The Artist Who Has The #1 Album On iTunes Is Getting 100% Of The Royalties


Remember when everyone said it couldn’t be done? Remember when the old guard exclaimed “major labels are the best thing that happened to artists?” Remember when we all learned that it costs over $1 million to put out just one Rihanna song?

Well, the Viner/YouTuber duo Jack & Jack self-released (digitally distributed by DistroKid) their debut EP Calibraska today (for much less than $1 million… like WAY less) and it went straight to #1 on iTunes.  It’s currently holding strong with 1,239 reviews (averaging 5 stars) as of 1pm Pacific. The #2 album (also released today), Jill Scott Woman (Atlantic) has 128 reviews and the #3 album DS2 Future (Epic) (released last Friday July 17th) currently has 1,659 reviews.

Exact weekly sales numbers won’t be released until next Thursday.  But last week’s top selling album was Tyrese’s Black Rose (EMI), which sold just over 38,000 digital albums.

+Want To Know Who The Best Digital Distribution Company Is

As indicated by Jack & Jack‘s tweets (to their 1.4 million followers), as of 9:30am Pacific, there were nearly a half a world-wide million tweets using the hashtag #CalibraskaEP

Jack & Jack have a combined 14 million social media followers and to date have sold over a million songs from their 11 previous releases (all released as singles), with most of their songs  charting on various Billboard charts including the Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop, Pop Digital, Top Twitter Tracks and Hot Rap.

When I started DistroKid, I knew it was possible, but didn’t think it would happen so fast.” Philip Kaplan, CEO/Founder, DistroKid

Jack & Jack will receive 100% of their royalties after iTunes takes their cut of 30%. DistroKid (like other independent distribution companies) does not take a commission and since they self released their album, no label takes a commission either.

+CEO War: INgrooves Blasts DistroKid. DistroKid Fires Back

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

**An earlier version of this article withheld the fact that iTunes will take their standard 30% commission. This has been corrected. 

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Writer, Musician, Whiskey Drinker

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business (Dec 2016 - Liveright / Norton). He has been a DIY musician for over 10 years, has performed over 600 shows around the world and released 4 studio albums and 2 live albums. He has had songs featured on multiple TV shows, commercials and films and has shared the stage with Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, Eric Hutchinson, Milk Carton Kids and Ron Pope. He created the music business advice blog, Ari’s Take in the Spring of 2012 to help DIY musicians navigate the independent world of music. Herstand was born and raised in the Midwest and got his start in the Minneapolis music scene. He rose to prominence locally and consistently sold out the 800 capacity Varsity Theater. He became the go-to musician in the scene for music business advice before he moved to Los Angeles in the Summer of 2010. Currently residing in West Hollywood, Herstand still spends a good portion of his time on the road touring. When at home he splits his time writing music, writing articles, writing his book (out December 2016 with Norton Publishing), playing shows at the Hotel Cafe and acting in TV shows (see him in his co-star appearances on Mad Men, 2 Broke Girls, Aquarius, Transparent, The Fosters, and others)

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar

    Ari please explain to me what the correlation is between number of sales / fanbase and who the distribution company is.

    • Avatar
      Vail, CO

      trying to figure out what that has to do with anything

    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      It’s impressive that this distribution company got an artist of this caliber to distribute with them. As soon as you (or any other distributor for that matter) gets a #1 I’ll be the first to write about it and praise your company. Let’s give them one?

      • Avatar

        I’m not up on the latest when it comes to music distribution. But if these guys are big on Youtube (and they are, with 1 video topping 10 million views and over 1 million subscribers) it seems to me that most of their success and sales are being driven from their existing fan base on Youtube and social media. I don’t want to discredit their distributor but I don’t see how they were responsible for this success. Seems to me like this was mostly self-earned.

      • Avatar

        Well, as long as they are unsigned / independent I don’t see any reason for them not to use a company like DistroKid, TuneCore or any other similar digital distributor.
        Thing is, the distribution company has absolutely nothing to do with this band being #1, but good for them, and some nice publicity for the distributor for sure.

        • Avatar

          Agreed. Unless DK did something special to invest in artist promotion.. assuming not.

        • Avatar
          There is something...

          Same here… Distrokid is a great service, but I don’t think they did anything to market this album. They would have sold the same amount with any distributor. The band is responsible for the sales, not the distributor.

  2. Avatar
    Jorge Brea - Symphonic Distribution

    Yeah I agree with JTVDigital…. it’s great that he’s making 100% of royalties off his music but if we’re going to do articles like this I guess we need to mention Tunecore, and even us at Symphonic who have paid 100% of royalties as well to artists and even record labels off not just iTunes but other providers out there. Kudos to the artist, his fans, and the company that distributed it however, this sort of comes across like a sponsored post and perhaps it should be labeled as that.

    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      It’s impressive that this distribution company got an artist of this caliber to distribute with them. As soon as you (or any other distributor for that matter) gets a #1 I’ll be the first to write about it and praise your company. Let’s give them one? This wasn’t sponsored (it would be labeled if it was). It was an opinion piece by me based on facts. Am I impressed with DistroKid? Yes! Am I impressed with CD Baby, Symphonic and Zimbalam? Yes! But they didn’t get a #1 album on iTunes. DistroKid did. As soon as one of them do, I’ll be singing their praises as well. And, of course, it’s not all about the #1s (I’m the first to come out and say that), but it’s a milestone and a level of achievement that our industry recognizes. So it’s news. And important.

