Invoking Satan

No, this is not another religious thread. I simply want to attract Brian’s attention to a question he has the background to answer.

In a local alternative weekly, a musician sent a letter to the editor supporting MP3 distribution on the Internet and independent production/distribution of CDs across the Internet, on the basis that the music production (“record”) industry has for decades been making money hand over fist at the expense of musicians.

How much truth to that allegation? Is he proposing a worthwhile alternative, or is the cure worse than the disease? How would they protect against piracy if they were their own distributors?

I’m sure Satan has better current information, but I can assure you that record companies definitely are the favored party in recording contracts, especially for newer artists. The royalty rate per unit is piddling, even for artists with gold or platinum level sales, unless they’ve been around a long time. All the development money that’s put into an artist (recording costs, advances for equipment, promotion, marketing, distribution) is all charged back to the artist, and the artist sees zero money until those costs are recouped. Touring expenses are charged to the artists a lot these days, too.

The only way to make money is to:

a) Get extensive radio play. The BMI or ASCAP rates can help you out, especially if you handle your own publishing;
b) Be a songwriter and get a lot of artists to cover your songs.

c) Quit slacking off and get a real job. :wink:

Hey, when was the last time you saw an accountant get blown by a groupie? Or even by her uglier sister?

Amen. Speaking of invoking Satan, has anyone been to Satan’s web site? The record label he works for is directly responsible for the resurrection of all that was evil in the last 20 years of music. A partial list of bands whose records they have released recently: 38 Special, Pat Benatar, BOC, Christopher Cross, Dokken, The Fixx, Jefferson Starship, Judas Priest, Lynyrd Skynnard, Molly Hatchet, Nazareth, Styx, and Yes. Dare we doubt that he is the Prince of Darkness?

(Forgive me if Satan’s nefarious work has already been dragged into the light.)

A man, a plan, a canal: GatewayDrug

Hey, way to go, Satan! Those are some of my favorite bands!

Gee, since when is Lynyrd Skynyrd evil? Reminds me of the group of parents who wanted LS’s music banned because it ‘promoted drug use’ when obviously they had never listened to or read the lyrics, which were laments on how drugs had ruined people’s lives.

I bet they thought ‘Saturday Night Special’ promoted handgun use, too.

I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it! - George Carlin

What does today’s Skynnard have, like ONE original member? Let me revise my point:

70s Skynnard = good
90s Skynnard = evil

I suppose the demand’s there for bands of yore and the demand be supplied, but
there’s demand for kiddie porn, too–that doesn’t mean you go supply it.

On the original point, the key to making money selling records is the songwriting credit. Your songwriting credit is usually inviolable (i.e. the record company can’t withhold it). They can withhold mechanical (performance) royalties until you’re all paid up, but not writing. That’s why a lot of bands break up, because one or two members are so clearly making more than the others. Pete Townsend was a millionaire a year or two into the Who’s career, but it took the rest of the band well into the 70s to reach that mark. It’s a rare band like U2 or REM who share all the songwriting royalties, no matter who’s responsible for the words, melody, etc. But that says something about their ability to stay together.

A man, a plan, a canal: GatewayDrug

Sorry, that was supposed to be:

“I suppose the demand’s there for bands of yore and the demand MUST be supplied, but there’s…”

I don’t have problem. I saw Nazareth free, when the act they supported canceled. I can definitely live without them.I don’t miss “Yes” much either. Who’s BOC?

BOC is presumably Blue Oyster Cult. One of my favorite bands. Their most recognizable song is probably “Don’t Fear the Reaper”

Oh, I misunderstood you, Gateway. I thought you meant re-releases of the original stuff.

In that context, Satan again lives up to his name sigh

I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it! - George Carlin

Blue Oyster Cult it is. I wasn’t sure if I could pull off the umlaut…BÖC…let’s see if that works. Anyway, I dig some of the old stuff, too, but some bands belong in the past. Sorry this is going off point, Polycarp.

A man, a plan, a canal: GatewayDrug

Sorry all… Was in Michigan this weekend and hitting the SDMB was not a huge priority…

As for the original OP, yes, record contracts are ballanced for the labels. That said, labels are putting all of their money up towards promoting the bands. Some bands get signing bonuses of hundreds of thousands of dollars - some get more, but I am limiting this to struggling bands. Bruce getting millions when he is doing just fine outside of those millions doesn’t count.

The key word is “recoupable,” which is that all money spent - from the aforementioned advance to the postage for press mailings - is billed back to the artist against their royalties. Which means that a gold-level band such as Kix never saw a dime of royalties, because of all the money their label spent on promotion, tour support, advances, recording fees, artists salaries an what have you.

Needless to say, a lot of people have problems with this arrangement. Steve Albini, noted producer, expounds upon this in his well-circulated The Problem With Music article from Baffler fanzine.

Click here for an excerpt of his diatribe.

I will say that things are getting better for bands, and if they play their cards right (i.e. don’t waste their major advances that come from publishing and record deals, have competant manager who can ensure good fiscal decisions) even a marginally successful band can do okay in the long run on any label.

As for the secondary theme, all I can say is that people like these bands. People make them the highest grossing touring acts around (see Pollstar, the leading concert industry trade for details) and frankly, I’d rather see a band make new music than rest on it’s laurels like those cheesy Motown reviews.

For the record, we have put out some shitty albums IMHO. But we have also put out some discs I think are GREAT! Faves of mine include both Bruce Dickinson solo discs, the BOC album rocks, the new Skynyrd album is excellent as well, just to name a few.

Oh, And Skynyrd has all of the members who survived that plane crash except for the drummer. Ronnie’s brother Johnny is the new singer and Ricky Medlock (ex-Blackfoot and original Skynyrd member) is on guitar, so we’re not talking just a few session players here…

Yer pal,

Thanks for the info, Brian. (Local note: Letter was in the Spectator for last week, if you care to look it over.)

As for the rest of you, what is your problem with Satan promoting Styx? Don’t you think Jesse Ventura promotes the Upper Mississippi or Lake Superior as a tourist attraction? It’s a major river of his “state.” :wink: