Rolling Stones Online has posted an interview with Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, and they talk about numerous things; digital music, download services, the iPod, recording companies, and the future of Apple. It’s really interesting, and Mr. Jobs does provide an interesting insight as to why most artists are dissatisfied with their recording companies.
After talking to a lot of people, this is my conclusion: A young artist gets signed, and he or she gets a big advance — a million dollars, or more. And the theory is that the record company will earn back that advance when the artist is successful.
Except that even though they’re really good at picking, only one or two out of the ten that they pick is successful. And so most of the artists never earn back that advance — so the record companies are out that money. Well, who pays for the ones that are the losers?
The winners pay. The winners pay for the losers, and the winners are not seeing rewards commensurate with their success. And they get upset. So what’s the remedy? The remedy is to stop paying advances. The remedy is to go to a gross-revenues deal and tell an artist, “We’ll give you twenty cents on every dollar we get, but we’re not gonna give you an advance. The accounting will be simple: We’re gonna pay you not on profits — we’re gonna pay you off revenues. It’s very simple: The more successful you are, the more you’ll earn. But if you’re not successful, you will not earn a dime. We’ll go ahead and risk some marketing money on you. But if you’re not successful, you’ll make no money. If you are, you’ll make a lot more money.” That’s the way out. That’s the way the rest of the world works.