To quote Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changin'”
Of course, Bob Dylan had to sign to a major label in order to enjoy the wide-spread distribution and promotional opportunities he needed in order to become a successful and important musician. Hell, he had to change his surname from Zimmerman, and move out of Minnesota. It was the ’60s, sure, but it wasn’t all groovy.
But due to the digital world we all swim around in now, musicians have been afforded a level playing field (or at least some semblance of something that could one day become one — which is still very good) with the removal of most of the gatekeepers which existed in the past – financial, operational, or geographical.
CD Baby revealed that in 2017 alone, they paid out $80 million to independent artists, on a catalogue with nine million tracks. As an average per song, this isn’t amazing — it’s less than ten bucks — but remember:
a) CD Baby represent a tiny fragment of the overall streaming and downloads market — just 1.5% — while Spotify commands 35%, and iTunes and Apple Music combined makes up 37%.
b) There are thousands of artists, in 215 territories worldwide [bet you can’t name 115 of them] making a living through CD Baby sales and touring, mirroring the ’90s/early’00s indie label/band model, back when CD Baby sold CDs, baby.
The major take away is that independent music made up 40% of the total industry revenue, worldwide, in 2017.
CD Baby’s model has shifted over the past twenty years — remember, they have CD in their name — and now the majority of royalties come through streaming services, mirroring the industry at large.
“Just six years ago, iTunes downloads were the main source of sales revenue for our artists,” Kevin Breuner, VP of marketing at CD Baby, wrote in a press release accompanying the data.
“Now, large amounts of money are generated by streams on Spotify and Apple Music. With this shift, we’ve seen revenue increase dramatically. The overall pie is growing, and indie musicians are getting their slices.”
“We’re excited to see average artists’ earnings grow for a third consecutive year, due to millions more consumers engaging in music discovery on streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora,” added CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux.
“YouTube is also a playing field-levelling platform that is contributing hugely to artist royalty growth. We’re very optimistic about the trend as we continue to lobby for higher per stream rates.”
Check out twenty years of data, in graph form, below.