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 AmericaIn 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 LabelI 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.