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These appallingly low musician royalty checks are both amusing and depressing

Being a musician and trying to get paid can be a terrible chore. You can fill a club with drinkers and they’ll still stiff you at the end of the night. Your work—and your draw—will constantly be requested free of charge, as though the magic word “exposure” paid for rehearsal studio rental and gas in the van. Even deep-pocketed concerns will hose you. A band I was in in the ‘90s had a song that managed to grow some stubby little legs thanks to a compilation appearance, and a few years after the fact, a popular cable channel wanted to use it in an animated TV show. Thrilled, I filled out a small mountain of paperwork in 2003, and I’ve still not seen a check. The same song got used by a major clothing company, but not a cent found its way to my pocket for that, either. I have a good idea which of my former bandmates gave away that song for a song, but I’ve left it alone—I was livid about it at the time, but it’s long enough in the past now that there’s no sense in getting worked up about it anymore. I still play in a group that constantly records new original material and tours as often as it can, but if I was in this for money, I’d have been done after that fiasco.

But don’t think for a moment that this sort of heinous chicanery befalls only the obscure strivers who for obvious reasons are more vulnerable to it. Important and influential artists that you’ve heard of and enjoyed get the screws put to them all the time. The way radio royalties work against smaller artists is especially vile, but as radio diminishes in importance and new models emerge, innovative new ways to rob artists emerge alongside them. Right now, Pandora, ASCAP and BMI are in court arguing about exactly how songwriters will get hosed in the future. There are so many things to read online on the subject of how musicians do or don’t get paid it’s practically becoming a genre complete with its own classics, but just as a picture speaks a thousand words, money in the bank speaks more loudly still, and a recent piece in Aux that might startle you offered some pictures of musicians’ money in the bank.

How little does the music industry pay artists? Shockingly little. Spotify, the dominant streaming music source in the U.S., is leaking money. They reportedly dole out 70 per cent of their revenue to royalties, and while that number seems high, consider this: each song stream pays an artist between one-sixth and one-eight of a cent. One source claimed that, on streaming music services, an artist requires nearly 50,000 plays to receive the revenue earned from one album sale. Ouch.


This check was cut to the influential and respected post-metal band Isis by a company called Music Reports. No specific accounting was offered.

Lambgoat speculated that this check, also from Music Reports, may have been cut for one month’s worth of streaming royalties for the long running Washington D.C. death metal band Darkest Hour.

In the ‘80s, Camper Van Beethoven were a HUGE deal in the independent/college music scene. They split into Cracker and Monks of Doom in the ‘90s, with the former becoming very popular indeed. For over a million Pandora plays of one of their hugest hits, “Low,” Cracker got a little under $17.

OK, anyone wanting to could quibble as to the significance or popularity of Isis, Darkest Hour, or even Cracker, and by all means, that’s what the comments section is there for. But this is Janis Ian. Grammy winning, massively influential folk artist Janis Ian. “Society’s Child,” Between the Lines Janis Ian, hauling down some fat Darkest Hour cash, here.

More hiliarously depressing examples at

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Will Google’s new music app really be all that?
07:18 pm



The tech blogs have been abuzz for the last few days about Google’s new music service, which apparently will be powered by LaLa. The service is due to be officially announced on Oct. 18th at an event in Hollywood. So far the media has been mostly uncritical although it’s difficult to see why.

LaLa? Really? How underwhelming.

With Spotify, the peer-to-peer streaming service currently available in Spain, the UK, France, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and reportedly launching in the U.S. before the end of the year, the likely question in the minds of many tech watchers is “Why didn’t Google just buy Spotify?” Spotify is the gold standard of music apps. Picture iTunes—the user interface is very, very similar—except that it’s free and streaming, you need only listen to a 15- to 30-second commercial once every half-hour. There is also a pay variant of the service with no commercial interruptions and improved sound quality, although the free version will certainly suffice for most listeners.

Spotify, in a word, is awesome. Many Spotify users are reportedly even giving up illegal music downloads as a result of using the service. I set up a Spotify account via a UK proxy server earlier this year and was quite impressed at the streaming audio quality, ease of use and the absolutely massive song library. When their server finally detected I was outside of their operating countries after two blissful weeks and cut me off cold turkey, I wanted to cry. Does it have everything? Well, Spotify does lack the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but for the most part it’s pretty hard to stump, as even the most obscure performers are usually pretty well represented in its library.

LaLa on the other hand, has simply not become all that popular with the public and the catalog isn’t that deep. Just because a LaLa result comes up in a Google search hardly seems like a recipe for success. Like Rhapsody, Pandora and and the other streaming services, LaLa never really caught on with consumers in a big way. Sure the Google deal (Facebook, iLike and MySpace are reportedly along for the ride in some capacity too) won’t hurt the company, but it’s difficult to fathom why Google didn’t look into partnering the superior service, especially if the company will be competing against Spotify in the U.S. market within a matter of months anyway and with Microsoft set to launch what has been whispered of as their “Spotify killer” as well.

Among the mostly neutral chatter, snarky UK tech blog The Register had this to say:

Hyped overnight as a Google ‘Music Service’, what we see instead is set to be the most underwhelming launch in a long history of label-backed music flops. It’s barely a ‘service’ - merely a sorry widget that yokes a DRM-crippled version of LaLa’s already unpopular streaming offering with unsold Adwords inventory.

Instead of a text ad, a search for a music related keyword will show a widget. This allows you to listen to the song, according to Business Week - but only once. After that you pay to hear the stream at 10c a play. (You can also buy the song.)

Don’t all rush at once.

Cross posting this at Brand X

Image from Techcrunch

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment