Rumblefish Explains How They Protect And License Your Music

TThis post by the Dotted Music CMO Cory Wolff originally appeared on NEPA Scene, as a part of the Putting In Work series.

Oh man, how time flies! Last I checked, it was May. Did you miss me?

I’ve been busy though, I swear! It’s not like I’ve been sitting around in my underwear playing PS4. Trust me, I’d love to, but my Playstation is gathering dust. My girl isn’t too happy about that considering she bought it for me for my birthday. Do you know anyone else whose significant other gets upset that they’re not playing Playstation? She’s pretty cool I guess…

Speaking of cool people, I’d like to give a big thank you to Rich Howells, our editor here at NEPA Scene, for letting me get away with not posting in so long. Hi, Rich!

Enough of the small talk – let’s get to business.

One of the things I did over the past few weeks was attend the New Music Seminar in New York City. Running from June 21-23, it was a great conference filled with some informative panels, and I highly suggest attending next year if you can. By far, it was one of the best conferences I’ve been to.

At New Music, I got to sit down with J. Gibson from Rumblefish. CD Baby users might recognize the name; if a YouTube video of one of your own songs has ever received a copyright notice from them, you might be like, “WTF? This is my music.”

Many independent artists are confused by this, and some of them can’t figure out what the purpose of Rumblefish is. J was nice enough to sit down with me and clear up a few things.

What is Rumblefish, and what do they do?

J. Gibson

J. Gibson

The way J explained it, they offer pre-cleared music for video creation services like Animoto, Amazon Studios, Socialcam, Maker Studios, and more and a “marketplace” for video creators to legally use music in their videos.

He provided the example of a person wanting to create a video for a family event. It would sure be nice to add music to your video, right? Using a video creation service like Animoto (or another video creation service that is part of the Rumblefish network), a user can legally pay for music to use in their family event video. J referred to this as “micro-licensing.”

So for an artist whose music is a part of Rumblefish, the music becomes available for people to purchase in these micro-licensing situations, which is another possible revenue stream.

Rumblefish and YouTube

If you’ve ever released your music through CD Baby and uploaded a video for one of those songs to YouTube, you may have seen a copyright “point of contest” for the music. This could be odd to some people, since it’s their music. How could you be infringing on your own work?

J explained that when it comes to YouTube, the audio can only be delivered by one entity for the audio fingerprint technology to take place. If you’re an independent artist and release music through CD Baby, Rumblefish is the entity that does this on your behalf.

When the artist uploads a video with their audio, YouTube sees it as another point of entry, and the content ID system flags it as infringing.

When this happens, you can do one of two things. J said you can dispute the copyright claim and give a brief explanation why the claim should be removed. This will route to Rumblefish to review and release, or you can let Rumblefish assist you in monetizing your video.

I’ve had this happen to artists that I work with before and, to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to think about it, but he broke it down in a simple way – the offensive play, and the defensive play.

The offensive play is when Rumblefish uses their system to offer the musical works on platforms like Animoto and Amazon Studios and when they assist you in monetizing your own videos.

The defensive play is when someone uses your work without permission. There’s so much content that it’s impossible for an artist to monitor it. Rumblefish monitors for infringing works and gives the person infringing on the copyright the opportunity to continue using your work by monetizing the video.

If the video uploader decides to monetize it, the copyright holder allows the video uploader to continue using the music in exchange for the revenue from that video. Rumblefish administers this revenue and pays the copyright holder.

Ultimately, this comes down to a few things: understanding copyright (which you can read about in my series starting here), understanding how content ID systems work, and adding new revenue streams.

I’m glad I got to speak with J. He cleared up some things I wasn’t too sure about, and hopefully it clears some things up for you.

Until next time!


  • Full disclosure, we are competing with Rumblefish.

    I have issues with Google’s content ID / Rumblefish exclusivity:

    (a) the copyright infringement faced by rights holders or their direct clients, friends and family members using their content with approval is a slap in the face and not helpful to generate exposure or money. It’s turning the legal system up side down: you are guilty unless you can proof you are innocent. IMHO we as the music industry should address this (b) Musicians checking the Rumblefish box in CD Baby’s publishing services have no clue it’s an exclusive deal (I know musicians should read the addendums too but we all know they don’t). So we run into cases where musicians want to undo the exclusive Rumblefish deal and/or Google is too busy with other things so does not respond except for sending automated emails.

    Looking at the whole Google content ID status it’s easy to add a unique source ID so Google can identify the content, rights holder and any additional licensing company helping the artist to monetize their content. In short, there is no technical reason why content ID should be the only exclusive identifier. Is it laziness?

    Google’s content ID can be redesigned to really help rights holders not just the middle men. Google please pay attention when you want to make the world a better place (before you focus on buying veggie burger companies…)