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Analysis

It takes less than fifty sales to get an iTunes Top 10 in a major music market

Is it time to scrap traditional sales altogether?

MBN Staff

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iTunes
3 min read
  • iTunes France Top 10 contained sales of all under 200 copies.
  • Releases included Roddy Ricch, Katy Perry and The Weeknd.

The next time some tells you they went to #1 on iTunes, you might want to ask them a couple of questions. Like, on ‘which chart’ and in ‘which country’ – and perhaps even go as far as to inquire how well they’re fairing on Spotify.

In a world where streaming is “king”, I think it’s safe to say most people are aware that the industry climate has shifted. In short, sales aren’t what they used to be. Some may say they have simply been ‘redefined’ and are now mostly calculated by streaming equivalent units – which is mostly true. But, regardless of how you view it, I think a few may still be surprised at just how few sales it takes to accomplish a #1 hit on the biggest digital music retailer in today’s world.

Roddy Ricch

According to estimates by digitalsalesdata.com dating March 6th 2020, almost half of the Top 10 selling singles on iTunes France (one of the largest music markets in the world) sold less than 50 copies in order to secure the coveted feat – calculated over the previous 24hr period. This included recent releases by Katy Perry, Roddy Ricch, and The Weeknd. Of course, this excludes streaming numbers, but it does give perspective on just how drastically the world of digital music has changed. It also adds fuels to the rumors that Apple will soon be removing their music store platform altogether – which is doubtful, but not totally far-fetched.

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CREDIT: digitalsalesdata.com

For the sake of comparison, on the same day, Roddy Ricch‘s ‘The Box’ (which sold an estimated 67 copies on iTunes France in the past 24hrs) accumulated 220,000 streams on Spotify France during the same time frame – equivalent to 1500 download sales.

CREDIT: spotifycharts.com

Apple do not release actual sales data to the public, thus, all stats found on digitalsalesdata.com are merely estimates. Furthermore, Apple is also infamous for being very vague on how their charts are compiled. It is understood that the iTunes Charts are based on a set of non-disclosed algorithms that go beyond just sales alone. This is why it is in fact possible to sell zero copies of a releases and have it remain in the iTunes Charts during their update cycle.

Analysis

Twinkie Clark’s publishing catalog worth millions, says Attorney

Twinkie’s songwriter journey was recently depicted in Lifetime TV Biopic ‘The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel’.

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The Clark Sisters at the 19th Annual BET Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
7 min read

Story Highlights

  • The Clark Sisters’ story was recently depicted in a Lifetime movie biopic.
  • Attorney James L. Walker, Jr. recaptured Twinkie Clark’s publishing rights after she sold her catalog for a car.

Gospel Music Legends The Clark Sisters have recently seen a huge resurgence in interest and popularity. On April 11, the faith-based music icons saw their story told in more detail than it has ever been – as their first biopic ‘The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel’ aired on Lifetime TV. Produced by Dr. Holly Carter (alongside Grammy Award Winning Artists Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah) – the initial broadcast captured an audience of a 2.7 million, and closed out with 11 million total (after repeat airs and DVR ratings came in).

The movie told the lives of sisters Denise, Jacky, Elbernita (otherwise known as Twinkie), Dorinda and Karen – their rise to fame, and everything in between. One of the highlights, from a music business perspective, was the sale of Twinkie’s publishing catalog.

It is unknown exactly how accurate the Lifetime movie depiction was, as a number of scenes have been disputed by Larry Clark (son of Denise) and Twinkie’s former husband Johnny Terrrell. However, with the Clarks themselves being listed as Producers – and Executive Producer Dr. Holly Carter already having a working relationship with the family – one can assume most of the events were not too far from the truth.

