My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement

warner stmt detail

I got something in the mail last week I’d been wanting for years: a Too Much Joy royalty statement from Warner Brothers that finally included our digital earnings. Though our catalog has been out of print physically since the late-1990s, the three albums we released on Giant/WB have been available digitally for about five years. Yet the royalty statements I received every six months kept insisting we had zero income, and our unrecouped balance ($395,277.18!)* stubbornly remained the same.

Now, I don’t ever expect that unrecouped balance to turn into a positive number, but since the band had been seeing thousands of dollars in digital royalties each year from IODA for the four indie albums we control ourselves, I figured five years’ worth of digital income from our far more popular major label albums would at least make a small dent in the figure. Our IODA royalties during that time had totaled about $12,000 – not a princely sum, but enough to suggest that the total haul over the same period from our major label material should be at least that much, if not two to five times more. Even with the band receiving only a percentage of the major label take, getting our unrecouped balance below $375,000 seemed reasonable, and knocking it closer to -$350,000 wasn’t out of the question.

So I was naively excited when I opened the envelope. And my answer was right there on the first page. In five years, our three albums earned us a grand total of…

$62.47

What the fuck?

I mean, we all know that major labels are supposed to be venal masters of hiding money from artists, but they’re also supposed to be good at it, right? This figure wasn’t insulting because it was so small, it was insulting because it was so stupid.

Why It Was So Stupid

Here’s the thing: I work at Rhapsody. I know what we pay Warner Bros. for every stream and download, and I can look up exactly how many plays and downloads we’ve paid them for each TMJ tune that Warner controls. Moreover, Warner Bros. knows this, as my gig at Rhapsody is the only reason I was able to get them to add my digital royalties to my statement in the first place. For years I’d been pestering the label, but I hadn’t gotten anywhere till I was on a panel with a reasonably big wig in Warner Music Group’s business affairs team about a year ago

The panel took place at a legal conference, and focused on digital music and the crisis facing the record industry**. As you do at these things, the other panelists and I gathered for breakfast a couple hours before our session began, to discuss what topics we should address. Peter Jenner, who manages Billy Bragg and has been a needed gadfly for many years at events like these, wanted to discuss the little-understood fact that digital music services frequently pay labels advances in the tens of millions of dollars for access to their catalogs, and it’s unclear how (or if) that money is ever shared with artists.

I agreed that was a big issue, but said I had more immediate and mundane concerns, such as the fact that Warner wouldn’t even report my band’s iTunes sales to me.

The business affairs guy (who I am calling “the business affairs guy” rather than naming because he did me a favor by finally getting the digital royalties added to my statement, and I am grateful for that and don’t want this to sound like I’m attacking him personally, even though it’s about to seem like I am) said that it was complicated connecting Warner’s digital royalty payments to their existing accounting mechanisms, and that since my band was unrecouped they had “to take care of R.E.M. and the Red Hot Chili Peppers first.”

That kind of pissed me off. On the one hand, yeah, my band’s unrecouped and is unlikely ever to reach the point where Warner actually has to cut us a royalty check. On the other hand, though, they are contractually obligated to report what revenue they receive in our name, and, having helped build a database that tracks how much Rhapsody owes whom for what music gets played, I’m well aware of what is and isn’t complicated about doing so. It’s not something you have to build over and over again for each artist. It’s something you build once. It takes a while, and it can be expensive, and sometimes you make honest mistakes, but it’s not rocket science. Hell, it’s not even algebra! It’s just simple math.

I knew that each online service was reporting every download, and every play, for every track, to thousands of labels (more labels, I’m guessing, than Warner has artists to report to). And I also knew that IODA was able to tell me exactly how much money my band earned the previous month from Amazon ($11.05), Verizon (74 cents), Nokia (11 cents), MySpace (4 sad cents) and many more. I didn’t understand why Warner wasn’t reporting similar information back to my band – and if they weren’t doing it for Too Much Joy, I assumed they weren’t doing it for other artists.

To his credit, the business affairs guy told me he understood my point, and promised he’d pursue the matter internally on my behalf – which he did. It just took 13 months to get the results, which were (predictably, perhaps) ridiculous.

The sad thing is I don’t even think Warner is deliberately trying to screw TMJ and the hundreds of other also-rans and almost-weres they’ve signed over the years. The reality is more boring, but also more depressing. Like I said, they don’t actually owe us any money. But that’s what’s so weird about this, to me: they have the ability to tell the truth, and doing so won’t cost them anything.

They just can’t be bothered. They don’t care, because they don’t have to.

“$10,000 Is Nothing”

An interlude, here. Back in 1992, when TMJ was still a going concern and even the label thought maybe we’d join the hallowed company of recouped bands one day, Warner made a $10,000 accounting error on our statement (in their favor, naturally). When I caught this mistake, and brought it to the attention of someone with the power to correct it, he wasn’t just befuddled by my anger – he laughed at it. “$10,000 is nothing!” he chuckled.

If you’re like most people – especially people in unrecouped bands – “nothing” is not a word you ever use in conjunction with a figure like “$10,000,” but he seemed oblivious to that. “It’s a rounding error. It happens all the time. Why are you so worked up?”

These days I work for a reasonably large corporation myself, and, sadly, I understand exactly what the guy meant. When your revenues (and your expenses) are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, $10,000 mistakes are common, if undesirable.

I still think he was a jackass, though, and that sentence continues to haunt me. Because $10,000 might have been nothing to him, but it was clearly something to me. And his inability to take it seriously – to put himself in my place, just for the length of our phone call – suggested that people who care about $10,000 mistakes, and the principles of things, like, say, honoring contracts even when you don’t have to, are the real idiots.

As you may have divined by this point, I am conflicted about whether I am actually being a petty jerk by pursuing this, or whether labels just thrive on making fools like me feel like petty jerks. People in the record industry are very good at making bands believe they deserve the hundreds of thousands (or sometimes millions) of dollars labels advance the musicians when they’re first signed, and even better at convincing those same musicians it’s the bands’ fault when those advances aren’t recouped (the last thing $10,000-Is-Nothing-Man yelled at me before he hung up was, “Too Much Joy never earned us shit!”*** as though that fact somehow negated their obligation to account honestly).

I don’t want to live in $10,000-Is-Nothing-Man’s world. But I do. We all do. We have no choice.

The Boring Reality

Back to my ridiculous Warner Bros. statement. As I flipped through its ten pages (seriously, it took ten pages to detail the $62.47 of income), I realized that Warner wasn’t being evil, just careless and unconcerned – an impression I confirmed a few days later when I spoke to a guy in their Royalties and Licensing department I am going to call Danny.****

I asked Danny why there were no royalties at all listed from iTunes, and he said, “Huh. There are no domestic downloads on here at all. Only streams. And it has international downloads, but no international streams. I have no idea why.” I asked Danny why the statement only seemed to list tracks from two of the three albums Warner had released – an entire album was missing. He said they could only report back what the digital services had provided to them, and the services must not have reported any activity for those other songs. When I suggested that seemed unlikely – that having every track from two albums listed by over a dozen different services, but zero tracks from a third album listed by any seemed more like an error on Warner’s side, he said he’d look into it. As I asked more questions (Why do we get paid 50% of the income from all the tracks on one album, but only 35.7143% of the income from all the tracks on another? Why did 29 plays of a track on the late, lamented MusicMatch earn a total of 63 cents when 1,016 plays of the exact same track on MySpace earned only 23 cents?) he eventually got to the heart of the matter: “We don’t normally do this for unrecouped bands,” he said. “But, I was told you’d asked.”

