Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Are Not Going To Be A Rock Star | Album Sales Figures to Prove It

You are not going to be a rock star. Okay, perhaps those words are too harsh, and I could be wrong, but I’ll gladly bet anyone who starts a band in Milwaukee or Wisconsin that they will not become stars. Heck, I’ll give you ten to one odds on it. Here is why. Musicians still try too hard to get signed to a major label. They would have better luck producing their own disk, and self promoting. You say that's crazy talk. Let me try to convince you with the following data.

Average Profits from Album Sales by Format

  • DIY self priced disk retails for $10, with an average profit of $8
  • iTunes "Albums" retail for $10, with an average profit of $1 for the artist*
  • A CDBaby album download at a of retail $10 will show an average net profit of $7.50
  • Big time Retail outlet CD by major Label sells for $10, with only 30 cents going to the artist.

So you say to yourself, "You will sell millions of copies of your CD if you sign to a major label." Sorry, you won't. The odds are stacked against you big time.

Album Sales Figures in America

In 2008, the major, small, and “indie” labels across this nation released 115,000 albums collectively. Of those releases, only 115 sold over 250,000 copies. That’s .001 percent my friends. So you have a one in 1000 chance to sell a quarter million copies of your album, if you are signed to a label, and you back it up by tours, radio interviews, press releases, blogs, videos, rehearsals, quitting your day job, etc.

Of those 115,000 albums, only 1.3 percent sold more than 10,000 copies. Finally, only 5.2% of the 115,000 albums sold over 1000 copies. Get it? 115,000 albums made, and 94.8% of them couldn't motivate fans to buy more than 1000 copies. Thank you to Ariel Hyatt for that data.

Here is another item for you to chew on. If you boil that data down, over 300 albums are release PER DAY on average. How can you stand out from the crowd when 13 albums are coming out every hour in this country? Do you really expect that you will be noticed?

Realities of Signing to a Major Label

I read somewhere that a $500,000 advance to a band making a major-level record will net each member just under $20,000 to “live on” if there are four musicians signed to the contract. If you don’t recoup that half million dollars, you are then a slave to the label until they find a way to squeeze it out of you.

You could earn $20,000 per year working part time at a job you love, play local clubs, release your own music, and do short DIY tours without being a slave to a label. Freedom can be a good thing. Yes, there are small labels that work very hard for their bands, and they don’t tie musicians down to multi album deals. Those labels will still own you, and they are a lot smarter than you. Signing any contract, large or small includes giving up something.

I’m not trying to be a “Debbie Downer” here, and I bring this data up for a reason. Nearly everyone that joins a band, or picks up a guitar, or plays the drums thinks that they will be a star. Let’s be honest about the state of rock and roll. Stars number in the hundreds, musicians with a dream number in the tens of thousands. Think long and hard before you sign your creative life away.

Digital Downloads Will Not Save Your Butt*

In 2009, the highest selling song accounted for only 9.8 million downloads. That’s just one song folks, not an entire disk. A major label artist sees only eight to ten cents per download. Music Downloads accounted for 4.2 billion in sales that same year. This may sound like a huge number, but it is not covering the decline in disk sales, not by a long shot. Music sales have dropped every year, for the past ten.
"But Wisconsin Music Man, if I am one of those lucky ones to sell 250,000 albums on a major label, I'll walk away with $75,000" you say. Sure, now divide that up between your band, or perhaps the song publisher gets it all, etc. Let's say all four members of your band received song writing credit. That comes to $14,000 after taxes, per band member. Please remember, to make that sweet 14K, you have to beat the one in 1000 odds. Oh, and don't forget, you have no health insurance, no home life, and you live by night as you tour the country.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trash Fest at Miramar Theater October 23 with Three On Fire

Trash Fest
I remember playing a benefit concert for the members of Milwaukee's Three On Fire. Ironically, their house had caught fire, and they lost everything. That was 20+ years ago. Three On Fire will be performing a reunion show during Trash Fest at the Miramar Theater this Saturday.

