Royalties and Reality

This post should be something everyone who has ever received a royalty check should read. I’m not going to say I’ve ever received a royalty check that was anything less than truthful, but I do resonate with the idea that publishers don’t understand how to pay royalties on digital downloads. (Oh, and for some reason, most publishers only give you half royalties on digital downloads vs. print books.)

Take books as an example, when I get a royalty statement it often has a line item for “online sales” that is some sort of number that captures the number of sales of a particular book? What does this mean in the context of a subscription service? While I’m sure I could get a straight answer from the publisher, it is usually such little money that it isn’t worth the time or effort.

This story is interesting because it suggests that the recording industry knowingly plays a cat and mouse game with artists hiding true sales numbers behind opaque royalty statements (which I will also admit always look as if they were printed by a old dot-matrix printer). The larger issue here is that the publisher often holds all of the power in the relationship between producer and publisher.