It’s possible I’m projecting my own insecurities onto calm, patient Danny, but I’m pretty sure the subtext of that comment was the same thing I’d heard from $10,000-Is-Nothing-Man: all these figures were pointless, and I was kind of being a jerk by wasting their time asking about them. After all, they have the Red Hot Chili Peppers to deal with, and the label actually owes those guys money.

Danny may even be right. But there’s another possibility – one I don’t necessarily subscribe to, but one that could be avoided entirely by humoring pests like me. There’s a theory that labels and publishers deliberately avoid creating the transparent accounting systems today’s technology enables. Because accurately accounting to my silly little band would mean accurately accounting to the less silly bands that are recouped, and paying them more money as a result.

If that’s true (and I emphasize the if, because it’s equally possible that people everywhere, including major label accounting departments, are just dumb and lazy)*****, then there’s more than my pride and principles on the line when I ask Danny in Royalties and Licensing to answer my many questions. I don’t feel a burning need to make the Red Hot Chili Peppers any more money, but I wouldn’t mind doing my small part to get us all out of the sad world $10,000-Is-Nothing-Man inhabits.

So I will keep asking, even though I sometimes feel like a petty jerk for doing so.


* A word here about that unrecouped balance, for those uninitiated in the complex mechanics of major label accounting. While our royalty statement shows Too Much Joy in the red with Warner Bros. (now by only $395,214.71 after that $62.47 digital windfall), this doesn’t mean Warner “lost” nearly $400,000 on the band. That’s how much they spent on us, and we don’t see any royalty checks until it’s paid back, but it doesn’t get paid back out of the full price of every album sold. It gets paid back out of the band’s share of every album sold, which is roughly 10% of the retail price. So, using round numbers to make the math as easy as possible to understand, let’s say Warner Bros. spent something like $450,000 total on TMJ. If Warner sold 15,000 copies of each of the three TMJ records they released at a wholesale price of $10 each, they would have earned back the $450,000. But if those records were retailing for $15, TMJ would have only paid back $67,500, and our statement would show an unrecouped balance of $382,500.

I do not share this information out of a Steve Albini-esque desire to rail against the major label system (he already wrote the definitive rant, which you can find here if you want even more figures, and enjoy having those figures bracketed with cursing and insults). I’m simply explaining why I’m not embarrassed that I “owe” Warner Bros. almost $400,000. They didn’t make a lot of money off of Too Much Joy. But they didn’t lose any, either. So whenever you hear some label flak claiming 98% of the bands they sign lose money for the company, substitute the phrase  “just don’t earn enough” for the word “lose.”

** The whole conference took place at a semi-swank hotel on the island of St. Thomas, which is a funny place to gather to talk about how to save the music business, but that would be a whole different diatribe.

*** This same dynamic works in reverse – I interviewed the Butthole Surfers for Raygun magazine back in the 1990s, and Gibby Haynes described the odd feeling of visiting Capitol records’ offices and hearing, “a bunch of people go, ‘Hey, man, be cool to these guys, they’re a recouped band.’ I heard that a bunch of times.”

**** Again, I am avoiding using his real name because he returned my call promptly, and patiently answered my many questions, which is behavior I want to encourage, so I have no desire to lambaste him publicly.

***** Of course, these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive – it is also possible that labels are evil and avaricious AND dumb and lazy, at the same time.

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96 Responses to “My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement”

  1. AliadoDigital » Ejecutivo de RealNetworks revela pagos digitales míseros Says:

    [...] [...]

  2. Notional Slurry » links for 2009-12-02 Says:

    [...] Too Much Joy» Blog Archive » My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement "I mean, we all know that major labels are supposed to be venal masters of hiding money from artists, but they’re also supposed to be good at it, right? This figure wasn’t insulting because it was so small, it was insulting because it was so stupid." (tags: via:arsyed recording-industry contracts finance business startup-culture-must-die corporations intellectual-property disintermediation-targets) [...]

  3. Chris F Says:

    #1 for my song Tranquility in the New Age category of MP3.com in 1997. Did I see money? Pennies. But it was #1.
    I remember Too Much Joy from my Sega CD compilation sampler, Donna Donna Everywhere.

    I do not think you are being petty, I think you are paying attention to detail. Maybe the IRS should audit the offending parties for 2009. That would wake them up.

  4. Ben Says:

    It bears reflection that there will probably be a certain number of bands (a very small number, though maybe not as small as we’d think) for whom transparent accounting of just these sorts of tiny details could mean the difference between being unrecouped/recouped. I think that’s the real power dynamic behind the industry stance. Of course they don’t want to owe more to the big bands, who already earn them plenty of profits anyway; they REALLY don’t want to all of a sudden owe money to more bands, especially bands that just squeak over the line. Then their trick of keeping you feeling like a petty prick would stop working!

  5. [tlr] Says:

    I don’t know you or your band at all, somebody reposted this and I saw it on twitter.

    BUT

    I found it to be incredibly informative, interesting and engaging. Thanks for writing it!

    [tlr]

  6. Paul Says:

    That’s really sad, it really does bum me out to hear how labels treat artists.

  7. Simone Says:

    Hilarious in its stupidity!

    It’s not like people in general, including musicians, don’t know how computer programs work these days. You write a program, once, to calculate digital royalties, and they work the same for every artist. It’s not like they have to write a special one just for you.

    I am sure that most (and probably all) of the digital download companies can and will provide the royalty information in an electronic format that could be automatically imported into the record company’s database as well.

    I’d pursue it. Somewhere out there is a band that’s right on the brink of recouping, but they’re never going to know.

  8. David Singleton Says:

    This piece was picked up by the DGMLive website – as King Crimson have had similar tales over the years.

    Just a thought, but why don’t you do an official audit of Warners – most contracts stipulate that they have to pay the fees if there are errors of over 10%….you wouldn’t get any money, as you would still be unrecouped, but they would face a $10,000 bill for the cost of the audit. And you couold keep doing it.

    If all their unrecouped artists did it, they might just decide it was more cost effective to start accounting correctly….

  9. Sean Barrett Says:

    “Because accurately accounting to my silly little band would mean accurately accounting to the less silly bands that are recouped, and paying them more money as a result.”

    Also, not doing careful accounting for unrecouped bands makes it that much harder for them to recoup!

    That seems kind of an obvious flaw in the ‘you’re unrecouped’ (and $10K-is-a-rounding-error) attitude.

  10. Chris Cooke, Business Editor, CMU Says:

    A very insightful blog entry on a touchy issue for many an artist and artist manager. We reported on it and offered some comment on our News-Blog here – http://tinyurl.com/yzoxcdu. Hope you don’t mind me plugging it here, but thought it might be of interest to people reading this article.

