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The Downside Of Rumblefish, CDBaby And YouTube Content ID

ContentidGuest post by Dan Adler (@EDM_Hero) of the indie EDM business blog EDM Hero.

CDBaby provides an easy way to get all your music on popular (and un-popular) music stores, plus through their partnership with Rumblefish, you can easily make your music available for all kinds of licensing opportunities. Rumblefish is also partnered with Youtube and hooks into their Content ID system which can automatically identify music used in a video. YouTube places ads on any video containing your music and pays ad revenue to Rumblefish who pays CDBaby, who then pays you.

This whole system is attempting to make sure you get paid when random users just decide to put your music in a video with or without permission. When it works, you don’t have to do anything. Money you weren’t going to be making otherwise just pours in, plus correct credit for your song is posted with the video. Sounds great for the most part, right?

There are some serious irritations with this system, making running your own YouTube channel with your own content problematic, plus this severely inhibits your ability to make legitimate direct licensing and usage deals for your music with popular channels and Youtubers who could get you massive exposure or even direct money.

How does it work?

When the magical omniscient Content ID robot identifies a song in a video that is in the Rumblefish catalog, it does a few things: it sends an ominous copyright notice to the video creator telling them that they are using copyrighted content, it puts ads on the video in question, and it attempts to put a credit for the song and link to the song in iTunes or another music store on the video page. If you get a message like this, DON’T DISPUTE IT. It sounds like you might be in trouble, but you’re not, even if you don’t own the track that’s in the video. Just know there are going to be ads on your video now if there weren’t already by your own doing.

Youtube-letter

What’s the problem? It overrides any monetization options

The ads placed on the video override any monetization the channel owner has placed on it. If YOU placed the video on your own channel, the system has no idea that you actually own the content and it will place ads on it whether you want ads or not. The money will go through Rumblefish and CDBaby who take a 50% cut of that revenue. If you had already monetized your channel, you are now missing out on 50% of the revenue you should be getting. You can fill out a CDBaby form that will exempt your channel from Rumblefish collections on a per-album, per-video basis, but only AFTER you’ve received a content ID notification. It is a very “guilty until proven innocent” process, and quite unwieldy. Post your video, wait to get caught, provide evidence you are allowed to use this music, and hope it doesn’t take too long for the change to go into effect removing those ads.

So you’ve fixed the situation for yourself, or at least know how you can, on an irritating video-by-video basis. You’re going to get paid from all other people on YouTube who use your music with and without permission. Great, right?

Bad move: making your music unusable to other people who will get you exposure

I’ve always been very open about allowing people to use my music in their original content. The more ears my music passes through, the better. I always ask that whomever is using my tracks credits me and links to me wherever my song is used. My tunes have been in popular web shows, flash games, and other things and I’d say the majority of my listeners found me via something else they were watching, playing, or listening to, not just stumbling upon my original music on its own.

If your music is in the Rumblefish catalog, anybody who uses your music in a youtube video will get ads thrown on their content that pays Rumblefish then CDBaby then you. This goes for both people not trying to make any money, and Youtubers attempting to profit.

People posting non-monetized video that will then be monetized may not like ads popping up on their content. Serious Youtubers and music channels will definitely not like all revenue from their videos being diverted to Rumblefish and will likely just not opt to use your music.

My music has tens of thousands of plays on Youtube both via my channel and other people’s activity and was in the Rumblefish catalog until just recently. In those years of being in the program, I’ve earned just about $20 through CDbaby and Rumblefish. Am I going to miss out on serious income from my music via Youtube? Probably not. $20 per year is not worth the scads of new listeners I can hook by allowing my music to be used uninhibited by people creating and promoting original content. If I want to monetize my own Youtube channel, I can do that myself directly any time and not pay a 50% CDBaby/Rumblefish tax. If you are interested in working with content creators on YouTube and supplying your music for use, you may want to consider not opting into Rumblefish or removing yourself from their catalog if you are already in there.

I should mention that YouTube sync licensing is not the only potential revenue Rumblefish can offer you, as they also license their catalog for other projects like commercials, films, and TV (see their webpage for more info), so opting out of Rumblefish will remove those opportunities along with YouTube sync. However, I don’t feel like this is a big risk you are taking, as the Rumblefish catalog, which anybody who pays CDBaby can get their music in, has got to be HUGE compared to curated catalogs like Pump Audio and others. Your tracks will be competing with a sea of other music making the likelihood of a big movie director stumbling upon your awesome track even slimmer. I’ve never had any music licensed through Rumblefish into a major project. If you’re serious about getting your music licensed into other material, I probably wouldn’t rely on Rumblefish.

How to remove your music from the Rumblefish catalog on CDBaby

OptionsYou can remove your music from Rumblefish in your CDBaby account. I found it a little confusing to find where you can do this, as it seems logical that the option would be under the Sync Licensing area of the admin. It is found under “cancellation options” once you’ve clicked the orange “view/edit” button next to the album of yours in question. Click the “cancel from specific partners” radio, then the Rumblefish checkbox and hit submit. The site says that it can take up to 30 days for a service to remove your content from their catalog. I just removed my music a few days ago, and I’ll update to tell you how long it took my music to be overlooked by YouTube’s content ID system.

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