Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Shocking Truth Behind Artists Royalties

Dave Kusek* on The Future Of Music Blog drew my attention to a graphic representation of how much money artists earn from different formats like itunes downloads vs physical CD sales vs streaming services like Spotify.

It's both depressing and unsurprising and you need to check it out.

Some interpretation might help.

CD Baby will sell your CD for you for $9.99 and give you $7:50
iTunes will sell your download album for $9.99 and give you $0.94

That's right. That's not a typo. $0.94.

For an artist to make the minimum wage in the US they would need to sell 155 CDs per month through CD Baby or 1229 through iTunes.

Here's some more interpretation.

Apple are the bad guys.
 The more market share iTunes gets, the badder they will get.

If you truly want to support the artists you love, you will buy their music from anywhere other than iTunes.

(CD Baby, and others like them, are the good guys)

Take a look for yourself

* BTW I would highly highly recommend Dave Kusek's book The Future of Music. It is an incredible road map for the next 10 years.

Related Posts: Copyright mythbusting
CD Baby Podcast


  1. While I'm not usually in the habit of defending Apple, they are no worse (in terms of artist royalty payment, costing etc.) than their equivalents elsewhere. In the case of an album the record label also takes $6.29 (assuming those charts are correct!) Apple can't be expected run the itunes store for free (would be interesting to see where their break-even point is though).

    The reason for the difference between CDbaby and itunes/amazon/whatever lies in the monopolies of the record companies (propping up their outdated business models using layer after layer of stupid and inappropriate copyright law) allowing them to dictate pricing structures/distribution methods/terms of use etc to the distributors and has relatively little to do with Apple.

    DRM was a knee-jerk response to napster. Stupidly high initial prices were due to the record companies deciding downloads had the same monetary value as a CD despite the inferior format (MP3) and the lower bit rates. While I concede that their monopoly could allow Apple to put some real pressure on record companies to change things for the better, the blame can’t be put squarely at their feet.

    Now, don’t even get me started with the Apple ecosystem as a whole (extortionate prices, poor devices, proprietary everything!). I’m not saying Apple aren’t evil (they most definitely are) but this one isn’t their fault. The artists and labels can’t even agree on the best course (some give their music free; others think they shouldn’t and those that do are undermining their own efforts. Record labels don’t like the streaming services because they don’t pay well enough to prop up the business models they refuse to abandon).

    Just realised this is a bit of an essay. Apologies. Hope you’re well matey,


  2. Matt is completely right about Apple, but not for the obvious reasons of perpetuating the old model of artist royalties. The great tragedy brought on the music business by Apple is the iPod itself and the way that Apple has danced around their willful infringement of every single artist and writer's copyright by building a multi-billion dollar business off of pirated MP3s. Apple created iTunes as a way of avoiding crushing lawsuits from the labels and publishers. They are the worst thing that ever happened to the music industry of all time.

  3. @Ali My concern is that iTunes as the acceptable face of legal downloading is seen to be 'good for the artist' when it is anything but. Being a high priced virtual shop is one thing, but it has nothing like the overheads of a physical shop. There is a battle between Apple and the majors over who gets to screw the artis. Sometimes both of 'em do. But when the majors go down I would hate for one corrupt system to be relaced by another. Hence I would say "If you can buy direct from the artist or outlets like CD Baby" (because the srtist will be properly paid). "If you can't don't buy from iTunes" (because you will be feeding a monster).

    @Dave - I wasn't aware of the 'avoiding lawsuits' angle. Thanks

    Just to clarify - are you saying "perpetuating the old model of artist royalties" isn't a bad thing?


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