Published Dec 02, 2009In one of the most informative looks at how the record industry can screw over small bands since Steve Albini's The Problem with Music, American alt-rockers Too Much Joy have posted an update on their blog about recently receiving a rather insulting royalty statement from Warner Brothers that included their digital earnings for the past few years.
The New York area band - who put out a half-dozen or so albums between 1987 and 1999, including three on Warner - were eagerly anticipating some earnings to go against the almost $400,000 they still owe the label.
But when Too Much Joy singer Tim Quirk opened the statement from Warner, he was shocked to see the amount the band had earned in the past five years from digital sales - a paltry $62.47 - putting their unrecouped balance to Warner at a staggering $395,214.
"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," posted Quirk. "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."
Quirk's lengthy post goes on to detail his opinions on how major labels treat unrecouped bands such as Too Much Joy, as opposed to bands who actually break even or make money. He even claims that when he confronted a business rep at Warner about the meager earnings and possible errors on their statements, the band were told that they were an unrecouped band and the label had to "to take care of R.E.M. and the Red Hot Chili Peppers first." On the posting, Quirk also points to holes in Warner's digital revenue tracking system.
And while Quirk is quite scathing in parts, he does analyze the behind-the-scenes happenings in a way that's informative and refreshing to read, all while adding in zingers like: "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?"
To read Quirk's full post, go here.
Thanks to The Daily Swarm for the heads-up.