Jeff Carey on 25 Jul 2000 00:32:19 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] RE: <nettime> Terror in Tune Town

It should be noted that recording/performing artists don't make
much money on a release of their music by most labels - major or minor.
An awesome deal for a young band might be to get 8 percent of profits on
their record (after the label recoups its investment).  Many times the
label wont recoup its investment and the artist doesn't get paid.  Another
tricky thing for labels to put in contracts is to shoulder the artist/band
with the risk.  In these cases the artist will actually be taking a 'loan'
that they have to pay back when the record sales aren't high enough to
recoup the manufacturing and production costs.

Why do people think that bands make money on records?  Even the mega-radio
play bands will concede this point:  records are for exposure to get
people to come to concerts.  Concerts are where the money is.  Bands on
major and minor labels alike make the most money from their loyal fans who
show up to their concerts and pay $10-50 at the door and another $10-30
on a t-shirt (enterprising bands will come up with a whole line of
merchandise to sell).  Money from the venues and merchandise sales goes
directly to the artists in most cases.  Of course there is often a
overhead for agents/managers/roadies etc.  But for the most part a large
chunck of that money actually makes it to the artist.

If you are lucky enough to write music that somehow appeals to 80% of the
world and a record company knows it, you will have more bargaining power
with your record company.  You also get a little more bargaining power
when several labels are interested in putting your music out.  Even still
you might get a deal where you get 10% of profits on record sales and
ownership of your music after a certain period of time - after which you
are free to reproduce the release yourself.  At this point you will see
the profit from the record if the market hasn't already been saturated
with the release and people are still interested in buying it.  You can
bet that the label is going to exhaust every last dollar of disposable
income it can though.

Good luck if you think that you are going to be discovered making
recordings in your basement studio.  There are at least 100 bands out
there doing what you do.  They are also trying to get the attention of the
same labels and audience.  The bands that make money from working with
major labels are rare.  Like 1% of bands get radio airplay and subsequent
income from the exposure.  After your record goes triple platinum the
percentage of the profits becomes significant. Then you can write an
album and demand ownership of the music and a bigger cut of the profit.
But, that is for a rare bunch of bands.

For Metallica, Foo Fighters, U2, Maria Carey, Madonna, etc - they are
going to have to find another way to get that extra couple million from
somewhere other than record sales.  However, lets not forget the killing
that they are making selling tshirts, books with half naked pictures of
themselves, other merchandising, and - oh yeah - touring.

I don't think that digital reproduction is going to make a lick of
difference to anyone but the recording industry as far as profitability is
concerned - and even that is debateable.  Lets take a stroll down memory
lane to see some of the existing models:  Audio Cassette, Beta/VHS video,
CDR technologies.  The audio cassette was going to encourage wholesale
pirating of music and the music industry was going to collapse - record
labels still exist and traditional distribution methods are still intact.
Home video was going to put the film industry and movie houses out of
business - people are still going out to see movies on large screens -
even bad movies.  CDR technology threatens both CD audio and DVD/VCD
video production and distributions but we are still gobbing up music and
movies as fast as we can buy them.

Its not like the recording/distribution industry didn't hear the
age of network technology coming.  I can remember hearing about the
digital distribution of recordings directly to record stores for
manufacture and sales as far back as 1990.  If I can get wind of this via
industry channels working as a clerk at Tower Records - you've got be
kidding me if the rest of the industry hasn't known that change was

...but now I'm arguing a secondary point - sorry, I'll stop. 

Artists have always been starving.  Remember?  Now that we have digital
distribution, there will be a larger audience at any given locality to pay
to see a performance.  Then maybe artists can reclaim some of the
profits on their hard work, because often times they aren't being paid
well, if at all, by their record company.


> But what about the artists? 
> Who, after all, really gets screwed when no one is able to make a living
> from their art?  The lawyers and MBAs who run the record companies won't
> have a problem getting another job.  But the musicians and performing
> artists will see a hard living become even harder when a primary source of
> support is removed via widespread theft. 

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