I get a kick out of learning how the sausages are made in the business called music. As the old-fashioned recording industry sinks slowly into the sunrise, it’s not surprising to discover that the competition for flotsam and jetsam to hang onto runs pretty high.
I got something in the mail last week I’d been wanting for years: a Too Much Joy royalty statement from Warner Brothers that finally included our digital earnings. Though our catalog has been out of print physically since the late-1990s, the three albums we released on Giant/WB have been available digitally for about five years. Yet the royalty statements I received every six months kept insisting we had zero income, and our unrecouped balance ($395,277.18!)* stubbornly remained the same.
So I was naively excited when I opened the envelope. And my answer was right there on the first page. In five years, our three albums earned us a grand total of…
What the fuck?
Being an “unrecouped” band, Too Much Joy still owes the label nearly $400,000. But as Quirk explains in detail in his long blog post, this doesn’t mean that Warner Bros. lost money on the group’s three albums. It only means they didn’t make as much money as they expected to from what they invested in the group. But whatever.
Quirk isn’t just astounded by the double-digit amount in question, he’s shocked by the “stupidity” of a company that would attempt to pass off a statement like this as legitimate. Because Quirk isn’t an ordinary former indie rock star. He’s a current employee of Rhapsody, with a pretty good idea of how much companies such as that pay other companies like Warner Bros. for the music they stream and download. It also seemed a little strange to him that there were no royalties listed from iTunes. And that the statement only referred to two of the three albums the group had cut for the label.
Quirk comes to the dark conclusion that if Warner Bros. is screwing up royalty statements to an unimportant (= unrecouped) band like his, what must they be doing to wildly successful acts like REM and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Let’s hope WB’s accountant takes the time to comment.