CD Baby Responds to Spotify’s Free Direct Upload Announcement (Updated)

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CD Baby is easily one of the largest DIY digital distributors in the world.  So how do they feel about Spotify’s direct upload agenda?

If you’re a digital distributor — especially a DIY digital distributor — you may have cause for concern right now.  After all, Spotify, arguably the most important distribution endpoint for unsigned and independent artists, is allowing artists to do it themselves.

On Thursday morning, Spotify unveiled plans to allow any artist to upload their music directly to the streaming platform.  Free of charge, without limits.

So why use a distributor like CD Baby?

Well, according to CD Baby, you still need the rest of it.  As in, every other streaming service, not to mention a range of other services.  Here’s what Kevin Breuner, CD Baby’s director of marketing, posted on DMN earlier today.

“At CD Baby, what we’ve seen is an increased importance of having music available through as many digital platforms around the world as possible. The music fan community is more fractured than ever when it comes to how/where they listen to music, so focusing solely on one platform greatly reduces revenue opportunities and exposure to new fans. That’s why tools like HearNow and LinkFire have become incredibly important in new release promo campaigns. They let fans choose their own musical destination. As technologies like Alexa and Siri become more hardwired into our daily lives, the importance of a being available on every platform will only continue to increase.”

Makes sense, especially since Spotify doesn’t exist in a bubble.

Only in rare cases do artists only resonate on one platform, with most receiving action across Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, and SoundCloud, just to rattle off a few names.

In fact, that spread of competing players probably means that distributors like CD Baby are safe for now.

But here’s the wildcard: if Apple Music decides to mirror Spotify’s move, artists could decide to skip DIY distributors entirely.  And if other platforms join suit, expect the squeeze to be even stronger.  That development could shift the emphasis towards more differentiated distribution platforms, as well as those layering extra services and features onto the basic distribution functionality.

Also worth tossing into this discussion is Loudr, a mechanical rights licensing entity recently acquired by Spotify.

CD Baby doesn’t require artists to copiously fill in publishing details, though Spotify is more likely to require these extra details.  The result would be a better database, and a gradual reduction in unmatched mechanical copyrights.

Update: CD Baby does require all of these publishing details — and have for a while, according to the company.  CD Baby’s Tony van Veen reaffirmed that requirement to Digital Music News in an email (also below in the comments):

“You cannot distribute content to any DSP unless we have songwriter and publisher information. This is not new at all. When AVL acquired CD Baby in 2008 the company was already collecting songwriter information on all distributed releases, even though we were not delivering it because the DSPs (well, iTunes) wasn’t accepting it. 
“We started delivering pub data to Spotify as soon as they started accepting it. In fact, because we have been collecting songwriter and publisher data longer than any other aggregator I’m confident our catalog metadata is better and more complete than any other aggregators.”

12 Responses

  1. Start

    This is the start. Spotify and Apple Music have grown the sub numbers massively since 2015. Now they are beginning to introduce new features and slowly you end up having a two sided market place. Up to now its been focused on the consumer. Next up is the artists. Started with displaying artist credits. Direct uploads. Better meta data. Next on the agenda has to be connecting artists to the 200million user base. Statuses? Comments. Music streaming is evolving. And the platforms have the users now to start focusing on getting the artists voice heard

    • Owen Larkin

      I would hope that is the case, but I am not confident that a duopoly consistening of Apple (who can treat music as a loss leader for phones) and Spotify (who has a spotty record with musicians) being good for everyone.

      Leaving aside a worst case scenario, this could increase the feast and famine issue which is a major force in the music industry. It’s more profitable for Apple to do one deal with Rihanna than to serve independent musicians and fans. There will be a more open market for compositions (tv, commercials) but that could be a race to the bottom cost wise.

    • Bill Vencil

      Spotify included me in the beta program back in October. I’ve released a single and an album using the direct submission process. It’s worked really well and is fully integrated into the Spotify artist portal. My album just released last week, so over the next couple of months a critical factor for me will be the per stream royalty from Spotify direct VS CD Baby minus the commission. I hope to have enough data by the end of the year to determine the difference.

      As a small independent musician, I don’t really mind maintaining my releases in a few different places. I can easily see using CD Baby to cover all the smaller platforms, but doing direct uploads to the platforms that provide most of my streaming revenue (Spotify / Apple).

  2. Tony van Veen

    Actually, CD Baby has been a pioneer in having artists “copiously” fill out publishing data, requiring artists for at least the past 5 years to provide full publishing and songwriter data, resulting in perhaps the most complete set of metadata in the marketplace.

    As the market continues to evolve it’s up to every player to raise their game and offer more value to their customers. CD Baby has continually done so by adding services to allow artists to monetize every aspect of their music career, except live ticketing: distribution, publishing, neighboring rights, YouTube, Facebook, physical CDs and vinyl, direct to fan commerce, sync licensing… all from one dashboard. Over our 20 years we have evolved with changes in format, technology, and industry players, and we’ll continue offering services valuable to emerging artists regardless of the direction the industry moves into.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Tony, I’d actually had the different impression, based on comments from a colleague of yours regarding this exact issue. But let me dig it up.

      In the meantime: CD Baby requires mandatory, detailed publishing information from artists prior to distribution? I wasn’t aware of this.

      • Tony van Veen

        Yes, CD Baby captures songwriter and/or publisher information on all new submissions, and has been doing so for 5+ years. We offer our CD Baby Pro service that includes Publishing Administration and recently passed 1 million song in our publishing catalog. However, we capture the information on ALL submissions, even those for whom we don’t do pub admin. In fact, we started delivering publishing data to Spotify and other DSPs as soon as they started accepting that data. If you could correct that in the article we’d appreciate it.

        • Paul Resnikoff

          Is the submission of complete publishing information mandatory for ALL artists on CD Baby, or their materials aren’t distributed to ANY platforms?

          • Tony van Veen

            Yes, we require at the very least songwriter / publisher information, or the new release cannot be processed for distribution.

  3. Anonymous

    I’ve never received mechanical royalties from Spotify over the past 3 years. I’m an indie artist and all my publishing details are in order.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Send me an email paul@

      I’ll help you at least get set up with the MLC when that’s created.

      And who knows maybe I can assist you on the older stuff (or the DMN community can)

  4. Banjo Player

    uhh… you don’t need to upload pub details for cd baby

    unless they just made that a requirement

    • Tony van Veen

      If you’re only selling on our retail store, or you’re selling physical product (CDs, vinyl), we don’t require it. But if you want distribution to Spotify, Apple, and other DSPs (which is what this article and thread are about), we do.