I'm no expert but from the multitude of sources I've tried to gather information from over the years I believe most artists will make around 1p per album sold in physical media from their record deals (a really amazing deal apparently is about 10p). To make this the artist has to spend time in the studio, this used to be weeks/months but from what I understand is now more likely days for the newbies, longer for the 'big guns'. They almost never master their own records (think radiohead are one of the few if only to have done so) so the record company can rightly lay claim to some the creation aspect of the record and thus gather revenue. It used to be the case that almost everyone from managers to producers used to pop in to the studio to play a couple of triangle notes so they could get some performance rights on a track. Add to the fact that like book publishers the record companues will usually negotiate as part of any deal the sole distribution rights (should they wish to distribute it) for a long long time.
These record companies behave much like loan sharks for artists. You get signed on a £x album deal for an advance (loan) of £x. They determine the interest rate of that advance and will spend that advance usually without the express consent or knowledge of that artist on marketing, travel, legal, clothes etc etc. In other words, they are as good as lawyers at the billing process.
I remember once reading that a judge had said during a record pricing dispute trial (the outcome of which was dropped after the RC's agreed to pay a fine of over $600m to settle and to claim they were blameless) that the record companies accounting practices for computing royalties were ridiculously complicated to the point of being delibrately obfuscated. More difficult to crack than some mafia money laundering cases I believe was the soundbite from a DA department.
The record companies usually determine the amount of studio time an artists receive and the timing of it with the option to accept or reject the material submitted to them thus ensuring they have a measure of control over the length of any deal in years and the content an artists puts out (while the interest builds nicely on that loan). Sprinkle on top of this complete and total control over the distribution chain and you got yourself a nice little racket, save for the one or two pesky lawsuits for racketeering and price fixing which cost a few hundred mill.
Now enter the digital age. Cheaper and cheaper end to end cost of CD's vs Tapes and Vinyl plus distribution with any physical media at all, all good so far. Pass those savings on to the artists or customers did they...?
Not sure what the situation is rgd distribution media royalties but if it is similar to the issue that has caused the hollywood writers strike for the movie industry then I guess artists are not doing so well on that front, another score for the RC's
So .... Why don't I save my money on buying the RC's sh!t, go to a gig where I can expect to pay anywhere from £5-£50 depending on the venue and artist, I'm led to believe that this is where artists make their money. I can also buy tshirts, cd's etc directly from them. Moreover with things like myspace and iTunes even the little man can have mp3s for sale or to help gather interest in the gigs and make more than a traditional record deal would net them.
Whilst it is a slightly dubious thing to hang a point on cos it's a one off, Radiohead have publically stated that they made more from their little pay what you want experiment than they have done from record sales with parlaphone from their entire 15? year careers. I'm not trying to say that is the norm but they must've sold tens of millions of albums over that period and received a very very small percentage for that to have been the case.
so why don't we all get together, government, artists unions and consumer groups (no RC's please) and decide to create a univeral tariff of some sort where the artist's union can collect say around 2p per album, doubling the average artists coffers, increase the amount the chancellor can get his paws on and put this nasty protectionist business out of pasture where it belongs.
I want to support artists and see them get the money I'm willing to pay for their music. £5 for everything they've ever done is a hell of a lot more than they currently make so why not go down that road.
In an age when I can carry around 20k albums in my pocket, the value must readjust itself to that if things are to go legit. Otherwise people keep taking it for free. Who has about £200k in the other pocket to pay £10 each for all those albums ..... only the RC execs, that who!