The music industry is changing and the model of how the business works is also evolving. The internet has changed the game as streaming and digital downloads are increasing in popularity, but so is the availability of free music. As the rules of engagement change there’s more and more musicians get ripped off.
Russell Brennan has written an insightful article for LateralAction.com about how musicians can avoid being taken advantage of.
To most bands and musicians the Holy Grail is to get signed up by a major record label. But all that glitters is not gold. Although the major labels can make you a household name it comes at a cost.
Most talents are so happy to get a record deal they will sign any contract stuck in front of them.
What they don’t realise is that any advance comes out of future royalties. That seems fair enough, but on top of that all your recording costs, video costs, packaging and many promotional costs are deducted before you get paid. So even with a big hit you will often find you still owe the record label money.
If you have some degree of success that’s when you find out just how much it cost you to get it.
If you are Sting, Elton John or George Michael you can still make a lot of money even with deductions, but here’s a sobering example of other music icons that you may have thought earned millions.
I saw an interview with John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) the other day. It’s well documented that The Sex Pistols made very little money the first time around despite swindling the record industry because it was said that Manager Malcolm McClaren trousered the money.
John bounced back with the excellent and innovative band Public Image Limited. They released a lot of albums and had many hit singles like ‘This is not a Love Song’, ‘Rise’, ‘Disappointed’ and the excellent debut single named after the band itself.
However ten years down the line he found he still owed Virgin Records money and PIL were not allowed to put any more records out until he paid back what was owed. He couldn’t, so there were no new PIL releases for twenty years. It was payment from his British Butter advert that finally paid off the debt and freed him up to record and release the first PIL album in two decades.
Jamiroquai (Jay Kay) had a phenomenally successful debut album ‘Emergency on Planet Earth’ and it had actually earned a lot more than was spent on it, so he was due a big cheque. But flush with success, he ran up lots of money and time recording the follow up album – which flopped. So just as his cheque was due to be paid it was cancelled and used to clear the debt of the second album. He learned not to over-spend on future albums once he knew it was coming out of his pockets, and he gradually made money.