Local artists: Get your music heard with CD Baby

Barefoot Man and Andy 'Cayman Cowboy' Martin back in the day when online music was the stuff of fantasies.
Barefoot Man and Andy ‘Cayman Cowboy’ Martin back in the day when online music was the stuff of fantasies.

There was a time when an independent recording artist (not signed to a record label) could not possibly have his or her music sold in a typical record shop or mall-style music outlet unless they owned the store. The rule of thumb: If you were not signed with a major record label and your song was not on Billboard’s Top 20 list, no one was interested, no matter how well your product sold in your hometown, or in this case, the Cayman Islands.

The same went for radio-play. The important, powerful U.S. stations had no interest in spinning you unless you were identifiable on Billboard or you made it on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

In Cayman, there was a time when nearly every gift shop in George Town sold locally produced cassettes and CDs. The majority of the sales were thanks to the tourists. For the price of a T-shirt you could by a collection of local music – an audible keepsake of your holiday in the islands. Well, that once money-spinning market came to a slow death with Napster.

All it would take is for one tourist to go back north with a Memory of Justice CD or Andy Martin CD and that music could be shared with the world without a penny in our local pockets. Napster was eventually sued and had to pay out millions for copyright infringement.
Online retail

Jonathan Ebanks and his antique harp guitar can be found on CD Baby.
Jonathan Ebanks and his antique harp guitar can be found on CD Baby.

Since that time, there have been a lot of changes – in favor of the independent artist. Nowadays, music stores are no longer physical buildings with a street address or a mall cubical. In fact, music stores that deal with recorded music or “record shops” as we used to know them, are nearly non-existent. Now the independent artist can sell his product in the same online music store as Taylor Swift or Bob Marley. CD Baby is one of the best examples of an online music retailer specializing in the sale of physical CDs, vinyl records and music files by independent musicians to consumers, as well as distributing content to several other online music retailers.

No more auditioning, knocking on doors, begging producers or collecting reject letters. Today, anyone with a harmonica or juice harp can sell their music at an online music store. Now the world is your market! No longer do you need to depend on only the fans or those who attend your performances.

Can you make money without being signed up to a major record label? Silly question, considering that more than 350,000 independent recording artists are signed up with CD Baby and the company has paid out well over $250 million in royalty checks to musicians that most of us have never heard of. Once you are on the CD Baby roster they will assure that your tracks also sell on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rhapsody, and more.

How CD Baby began

Hi Tide's albums have been available online for a number of years now.
Hi Tide’s albums have been available online for a number of years now.

CD Baby was founded by Derek Sivers, a professional musician who created the website to sell his own music. Initially it was just a hobby, and then he started selling CDs of other local bands and friends. The whole idea started in his living room, yet eventually Sivers employed more than 100 workers.

In 2008, Sivers sold CD Baby for an estimated $22 million – how about THAT for a royalty check? To the average “non-superstar,” Sivers is a music business folk hero.

Sivers says, “Today, distributing the music is so easy it’s moot.”

There’s nothing more exciting than opening your post office box and there is a royalty check from CD Baby. In Cayman, there are a number of musicians who sell their tracks through CD Baby and just as many who are missing out by ignoring the Web’s superhighway of information.

It’s time to dust off your old CD tracks, as somewhere on this planet of 7.5 billion people there’s bound to be someone out there who will enjoy and pay for your music.

I admit it, I’m an old dinosaur, and not one who stays on the cutting edge of things. However, I love the world of downloading – and my royalty checks.

For more info on CD Baby and how to sign up, see www.CDBaby.com.

CD Baby was founded by Derek Sivers, a professional musician who created the website to sell his own music.

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