Laurence had a post about the rash of artists suing their record companies and/or dumping them to strike out on their (Trent Reznor). So as someone who years ago was trying to "Make It" as a musician and now knows people who are part time musicians who are still trying to "Make It" I would like to present a less than flattering picture of the music industry.
Lets say you get signed to a wonderful deal and get 10% royalties on albums sold. And to keep the math easy lets say the record company makes $10 profit on each album (of which you pull your 10%). So if you sell a 100,000 albums the total profit is $1,000,000. The band gets to keep 10% or $100,000.00 (roughly a buck and album).
Not bad you say. BUT, be sure to keep in mind you probably have four people in the band (or more) so you are looking at $25,000 dollars each (before taxes). Please remember we are keeping the math simple, usually royalties are split differently among the members of the band based on their contributions to the songs on the album.
Also, please keep in mind, the record company puts the money up front to record, produce, promote and distribute the album and God forbid they actually run the risk of LOSING money, so it is written into contracts that the artist begins getting checks AFTER all the outstanding bills from the recording. So out of that cool million bucks you have an even smaller pile to pull from for an artist.
So, this is a LONG way of saying unless you are a superstar like Madonna, ZZ Top (OK so superstar is a stretch here), Michael Jackson (giggle) etc... You probably will die penniless and insane (like a tech support guy).
This is why I have NO sympathy for record companies in their lawsuits. Whether is is for RIAA suits or an artist sueing them. Artist are much better off desiging their own stuff, recording it themselves and selling it on the web. Unless you have a fabulous deal and sell in excess of 500,000 copies, you are living in lower-upper-class status.
Any other musician/record company horror stories out there. If anyone would like to know, I will be happy to name names (I have no shame).