'The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel' Cast - From Left to Right: Aunjanue Ellis (Dr. Mattie Moss Clark), Kierra Sheard (Karen Clark Sheard), Angela Birchett (Jacky Cullum Chisholm), Raven Goodwin (Denise Clark Bradford), Christina Bell (Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark-Terrell), Shelea Frazier (Dorinda Clark Cole)

During their earlier days, Twinkie was the sole songwriter for The Clark Sisters – penning several hit songs for the group. The biggest of these was ‘You Brought The Sunshine’ – from the 1981 album of the same name. The single became a crossover hit, landing a Top 20 Spot on Billboard’s R&B Charts and a Top 30 spot on its Dance Club Songs listing.

It has been claimed that the single and album achieved a Gold certification – for sales in the excess of 500,000. Music Biz Nation was unable to verify either claim using the RIAA database – which lists U.S. gold and platinum certifications awarded as far back as 1958. We did, however, reach out to RIAA for comment, but had not heard back at the time of writing. At present, we can verify that the single had sold at least 200,000 within the two years following its release, according to a 1985 article in Billboard Magazine.

At some point during this era, according to the movie – Twinkie sold her publishing catalog to Michigan-based Bridgeport Music (which was given a fictitious name in the film) in exchange for a Lincoln Continental. Of course, the car selected for the scene may have not been the exact same as what was exchanged in the actual deal. However, if we are to assume it was of similar luxury status – that particular vehicle retailed for around $24,000 in 1979 – close to the time when Twinkie made the deal. In today’s money, that would be equal to $85,000.

The interesting part is, according to a calculated estimation by Music Biz Nation, the success of “You Brought The Sunshine” possibly made Twinkie’s catalog worth at least $400,000 to $450,000 from that release alone – more than 5x what it was sold for. It was later worth ‘millions’.

...artists and songwriters have lost millions of dollars by giving up their publishing

James L. Walker, Jr., Esq.

Music Biz Nation spoke with James L. Walker, Esq. –  the Atlanta-based Entertainment Attorney who worked with Twinkie to recapture her rights five years ago. Walker was not working Twinkie when she initially sold her catalog, but did say that “generally speaking artists and songwriters have lost millions of dollars by giving up their publishing“.

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When discussing the amount of publishing money made from record sales, Walker shared that “one song on a gold album is worth about $50,000“. Meaning, if it is true that the 8-song ‘You Brought The Sunshine’ album did achieve Gold status, Twinkie’s catalog on that release would have been worth $400,000 from record sales alone. This does not include additional income generated from the success of the lead single.

We also discussed the impact of the radio success and other types of revenue. Walker stated that “a hit song is worth well over a millions dollars, if it’s promoted right“. MBN asked if he would place “You Brought The Sunshine” (single) in that category – to which Walker confidently responded “oh, yes“.

'You Brought The Sunshine', The Clark Sisters

Later in the conversation, Walker was asked how he was able to get Twinkie’s rights back. He shared: “There’s what we call ‘the copyright act’, and with the copyright act the writer is allowed to reclaim their rights in the 35th year of the assignment“.

The world of publishing in gospel music slightly differs to that in the mainstream. Being a niche genre, gospel generally does not generate nearly as much as pop or hip hop music in revenue. To give context, it often takes less than 5,000 equivalent albums sales to land a #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. Grammy-nominated Artist Travis Greene topped the list last November, shifting just 3,000 units.

Though sales may not be where the money is at for the faith-based genre, Walker stated that ‘sampling’ is another income stream for many of its artists. Referring to Gospel Acts, he said: “Their music is used – people sample it. Jay Z sampled Twinkie’s song“.

Because Twinkie now owns her rights, she was able to claim 50% of publishing revenue when Jay-Z sampled her composition on his 2017 single release ‘Family Feud’. This 50% meant Twinkie owns a bigger share and made more publishing money from the record than lead artist Jay Z himself (and co-writer Beyonce, combined).

Twinkie Clark, the only BMI-registered composer on the song, owns 50% of "Family Feud" publishing share.