  11. Dave Daniels Says:

    Well there’s something to look forward to. Why don’t they tell you this before you sign up? Oh, right, they’re in it for the money. Thanks for the warning.

  12. Lee Says:

    Quite interesting. Let me just say that Son of Sam I Am remains a favorite of my college years. TMJ rocks!

  13. John Says:

    What an excellent blog / expose…very well written and described. As someone who runs a very small indie label I find it appalling that the majors behave this way.

    When we receive our digital statements ( also IODA ) for just a few artists it can take a while to fully analyse the revenues but we are always able to report figures and recoupment to our artists when requested.

    Don’t let them off the hook ! What is interesting is that they will keep recouping money from a vast number of artists without ever reporting, simply because the artist is unrecouped

  14. Hunter Says:

    Royalty Accounting for Dummies!

    I do the royalty accounting at a small indie label… we’ve got about 60 releases to keep track of. We get our physical and digital earnings statements from our distributor each month… the physicals quickly get punched into each bands excel statement (e.g. 50 sold at $6.00 each = $300), and the digital get emailed to us in excel files, which are copy/pasted into each bands’ excel statement, and all the little pennies and dollars easily totaled up by quickly summing them via a simple excel formula – no matter how many or few, it still takes about 2 seconds to do this. There are certainly a few other quirks, but thats basically it.

    I’m 23, have no accounting skills whatsoever, and was taught how to do this in about 20 minutes. It takes about an hour every month. The odd mistake is certainly made from time to time (it’s inevitable), but is of course always corrected and profusely apologized for.

    Point is, this is not hard stuff! Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit. Seriously. I realize 60 releases is absolutely nothing to a major label, but again, this takes an hour a MONTH, but I’m just one person and I’m no accountant.

  15. Renaud Sarti Says:

    Thanks for your candid level-headed account. Major record labels have had a long time to master “losing” money, in whatever sense, in their own favor.

    I recall how, back in the late ’80s, “getting signed” was the brass ring for my musical peers in the short-lived but robust “indie” scene. Aside from being legitimated as a musician, it also promised to lead to better touring conditions (i.e., scrapping the old junker van) and better-quality recordings, and more widespread distribution, and not having to live off the girlfriend anymore – or to finding a wealthier and more attractive girlfriend to live off. There was also the aspect of being one of the Kool Kids, just like in high school, to which I saw many parallels in the music scene. I watched, over and over, the insidious rationalizations of selling-out overtake my friends’ attitudes toward music, but also saw those who didn’t end-up on Letterman drag their tails after having been dumped or fucked-over – or just forgotten – by the labels to which they’d been signed.

    Another thing I observed happening around then was how the major labels started treating “indie” labels as farm-teams for A&R recruitment, to the point, circa 1990, of establishing their own minor-league subsidiaries that looked and acted like “independent” labels but were entirely funded by and beholden to the “majors.” “indie” bands started playing into the scheme induced by the majors’ exploitation by thinking that all they had to do was show success on “indie” terms, and then they’d find reward in being “signed to a major.” It became the game to play, letting the majors exploit the loyal, grassroots fan-base established from years of touring in a crappy van, sleeping on the floors of loyal fans who’d put the musicians up for the night, and so on. On the other hand, anyone who’s lived like that for long enough wants to be taken seriously and to be able to afford good-sounding recordings of one’s music – and for them to reach as broad an audience as possible. A well-funded record label would take care of all the things that musicians’ doing for themselves got to be overwhelming – pressing the records/CDs, printing the covers, distributing the recordings, pay the studio and engineer, schedule the tours, et al.

    Even so, what happened was that the major labels orchestrated the dismantling of a very strong underground cultural network wherein musicians and their audience operated entirely outside of the major labels’ reach, but also outside of the socio-political mainstream. This included musicians in all varieties of music – but most certainly, punk, rock, and hip-hop. It takes little extrapolation to imagine what other elements besides the music biz might have wanted this trend neutralized.

    A lot of indie bands who’d shown enough popularity and economic viability on indie labels in order to be signed to majors were kept on retainer by the major labels, had their recording insufficiently promoted or distributed by the majors – in favor of records by musicians more likely to “recoup.” Meanwhile, the former indie bands now saw their fan-base disappear, they found themselves in debt for more money than they’d (n)ever seen in their lives, and sometimes were contractually obligated not to record for any other label.

    None of this isn’t anything that hasn’t been described before, but the point is that major labels have so much economic and political power that they can get away with anything they want to – and not even have to ponder whether they can. It’s ironic (well, no: it’s double-talk) that they deem as “theft” peoples’ downloading music (that “belonging” to major labels, naturally) “illegally,” when they neglect to report or even record – musicians’ royalties from digital downloads. It works both ways in the majors’ favor to adhere to the per-physical-unit model, and also to pay selective attention to the digital format.

  16. Dan London Says:

    Tim,

    Great read.

    I’ve read some of the comments over at Gizmodo and am a bit confused about the $400K. Is that real money that was spent on advances, tour, promotion, etc or is it an arbitrary number they assign that they *think* is what they spent? How can they not account for all the money spent?

    Also, I wrote you a freaking letter right when Son of Sam I am came out and you actually replied. Thanks. I also saw you guys play at Wellsley College in MA. Weird thing was, I didn’t know it was an all-girl college. Even weirder, it took me about 45 mins to figure that out. I did track you down at the end of the show and you made the t-shirt guy open back up and sell me a shirt.

    -Dan

  17. Ron Says:

    Where’s 60 Minutes when you need them?

    A lack of accountability permeates the industry – from the lobbyists at the RIAA, to BMI, ASCAP, all major labels – and now SoundExchange on the digital media end practicing their special form of extortion on internet streaming radio stations – under the disguise of protecting ‘artists rights’. A very thick, opaque wall has been built around music royalty collection – and no wonder – it is through this lack of accounting that millions of dollars are siphoned away from songwriters every year – and into the pockets of industry executives and lobbyists.

    Sounds like an expose’ and a congressional hearing is in order. Great article, by the way!

  18. chris g Says:

    “the music business sucks” – Fred “Sonic” Smith (MC5 etc.)

  19. Synthdave Says:

    If I remember correctly, revenues are calculated not on actual plays, but on a statistical sampling of songs played everywhere.

  20. tim Says:

    Synthdave, you’re thinking of how composers and publishers get paid for radio plays by Performance Rights Organizations such as ASCAP and BMI. For on-demand streams, each and every play gets tallied, reported and (theoretically) paid on.

    Dan London, glad you asked about the advance, as it’s an important point I left out of the footnote. None of that money went into any band members’ pocket (unless you count the per diems we took during recording sessions, which were used to buy lunch and dinner). All that money was spent making and marketing the records, which Warner Bros. owns in perpetuity — even if we ever recoup. So it’s not like the band spent $400,000 of the label’s money living it up. We spent that money on the records, touring and videos, not on ourselves.

    The latest statement does not detail what the $400k includes, but back in the ’90s each statement would itemize any new additions to the balance.

