Saturday, October 13, 2007

Have a Cigar!

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).


Justin said...

I've heard before that they make way more money touring than from albums. Considering it was something like $40 a pop to sit in the nosebleeds of the Toyota Center to see Nickelback last year I'd believe it. At least I left feeling like I got my money's worth, they were GREAT live.

The Dude said...

Recently I read where Radiohead had decided to release their latest for free via the web. Apparently there will be a place where you can basically pay what you think the music is worth on their download site. Sort of the "honor system" of music sales. It does confirm what Justin says above.

I'm a musician who likes to home record, but I'm strictly amateur. I have a full-time day job that keeps me occupied. I record my stuff via sequencing/sampling with a Roland Fantom KB. From time to time I post samples on my blog or website.

Even aside from that kind of thing though, quality multi-track digital recorders are to the point of being affordable to the masses. With that being the case, it seems to me that folks who are willing to put their music for free out on the web, and follow that up with the hard work of clubbing/touring will be the ones that succeed. I'd certainly rather give my money to hear a hardworking band live than enrich the executives of the major labels, or some whiney spoiled brat "megastar" for that matter. Hey, that's just me though.