Major Labels: Dumb, Lazy, Evil, and Avaricious

BenjaminsA lot of people have been retweeting and scoffing about the guy from Too Much Joy‘s rant about his Warner Bros. Royalty Statement. Read the whole thing. It’s awesome. Basically a 2009 update to Steve Albini‘s “Problem With Music” article.

The summary: After years of bugging his former label for a royalty statement that included digital earnings, they finally sent him one that claimed the band’s three major label releases had earned a total of $62.47 over five years. The dude now works for Rhapsody so he knows for a fact that this is blatantly wrong. So the people at the label basically admitted that they don’t really keep track of the numbers for unrecouped bands (TMJ still “owes” the label $395,214.71).

But here’s the thing that I haven’t heard anybody talking about: Sure, to label executives “$10,000 is nothing.” That’s fine, they’re rich, whatever. But it would only take 40 of those $10,000 accounting errors for a band like Too Much Joy to actually recoup. But if the labels aren’t even counting the income for the unrecouped bands, of course they’re never going to recoup. There’s no way to recoup if nobody’s even counting the income!

It’s high time for a huge class action lawsuit from all the thousands of unrecouped bands like Too Much Joy. Bands could skip the labels’ accounting departments and go straight to iTunes, Rhapsody, etc. Find out how much those services have paid out so they can make sure they’re getting their fair share.

Video: Too Much Joy – “Crush Story”

Too Much Joy: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

FTC Disclosure: Glorious Noise didn’t receive a damn thing from the artist, label, or publicist for writing this.

10 thoughts on “Major Labels: Dumb, Lazy, Evil, and Avaricious”

  1. As both an owner of Glorious Noise Records and an artist on its roster, allow me to step in:

    DP (of Riviera): Hey, what about us? I haven’t seen any accounting of our sales.

    Phil (of GLONO): Fuck you. How would you like me to summarize zero?

    DP: Dude, that’s not cool. We sell some records.

    Phil: Yeah, enough to cover the cost of ONE Quasar Wut Wut insert…maybe.

    DP: What about The Cleaner?

    Phil: Benjamin Bratt huffs dong. CBS Television STILL hasn’t ponied up for that show.

    DP: Can we have some money to record another album?

    Phil: Yes, as soon as you write a song under five minutes long and has a bridge or at least a chorus.

    DP: Shit…Josh???

  2. ROFL…

    Those scumbags at the majors are always looking for a way to yank the little guy. Band: so, that mountain of debt that we owe you? How have our iTunes sales been going? MajorLabelFuck: Oh yeah, we did put your stuff back available on iTunes now, didn’t we? Heh heh, well, we’re so busy scratching our balls that we are too lazy to set up proper accounting to allow us to calculate what your royalties would have been, and how we can turn that mountain of debt into an ever-so-slightly shorter mountain of debt. Our bad.

    How horrible would this be if an unrecouped band actually somehow miraculously earned out in digital sales, but WB somehow failed to notify them of this? Cocksmokers…

  3. That’s the whole problem, Murph. There’s no way of knowing. No way for a band to see an accurate balance sheet. And it’s definitely in the labels’ interests to keep it that way.

    There’s a theory that labels and publishers deliberately avoid creating the transparent accounting systems today’s technology enables. Because accurately accounting to my silly little band would mean accurately accounting to the less silly bands that are recouped, and paying them more money as a result.

    If the labels actually had to pay artists what they’re contractually obligated to pay them, they’d be in even deeper shit than they are today.

  4. Updates via Wired:

    Warner Music Group issued a statement: “As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on specific terms of artists’ agreements. Accurate accounting to our artists is a high priority for WMG. We take these issues seriously and Mr. Quirk’s implications to the contrary are flat-out wrong.”

    Rhapsody issued a statement: “Tim Quirk’s views are his own and do not reflect those of Rhapsody management. Rhapsody and our label partners are focused on ensuring that artists and copyright holders are compensated appropriately. After years of working together with Warner Music, we believe the company has made every effort to provide accurate accounting to its artists and copyright holders. The number of parties involved makes this a very complex problem to solve, but one that we, as an industry, are committed to solving.”

    Glorious Noise issues a statement: “Um…yeah, right.”

  5. God, I hope that Tim Quirk doesn’t get professional blowback for telling the truth. WB has the power to make him hurt by hitting him where he lives.

    BTW, I can personally say that the TMJ albums Mutiny and …Finally are great, and worth having. I’ve heard good things about Cereal Killers.

  6. Great read. And it sounds like WB instead of addressing the big rock issue has chosen instead to put some heat on Rhapsody to mute one of their employees. I echo Murph and hope that Quirk doesn’t get reprimanded.

  7. It’s sad when musicians from unrecouped bands can’t even get their name in an article about them. Ha!

    Seriously, Quirk might lose his job over this. I mean, if he in fact used his position at Rhapsody to get an inside track on certain info–which he sort of admits to–they could can him for that. I hope not, for his sake. But regardless, he shouldn’t have publicly admitted to insider info and perhaps gone the Moses Avalon route.

  8. Btw, I remember reading an interview with big-time entertainment attorney Don Engel–who represented both authors and musicians–where he stated that he rarely, if ever, found a discrepancy when auditing a book publisher but that when doing so with the major record labels, there was ALWAYS a discrepancy. Every. Single. Time.

  9. I’ve heard various reports of Quirk’s job description. That he “founded” Rhapsody, that he’s a VP at RealNetworks, etc. He’s not listed as an officer of RNWK, so I’m guessing that leaves him vulnerable. We’ll see, I guess…

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