Music, Audio, and Other Illnesses

My Massive Income From Streaming

Issue 128

Our Paul McGowan asked me to recount the truly massive amount I’ve made from streaming sources. So here it is. But first, while I won’t reveal the figure, I will say that prior to Napster, prior to everyone thinking that music should be free, the Sheryl Crow album I worked on made me a pretty healthy income (thank you, Bill! It was called Tuesday Night Music Club.) There have been quite a few other projects I’ve made money from, but TNMC is the big one.

Now music is free. As I type, Susanna Hoffs and I are trying to figure out how the finances of the record we did way back when will work out. I’ll buy a recording from an artist I know I like (Shriekback, the Firesign Theatre, etc.) But otherwise…

TNMC was an album we did for A&M Records, now owned by Universal Music after a number of mergers, and in turn, Universal is now owned by a French toilet company called Vivendi. Or is it? [They’re still part-owners; I had to look it up. – Ed.]

 

I’ve lost track. Who owns it now? And whoever owned it at the beginning of streaming definitely didn’t have the writers of the music they were making money off of in mind when they assigned rights to stream the music.

Are you ready for the enormity of the size of the check I’ve received from streaming services – the one single check?

$0.01.

One cent.

One bloody, red cent.

Of course, I didn’t cash the check. It was too good of a commentary on the state of the finances around music to throw away, though – but I’ve lost track of where I put it.

This isn’t quite the whole truth of what people like me get from streaming. Where in the past, I held onto my publishing rights (50 percent of the income from a song) until I sold it*, that income from all sources now goes to Sony, and Universal gets the lions’ share of the rest of the money, which no doubt they made a stock trade for – or some such maneuver. Once or twice a year, I get a statement from Sony that reports there was too little revenue to bother to pay me. My BMI payments on occasion approach relative significance – for song usage – and I get AFM (American Federation of Musicians) payments once a year that can be noteworthy, owing primarily to being one of 500 participants in Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album.

But as a writer, there’s virtually nothing held over from the world-as-it-was.

*Although other writers on that TNMC album spread rumors about me making more than anyone else, it’s not true – as a percentage of my income from the album, yes – I made 100 percent. But that was the smallest hunk of the total proceeds, owing to my unawareness that I needed to be aggressive about such things as publishing. The other writers generally made publishing deals as a way of getting some money earlier in their careers. When you make a publishing deal, typically the publisher takes all of that income. I didn’t, so I made 100 percent of everything there was to make from my songwriting. And for a time, it was a good income.

PS: I should say, I did some of Phoebe Bridgers’ first recordings – she was a schoolmate of my daughter’s – and she was doing okay before the shutdown of the universe. I couldn’t – and didn’t – advise her about what path to take, When I was that age, the path was clear – you just had to be really good or really lucky. She said she couldn’t imagine doing anything else and being happy, so…

 

Header image courtesy of Pixabay/Olya Adamovich.

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