Jay Jay French Says Selling A Million Records Doesn’t Make Musicians Rich

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Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French gave an interview to The Metal Voice in which he claimed musicians can’t get rich by selling a million records.

Jay Jay French is a guitarist who has worked with Twisted Sister since the band’s formation. Apart from lending his guitar skills, he also took over Twisted Sister’s management between 1975 and 1979 and from 1988 to today. As the owner of the Twisted Sister trademark and the manager of the band’s affairs, French produced Twisted Sister album releases.

So, as a businessman, producer, and manager, French had a chance to take a closer look at the music industry. In an interview by The Metal Voice, Jay Jay French revealed some interesting details about the contracts considering album releases. He then calculated the money musicians make on a million-selling record by getting a dollar a record.

According to what French claimed, selling a million records doesn’t equal being rich. He then elaborated on this thought by revealing that contracts cut back around 45% of the total money, and business managers take out around %25. So, band members are eventually left with a small amount of money.

During the interview, Jay Jay French stated the following:

“There are clauses all over the contract. I do a talk on this. I said, ‘How much money do you make on a million-selling record?’ And this is by contract — no one’s stealing from you; this is just the way the contract’s written.

If you look at a contract back in 1984, and let’s just say, for the sake of this example, the band made a dollar a record, which is very high, but let’s suppose the band got a dollar a record. And you sold a million records, and you have a platinum album on your wall. And friends go, ‘Oh man, a million records. You must be really rich.’

But what does that really mean? Well, in the contract, to begin with, the contract says it’s 15% free goods, which means the record label is allowed to not pay you on 15% of record sales, ’cause they supposedly sent it to the press for reviews, except if you’re on a million-selling record, you’re not sending 150,000 albums out for review, but you can claim that you can.”

He went on by saying:

“So, they withhold royalties on 15%, which is $150,000. So now your million is basically $850,000. On top of that, there’s a breakage fee of 10%, because… Records haven’t broken since Moby Dick was a minnow, but back when shellac records were made, it was in the contracts; that’s another 10%. So that’s 25% off the top. So right away, you’re not being paid on a million copies; you’re being paid on 750,000 copies.

Then there’s a 20% container charge to make the record or the CD, so they subtract that. So automatically, 45% of the royalty-bearing records are now gone, okay? Now you’re left with $550,000. Well, suppose you made a video. Then that gets subtracted. Suppose there are recording costs, which is another $300,000. And then there are promotion costs for the record, which is probably $100,000 if the record is successful.

You’re down to what? $200,000? You take the $200,000, and you send it to your business manager and your manager, they take out 20% and 5%. And maybe the band is left with $100,000, $150,000. A five-man band breaks it up, and it’s $30,000 each before taxes. You get the mathematics here?”

You can watch the full interview below.