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Analysis

COVID-19: Album sales at an all-time low, but video content is booming

Sales were down 29% the week ending March 19 – the lowest in US history.

MBN Staff

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Lil Uzi Vert currently has the No. 1 album on Billboard 200
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Story Highlights

  • The week ending March 19 saw a 29% decrease in album sales.
  • Adele’s ’25’ sold over double in its open week what every album in the U.S. sold combined.
  • YouTube streams have increased.

Over the past few weeks, music has undoubtedly been used as a source of entertainment and unity whilst the world continues await the end of the COVID-19 crisis. As millions across the globe have now been subject to ‘stay-at-home’ orders enforced by local and national governments to help slow the spread of coronavirus, artists have been able to use music to ‘uplift’ their fans by putting on ‘live concerts’ via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. One form of music consumption that has not been on the incline in the midst of this pandemic, though, is albums.

According to Billboard, album sales for the week ending March 19, 2020 saw a 29% decrease. Despite new releases from One Direction’s Niall Horan and Jay Electronica (a ‘semi-joint’ debut project with Jay Z), this brought the total number of albums sold down to a record-breaking low of 1.52million – the lowest weekly sales ever reported in the United States. To put this in perspective, Adele’s 2015 blockbuster album ’25’ sold 3.38million copies in its first week – meaning it singlehandedly sold more than double what every single album was able to shift in the U.S. this week, combined. 

Just last week, Music Business Worldwide reported that streams on Spotify had fallen by 11% during the week of March 13 – 19 – the same week album sales feel by 29%. This is despite a good number of the public spending most of their time being confined to their homes. YouTube activity, however, had increased – as did activity on social media (seemingly), with many artists live-streaming music performances from their homes. Thus, a lack of ‘traditional’ music consumption on Spotify and DSPs, may not necessarily be a case of consumers not engaging with music – but rather steering much more strongly towards music associated with visual interaction.

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Niall Horan released his sophomore solo studio album 'Heartbreak Weather' on March 13 via Capitol Records

Earlier this week, we mentioned the success of DJ D-Nice’s’Quarantine Parties’ – hosted via Instagram. The Bronx native and former rapper went live several times, playing over 8 hours of music to an audience of what ended up being upwards of 150,000 and included Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Drake and Joe Biden. 

In addition to a potential preference of visual content, there could be a number of other factors at play as to why both audio sales and streaming have taken a recent dip – including a lack of motivation to spend funds on non-essential products (i.e. music) during a time of employment uncertainty for many, which could have affected record sales. Also, there have been few releases over the past two weeks that have had ‘major’ marketing campaigns – this may be down to the difficulty of being able to ‘sensitively’ and ‘tastefully’ cut through the noise of the ‘coronavirus media takeover’ that has captured the world’s attention. Additionally, it is likely consumers are focusing much of their time on keeping up with the latest news than they are listening to new music as they would during their regular routines (which could explain why visual/social media content is currently receiving increased traction).

Last week aside, however, album sales are not doing as terribly as the above may make it seem. So far in 2020, overall album sales are down 8.3% year-to-date (consistent with the year-on-year decline the industry has been seeing for years). Within that figure, physical album sales are up 1.9% in comparison to the figures from this time last year – mainly due to a 42% year-to-date increase in vinyl sales. It should be noted, though, that none of these figures include streaming numbers – so the generic decline in sales is certainly not a reason why Spotify counts have decreased.

We previously reported just how bad COVID-19 has impacted the Indian Music Industry. Time will tell just how much of an impact it will have on the recorded music market in the U.S. 

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
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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
4 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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