Music Tech

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.


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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  1. Great point overall and answered a lot of questions I had about the Youtube/CDbaby synch process. And I’m glad you mentioned the fact that the Rumblefish catalog is Huge. I recently went through the rather lengthy processes of having an album added to the Pump Audio catalog. Don’t know if it will pay off, but I’m glad it was a bit more selective.

  2. While there are some limitations to the current YouTube Content ID system, the purpose of our sync program is to help thousands of artists capture new revenue they would not have received otherwise. It’s important to remember that we’re helping artists monetize their songs across the entire network (not just the videos on their channel), which has major advantages. Artists aren’t just limited to making revenue from the videos on their channel; by encouraging fans and other content creators to use their songs in video, artists can monetize those songs across numerous channels. It’s also important to remember that YouTube is one of many places we’re monetizing our artists songs for sync and microsync. Currently, we’re working with YouTube and other partners to improve the microsync and music discovery experience for both recording artists and content creators.
    Regarding soundtrack search & discovery for the catalog, Rumblefish is a leader in the space and has an entire editorial team that regularly features specific artists in playlists and discover tools to help spread the revenue out across the catalog. Try out the search tools for yourself at
    This really is the ground floor of what is quickly becoming an integral part of many artists’ overall revenue picture and the revenue from the entire sync offering is growing at an exciting rate.

  3. I’ve been on the fence with Rumblefish for some time. I removed my most recent release, but I think I’ll let it stand on my back catalog. I’m not getting the dispute notices on my own videos every week like I used to.

  4. I’ve got my music on Rumblefish & am glad I do. Every time someone tries to use my music without permission, the artist name & song title appear under the video with a link to BUY the song. Yeah you only make pennies from Rumblefish itself, but that buy link is huge – I’ve sold quite a few songs that way. As for missing out on potential licensing opportunities because of Rumblefish – I haven’t had that problem. Both of the channels who pay me directly to license my music have no problem with the extra Rumblefish ad that appears on their videos (it’s a small ad).

  5. I, too, was on the fence about joining Rumblefish/CD Baby so I did my research on similar companies beforehand. I found out that Rumblefish/CD Baby take a much larger percentage than the other companies, most likely because the money passes through 2 companies before reaching the musician.
    When joining one of these partnerships, you do receive a larger percentage than you would on your own with a standard YouTube partnership. In addition, you are able to receive payment on other videos (ContentID) that uses your music, which is great for additional exposure because usually YouTube would have those videos removed.
    However, I decided to go with ONErpm since they offer the exact same service, yet pay out 65% of premium ad revenue, much more than Rumblefish/CD Baby. To be frank, I really can’t see the benefit of letting Rumblefish/CD Baby have more of my earnings when really they are only tracking my music on YouTube.

  6. Recently a song of mine got a lot of exposure on youtube due to a tv placement. So far I haven’t found the Rumblefish notice to be a discouragement to people uploading videos with my song, and the links to iTunes have generated sales that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Since my own youtube channel was monetized, I did bump into the snafu described above when I tried to monetize a live performance video of the same song and frustratingly, that is still pending in YouTube’s system. Still, I think the links to iTunes/Amazon/GooglePlay have been hugely helpful, especially since the show didn’t identify my song by title or artist, so these links are the only way fans of the show have known how to find me or my song. I haven’t compared other companies offering a similar service, but for now I’m certainly glad someone was doing Content ID for my music, because otherwise hundreds of people would not have been able to identify and find my song.

  7. Great post thanks. I am mainly using Rumblefish to make sure that I automatically get credited. I am not overly concerned with making money but it does bother me that ads have to be displayed on my non-monetized videos.
    I guess the question is, what is the alternative you suggest to get your tracks automatically credited?

  8. Dear all,
    I just had a lenghty and frustrating conversation with CD Baby (Rumblefish decided to ignore my inquiries entirely) and it turns out that they are no longer using the form that will exempt your channel from Rumblefish collections. They admitted that they were not aware that the form was still client-facing and that is why they could not understand my questions. On the other hand, the CD Baby staff on their own CD Baby blog did not seem aware that the form was supposed to have been taken down.
    The bottom line is that you are left with two options: EITHER sync you music everywhere (including your channel, and therefore loose the possibility to monetize your videos) OR monetize your videos but give up the licencing on other people’s channels. You can’t have it noth ways.
    On my side, since I make a lot more income from my videos than from people using my songs, so I chose to monetize my videos myself and let it go if people use my music on youtube.
    Hope this helps

  9. I wish I would have read up on this before signing up with TuneCore. Would you have to sign up for distribution with CDBaby as well to be placed into the RumbleFish catalog & Does your competitor TuneCore use RumbleFish for tracking music on youtube also?

  10. I just received a Rumblefish contract as I’ve been researching sync. licensing opps. To clarify they take 50% of the royalty. That’s more than a lot. I know, I’ve been in this biz for several years. A digital distributor should only be taking 10 to 15 percent. The same for a facilitator such as this company. About 100,000 youtube hits generates anywhere between 50 and 100 dollars total.

  11. Hey Dan,
    are your ads turned off yet?
    I just cancelled my CDBaby deals with Rumblefish and I’m wondering how long it might actually take to get rid of the ads?
    I’m all for getting paid for my work, but at the same time I put a LOT of effort into my music videos and having an ad float on it just makes it look cheap. And it makes me as an artist look cheap. I would not mind the Rumblefish system if I could tell them that this particular channel is MINE and they don’t have to collect royalties from the songs uploaded there.
    I feel a little bit violated.. it’s looking more and more like an Artist in todays world has to PAY in order to have the rights to GET paid. Being an artist has in many ways become a luxury.. then again.. it all sucks only as long as your creation sucks so I guess it’s fair enough.

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