  3. Avatar
    Curtis J.

    Ari do us a favor and get someone to edit your articles please?

    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      I usually do. Was running out the door to a gig. Rushed this one out because of the importance of timing. I’ve edited it now.

  4. Avatar

    So iTunes isn’t taking a cut of their royalties? …if so, your headline is fucked.

  5. Avatar
    Congrats, Jack and Jack!
    Notable quote: “Omaha Duo Jack & Jack had a series of very successful singles through TuneCore. Their Social media savvy landed them a Billboard article and premiere of their track ‘Wild Life'”

    Ari, an interesting follow-up blog might feature quotes addressing why Jack and Jack switched distribution.

    The success demonstrates the same story of the current paradigm of these last five years:
    1. be an early adopter to an Internet platform before it peaks
    2. leverage that attention and make some bigger connections in music industry; move to LA.
    (even if not associated with a label, Jack and Jack worked with teams that have major label associations, like Emblem3, who was even on the X-Factor and on Simon Cowell’s label (notable considering writer’s other articles about TV shows) and Columbia)
    3. leverage Internet success for bigger breaks
    (The View appearance, sponsorships with brands like Kohl’s Mudd Style, Sour Patch Kids and Pizza Hut.)
    4. tour or co-work with other artists
    (touring with major label artist Devi Lovatio; worked with Shawn Mendes, who is now on a major label)
    5. write pop music that appeals to kids.

    This is great news for Jack and Jack, their team, and Distrokid; most indie artists won’t be able to replicate this type of engagement. Owning 100% of the rights is always better, if you have an audience. How does one get the audience? That’s the mystery that’s unique to each success story, and the same cliche story for most performers who never get the fan base.

    Also, I wonder if there are any other deals going on behind the scenes? Is Jack and Jack getting 100%, or did they leverage some success to get other exposure and have other folks getting percentages?

  6. Avatar

    Funny. I seem to have interpreted DMN’s intentions with this story differently than most readers. I thought the focus was on an artist who is demonstrating that traditional labels aren’t “necessary” to be successful. When combined with Ari’s previous article about The Voice, I personally enjoyed seeing coverage of artists defining and pursuing “success” on their own terms.

    I think too many artists confuse “celebrity” with success. I hope to read about more examples of alternative paths to a sustaining a career in music in the future. As other’s stated, it would be nice to get better insight into the artist’s personal experience working with different distributors or licensing agents.

  7. Avatar

    A better title for the article would be “Entrepreneur Who Has the #1….” After a few seconds of googling, seems these kids have benefitted enormously from…being kids at the time of Vine, and apparently joing just when the Revine (share) was introduced — so their 6 second effort went viral as one of the first shareables. These guys were doing brand deals right from their early success on Vine… the list of branding deals is pretty big. (I hope that first vine was’t paid for by a car co.) Also being from the same town as a successful game developer — where they interned (and who had vencap funding.)

    So i see them as an advertisting company. Here’s a quote from one Jack: “Once we got these fans on Vine, Jack and I realized we could monetize it,” Gilinsky told me. (spoken exactly like a internet startup kid). “They don’t just love our Vines, they love us.” He’s 16. i mean, their ‘musical pursuits’ according to wiki, only began in 2014.

    so: some ‘stars’ use a sex tape to get famous (kardashian, hilton) some get become successful with a 6 second video… but let’s not kid ourselves, they are not artists.

  8. Avatar

    There is always going to be the one story of who it’s working for. This story is more the exception than the rule.

  9. Avatar

    Jack and Jack are signed to Fullscreen, so there’s no way they’re getting all the royalties. “Fullscreen—which signs the talent, creates the shows, sells to advertisers and finds distributors— and has a team of social media producers that churns out content for an array of platforms on behalf of brands and creators, including clients like Coca-Cola, NBCUniversal and AT&T.” Which explains why they were immediately booked on a huge tour with other net celebrities.

    Oh, and this: Fullscreen is “owned by a joint venture of AT&T and The Chernin Group.” It’s run by a former executive at Youtube (George Strompolos) and Peter Chernin recently made a 500 million bid for Hulu.

    So… this ain’t no indie storie, really; there’s been big money behind promoting these guys past the initial vine…

    • Avatar
      Curtis Jenkins

      I’m hearing in some MCN deals, the MCN takes ownership of content which would make this definitely not 100%.

      • Ari Herstand
        Ari Herstand

        MCNs do not take commission from iTunes sales – only commission from YouTube ad revenue/sponsorships that they secure.

  10. Avatar

    Smart band, but awful music, and actually, not very far from that horrid Katy Perry song Dark Horse.

  11. Avatar
    Indie Fantasy Land

    More fiction spun by Ari, sorry. So it rained in LA last weekend, I guess that proves the so-called experts wrong, they said it would never rain! Please…

  12. Avatar

    Does album consider 166 streams a sale like Billboard does? If so, Apple Music could have played a major role in this album charting #1.

  13. Avatar

    The number one album on itunes sells 38000 in a week. Nonsense, it must be far more than that.