[This article is the first in a series by Rob Filomena, CD Baby’s Director of Music Publishing.]
Since taking on the role of Director of Music Publishing at CD Baby several months ago, I’ve spent much of my time learning about the company and listening to members, particularly interested in what they have to say about CD Baby Pro, our publishing administration platform that I administer directly.
I’ve looked through our customer service emails, read comments on the DIY Musician Blog, and surveyed the customer service team. I’ve spoken to members and engaged in dialogue directly with our partners at performing rights societies like ASCAP, BMI, and SOCAN to hear what their members were saying about CD Baby Pro. Where could we be doing better? What could we explain more clearly? How could we improve the service?
There are some consistent themes that emerged from these conversations that I wanted to start to explore and explain in a series of posts dedicated to CD Baby Pro and the work we’re doing with songwriters to get them paid their publishing royalties.
It’s probably best to start with the most frequently asked questions, some of which were the most basic imaginable. For all of our marketing of the service and internal training, there still remains an undeniable vagueness to what the product is and what it does.
What is CD Baby Pro?
Here is the short answer:
CD Baby Pro is a combination of global distribution of your sound recordings AND publishing royalty administration for the compositions on your album or single release.
This naturally leads to a bunch of other questions that we’ve received from members that require some clear and concise definitions.
What is Publishing Administration?
It’s the act of making sure compositions are collecting all of the royalties they are entitled to, plus accounting (and payment of those royalties) to the songwriter or publisher.
What is the difference between a Publisher and Publishing Administrator?
A publisher is the owner of a composition copyright. If there is no deal in place with an outside publisher, then the songwriter(s) is the publisher. A publishing administrator is empowered by the publisher to manage their copyrights and account for the income they earn. A publishing administrator does NOT own a part of the composition, but does this work in exchange for a small commission on the revenue collected.
I write my own songs and have distribution through CD Baby, isn’t that enough to get everything owed to me?
If your music is being sold, streamed or performed globally, distribution alone doesn’t get you all of the money your music is earning. Without adding a publishing collection strategy to the puzzle, you are probably leaving money on the table.
Adding that piece to the puzzle means registering your works globally with performing and mechanical rights societies. A Publishing Administrator plays the role of a kind of “distributor” to the global performing rights and mechanical societies to make sure your compositions are properly registered and collecting royalties wherever they are being performed or sold.
So, with CD Baby Pro we’ll actually “distribute” your music in two ways:
1. Your sound recordings will be distributed to stores and streaming platforms that pay you for sales
2. Your compositions (which are attached to those sound recordings) will be registered with collection societies that pay you performance and mechanical royalties when your music is sold, streamed or performed publicly
Just as sound recordings have their own global systems in place for making money, compositions earn income from a global and complex network of licensing agreements. These agreements exist primarily between global rights societies and live venues, retailers, broadcasters and digital platforms to make sure songwriters and publishers get paid for the sales, performances and reproductions of the compositions that are an inseparable part of all music sound recordings. Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP and BMI cover a portion of this system but not all of it (see below).
If you had a traditional deal with a publisher, they would take responsibility for getting your works plugged into this system (as well as at least some ownership of your copyrights) but traditional publishing deals are very scarce for the average independent artist. Administration services like CD Baby Pro offer global publishing administration to anyone who wants it, on demand.
Does signing up for CD Baby Pro mean CD Baby owns my music?
No. As publishing administrator we take no ownership of your copyrights. We collect a 15% fee on anything we collect for you. The agreement is for 1 year after which you are free to renew, take over the administration yourself, or sign with another publisher.
It doesn’t seem like I have a lot of money out there. Why should I bother registering my publishing?
The answer boils down to a simple fact: Whatever is out there is YOUR money.
Your copyrights are your property. Your personal annuity that can earn money for you for the rest of your life. The continued growth of streaming in the coming years means your music is one click away from any fan, anywhere. Accessing an audience and taking the steps to make sure your music is plugged into every available source for earning money has never been more simple or affordable. If your music is earning money, you should have the means to collect it.
Next time, we’ll get into the differences between what your Performing Rights Society does vs what a Publishing Administrator can do for you!
Any questions, let me know in the comments below.