brucegator | Chicago Reader

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Re: “What's an Album Worth?

As someone who has run an independent label for 39 years, I am constantly annoyed when reading about the cost of manfacturing a CD. Yes, it's under a dollar. If you bought a book with 200 blank pages, it would probably cost a dollar or two. What you're paying for is the content, not the package. When we record musicians, we pay them, whether the recording sells or not. We also must pay song publishers for every CD or download sold. They represent the song writers, who are often not the artists (contrary to popular assumption). We pay advertising and marketing costs, again, before we know if we're going to sell a single copy. We send out thousands of promotional copies, manufactured and shipped at our sole expense. You mention the Jack White and the White artist and band I admire. But they became famous with the support of a major label and the expenditure of many thousands of dollars. Many releases never earn back the cost of launching them in the marketplace, much less make a profit. The ones that do sell must make up the difference.
As far as prices, if the price of an album in 1965 had appreciated like everything else, a current CD should be selling for about $45. Instead, the public complains about paying $17 for 50 minutes of music, or $9.99 to download that same album. (By the way, after the margins taken by the retailer and distributor as well as the cost of manufacture, a label still makes somewhat less on a download sale than on a CD sale in a store.
If our society continues to devalue the work of creative artists, be they authors, musicians, songwriters, graphic artists or others, how do we expect our creators to live and eat? Yes, record labels try to make some money. And since I began, I know of hundreds that have gone bust. A few executives and a lot of artists made a lot of money. And many didn't.
There are many more opportunities for artists to make Do It Yourself recordings now; costs are low. But its the labels that are the force that garners the attention of the public. There were 90,000 albums released in the USA last year. How many of them did you hear of? Also, we're often the bankroll for the artists. If the public decides music has little or no value, then the public will be exposed to less and less music because there will be no labels to bring the music to the public eye (and ear).
Bruce Iglauer, President, Alligator Records

Posted by brucegator on 12/11/2010 at 9:10 AM

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