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July 16, 2010 • Music Diary, News

What a Recording Artist Needs to Sell to Make Minimum Wage

Image Courtesy Kevin Dayhoff’s Blog

I had seen this image a month or so ago, but had lost the link – but it remains stunning to think of what is required for a musician to simply make minimum wage, let alone scrape by a reasonable living! The graph below shows how many of their recordings an artist would need to sell to make a mere $1,160 per month. Of course, that is gross earnings, not counting any taxes or other niceties paid to the various federal state and local governments we feed …

First off, that number of $1,160 per month is stunning, because while it might be ‘minimum wage’ it is hardly a living wage – that would push the figure to ~$1500-2000 depending on the locale!

Also, the numbers figure a single artist – for a trio or quartet you would need to triple or quadruple the numbers. Add a manager, a PR agent, and so on … it is easy to see what happens. But for the sake of argument these are decent figures – you’re some singer-songwriter who has a bunch of songs recorded in your basement and hopes to make a big splash so you can move out of your parent’s house.

Taking a look at the chart, you can see that if you press your own CD’s (which is really quite easy these days!) and take them around and sell them for $10 as you sing in coffee houses or whatever, you’d only have to sell 143 a month. Which is more than 1700 a year … or 6 times more than Carly Smithson of American Idol infamy made with her label-backed solo record!

But imagine that you managed to get your recording onto iTunes or Amazon and there was a song that got a bit of airplay somehow and attracted attention. You’d have to get that song purchased more than 12,000 times *per month* to keep yourself fed and clothed!

Move to royalty payments from streaming audio and the numbers get simply astounding! 4.5 MILLION plays a month in order to earn $1,160 on Spotify? Heck, you’d be better with setting up a website and grabbing links from elsewhere and cashing in on AdSense or whatever …

To change angle for a second – say you get a record label and they help you get on to iTunes or Amazon. Let’s look at how many copies of this recording you would need to sell on those services to earn $1 million – and how many copies would earn the record company and Amazon/Apple the same amount.

Based on the data showing $0.94 per copy going to the artist, $6.29 to the record company, and ~$2.75 (whatever was left) going to Apple:
– The record company earns $1 million when you sell ~158,000 copies
– Amazon/Apple earns $1 million when you sell ~362,000 copies
– *YOU* earn $1 million when you sell ~1.1 MILLION copies!

… just in case there was any wonder why people don’t like the record industry much …

Source: InformationIsBeautiful.net

12 Responses to " What a Recording Artist Needs to Sell to Make Minimum Wage "

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  9. […] ~2% sold more than 5000 copies, and a paltry 0.085% sold more than 250,000 copies! And based on my earlier article on how much artists earn, assuming a ‘high end royalty deal’ that would mean that only 85 artists made more than […]

  10. […] I agree that recording artists should be collecting certain percentages for their music being played, I don’t necessarily think that the artists getting radio play are really starving by any […]

  11. […] while ago I looked at how much an artist made on each album sale, which basically says that of the average $10 selling price, the artist makes just under $1 (at […]

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