  21. shireen liane Says:

    thank you, thank you, thank you! I made a record for Virgin in the mid 90s in a band called the Slingbacks. things didn’t go according to plan (like the records failed to physically make it to the shops while we were on tour, no one remembered to get the producer his work permit, etc..) and we were summarily dismissed. such is life. I always kind’a wondered where the admittedly small amount of money for digital downloads went. did it vanish into the ether? was it just absorbed by the giant colon of PRS/MCPRS? where did it go? like a zen koan… thanks for having the tenacity to at least try to unravel the mystery.

    all hail the three minute pop song –

    shireen

  22. Rob Says:

    wow… thank you so much for your story, this has opened my eyes up on the market goin’ on the other side…
    Rob

  23. Steve P Says:

    5 albums on large indie labels, 20k + sales each.. 10 years total earnings: £250.00
    1 album released out of my bedroom, 6 months total earnings: £3670

    Bye bye record industry, we won’t miss you…

  24. jon fritz Says:

    thank god my dream of wanting to get a “label deal” NEVER happened! i stopped recording my music 5 years ago because no one buys music anymore– in ANY format! (i did make a whopping $33 from itunes in the last 6 months)…..hmmmmmmm…….all i have left is to play music in bars for my income….but even in that capacity i am relegated to being “atmosphere” because the state of live music sucks now too….clubs just want the security of knowing theres some dude in the corner with a guitar who they can turn to when their hometown team loses or they get too drunk to pick up a fat chick

  25. David Katz Says:

    In view of all the material covered in this blog article (especially the detailing of the major label accounting methods), I can’t for the life of me see why ANY musician or band would have anything to do with a major label.

    Even the big name acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers that can somehow get paid. I mean, why give a license to rob you blind to someone just because you make so much money for them there’s a piece of it left over once they’ve picked your pocket so thoroughly they get bored with it and let you have whatever meat’s left on the carcass after they’re so stuffed they can’t eat another bite?

    The math says it all. You only have to sell 1/10th as much product on iTunes, AmazonMp3, etc. to make the same amount you would make AFTER you’ve repaid the “unrecouped balance” debt at (effectively) 1000% interest.

    I seem to recall that the definition of ‘insanity” is: you do the same thing over and over with bad results, yet each time you do it again expecting a good result. Remember what happened to the rock stars of the 1950′s, like Little Richard? Or what Verve did to Frank Zappa in the 1960′s? Back then there was no online marketing and sales alternative. Back then making a record or album cost more than most starving musicians could possibly afford. Back then, musicians and bands had no choice. They had to deal with the music industry mob or hang it up.

    There’s absolutely no reason to do that any more.

  26. bottleHeD Says:

    Wow, how can they be so lacadastical about this? Don’t they ever get audited or something?

  27. V. Marc Fort Says:

    Brother, I feel you and your Orwellian pain.

    Thank you for writing this post. Your chronicle feels like a snowball that in a perfect would would reach the bottom of the hill as it runs into Senate hearings and audits, as well as collusion, breach of contract and fraud charges against Warner Brothers and the rest of the slumbering giants.

    I’m a bass player from a couple of little known “un-recouped” bands in Austin, TX. So I just wanted to let you know that your actions on behalf of Too Much Joy are significant and important. Whether you know it or not, you’re speaking for/asking questions on behalf of all of us, “the hundreds of other also-rans and almost-weres.”

    Thanks! (…and keep on rockin’)

  28. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Ludicrous. If CDBaby can manage to account to every indie artist on there for the money received from Rhapsody, Emusic, Spotify, iTunes and the like (and they account to the one-percent-of-a-penny level, and seemingly accurately) then there’s no reason on earth Warner’s can’t.

    And if they’re going around ‘accidentally’ making $10,000 ’rounding errors’ that’s going to mean there’s quite a lot of bands who they claim are unrecouped but *aren’t*, who could do with that money…

  29. My $62.47 Royalty Statement: How Major Labels Cook the Books with Digital Downloads [Digital Downloads] | Products & Tech News Says:

    [...] Reprinted with permission from Too Much Joy. [...]

  30. LaurenLK Says:

    I know I downloaded a TMJ song from iTunes this year. The bastards. Keep up the good fight. I agree that the real issue is for bands on the “cusp” where this type of sloppy accounting means the difference between no royalties and some. And for whom $10,000.00 ain’t “nothing.”

  31. Ted Says:

    I was in a band on the same label as TMJ (Discovery/Warner) in the mid-90s. My memories of first walking into their offices were of feeling I had stepped onto the set of “The Stepford Wives”. It was creepy. None of the bands were selling well, yet everyone here was pulling salary, going to lunches on the company card, etc. They put us in a hotel in Bel-Air. The label dissolved less than a year later. This post of yours comes as no surprise.

  32. Mick Says:

    Whoever said the accounting “errors” were to keep more bands unrecouped is right. That’s the game.

    It goes hand-in-hand with making unrecouped bands feel like s***, which labels are very good at. You go from being treated way more important than you are to being treated like a total loser — and it’s on purpose. It’s because they owe you money,

    Signing with a label is like buying a used car: when you first walk in the door they treat you like a king. When you come back with a problem they act like you’re a bum that wandered in off the street, And it’s absolutely on purpose. If you stick up for yourself they’ll yell, use profanity, etc. Whatever it takes to get you to go away with your tail between your legs.

    The “you never made us s***” line is a perfect example. Of course you made them money. They probably made all their money back they day you sold 50,000 records. After that it’s all a game to make sure they never have to pay you a cent.

    Are they making a lot off TMJ? No. But multiply that by every band they aren’t paying, and you get the picture.

  33. Web Watch Says:

    The Ugly Truth about Music Royalties from TOO MUCH JOY’s Tim Quirk…

    TOO MUCH JOY was a band in the early 90’s that not a lot of people knew about, although they had a reputation for being one of the best live bands around.  Web Watch knows this first-hand, having been lucky enough to have the chance to see them p…

  34. dave Says:

    We now the fun begins for the industry in canada with the 50 million buck law suit over the industry not paying up to artist like. If the law suit wins Fine are 20 grand each song with 300 thousand songs with royalties not paid makes the 6 billion bucks. I hope they win. they being stealing for artists for years.

  35. Rigsby Says:

    Rad article, I’m sorry for you about the situation, but it’s a really interesting read. Thanks man.

  36. Suzanne Ciani Says:

    Well, my statements from Sony BMG have been the size of phonebooks and I get like $23.00. On an iTunes download where they get like $ .70, I get sometimes less than a penny. There is the “packaging” deduction, the CD deduction (I know there is no packaging or CD), the foreign royalty deduction, the deduction for less than “full price,” whatever that might be. Add all these up and the math makes me poor. Forget that my contract actually said that we would split digital royalties. Just try to sue. With the paltry roayalties they give me, my legal bills add insult to injury. Oh, and all the big lawyers are in bed with the labels. The bigger the law firm, the cosier the sleeping partner.

