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…