Back when, if up-and-coming musicians or bands wanted to sell their music, they had to lug suitcases of CDs to peddle at bar and coffeehouse gigs.
Now, they can hit a wider market: The world.
Thanks to a Portland, Ore.-based Web site, www.cdbaby.com, people from Anchorage to Zimbabwe can listen to obscure techno bands, traditional Italian piano music, Latin, gospel, spoken word and more. To find local acts like Scottsdale’s Dos Coyotes (who describe their sound as "Mexican surf music") or Chandler classical pianist Julianne Markavitch, just hit "browse" and "by location" to find 620 Arizona artists among the more than 51,000 in all.
Mesa singer, songwriter and square dance caller Mike Sikorsky found out about the site last July and signed up.
"There’s an old statement that says you’re never appreciated in your hometown," he said. A man in Fukuoka, Kyoto, Japan, who booked Sikorsky to call a square dance there bought five of his CDs from CD Baby.
Derek Sivers, who founded the site in March 1998, sells all independent CDs, no matter the genre. "We decided not to play judge," he said. In fact, it’s the second-largest online retailer of independent music, next to
The employees listen to all CDs so they know which ones to recommend for certain moods and occasions. For instance, you can browse on music for road trips, classy dinner parties or drinking a pint. Or you can find "Breakup Music for Broken Hearts," "Smash! Burn! Destroy! Rage!" or "Beach/ Island/Tropical Feelings."
Because the site lets you link to audio clips of up to the first two minutes of songs, it’s like going to a virtual music store where you can listen to every act on headphones. Some musicians, like Sikorsky, opt to let people listen to samples of every song on his CD, "The Glass-Slippered Dream." Other acts choose just two or three songs for samples.
Here’s how the business side works: Artists pay a onetime $35 per CD fee to set up a page on CD Baby and provide the company with five CDs for its warehouse. The site gets $4 for each CD sold. The musician sets the CD price.
Big labels often pay $1 or $2 per CD, and much of it is eaten up in advances and marketing costs.
More than 670,000 CDs have been sold on CD Baby, and the numbers are updated hourly on the site.