  37. Ross Says:

    Wow. Great Article. My band was offered a distribution deal through a major label and all they wanted was for us to post a $250,000 marketing bond to allow us to put their imprint on our CD which we had already produced with a Grammy winning engineer and producer (and which they suggested we re-record with one of their producers at one of their studios). They would allow us at our expense to “tour” with one of their other artists and attempt to recoup our investment with merch/swag sales (no tickets) and publishing income from radio spins and “other opportunities, should the arise through TV and film.” We did some digging to find out that they were offering this deal to everyone with any kind of financial where with all and that it apparently was a deal they had concocted with the major retailers who were “demanding” exorbitant “slotting fees” for product placement. We then found out if your product could not prove sales at over 50,000 units before hand, the major retailer would not allow placement for the CD at all. The industry sells “the dream” not only to the fans who want to lick the sweat of their star idols brow but to musicians who seek to play their music before a sea of screaming orgasmic fans. The real truth is that it’s all just a party and as one previous post so aptly said, the label personnel for the most part have no interest in the long term viability of the band or the label, they are just trying to make sure they have extended enough favors to secure their next gig when the current one plays out. No one wants to admit that there have been just enough perfect storms (Elvis, The Beatles, Springsteen, U2) in the business to carry the fantasy forward just one more day. All the rest is just bad accounting.

  38. Lisa Says:

    Finance is not math. Finance is story telling with numbers.

    Keep this in mind as you read the following:

    You’re not being petty. And you’re right, they’re not trying to srew you. But that absolutely doesn’t excuse them and their ITdepartments from using the ubiquitious-ly (pretty sure I made that word up) available technology to accurately track the total recoverable base of their client bands (yes, I was ever-so-briefly a CFO at a fortune 50 company, but I’ve done many Hail Marys to abate the guilt).

    Your contracts suck, from an accounting perspective. What they’ve done is taken the math perspective direct expense in plus indirect expense (the band’s share of their overhead that you shared like their PR folks) to equal your total recoverable base and then subtracting the TOTAL revenue recouped by sales to determine if they broke even, lost money, or owe you.

    What they did is ALMOST right – direct expense plus indirect expense to equal your total recoverable base and then subtract the revenue THE BAND recoups to determine if they broke even. That math sucks, but it’s fairly common in finance.

    I have a great sticker that says “I’m too pretty to do math” when what it should say is “I’m too pretty to do finance”.

    I think you remain fabulous in every way for being pissed. And I spend a LOT of money on music, and if I knew a way to pay musicians directly instead of buying CDs (sorry, still that old school) or downloading iTunes, I would send you a check directly.

    I’ve gotten MORE than enough joy out of Sort of Haunted House and Unbeautiful (the theme song for every less-than twenty-something), ‘Sorry’ when I began to think maybe the Clash and the Who weren’t the only bands who mattered. So thank you.

    Enjoy your coroporate hackery. I know I enjoy mine.

    Goodbye, Ohio. (says the very very aged fan from Ohio)

  39. someone Says:

    If I owned stock in this company (and I probably do thru my 401ks) I would be VERY VERY VERY concerned about this. That is an amazingly shoddy accounting practice. If you want to get some real attention on this hand it to some account managers at the 401ks.

    They are playing an amazingly risky game with other peoples money. They are taking on a huge risk for many many small rewards. These sorts of things lead to class action lawsuits…

    Take away for me is do not touch record company stocks with a 10ft barge pole. If they are willing to lie to people they owe money to what are they putting in the other books where they report ‘profit’?

  40. moore850 Says:

    400 grand? Talk about signing your life away! Didn’t you think to cut your losses at 50k, 100k, 200k? Just curious.

  41. ExGavin Says:

    I used to work for a branch of WEA in the 90s. A major label such as Elektra or Atlantic (etc) woudl put out an average of 43 records a year back when I was there. Our plan was for TWO to make money. Two. That means that the other 41 record did not recoup. I still have presentation handouts outlining this “plan.” So when you wonder how many bands are in your situation… multiply that by the number of labels you consider major x the number of years you think it’s been going on…

  42. Dumb & Lazy Says:

    Funny story. I was in a band on Geffen in the mid 90s that is also unrecouped. But I’m also a current employee at a major label royalty department. I loved your rant, especially from an insider’s perspective as a digital retailer. Unfortunately, I have to substantiate your “it’s equally possible that people everywhere, including major label accounting departments, are just dumb and lazy” as a sad but true fact.

    I can’t speak for the WEA system, but at the conglomerate I work for, we have 3 different computer systems built in 3 different eras that rarely work harmonious. Seriously, one of them runs in what appears to be DOS! And the most modern of the systems is the most flawed. In fact, I read this while waiting for the IT people to fix it so I can get back to work.

    Most of us who work here are either musicians, housewives and knuckleheads (it’s a Union gig!). However, we are instructed to rigorously observe the letter of all contracts in order to avoid litigation. Most of us take pride in getting the “little guy” paid when we can, but like any job, there’s a boss pushing for you to get X amount of work accomplished in Y amount of time.

    I’m guess I’m writing to share what I learned (and it sounds like you learned as well) from my major label experience: there are no evil monsters. There is no Man. Conspiracies don’t exist because they require too much coordination and involve too much conflicting self-interest. I have given up on the inane notion of “justice.”

    The sun is shining today. I still have all my fingers, toes, eyes and teeth. Lucky enough to have most of my hair and a tolerable beer gut. I have just read a great rant and the Posies have just followed Sabbath on my iTunes shuffle. Somehow, I still love music…

    In the immortal words of the great Ice Cube, “Today Was A Good Day…”

  43. ThePDW Says:

    A few questions, Tim. So, when you were touring you made no money off of ticket sales? Second, do some bands sign, spend a lot less of the initial advance on promotion, etc,and then get to keep the left over money for themselves? Third, would you guess then that that a lot of the rappers on major labels that brag about how much money they’re making in the music business are actually lying and getting shafted?

  44. Doug Says:

    As a former musician/current music teacher I completely understand what you’re going through. I was in a band that was touring extensively, and on the cusp of signing a major label deal when the lead singer (then a business major in college) saw through the ‘fuzzy math’ of the contract and we broke up. I realized that all of the work we’d put into our craft would more than likely not pay off, and we went our separate ways to get day jobs.
    While your article brought back some memories as well as some heartbreaks, what it did remind me of is how much I dug seeing TMJ live! You’ve inadvertently convinced me to re-buy some of your albums I had on vinyl and tape while in high school and college. Is it bad that I’ll more than likely buy them via iTunes? At least I’m doing my part to help get you a little bit closer to recouping!

  45. Big 'Em Up | Bass Music Says:

    [...] http://www.toomuchjoy.com/?p=1397 [...]

  46. tim Says:

    Answers to ThePDW’s questions: 1) Touring income (as well as publishing income and merchandise income) was totally separate from our deal with the label. We had gotten to the point where we were self-sustaining on the road (we didn’t come home with a lot of money, but we came home with some) just before we signed to Warner. During our Warner tenure, we interspersed headlining shows (which were profitable) with opening slots for bigger acts in larger venues (for which we’d get something like $250/night, and which meant we needed tour support from the label in order to keep ourselves fed and the van gassed up, etc.). 2) TMJ was toward the cheap scale of advances for those days. Some folks (especially acts on Sire) would make records for $50,000 or less, but $100,000 wasn’t particularly extravagant by Hollywood standards, and we wound up spending it all on the records. But yes, we could have spent less on the recordings and put some of that advance money in our pockets. We would have wound up owing the label the same amount, either way. 3) Yes, absolutely.

