Indie Or Not, Who Gets The Money?

picture of money by Alejandro Jopia from Flickr, used under a CC license. Via Twitter, I just saw this article from The Atlantic Wire.

The headline reads “There’s No Money in Indie Music: Cat Power Is Broke”

As a pair of statements, the former supposedly being proved by the latter, it’s disingenuous nonsense – there’s clearly LOADS of money to be made from an indie record landing in the top 10… But there are some massive questions over why the artist who made the record isn’t getting enough of it to live on. This article answers pretty much none of those, so the ‘sky is falling’ conclusion encapsulated in the title is nonsense.

What’s far more likely to be true is that ‘chart success’ costs more than it makes. The kind of marketing/promo push that any label does if that’s their target is so insanely expensive and wasteful, that there’s nothing left over to actually pay the artist. This too is conjecture, but it’s a darn sight more likely than the assertion that a record that lands in the US top 10 has made no money…

Those of us who value sustainability over the lottery of spending big to try and make it back on chart-style success just don’t spend that money in the first place. We rely on word of mouth, on slow growth and on the ability to keep making new music as our method for getting the word out and growing an audience. There’s nothing inevitable about the ‘need’ to spend ruinous amounts on radio pluggers, magazine ads, billboards, spotify ads, cover-mount CD promos… If you manage your own career, all of those things can be measured on their own merits per project, and the people who perform those services can be asked for some kind of evidence of ‘return on investment’ before working with them, …unless they are all ‘in house’ services provided by your label who bill you for them (meaning: recoup them from earnings on the record before you start getting any money from it) without asking for your agreement on any of it…

So there’s a cautionary tale in here, and quite possibly a deeply sad story for the singer in question relating to her medical costs and/or the mismanagement of her earnings by her label/management/representation (I REALLY hope she gets all of this sorted out), but to suggest that a top 10 selling album has made no money is bullshit. The question is, who has it made money FOR?

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