Outside of this example, Gospel Music has had a solid history of being sampled by mainstream artists. In the past year alone, Mary Mary’s most popular hit “Shackles” (a UK Top 10 and US Top 40) was sampled by BRIT Award Winning Rapper Stormzy on his UK #1 album “Heavy Is The Head”, and most recently by Lecrae and YK Osiris. Kirk Franklin was also sampled on Daniel Caeser’s ‘Freudian’ album.

Twinkie Clark now owning the rights to her work with The Clark Sisters means she will also receive revenue from her songs being used the Lifetime Biopic. The day following the premiere, the sisters received the largest amount of daily YouTube views since at least 2018.

The Clark Sisters, DEMAND - YouTube
The Clark Sisters received over 150,000 YouTube views on April 11, 2020. MBN research via Demand

There was also a huge spike in google searches for tickets to see them live, according to Music Industry Platform ‘DEMAND’.

The Clark Sisters, DEMAND - Google
Google searches related to live shows and tickets for The Clark Sisters reached its peak on April 12, 2020. MBN Research via Demand.

The Clark Sisters’ latest release ‘The Return’ was released on March 13, 2020.

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Analysis

A.R.M.S. has delivered $1.6m in unpaid royalties to artists since 2018

ARMS (Artist Royalty and Music Services) was launched in 2016 by producer David Salas.

MBN Staff

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Young Buck (of G-Unit), A.R.M.S. client
3 min read

Story Highlights

  • A.R.M.S. was launched in 2016 by producer David Salas.
  • The company has collected unclaimed royalties for The Chi-Lites, Young Buck (G-Unit), Fobia, Tierra, and Bobby Day.

Family-owned royalty collection agency ARMS (Artist Royalty and Music Services) announced today that they have successfully delivered $1.6million in unpaid royalties to artists and rights holders over the last two years. Founded by longtime music producer David Salas, the company’s unique model is one that favors the client. As opposed to paying any fees upfront, ARMS takes a backend commission on any royalties collected on behalf of rights holders.

According to the company’s website, David Salas (and wife Daphee) started ARMS to track down his father’s lost royalty payments. David is the son of Rudy Salas, former member of latin soul group El Chicano and co-founder of latin R&B group Tierra (along with his brother Steve).

Unaware to many, streamlining royalty payments – from processing to payouts – is not always as straightforward as what might assume it ‘should’ be. In many cases, artists never receive the royalties they are due – often referred to as ‘Black Box Royalties’. This occurs when a performer, writer, label or publisher cannot be properly traced – leaving their royalties unallocated.

It may be hard to understand how this can even happen in today’s world – but it does. One of the most common and substantial ways is with streaming services. Platforms like Spotify pay an upfront licensing fee to labels for the use of their catalogs for a limited period.

Spotify

If, however, the label’s catalog earns less in royalties on the platform than what was paid to them upfront before the contract ends, the ‘loose change’ ends up being unallocated.

Additionally, you still find cases where artists have not registered with the necessary collection societies, internationally – or the metadata on file is incorrect. In this case, the society does not know who to pay so the funds are held until they are sought out. This is where ARMS comes in.

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The company was launched in 2016, and has worked to collect royalties for The Chi-Lites, Young Buck (G-Unit), Fobia, Tierra, Bobby Day (“Rockin Robin”) and more.

ICYMI:

Most artists and even actors or voice over artists are not aware that they can receive royalties from their actual performance, like the hook, as a feature, as a band member etc”, said Salas.

Most artists and even actors or voice over artists are not aware that they can receive royalties from their actual performance

David Salas (CEO, Artist Royalty and Music Services)

Most royalties traditionally had gone to songwriters, publishers or the label but international streaming royalties are different and we help make sense of it all.”

To ensure artists are not shortchanged by their services, ARMS does not process any royalties they collect on behalf of performers or rights holders. Instead, the company has the collection society make the cheques payable to the client – who then pays ARMS a pre-agreed commission.

To that end, Salas added: “Being a musician myself, I know it’s hard to trust people in the music business, so I built this company with the premise that transparency would be absolute and our role would be hands-on. We are a small company with big ambitions.“

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