For many years, CD Baby has handled my music distribution, collecting revenue from sales and streaming (the master use portion). I have been quite happy with their service. I handle my own account with a performing rights organization (BMI). Personally, I don’t mind the extra work of that responsibility. But I found out I was missing a segment of income from mechanical royalties. CD Baby offers a Pro Publishing feature through which they will collect your worldwide mechanical royalties and performance royalties. They charge a modest 15% commission, plus a $60 fee when you sign up an album’s worth of music.
So I set about conducting an experiment. I selected three of my albums that received the most streaming income from CD Baby but hardly any performance royalties from BMI. I wagered that the additional income CD Baby collected for these albums would justify the sign-up cost without cutting significantly into my existing BMI revenue.
In April 2019 I signed up the three albums for Pro Publishing. I knew it could take up to a year for the revenue to start showing up due to the long lag time in collecting and dispersing revenue by music rights organizations. It would take patience to see the results. Fifteen months later, I have two reports representing six months of income. The grand total?
This comprises mechanical royalties from Harry Fox Agency (4¢), mechanical royalties from YouTube (4¢), and performance income collected by BMI from streaming services (58¢). A rather pitiful showing.
To be fair, how well particular music performs depends on several factors. A song that receives hundreds of thousands of streams could very well justify the expense. And if you would rather not deal with the hassle of registering your music with performing rights and mechanical rights organizations, the cost of a pro publishing agreement may be worth it to you over time.
I am still a huge proponent of CD Baby. But the Pro Publishing component has not been worth it in my case. The fee for the service and the commission are certainly fair given the administrative work required on the back end, but the revenue didn’t justify the cost for me. My advice is to carefully evaluate how well you think the deal will serve your particular circumstances before opting in for this additional service with any music distributor, whether CD Baby, TuneCore, or others.
For more information on these services, check out these links.
And for a comparison of different services:
Royalty Exchange, “What Are Publishing Admin Companies, And What Can They Do For You?”