How Much Do Musicians Really Make from Record Deals?

After yesterday’s mailbag entry on royalties, our friend Ken Muse pointed me to a great breakdown of the current record deal math done by Cord Jefferson at The Root.

By the math in the article, the average “signed” musician makes $23.40 for every $1,000 of revenue earned by the label.

Think about it in terms of downloads. Get signed to a label, and sell 1,000 downloads in your first week of release. That’s still pretty respectable for most acts, and can even get you on some charts. With a coupon code, you can now have two pizzas delivered from Papa John’s.

So why bother? What can a record deal do for you that you can’t put together yourself?

2 responses

  1. I totally agree with you: there’s just a few things a label can do for you, and all of them got to do with advertising.
    In the internet era and with enough effort a musician can get a name and be quite succesfull. Immortal Technique is in my opinion at the head of the cavalry in this self-employed-musician-scheme. And makes enough money to start his own charity founds, and feeds hungry people in the middle east.
    So yes, there’s almost no point in signing to a blood sucking label.

  2. I think artists always knew they were going to get less money than the labels, maybe they did not realize how much less they would get.. Something has gone very wrong somewhere in the chain of record company to artists .. why is it that back in the 60s a record could get in the charts and it had not even been released, it sold and went into the charts on advanced sales alone? this was in the days of record shops…. now I am constantly told that being on the internet where millions of people can get your product is the new way forward, but having spoken to quite a big number of bands and artists on myspace and the web, they tell me its very hard to sell anything! And we dont seem to have super bands anymore, as record companies cant afford to put money into bands these days because they are not getting the sales returns they need to make the band bigger, At one of my shows. I sold a CD to a young lad who quite openly told me he would go home and make copies of the CD and give one to his friends!