Self-Publishing (Music Edition)

I had a bit about this over on Twitter, but I thought this merited an actual blog post.

From the realm of “OMG The Sky Is Falling” news reports, we see that Cake sets record for lowest-selling #1 album.

The story goes on to tell us that Cake’s new album, “Showroom of Compassion” only sold 44,000 copies in its debut week, making it the lowest-selling top-seller EVAR. This is then backed up with ominous data about Tailor Swift having the previous record last week with 52K, and overall sales being down 11%, yadda yadda yadda.

Oh NOES! The music industry! Won’t somebody think of the children music industry?

However, there’s a pretty huge fact missing in this story.

That fact is that the label that released “Showroom of Compassion”, Upbeat Records — was created and is owned and run by Cake themselves. That’s right — Cake has joined acts like Nine Inch Nails and Duran Duran in releasing their own work themselves.

Let’s take a look at that OMG LOWEST NUMBER EVAR: 44,000 units.

I know that they didn’t sell all of them through iTunes, but I’ve got the data for iTunes, so I’m using these figures as a ballpark. iTunes keeps 35% as its cut and the album sells at $10. (Actually, there’s a “deluxe edition” that sells for $11.99, and the album is priced at $9.99 — so I’ve just rounded to 10 because a) we’re just spitballing here, and b) the math is easier.)

So basically, that means that Cake made approximately $286,000 for themselves in that first week of sales.

Does anyone really think that they’d have earned that much from a major label? Here’s the thing — most of the data I’ve seen estimates an average advance of 250K, most of which is recouped by the label for recording costs. Most artists don’t start actually earning royalties until a massive number of sales have been passed, and even then the chunk is miniscule.

Cake just made more than the average advance in ONE WEEK.

As it becomes more and more impossible to ignore that the major media companies aren’t needed by creatives any more, expect that the news divisions of major media companies will increasingly omit details which point this out.

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