99.9% of Tunecore Artists Make Less Than Minimum Wage…

Earlier this year, we stumbled upon a very depressing statistic. It turned out that the average Tunecore artist was making just $179 a year – and that was before any annual fees. But now, it turns out there’s an even more depressing figure: 99.875% – or nearly all – of Tunecore artists are making less than minimum wage through the platform, based on revenue figures recently shared by the company.

And that only counts revenues – not costs for creating content or annual fees owed to Tunecore.  It also assumes that Tunecore revenues are being paid to one, solo artist, instead of being divided by a group.

Here’s how we arrived at the calculation:

(1) We used the mininum wage of $8 in California.

(2) We multiplied that by the standard work week of 40 hours to reach a base monthly salary of $1,280.

(3) Then, we used a spreadsheet of top Tunecore earners from July of this year, which showed that just 749 artists made more than $1,280 in that month.

(4) We calculated the percentage using a baseline of 600,000, which is the number of member artists reported by Tunecore in late April of this year (about 2-3 months before the July data was published).

The result was the 99.875% figure.

But what about diversification? Of course, artists must look beyond the recording for revenues, though we wonder how many are actually making up the deficit through merchandise, touring, publishing, sponsorships, or other endeavors.  Most unsigned artists we hear from are struggling to make money on on the road, or from other avenues.  Which means a day job or subsidizing parents to keep the ship afloat.

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A tour through the rich neighborhood.  Perhaps the saddest part about all of this is that Tunecore CEO Jeff Price revealed the data with a completely different goal in mind.  Price selectively published the spreadsheet of artists making over $100 a month to underscore how lucrative Tunecore is for artists.  That list includes some extreme high-fliers, though it also includes artists signed to labels (the complete spreadsheet is available here). “With the music industry democratized, more artists are making more money than ever before,” Price explained.

But is that really true?