added on as your admin pub company.

      • Chris H

        This is good for songwriters who don’t need much support, but I don’t like the lack of support and focus on the individual. What they do on the tech end is fine.

  3. Anonymous

    Ari, you research and writing is incredible and nuanced. Though I’d like this to be an easier decision! 😉

    If I may ask, what would you do if you were an ASCAP member in the US with an indie record coming out primarily in the US but with hopefully some Int’l/Euro play. Would you sign up for CD Baby Pro? Or just let ASCAP and HFA collect performance and mechanical, albeit more slowly?


    There are more options then just that…

    Stick to your PRO for performance royalties, dont sign up with cd baby or tunecore for any of that and stay away from any of their sync licensing opt ins and rumblefish…

    First ask yourself, what are your expected sales and streams??

    Second ask yourself, after all the cuts are taken, what is a reasonable mechanical royalty to expect for a foreign download or stream??

    Then ask yourself, at any point will you be able to recoup those paltry mechanicals beyond the $30 fee or whatever it works out to be?

    PRO’s dont take that long and they arent the big bad boogey man people make them out to be, so long as you register your songs properly and the networks file their cue sheet properly, the money will make it back to you and usually in a fairly expedient manner…

    I mean, it seems a bit greasy, you sign up for $30, they then register the song for you and take 15% of mechanical AND performance??

    I mean, that means if you go out on your own and land a synch license, any backend royalties that work their way back to your PRO, CD baby is entitled to 15% of them… Thats a bit greasy if you ask me…



    • small labe1

      exactly.. theres ZERO reason to assign rights over to commercial entities to collect (a percentage) on what youll get through the normal non-profit channels… CAREFUL what you give away.. and KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

    • Rob FIlomena


      Publishing Administration is a mainstream business practice, offered by virtually every publisher in the world. What services like CD Baby Pro, Songtrust and Tunecore are doing is making this type of service available to an artist who might not typically have access to this type of deal. It may not be for everyone, but there is unquestionable benefit in collecting revenue you would otherwise not because you’re without an easy pathway to collection on a global level. There is also value to some artists in consolidating their activities around one service, managing their publishing, sync and distribution revenue from one dashboard.

      Your point about evaluating your own prospects for sales and performances before opting into any services is well taken. All artists should cultivate an understanding of how their music is making money and seek help only when needed.

      Rob Filomena
      Director of Music Publishing – CD Baby

  4. Caroline Rioux, President, CMRRA

    Ari, I’d like clarify the process in place in Canada since what you wrote here could be misleading to some of your readers. In Canada, reproduction royalties payable to songwriters and music publishers generated from both downloads and streams are payable directly by the online music services to CMRRA-SODRAC Inc. (CSI). CSI is a collective that represents the joint repertoire of CMRRA and SODRAC which, together, represent the vast majority of the musical works downloaded/streamed in Canada. In other words, digital reproduction royalties are not channeled via the record companies for rights holders affiliated with either CMRRA or SODRAC in Canada. Furthermore, affiliation with CMRRA is opened to both Canadian and non-Canadian rights owners alike.

    For more information on this, please read our recent news letters here–>

  5. hrflikk

    I dont care about sales, i want to get paid for streams, when it streams on spotify ect.ect.ect, and i care abour one time fee.!!!!!!!!!!!!! . only cd baby got this, but offcours its only for us and canada. and thats sucks big time