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A Mass of Nothing

Inside the topsy-turvy world of record label royalty reporting.

via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow on 12/2/09


Here’s a detailed look at the way that Warner accounts for digital download revenue to one of its acts, Too Much Joy. The author of the piece works for Rhapsody, the back-end for a lot of digital music services, and knows exactly what kind of information Warner gets from these services, and he butts up against what looks like utter carelessness on the part of the label when it comes to fulfilling its contractual obligations to its signed acts.


Back to my ridiculous Warner Bros. statement. As I flipped through its ten pages (seriously, it took ten pages to detail the $62.47 of income), I realized that Warner wasn’t being evil, just careless and unconcerned – an impression I confirmed a few days later when I spoke to a guy in their Royalties and Licensing department I am going to call Danny.****

I asked Danny why there were no royalties at all listed from iTunes, and he said, “Huh. There are no domestic downloads on here at all. Only streams. And it has international downloads, but no international streams. I have no idea why.” I asked Danny why the statement only seemed to list tracks from two of the three albums Warner had released – an entire album was missing. He said they could only report back what the digital services had provided to them, and the services must not have reported any activity for those other songs. When I suggested that seemed unlikely – that having every track from two albums listed by over a dozen different services, but zero tracks from a third album listed by any seemed more like an error on Warner’s side, he said he’d look into it. As I asked more questions (Why do we get paid 50% of the income from all the tracks on one album, but only 35.7143% of the income from all the tracks on another? Why did 29 plays of a track on the late, lamented MusicMatch earn a total of 63 cents when 1,016 plays of the exact same track on MySpace earned only 23 cents?) he eventually got to the heart of the matter: “We don’t normally do this for unrecouped bands,” he said. “But, I was told you’d asked.”

My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement (via Making Light)

(via Making Light)

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