Lyle Lovett: Albums Sold? 4.6 Million. Money Made From Album Sales? $0

from the business-models-in-action dept

Every time we talk about music industry business models, we get some folks who have to chime in with some claim about how musicians should be able to sell their music just like they have for years. Of course, the truth is that it's quite rare for any musician to make money from selling their albums, as has been pointed out for years. The latest to make that point is Lyle Lovett. Reader Rose M. Welch sends us this link to a story about Lyle Lovett, pointing out that in two decades of making music, selling 4.6 million albums, he's "never made a dime" from album sales, but has instead used those record sales to make money on tour:
"Records are very powerful promotional tools to go out and be able to play on the road..."
He does go on to say, however, that he thinks music sales should be self-sustaining. Of course, if he can make money from playing on the road, and giving away the music means it's an even more "powerful promotional tool," then why not focus on that? At least he seems open to new ideas:
"If a major label is interested in working with me after these next two records and is able to come up with a strategy that does engage some of the new technology in a way that can benefit everybody, I'd be very interested in that."
The problem, of course, is that most record labels aren't looking at using technology in a way that can benefit everyone. In the mind of your typical record exec, it's the recording industry against anyone else -- and if others are benefiting, that's a sign that the industry is losing. The idea that everyone can benefit doesn't even register.

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  1. identicon
    Melted Metal Web Radio, 15 Jul 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Musician's Business Model

    I just want to reply to what you said here. With the assumption that Lyle Lovette averaged 230,000 units per release (it was obviously more or less), the $200,000-ish dollars he may have earned for each release would never have gotten to him. They would have gone to tour support/advances.

    But, a band that sells 2 million records from 'one release' has a completely different set of math models. A band with 2 million sales will have 10+ times the expenses (and different profit margins as sales increase), thus more money pulled from their percentage of sales to pay larger scale touring expenses.

    Sure, lots of major labels cheat their artists for many reasons. That's why the biggest artists usually demand $2 to 3 million on delivery of masters- a loose way of saying; "Give me that advance and you can go make what you want". They know that they will get raped without that advance.

    I am not an advocate for major record companies. Just run a Google of 'Melted Metal Web Radio' and you will see what I think of them. But, unless you have run a record company, or managed a mid-sized to larger-sized band, it is impossible to understand the dynamics of the cash flows involved.

    Bill Wilkins
    Melted Metal Web Radio

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