Last week a friend of mine asked how the fundraiser for my new CD had gone, which led me to describe the overall cost of the project. She was surprised by the numbers. Most people are. I told her I’d been thinking about writing the piece you’re reading now because I enjoy telling people how recordings are made and what they cost. I’ve always thought there’s a benefit to sharing the details. My hope is that people will understand why a copy of music (in the form of a CD or digital download) costs what it does, why it’s important to buy it (rather than share it*), and why I’m so grateful when my friends, family, and fans are willing to pay a little extra to help me get my work done.
*This may sound like a contradiction because it is: I like people to share my music. That’s because I don’t have much of an advertising budget, so when you share, there’s a chance your friend will go to iTunes or my website and see what else I’ve got. Lots of times your friends will buy another CD or song of mine, which is good. If you share my music, I hope you’ll encourage people to do that.
Because most people buy digital downloads these days, I’ve only printed 350 hard copies. That’s about 2700 fewer copies than I’ve made of previous CDs. I tell you this because the total below will need to be divided by 350 to get a unit price for each physical CD. Here’s a list of the costs associated with Journey:
Musicians: (other than me and Peter Tomlinson) $1500 Mixing/Mastering $2600 Additional Studio Time (not my studio, that is) $1000 Artwork/Print Lay-out $1400 Duplication $1350 Bar Codes $200 Advertising (print and direct mailing) $800 Shipping Envelopes $100 Postage for shipping $600 Fund Raising Costs (materials for things I made to raise money) $175 T-shirts $290 Website (redesign to support fund raiser) $400 CD Release Concert (food, wine, misc) $160 Photography (promo headshots of me) $300 Travel (two trips to NY including food, rental cars, expenses) $1200
So, when I divide $12, 075 (rounded to $12,000) by 350 (the number of CDs I printed), I get $34.28/CD. Ouch! So until the CD is in the black, each time I sell a copy for $15, I’m paying $19.28 to ensure that the buyer hears my music. It’s not a good business model!
On the income side, I’ve raised $7400, which is good, but not enough to pay off the debt without printing more CDs. In other words, I’m hopeful that a lot of people will download the CD on iTunes.
Here’s the math on that: I work with a company called CDBaby. I sent them a copy of Journey which they’ve distributed to all the digital outlets they have relationships with including iTunes. CDBaby is my agent and toll collector. Every time someone buys one of my songs or a copy of the whole CD on-line, they take a cut then deposit the rest in my bank account. You pay .99 cents for a song, I get half of that; you pay $9.99 for the whole CD, I get about $4.70. Not bad considering I’m just sitting at home. When I get my statement from CDBaby every month, there are a lot of other bits and pieces of income too. Other digital outlets only pay 6 cents or 11 cents per song. Those are distributors that don’t charge the consumer anything to listen, so my royalty is based on their advertising income rather than on a purchase from a consumer. It adds up, but slowly.
So that gives you a ballpark idea of how things go for an independent musician like me. If you’re interested, I’ll be posting more details on my website in the next week or so. I’ll include things like: how many hours it took to record the 34 minutes of music that make up Journey, why it takes that long, how musicians get paid, how much studio time costs, what’s mastering, etc. Stay tuned. And thanks as always for your support.