From: Doug Orleans 
Message-ID: <>
Date: Sat, 6 May 2000 19:45:30 -0400 (EDT)
To: Josh Kortbein 

Josh Kortbein writes:
 > I'm aware of the Albini article but not sure how well it applies to
 > all major label bands, just because of Albini's... uh... TONE, let's
 > say. I'd like to believe it though.

Sure, it doesn't apply to all of them.  Poster Children managed to
survive for 7-8 years on Reprise, by being very careful not to take
any tour support, inappropriate promos, "name" producers, etc.  They
saved enough money to build a small recording studio, which is serving
them well now that they've "boomeranged" back to an indie (spinART).
But it sure is easy to believe that a lot of flavor-of-the-week bands
with stars in their eyes can be easily duped into building up huge
debts with their labels.  There are also plenty of stories
(Swervedriver comes to mind; also Mary's Danish-- see about major
labels just sitting on a finished record and refusing to release it
simply because they don't think it's worth spending the promo money,
giving the band zero chance of ever actually making income from the
record to pay off their recoupable costs.  See also for a chilling
interview with an anonymous record executive.

 > How much better is it for a band on a large indie label? Or a small
 > one? Any clue?

Touch and Go, for example, gives bands 50% of all profits after costs
(and the costs are pretty mundane, like pressing and maybe promotion
to certain college stations-- no tour buses or cocaine parties as far
as I know).  And they're all verbal contracts, which has generally
served them just fine but I guess has recently gotten them in trouble
with the Butthole Surfers (and someone else, I think-- was it GVSB?)
Not too many millionaires on T&G, but it seems like a good amount of
their bands (and those on subsidiary labels like 1/4stick) can make
enough to quit their day jobs and tour regularly.

Jenny Toomey and Kristen Thomson's article about alternate income
streams for artists in a post-copyright digital music world
( mentions a
hypothetical case with Ida on Simple Machines that is pretty much the
same deal, 50/50 after costs.  I'm guessing that's pretty standard
among indies, but I don't really know.  (Their Introductory Mechanic's
Guide to Putting Out Records has a few more details on the economics,
though it's mostly about the logistics of actually printing records
and CDs rather than how band/label deals work.  Still worth checking
out, at

I think smaller indie labels & bands pretty much expect to lose money,
and just think of putting out records as a somewhat expensive hobby
(but less so than, say, yachting).  I would guess they'd split the
costs more or less equally, depending on whether the label owner has a 
cushy enough day job to just eat the whole thing.  I could probably
canvass my friends in bands if you really wanted to know the economics.

mp3s coming soon, I promise... gotta get some sleep now, though.