  47. factopo Says:

    media companies are really ridiculous…

  48. mia boyle Says:

    Thanks for reminding me why, in the 10 years I have been playing as a recording artist, I have never seen a dime for my music other than the money I made at the venues. I’m still waiting to get myself out of contract with BMI who has never issued me one statement in spite of the fact that my cd were selling on the internet for years. Technology has advanced to the point where it is exposing the shady dealings of the industry (as you so articulately described); but where is the accountability!? Why are the corporate entities not held to the same standards that they themselves hold us to? This is the heart of the matter.
    Thanks for your post!
    Mia Boyle

  49. Favorite blog posts of 2009 « Customers Are Talking Says:

    [...] you can find in a few search engine clicks an expert on the overheated mortgage market or music industry royalties who is far more informed and authoritative than anyone writing for a newspaper. The tipping point [...]

  50. Ed Says:

    Wow, this is a perfect example of why I love your band. Too Much Joy is too beautiful for this world.

  51. Tiktok Says:

    If you sign with a record label, you’re buying into the business model of all the (very few) successful bands underwriting all the (many) non-successful bands.

    On the plus side, you aren’t charged interest on the recoupable “debt” and you don’t get three phone calls a day from debt collectors the way you would if you’d paid for making an album with a credit card and…then stopped making any payments.

  52. Bandit13 Says:

    Same exact thing happened to my band which was signed to a NYC-based indie label. I had the audacity to request the contractually-bound annual sales figures for 1 record, 18 months after its release. All I wanted to know was how the record fared. I assumed we did not recoup (although the piddly PR push made that assumption questionable). I was not asking so we could make any money. I just wanted to know. The contract states they are to inform us. That’s all.

    I wound up getting berated for daring to point out contractual language and “I was just after money”. I said I ASSUMED we did not recoup. I just wanted to know the numbers. I failed to get a response. We ditched em after that 1 release and I’m glad we did. I only self-release on MY label AND I get every bit of press, if not more by doing it myself. Merch sales + pay from clubs cover tour expenses. It requires a lot of work, but labels need artists more than we need them.

  53. Zach Says:

    Sounds like loan sharking to me… At least they don’t break your kneecaps if you don’t pay them back.

    One thing that worries me is that if they are unconcerned about taking $10,000 from you because of a “rounding” error, how can you say that the things they charge you for (in the $400,000 unrecouped) aren’t rounded up? You’ve already experienced them sticking it to you on one end, what’s to say they aren’t sticking it to you on the other?

  54. Too Much Joy- My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement | IndieLab - Promoting Independent Indie Music in the UK and Beyond Says:

    [...] Too Much Joy- My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement. [...]

  55. [uzine] Says:

    hilarious indeed! gave you a mention here: http://uzine.posterous.com/even-local-heroes-want-their-piece-of-the-cak

  56. What’s After Free? Part 1: The Trends « Two Ideas Says:

    [...] in the abstract notion of benefiting artists, I know that record companies are ripping off artists left and right. And even if I side with the artists and the record labels against my own best interests, [...]

  57. CJ Says:

    Yeah man respect for putting this up, self release it is then!

  58. dUdE Says:

    Not sure, but I think it is definitely shopped.

  59. I Want My (Sixty) Two Dollars! | The School of Hard Rocks Says:

    [...] [...]

  60. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! « Some Kind Of Muffin Says:

    [...] http://www.toomuchjoy.com/index.php/2009/12/my-hilarious-warner-bros-royalty-statement/ [...]

  61. Karen L Kay Says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I do not see why Warner Bros should not be subjected to the same accounting standards as the rest of us. Their treatment of you and any others who are earning less than “material” amounts is downright criminal. By the time each of the unrecouped (I have no idea what that means btw) bands’ earnings are added up, I am sure it is way over their “petty” 10k mark. For every Red Hot Chili Peppers there are likely thousands of TMJ’s. If they each earn 62 bucks a year which is not being reflected in their earnings, then they are definitely in serious default. Good for you for bringing it out there!

  62. One for Friday: Abra Moore, “Four Leaf Clover” « Coffee for Two Says:

    [...] be picked up as a pricey import. The song’s also available for purchase digitally, but the Quirk Rule says that probably doesn’t get any money to the artist anyway. So this is presented with the [...]

  63. Exhibit A In The Death of Major Labels | Deceast Says:

    [...] sales of their Warner-controlled music. Thankfully, Too Much Joy celebrate transparency and posted an extremely detailed, thoughtful, and funny explanation of their experience with Warner and the ensuing royalty statement. I highly encourage you to give [...]

  64. Weekly Research Index | December 11, 2009 « The Xplanation Says:

    [...] Too Much Joy» Blog Archive » My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement — A great post from a musician’s perspective on digital royalties for recording artists. Lots of insight here. The bottom line is that, moving forward, there has to be absolute and real-time transparency in royalties for artists and authors. [...]

  65. chevdo Says:

    I find it ironic that you work for Rhapsody, a company that is guilty of being the lowest paying to indie artists of all the major digital distributors. I beleive that they use a model similar to the old mp3.com, whereby they make the bulk of their money off the long tail but they cut special deals with ‘famous’ bands who are the only ones who get paid, usually in a lump sum for endorsing Rhapsody.

    I have CDs distributed digitally by CDBaby and Rhapsody pays .001 dollars (one tenth of a cent) per download. Conversely, I get .87 dollars (eighty-seven cents) per download from Itunes. In a month, if Rhapsody and Itunes sell roughly the same amount of downloads, I’ll typically get $20 per CD from Itunes, and SEVEN CENTS per CD from Rhapsody. I opt out for Rhapsody now, but unfortunately I can’t remove previous CDs that were sent to Rhapsody, before I knew what a scam they were, from their database.

    Itunes rules, Rhapsody sucks.

  66. tim Says:

    Chevdo, your figures are simply wrong. Rhapsody pays roughly the same for each download sale as other online music retailers.

    You are probably confusing payments for on-demand plays at Rhapsody with download sales. The per-play figure is what you get every time somebody plays one of your tracks, and is separate from what you would earn each time somebody purchases an mp3.

  67. Dave in CT Says:

    Hi Tim, I stumbled across this tonight and loved it. I’ve been in many a band with the major label record contract “dream,” but I’m more glad with each passing year that it never came true.

    Oh, and I love the “Cereal Killers” album — I don’t know what made me take a chance on it, without knowing anything about your band, in the summer of (could it have been?) 1990 or 1991. It was unlike anything else I was listening to then, or now, but it’s always held a special place in my music collection, and it still entertains me. Really well-crafted, witty, exuberant, and fun.

    Thank you for making such great music, all those years ago!

  68. Too Much Joy’s Crazy Royalty Statement | Explore Music Says:

    [...] of the best things I read all week was a blog by Tim Quirk, the former singer for a band called Too Much [...]

  69. Cereal drink Says:

    Interesting article. I really enjoyed it and have some thoughts.

  70. Julius Mattsey Says:

    Hooray for silly bands! Everybody should discover the fun in collecting them with their family.

