Can I Get Paid? Grammy Nominated Artist Reveals His Royalty Statement–And It’s Not Pretty

February 9, 2015  |  

Most people think musicians and Grammy nominated artists are rolling in the dough. But fact is, the majority of artists have to work hard for their money and lots of times have to fight for income such as royalty rights.

Mega successful Taylor Swift engaged in an epic battle with streaming music service Spotify over her royalties.  In fact, so upset that she didn’t receive the royalties she claimed was due to her, Swift last year removed her entire back catalog from Spotify.

Just recently Grammy nominated composer, keyboardist, and recording artist Armen Chakmakian graphically illustrated just how little artists make on royalties by releasing his royalty statements to the public.

The Armenian-American musician revealed that out of  14,227 performances of music (almost every track 100 percent owned by Chakmakian, played everywhere from streaming services like Pandora to over speakers at events) he only generated $4.20 in royalty earnings.  There are striking differences on the amount of royalties earned on different outlets. One performance of his songs “Ceremonies” or “Distant Lands” on a streaming radio show like Hearts of Space earned him 26 cents for the full writer’s share compared to when his song “Gypsy Rain” was play a whopping 2,088 times on Spotify and brought in just a measly 60 cents.

“Someone’s making money, and in true fashion with the music industry, it’s not the artists.  Business practices like this are one of the reasons I jumped ship and only write for television now,” writes Chakmakian in Digital Music News.

He also shows his artist’s statement from SoundExchange (an independent digital performance rights organization) from the same period showing Chakmakian was paid $11.50 in royalties.  “I received a total of $30.89 from them – $11.50 for the artist; $19.39 for the label (I’m the label, TruArt Records),” he confirms.

It’s no secret that the music industry is changing. Forbes listed some of the major shifts; even as people are listening to more music than ever, they’re purchasing fewer downloads in favor of streaming. So money is being made more often through touring and partnerships with brands. Companies spent $1.3 billion last year to partner with musicians, which is why you see so many artists turning up in ads these days.

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