Trash Fest is an annual event that draws from Milwaukee's finest musicians. There are real bands and bands that just get together for one night on the bill. This year Trash Fest headline acts include Aqua-Knots, Pissofficer, VSO, and the Nervous Virgins. Doors open at 7:30.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

St. Vincent Turner Hall Milwaukee Poster

Saint Vincent Turner Hall
I hung the St. Vincent poster up in my office today. I can’t believe that it’s been eight months since that Turner Hall Milwaukee show. Still, it was one of the best live performances that I have seen in many years. It was even better, as my friend Jay came along. He’s a music encyclopedia.

St. Vincent Turner Hall Milwaukee Show

Wildbirds and Peacedrums opened for St. Vincent. I know that because it will be hard to forget that duo. When St. Vincent took the stage, I would guess that there were less than 750 people in the audience. I think that the size of the crowd made for a better show. The last thing that I wanted was to be sandwiched by people. I made it to the front of the stage with relative ease.

The St. Vincent poster was cheap; selling these works of art at $15 each is such a great idea. The low price made it much easier to spend extra cash on a frame.

I first saw St. Vincent on Austin City Limits in the dead of winter past. I only caught two songs, but I got hooked. A young coworker of mine saw them perform at the Pabst Theater just a few months prior. Her mention of that show stuck in my head, and when surfing the dial I stopped just in time to see them perform The Party, from the album titled Actor.

So here I am with the largest, most bare wall in my office, now the recipient of one superb poster. I await new works from St. Vincent, and hopefully another chance to see them play live once again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mobile Phones and Music | Morrissey on a China Plate

Mobile Phones Make Lousy Music Sound Worse

Using Mobile phones as music devices baffles my mind. Yes, an iPhone might be the exception, only because the "phone" part is almost secondary. If you have seen the HD video and sound that the latest iPhone captures, you would certainly agree with me. What I am talking about is the sound that comes out of the speakers of a non iPhone.

I was crossing the street in downtown Milwaukee yesterday, when I passed by a girl who was waiting for a bus. As I passed, I thought her phone was ringing. To me it sounded like that tinny, over driven sound you may hear when someone has picked a ring tone that is just too much for the phone's speaker to handle. You know what I'm talking about, the sound is all distorted and not very appealing. I was wrong, she was listening to music. It was awful.

I am one of those people who thought that advanced technology would improve the sound that comes out of tiny devices. I'm old enough to remember transistor radios and the sound that they produced. Still, it seems like you just can't make a tiny speaker sound lush, unless you spend hundreds of dollars. If you take a look at the tiny speakers that do sound good, you realize that they are not that tiny. They are just the tweeter portion of what used to reside in a large wooden box, and it sat above the woofer. To me, the only thing that has changed is that the woofer is in a separate box, and the tweeters clutter up your desk, or hang from your living room wall, or sit on thin posts throughout the room.

I have a friend who travels a lot. He lives very simply, to the point where he relies on his iPhone for everything. That phone gets a workout. What I find interesting about this particular friend is that he used to be an audiophile. He is one of those guys who still has vinyl records, and keeps them in individual plastic sleeves. He practically studies the album. He knows who produced it, mixed it, the lyrics, and the performers who played on it. His albums sit high on a shelf now, and he doesn't own a record player anymore. He doesn't own a boom box, or stereo. He plays music through his phone, and that makes me very sad.

Morrissey on a China Plate

I like to do the airport runs for my friend. It's easy, and I like catching people on the way in or out of town. They tend to be excited, or tired, or nervous. Basically, I get to see friends an emotional state that I might not see during other, more normal times. When I came to pick up my friend last Saturday, I found him just about ready to go. He was playing Morrissey through his phone, which he had placed on a china plate on his kitchen counter. The plate he told me, helped to bring out the sound. There was no bass, no mids, just highs and this china plate resonating Morrissey out into his kitchen. How far my audiophile friend had fallen.