  71. Corporate Copyright Scofflaws 0006 – The RIAA Member Companies « Through the Looking Glass Says:

    [...] a look at a statement that Warner Music sent to Tim Quirk of To Much Joy, and read Tim’s comments. His final [...]

  72. chevdo Says:

    Tim, my reaction to your response is very similar to the reaction you described yourself having when reading your Warner digital-revenue accounting and compared it to your digital-revenue accounting from your IODA digital-revenue accounting. It is as ridiculous to claim that I earned 5 cents from Rhapsody over the same amount of time that I earned 50 dollars from Itunes as it was for Warner to claim that you earned $62.47 over the same amount of time that you earned $12000.

    You say I must be confusing downloads with on-demand streams. No, I’m not confused, I know exactly how this scam works inspite of your attempt at obfuscation. Does Rhapsody even sell downloads? Because I don’t see any on my accounting statements, just a bunch of worthless streams. And when I see a Rhapsody television commercial, they certainly don’t say anything about buying downloads, they go on and on about how fabulous it is to not have to pay for downloads because for a flat rate fee you can get as many high-quality streams as you want, and that flat fee can be so low BECAUSE RHAPSODY DOESN’T PAY THE ARTISTS. Who is going to buy a track to download when they can stream the same quality any time they want to, from any location? The consumer doesn’t even have to waste storage space on mp3s, since Rhapsody is doing that for them. Big win for the consumer. Big win for Rhapsody. BIG SCAM FOR THE POOR SUCKERS PROVIDING THE CONTENT.

    I stand by my claim that you are a hypocrite. And if being a hypocrite bothers you, then I guess you’ve got your own ethical hangups. Personally I find hypocrisy to be ubiquitous and ordinary. And while most people are probably hypocritical frequently, I suspect there are more potent skelletons in the closets of most people. Unless you’re supposed to be somebody’s hero, I wouldn’t worry about it, just keep cashing those Rhapsody paychecks – at least somebody is extracting cash from those scumbags.. if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right??

  73. tim Says:

    Chevdo, I’m sorry you think I’m a hypocrite, but the numbers you cited in your first comment were wrong. You stated, “Rhapsody pays .001 dollars (one tenth of a cent) per download.” That is false. Rhapsody does sell downloads (http://mp3.rhapsody.com), and as far as I can see from my IODA statements pays the owners of sound recordings the same wholesale rates on those downloads as most every other service.

    If you think the royalty rates for on demand streams are too low, that’s a different argument, but again, my IODA statement confirms Rhapsody is paying the same thing for on demand streams as most other services, and the market rate for those tends to be in the pennies.

    Your argument is not with Rhapsody, it is with the phenomenon of online streaming in general. You’re free to call it a scam; personally, I think it’s the future of the music business, and we’d all do well to stop insisting it earn the exact same amount as sales used to, and start figuring out how to make it earn more.

    My argument with Warner isn’t that they’re not collecting enough from services like Rhapsody on my behalf. My argument is that, however small the amounts they’re collecting might be, they have the ability to report those amounts accurately (just as CD Baby is doing for you), and they are failing to do so.

  74. An Explanation Of My Views On Copyright Part Two « Through the Looking Glass Says:

    [...] My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement by Tim Quirk [...]

  75. Ziemia Niczyja | Mariusz Herma » Blog Archive » Best Music Writing 2010 Says:

    [...] TIMOTHY QUIRK – My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement – Too Much Joy [...]

  76. Peter Says:

    Would like to know if you ever received a final outcome to your requests on royalty statements from Warner. We are trying to work out how to follow sales of one of our own artists and match them to royalty statements

  77. Too Much Joy» Blog Archive » My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement — lee aaron Says:

    [...] accounting, and Warner Bros. turns out to be inept, incompetent, uncaring, and negligent. Who knew? Read the article on their website. // Cancel [...]

  78. It’s not an investment, it’s a loan! Says:

    [...] http://www.toomuchjoy.com/index.php/2009/12/my-hilarious-warner-bros-royalty-statement/ [...]

  79. Sue Mingus Says:

    Dear dear hilarious Rant Person, You speak for all of us and brought
    joy to my holidays just to see the truth so magnificently laid out. Bless you!– Sue Mingus

    Some happy new year music below from our band’s CD– (released independently)

    http://mingusmingusmingus.com/holiday10/

  80. Too Much Joy’s Crazy Royalty Statement | ExploreMusic Says:

    [...] of the best things I read all week was a blog by Tim Quirk, the former singer for a band called Too Much [...]

  81. artist also Says:

    In my every-couple-o-years attempt to retrieve at least enough money from Def Jam Recordings to purchase a Burger King combo with, I ran across your article. All I have to say to you “Too Much Joy” is my sentiments EXACTLY!!!! Never an intelligent answer, paper trail, or a informed person answering the phone at any of the companies they scramble you around too when artist call with accounting questions. Even if we only contributed in a minor way to the billions of revenue that record companies make on a daily basis, I want my just pay and I WANT MY FUCKING COMBO!!!

    p.s Great article…. LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!!!

  82. jr565 Says:

    And now Tim is working for the man at Google which does more to promote piracy than any other company and does not respect artists royalties.
    And is now even shilling for them with this tripe:
    http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2013/11/01/devaluationmyth

    Oh how the times have changed. I liked Tim more when he wasn’t a corporate douche. But I hope, if there is still a market for his work, that not a single person pays one red cent for it.

    If anyone deserves to be Torrented it’s Tim.

  83. tim Says:

    A douche shilling tripe? But how do you really feel?

    And how does Google not respect artist royalties? Play is putting money in copyright owners pockets, and it allows anyone who controls their own stuff to set their own price. My rant about the royalty statement was based on my label’s inability or refusal to detail what they were taking in from digital services, which I’ve been working for and advocating on behalf of since ’99.

    A few less generalizations and a few more specifics would help me take you a little more seriously.

  84. jr565 Says:

    You tube does not pay much in the way of royalties.nor does it do a good job of policing content that violates copyright.
    And don’t get me started on Google’s role in piracy. If I wanted to get a copy of every single Too Much Joy album I’d do a search for a Too Much Joy bit torrent, and the site I’d go to would be powered by Google.
    Meaning Google is making money off of selling advertising to people who are stealing YOUR work and then profiting from it.

  85. jr565 Says:

    If I were a legitimate company selling a product and I wanted to use the Beatles song Good Day Sunshine to advertise my Hydroxy cookies, I’d have to go into business with the Beatles or their publishing company. I couldn’t just appropriate their content to sell my cookies. Could I?
    Yet that’s what Google does with it’s advertising. It is in the business of distributing music without paying the artist for that distribution. Actually it’s in the business of selling ads, but it’s selling ads to people who are distributing music in ways that are not paying anything to artitsts for said distribution.
    And Google is making billions off of it.

  86. jr565 Says:

    If file sharing were truly free, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it’s not free. companies are doing it for charity. They are making billions. And what has Google given the world? And what has the file sharers given the world? Other peoples music?
    If I want someone to profit it’s the artists who’s music I value not some corporation like Google that is exploiting the artist for its own benefit.
    Google play can go screw itself. Now that it’s exploited artists to the degree it has it wants to go into business to screw them further?

