CD Baby – Tools for Indie Musicians

This is part of a “Tools for Indie Musicians” blog series where I highlight what tools I use to spread my music out there. See other posts in the series here.

If you make music, you probably want to be able to sell it. And if you want to sell it, you want to sell it on iTunes. Trust me on this one. But, how in the world do you get it there?

Getting your music to iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc, is called “digital distribution”. It’s really difficult to do this yourself, so there are several companies that will handle this for you acting as a middle-man, taking care of the distribution as well as the money. Today we’re going to talk about CD Baby.

Visit CD Baby’s website.

CD Baby has been around for a long time. They handle both digital distribution as well as sales of physical CD’s. I’ve used them for several of my releases, and I’ve been extremely happy with them.

The Money

How much it costs:

CD Baby charges $39 per album (more than one song) and $9 for a single (just one song). Didn’t singles used to have 2 songs? Back when they were on cassette tapes? Anyway…

These are one-time charges, and they cover distribution to pretty much any digital retailer you can think of, plus sales of physical discs. One thing that you don’t really see right off the bat is that there is going to be an extra charge for a UPC barcode. You have to have this to sell digital copies, and chances are very good that you don’t have one before coming to CD Baby.

The charges for UPC codes are $20 per album and $5 per single. So, the total charge to get your music out there with CD Baby is…

  • $59 per album
  • $14 per single

Again, these are one-time charges.

How you get paid

For digital sales, CD Baby keeps 9% and pays you 91%. For a $0.99 iTunes sale, it works out like this…

  • Apple keeps 30%, so when you song sells, they pay CD Baby $0.69
  • CD Baby keeps 9% of $0.69, so you get paid about $0.63 (actually, it’s $0.637)

For physical CD sales, CD Baby keeps $4 and sends you the rest. You set the price at whatever you want. If you set your CD at $12, you get $8 per sale. If you set it at $5, you get $1 per sale. CD Baby takes care of all the storage, shipping, returns, etc. You just send them your discs.

Sales from streaming services (subscription services) are kind of strange – services like Napster, Rhapsody, Spotify, etc. These services pay out per stream, and it’s typically pennies or fractions of pennies per stream. Again – CD Baby keeps 9% and pays you the rest.

To get the money, I’ve always used PayPal, and it’s worked like a charm. CD Baby pays weekly (Mondays, I think), and you set a threshold. For example, if your threshold is $25, your account balance will have to reach $25 before they pay you.

One thing that made me a bit nervous when I started out was how fast the distributers reported sales. CD Baby reports sales as soon as they get them, but most online distributors take several months. Apple, for example, usually pays out about 2 months after the actual sale happens. Just something to be aware of.

The Process

Setting up an album or single is ridiculously easy. If you can sign up for an email account, you can get your music on iTunes. It’s all handled digitally.

You start the process on their website by selecting a single, album, or ringtone. Then you upload the files digitally (cover art, and song files). Song files need to be WAV files at 44.1/16. Fill out the appropriate info, and then submit. CD Baby will process it and then have you finalize everything before they send it off.

Each digital retailer is different in how long it takes for your music to show up in their stores, and CD Baby has no control over this. iTunes and Napster are both really fast. iTunes usually takes 24-48 hours. My last release took about 16 hours to show up on iTunes after it was submitted. Other stores can take up to several months, which can be frustrating, but again – that’s totally out of CD Baby’s hands.

Customer Service

CD Baby’s customer service is awesome! I’ve emailed them with several different issues, and they always respond very promptly (even on weekends), and their staff is very helpful and polite.


Having worked with CD Baby for years, I highly recommend them. I’ve also submitted a single (and more to come) through TuneCore, and my experience with them has been great so far as well. They use a different pricing model, and I’ll go over them in the next post.

  • Mark Snyder

    Couple of tips:

    Consider Catapult Distribution, also. Their fees are slightly lower, they are very fast, and are well regarded. I use them for our Weekend Warrior Worship music. However, they do not do physical CDs – something to keep in mind. We primarily did physical CD’s as giveaways anyway.

    Also, whatever you do for digital distribution, make sure it includes Spotify. Spotify is a major player in Eurpoe and is becoming that in the US as well. Music consumption is changing, and so it is important to make sure you are available everywhere.

    • Brian

      Hey Mark! Thanks for stopping by. You’re not the first person I’ve heard recommend Catapult. Thanks so much for the input.

      Also – CD Baby and TuneCore both do distribution to Spotify. I’ve had a few 2 and 3 cent payouts from them! 🙂

  • Julia

    Hi Brian,

    Another interesting service that I’ve recently encountered is – it lets you upload and build a playlist of your tracks and sell the stream or the tracks for as low as $0.02. I like the idea of selling my tracks for $0.25, because $0.99 might be hard to justify in many cases. Selling access to the playlist is appealing as well.

    • Brian

      Cool thanks for the tip! Definitely going to check them out.