|Cost per Album||$49. One time charge.||$29.99 first year.
$49.99 each year after.
|$34.95 to $59.95 per year.|
|Cost per Single||$9.95. One time charge.||$9.99 per year.||$34.95 to $59.95 per year.|
|Percent of profit kept by the company.||Direct downloads from CDBaby: 9%.Downloads from iTunes, AmazonMP3, etc: 9% of profit.||$0||$0|
|UPC Bar Code||$20 per album. $5 per single.||$0||$0|
|ISRC Code||$0 (?)||$0||$0|
Disclaimer: The above chart I compiled from simply looking at each site’s descriptions and FAQs about each of their pricing models. There may be additional charges I overlooked.
CDBaby Pricing Info: https://members.cdbaby.com/cd-baby-cost.aspx
Tunecore Pricing Info: http://www.tunecore.com/index/pricing
ReverbNation Pricing Info: http://www.reverbnation.com/band-promotion/distribution
From the above chart, both ReverbNation and Tunecore charge yearly subscriptions to their services. However, they don’t take a percentage of any sales. UPC and ISRC codes that are required to sell your music are provided free of charge at this point in time. This may change in the future. The wording on both of their sites indicates this could change at their discretion.
CDBaby only charges a one-time set up fee. Then they take a percentage of all sales. UPC Bar codes cost extra, so the price of your initial submission will increase accordingly. ISRC codes seem to be included for free with your submissions, but I only saw one blurb about ISRC costs in CDBaby’s help documentation.
For singles, you’ll notice that ReverbNation’s costs don’t change from the $34.95 minimum. That’s because they consider any submission a “release”. A release can contain 1 to 50 songs.
Also, ReverbNation has a tiered service. At $34.95, you get submitted to 34 stores. At $59.95, you get 6 additional stores. I’m honestly baffled why these 6 additional stores would cost $25 extra per year.
Which Service to Choose?
In my opinion, CDBaby. Don’t take my opinion as gold, but here are the reasons why I would choose CDBaby over the other two services.
1. What if your band breaks up?
Who’s going to be stuck paying for these fees? You love what you’ve done with your band, and you want your tunes to be available forever. Also, it’d be nice to keep receiving the occasional payment for your years of hard work. But, if you’re paying hundreds of dollars per year in subscription fees, you’re a bit screwed without a touring band to support those costs.
With CDBaby, you don’t have to worry about this.
2. Changes in cost
Tunecore used to cost $34.95 per year and just raised their costs to $49.99 per year (over much bashing in the media). Now, you’re stuck with higher yearly fees unless you cancel and start over with a different service.
With CDBaby, you don’t have to worry about this. You’ve already paid.
3. Losing all your reviews, tags, and social clout
If you want to change services or discontinue your yearly subscription, your music will be removed from every digital distribution platform. That means all your reviews, tags, likes, shares, streams, etc. All gone in a blink of an eye.
With CDBaby, again, no worries.
4. Compound costs are unsustainable.
Consider a band that stays together for 10 years and has released 5 albums. They will be paying around $250 per year. Now, they’ve also released multiple singles over that time. Let’s say they have 10 singles, so they’ll be paying $99.50 per year, as well.
It may not sound like much, but a single can be recorded for about $300.
CDBaby, you’ve only paid that amount once. Not yearly.
5. You have to sell a lot of music to justify the costs
Considering you are probably getting chump change per download, you would have to be selling hundreds of downloads per year to simply cover the costs.
With CDBaby, you can earn over time to cover the initial cost. If your sales don’t do well, you can still make up the initial costs over a period of time. (Long tail sales.)
When would I not choose CDBaby?
The only time Tunecore or ReverbNation would be more advantageous than CDBaby would be if you’re selling thousands of downloads per year. If your music is making the top 100 charts in download sales, then CDBaby’s percentages look less appealing. For instance, if you were making $1,000 per year in downloads, CDBaby would be getting $90 per year. That’s two year’s worth of ReverbNation’s subscription fees.
For me, though, I’ll be concentrating on using my music to drive people to my email list and to my live shows. Digital sales are simply a “nice to have” if they happen at all. CDBaby will give me the set-it-and-forget-it option I desire.
And even if I did get 1000 downloads one year, I’d be wary that this might not happen the next year. For instance, I somehow, magically get a one hit wonder on YouTube that results in a giant spike in sales. Then, next year, I’m totally forgotten about.
Am I Missing Something?
My impressions are based entirely on knowing how hard it is to get people to download your music when you’re an unknown band. Most of my music sales came from CDs sold at shows. I’d be highly hesitant to pay yearly fees, so my opinion sides with CDBaby.
What do you think of these services? Is there a downside to CDBaby I’m not seeing?