  87. jr565 Says:

    And of course YouTube is paying lip service to piracy when it comes to their own You Tube.

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/13/technology/google-youtube-piracy/index.html

    You complained about getting 60 bucks in royalties from Time Warner. But Google is FAR worse for the artist than Time Warner ever was. When the old blues artists got screwed out of their royalties that was bad. But at least their was the concept of royalties. Google is FAR worse.

  88. tim Says:

    More generalities, this time with the added bonus of being bullshit.

    Look, if you want to dismiss what I say and impugn my character because of who I work for, it’s a free country and I can’t stop you. But rather than hurling bogus accusations about Google at me, why don’t you tell me what, specifically, in my presentation you disagree with? I didn’t say any of it because I work at Google; I’ve been saying similar things for years, as you can read here, here and here. More importantly, the stuff I say has borne out in my own experience, as Wonderlick funded our second album thru fan donations where fans could name their own price. And you know what happened? Nobody paid below cost (lowest payment was $5), many bid above cost (highest payment was $500), and the average price per album turned out to be $30. Never in a gazillion years would I have had the chutzpah to ask anyone to pay $30 for my record, but by adapting to the reality of online distribution rather than shouting that it’s an awful conspiracy foisted on us by mega-corporations, that’s what wound up happening.

    The point of my presentation is simply that the 21st century is making an old fact seem new: the same music is worth different things to different people in different contexts, and figuring out how to respond to that fact is a far better expenditure of energy than insisting it isn’t or shouldn’t be the case. It’s not automatically good or bad — though I personally see more upside than down, whether I’m right about that is irrelevant. The important thing is figuring out how to deal with the reality.

    So what about that makes you so angry, beyond the fact that someone who now works at Google is saying it?

  89. jr565 Says:

    “The point of my presentation is simply that the 21st century is making an old fact seem new: the same music is worth different things to different people in different contexts, and figuring out how to respond to that fact is a far better expenditure of energy than insisting it isn’t or shouldn’t be the case”
    That is true.But irrelevant. Google is in business to sell advertising. Bit torrenters make money off of their site not from the torrent itself but from Google advertising. No one would go to the site if they weren’t offering free music.
    Did google or the torrenters go into busineess with the artists before profiting? Nope. So, it’s a given that there is value for artists work. And that it’s worth something to those trying to exploit it, including your employer. So what? There is value for goods in the black market for those selling those goods. When would it ever be otherwise.
    And what makes me angry is that you’re a hypocrite complaining about 60 bucks denied to you as an artist when you are now working for Google and are saying simply accept the change in reality as the company you work for does the shafting on a global scale.

  90. jr565 Says:

    “More importantly, the stuff I say has borne out in my own experience, as Wonderlick funded our second album thru fan donations where fans could name their own price. And you know what happened? Nobody paid below cost (lowest payment was $5), many bid above cost (highest payment was $500), and the average price per album turned out to be $30. Never in a gazillion years would I have had the chutzpah to ask anyone to pay $30 for my record, but by adapting to the reality of online distribution rather than shouting that it’s an awful conspiracy foisted on us by mega-corporations, that’s what wound up happening.”
    Just because Kick start models can work doesn’t mean it will work for most artists. Especially up and comers. And its not the point that you were wrong to try to sell your music a different way. The point is you as the artists should be able to profit from your work the way you see fit. So, in your case, if it’s a Kickstarter program to have fans fund your work, great. But if some bit torrenter decides that your music should be free, despite the agreement that was set up between you and Wonderlick and posts it online or links to it, Google will get it’s cut and the bit torrenter will get his cut. But you wont.
    Not exactly fair since you are the artist who set up how you want to distribute your work. And other companies, especially a billion dollar company like Google, shouldn’t be able to profit off of your work unless you cut them in on the deal.

  91. jr565 Says:

    and your presentation above seems to fly smack in the face or your other presentation now that you’re working for Google. Here you’re complaining about being nickle and dimed, THere Google doesn’t even give the courtesy of nickel and diming the artist and you say “accept the reality”.As a musiciian arguing for your royalties I’m totally with you. As a Google employee arguing that arttists should stop whining you are a douche.

  92. tim Says:

    The point of my presentation is true, but it’s irrelevant because I work for Google? You’ve lost me.

    I didn’t complain about being denied $60; I stated early on I don’t expect ever to be recouped. My complaint was that I had perfect clarity on what the albums the band controls were making from online services, but no real view into what the albums Warner controls were making from those same services, and that I feared such obfuscation was intentional rather than merely incompetent. My argument was that the label owed me an accurate accounting, even though they didn’t owe me any money, and that I knew for a fact such accountings were being provided to them.

    The day you hear me say Google or any other digital service provider doesn’t owe copyright owners from whom they license content similarly detailed accountings is the day you can call me a hypocrite.

  93. jr565 Says:

    License content? I hear ya. Artists should be paid for licensing if people want to use their work in any way. And even moreso if they want to distribute it. The problem being that Google essentially provides profits for those who are distributing that music without paying the royalty fee. And the pirater is making the profit, and Google is making the profit (from advertising, not from the song itself)at the expense of the artist.
    It’s just funny seeing you, the artist, arguing somehow that other artists need to get used to the reality now that you’re working for “the man”.
    How is Google, faciilating piracy distorting what artists SHOULD be making from online services. And do you care?
    When Time Warner denied you royalties, you were at least in business with Time Warner. Even if you didn’t ever expect them to honor their agreement, there was in fact an agreement. And you were in the right, and they were in the wrong. Because of said agreement.
    Google distorts that whole agreement by setting up a side business whereby they profit off of the distribution of the same work without having to go into business with the artist.
    And that’s wrong. I’d take Time Warner any day over Google and the bit torrenters.

  94. jr565 Says:

    Bit torrenters make their money from advertising on their site. The hook is “Too Much Joy” bit torrents. That’s why the “Customer” would click on the link, not because of anything the torrenter would offer other than your content. Why is he/she able to distribute it? Did he/she go into business with Too Much Joy?
    And the money they make is actually because of Google. Think of the millions of bit torrents downloaded daily all funded by Google.
    And Google never once went into business with a single artist and asked if that’s how they’d like their music to be distributed OR offer them a cut of the advertising profit, which are going to Google in the place of royalties to YOU as the artist.
    Google is the worst company for the artist in the history of companies that screwed over artists. And that’s not even hyperbole.

  95. tim Says:

    I have zero interest in debating Google’s benefits or detriments to society on my band’s website. Sorry you hate where I work. Obviously, I disagree. Bye.

  96. ryan Says:

    I bought some TMJ songs off iTunes last month. That’s a Lie and Crush Story. Man, I wished I’d read this first. I would have just paypal’d you direct for them. I’m in a similar boat myself for a different industry in which I earn royalties. I just got my first quarter statement from Dec (it’s May as I write this) for $18, so of course it doesn’t get paid out because it’s under $25. But what kills me is I sell my other intellectual properties through my site (like you do with your later albums) and make $200-$400 a month. WTF do these labels, publishers, movie studios, etc, do to make it so hard to get your money?! Anyway, saw you guys so many times in New England in the 90s….you rocked every time.

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