“music moves our world.” bmi’s tagline: “we celebrate your talent. we value your music. we champion your rights.”
i don’t blame bmi. as an royalty organization, it is trying to keep up with an industry imploding on itself. the very same opportunity to ‘get music out there’ using online platforms is what is destroying opportunity to make a living ‘getting music out there.’
as you might guess, i just received a bmi royalty statement. the check, which will come later in the mail and stamped with a 55 cent first class stamp, will cost them more per penny paid for the stamp than i will receive per performance play of my music.
because i am a specific-detail kind of person, here are the details of that: if you take my check of $71.57 and divide it by the (just shy of 100,000) performance plays this particular quarter, it amounts to an average of .00074 of a cent per performance play (you read that 7/ten-thousandths of a cent). it you take a 55 cent stamp and divide it by the check, it is .00768 of a cent per penny of the cost of the stamp (you read that 7/thousandths). that’s 10 times as much as i receive per play.
to cite some examples: there were 7530 youtube views of my piece ‘last i saw you’. the royalties i earned for that are 66 cents. CENTS. the piece ‘i didn’t know’ yielded 49,085 plays counted on a few digital music services, which averaged $.00025 of a cent. that is 2/10-thousandths of a cent. way to make a living.
i’m not really sure anymore why i’m telling you this, except for the big word “awareness”. i think most people are not aware of the explosively-good-explosively-bad impact that all these music services have had on independent musicians. headlining musicians and independent musicians – a schism of differences. yet, i’m not a person with one or two albums, new to the industry, eager to do anything to ‘spread the word’. i am an artist with fifteen albums, multiple singles, in the industry for decades and who did all the eager-stuff for many, many, many years. and like you, i want to believe that all the time and energy and writing and practicing and recording and sacrifice and thought and perseverance and education and experience and drive and hard work i put in might yield something in return now – dividends – kind of like how a retirement works.
in these times of chaos – a pandemic, an uprising of protests striving for equity in race, in gender identification, in sexual orientation, in all manners of humanity – it seems that one of the most unifying calls is that of music. music does move our world.
why, then, is this so inequitable for us? because i don’t know about you, but there isn’t one bill in my bill folder that totals $71.57 over the course of a quarter. dog food alone costs $73.16 for a quarter. there isn’t a bill that is merely for $71.57 for a month. not the phone bill, not the mortgage, not home insurance, not health insurance (don’tgetmestarted!), not the gas/electric bill, not student loans (again, don’tgetmestarted!), not car insurance, not groceries, not wifi-cable. too much information, i suppose.
with thousands of cds in boxes in storage in the cds-have-gone-poof world, i wonder, as i have written and you have read before, where to go from here. most professional careers keep building, arcing in some positive direction. i try to remind myself that this music is played hundreds of thousands of times, millions of times a year. i try to remind myself of all the times i have heard that some piece, some song, some album, some concert, some performance has resonated with someone, that it has given them a moment of reflection, of peace, that it has buoyed them. i try not to be jaded by people who burn copies of cds for their friends or who change their email every three months to access apple music streaming for free.
but as i write checks or click ‘pay’ online for the accountant, the doctor, the mortgage, the water, the gas and electric, the health insurance, the phone bill, the wifi and cable, the car and home insurances, the student loans, the groceries, i wonder what would happen if somehow each of those things went poof and there were free ways to access all of them.
and yet, it’s true. music moves our world.