Tim Quirk was the front man for a 90’s alt rock band called Too Much Joy. Back in high school and college, they were one of my favorite bands. My friend Jeremy and I met him at a music festival in San Diego one time and he invited us to the club they were playing that night as guests of the band. I’ve got a signed copy of their first CD, Green Eggs and Crack and their album Cereal Killers is one of my all time favorites.

In this post on the Too Much Joy blog, Tim takes a look at the royalty statement he was able to cajole out of Warner Bros. Apparently, TMJ is what’s known as an “unrecouped” band. An unrecouped band is one who hasn’t earned back the advance they received from the label. It doesn’t mean that the label didn’t make money off them (as Tim explains in his post), it just means they didn’t make a lot of money off them.

The recouped earnings come from the bands share so if there’s an advance of $450k, and the label sells 45,000 albums at $10 wholesale, they pretty much made their money back. But if those albums retail for $15, the band pays back their $5ish towards the recouped costs. So while the label is even on the deal, the band shows an unrecouped balance of about $362k. By the way, I just learned all this this morning and found it fascinating.

What’s interesting about this post is that Tim now works for Rhapsody, so he’s got an insiders view about how these things work. When he received his statement it showed digital revenues of $62.47. Having access to some data, he found this to be pretty ridiculous.

If you’re interested in how the music industry works, this is a worthwhile read. Especially the statements about how “$10,000 is nothing” and how recouped and unrecouped bands get treated differently by the labels.

I think there’s also a parallel to entrepreneurship here. When you’re starting out, $10,000 is a big deal. Collecting what you’re owed is a big deal. And when you’ve got a customer for who $10,000 is nothing, it’s frustrating because $10,000 pays the bills for a month. I imagine for a band trying to get by, it’s just as frustrating, if not more.