CD Baby Artists Made $41.7M In 2011, Here’s How [INFOGRAPHIC]

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CD Baby artists released 61,339 new albums (34,379 digtal only) and were paid $41.7 million for both new and catalog titles in 2011. Much like the broader music industry,  iTune's accounted for a whopping 77.4% of all digital sales and CD sales continued to slide. INFOGRAPHIC:

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  1. The average amount made per artist between 2010 & 2011 went down from $99 to $93. More artists and less money to spread around? or perhaps there is a wide gap between the have and have nots? After the numbers Jeff Price quoted about 99% of Tune Core artists making minimum wage or whatever, it seems that there is a 1% vs. 99% even within the independent cdbaby community? and if so, why does this pattern keep emerging? honest speculation, no accusations here.

  2. Hey Darryl,
    There certainly is a wide gap between CD Baby’s highest and lowest sellers. However, there are a few reasons why I don’t consider this a situation of HAVEs vs. HAVE-NOTs.
    Firstly, there was an increase in single-song submissions; so splitting the figure out into an average doesn’t really give you true numbers. When some artists sign up a full album and others only submit one song, it doesn’t provide a great baseline for comparison.
    Secondly, CD Baby is a service open to ALL musicians regardless of their professional ambitions, their achievements, their “talents,” and their time expenditure.
    Some artists who use our service sell thousands of albums a month while others go months at a time without a sale. The in-between is a bit harder to analyze because not everyone is using CD Baby for the same reasons, and each artist will have his or her own measure of success.
    I mention this simply to say that it’s difficult to make exact heads or tails of an average-earnings-per-artist figure from CD Baby or Tunecore or any other indie distributor. The reason: it’s not a uniform or homogenous group in terms of musical aspirations or expectations.
    Hope that sheds a little light on the great gray in-betweens.
    Chris R. at CD Baby

  3. BTW, Darryl, the numbers you’re calculating are actually per title, not per artist. There are less artists than titles, because some artists obviously release multiple titles.
    Additionally, some of the titles are singles, which due to their price point tend to drive lower average revenue. I don’t have a tally of % singles vs. albums in our catalog, but it’s a sizeable minority. Roughly 1/3 of submissions in 2011 were singles.
    Tony van Veen
    CEO, CD Baby

  4. yeah i goofed on that. but thanks for clearing it up. If revenue is increasing overall for indies in a supposed declining industry, then bravo. awesome infographic!

  5. Are we talking about another industry?
    Overall Album sales (including Albums and Track Equivalent Album sales) were up 3.2% compared to 2010.
    Total Album sales were up for the first time since 2004 (1.3%) with sales totaling 330.6 million compared to 326.2 million in 2010.
    There were 228 million physical album sales in 2011; a decline of 5% over 2010. This is significantly less than the 19% decline in 2010

  6. Great. Thanks for pushing around a bunch of numbers, but I am curious about he following; what was CD Baby’s net? Is this really a sustainable business model? What is the percentage of artist’s who earned enough income from “CD Baby sales only” to be eligible for a minimum income tax filing? Over 61,000 albums were added last year, what percentage of catalog vs. new releases? And can anyone tell me what is the percentage of artists who recouped they recording costs from sales, or at least 25% of their recording costs? Bottom line, is any artist (outside of those with already established careers) making anything resembling a living off this system? Who are the artists who have greatly expanded their base due to their association with CD Baby? And what happens to this business model if iTunes decides to switch to a streaming scenario in the future? Pat yourself on the back all you like, but really, is this the music business or a company servicing a vastly inflated vanity market?

  7. Some good questions, Maurice, too juicy to ignore. So I’ll attempt to answer a few:

      CD Baby’s net:

    Don’t you wish you knew… We’re a private company and don’t share that, but the business model viability question I can answer with an unambiguous, resounding YES.

      % of artists who can file taxes:

    We haven’t run those numbers. Also depends on their day job… 🙂 But with this many artists, most don’t do music as their full time profession, that’s for sure.

      Catalog vs. new:

    We have no way of knowing exactly, because we don’t track this. But the vast, VAST majority are new titles.

      Recouped all or part of their recording costs:

    Again, no way to definitively answer this question, in part because recording costs vary greatly, and in part because we don’t track this data.

      Artists who greatly expanded their base:

    How an artist expands their base depends totally on them: how good are their songs, how much do they gig/tour, how much work do they put into the business/marketing side of things. I can tell you this though: 100% of CD Baby artists greatly expanded their REACH by coming to us.

      iTunes switching to streaming:

    The business model is not greatly dependent on iTunes revenues, believe it or not. CD Baby offers sufficient other revenue opportunities to artists, including streaming revenues, CD revenues, and others, that the business would continue to grow. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

      Is this the music business or vanity:

    Music business. It’s music, it’s being sold, there’s revenue. That makes it business. The days of “vanity” pressings are long behind us. This is how artists start and build careers in this millennium. Dismiss the DIY artist all you want, most every major artist discovered since 2000 has started out recording and hawking their own releases.
    Tony van Veen
    CEO, CD Baby

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