Informationisbeautiful-224x119For a musician to earn a meager living (defined here as a minimum wage of $1,160 a month), how many self-pressed CDs do they have to sell out of the back of a truck every month? If they have a record deal and their music is listed on a subscription service like Rhapsody (a former employer of mine), how many streams do they have to generate to take home the same amount? David McCandless, author of the book The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World's Most Consequential Trivia, has published detailed statistics for musicians (included below). What if we had these same numbers for filmmakers?

First let's look at a crop of the musician infographic (the entire image is at the bottom of the post because it's so long):


The column on the right is a bit confusing; it's a pie chart of the total profit from a sale. So for a $10 self-pressed CD, the pink (artist) slice is only $8 because the CD presser took $2; for a retail album sale neither the gray (record label) nor pink slice are very large because the CD presser, shipper, and brick-and-mortar store collectively took home the majority of the sale.

The statistics show, if you're a musician, to make a barely livable wage, every month you need to do one of the following (I've indicated in parenthesis if this is independently or under contract to a record label):

  • Sell 150 CDs yourself (no label)
  • Sell 1,200 albums through iTunes (label)
  • Sell 1,500 tracks through CDbaby (no label)
  • Sell 12,000 tracks through Amazon MP3 (label)
  • Stream 850,000 tracks through Rhapsody (label)
  • Stream 1.5 million tracks through (label)

Now, the key of course is to take more than one approach, so that a few self-sold albums, several hundred track sales on iTunes, and a bunch of streams all add up to collectively keep the lights on. I also suspect some of this information is dated (though he only published this last month) because some indie distributors today aren't taking as aggressive a cut of sales as "traditional" labels. Here's the full infographic, which illustrates in no uncertain terms why most folks feel that the music itself is just a loss-leader these days for profits from live shows and licensing:


I'd love to see this graphic created for filmmakers with theatrical, DVD, TV rights, VOD, download-to-own, etc. illustrated in the same way. Unfortunately I don't have much to add yet, but this is why I've started sharing analytics. Sooner or later these analytics will be film-related instead of (or in addition to) blog-related numbers.

[image by David McCandless at Information is Beautiful]