Readers' Letters: Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, and more...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Rick Herron writes...

Unfortunately in a capitalist society those who control the means of production call the shots. This is no less so than in the entertainment and especially the music world.

Because record companies own the means to mass produce and distribute CDs and own the mechanical rights they are able to command the attention of lawmakers. Lawmakers in turn pass legislation to favor the hand that feeds them.

Because of the issue of downloading and sharing of music from the internet those companies that facilitated this had to submit to the record labels to avoid costly lawsuits against them and or their subscribers. So control inevitably reverted to the record companies soon after this new internet distribution system came into play.

In my opinion the only way that this hold on the share of profits from sale of music will be broken is the day that songwriters, producers and musicians control or own a large segment of the music being downloaded from the internet. If the large record companies begin to loose control of much of the mechanical rights to the music out there then change may come about.

Because of the improving quality of home and project studio recording and because of the introduction of new distribution vehicles such as Guarageband some control may be starting to change hands.

Rick Herron

In response to Well, could *you* hear the difference? Could you??, Carlos writes...


Is there any way you could send me the schematic to the pre-amp on this web page:

I would like to try building one!


RP response: Here...

In response to Background vocals made easy. Really!, Cat writes...

I liked the article, Always informative. I tried recording background vocals with one singer and it came out terrible. I don't know if it was me or if they couldn't get their harmony right.

They were out of key and their timing was off. This is one topic I would like to discuss in depth, because i need help in getting my background vocals tight.

In response to Latest round of insults for David Mellor - has this become a competition?, Kevin Cornwell writes...

Dearest Mr. Record-Producer,

I've read with great glee your precious interactions with Mr Big Rock(s). And I must say, that in all regards he is correct. I am, without equivocation, the finest sound man on the planet. I don't need you, or some paper on the wall to prove it either. How can you possibly think in the darkest moment of your distressing life that Mr. Rocks is incorrect when he states, "An engineer should know how thier equipment works and how it sounds... ." You, sir, cannot possibly be able to spell 'engineer'. Speaking of spelling, the fact that I know how to 'color' my sound with every crayon in my apron speaks volumes more than your measly 25 years of so-called 'experience'. The fact that you 'colour' your sound shows you've got too many fingers on the keyboard. I know, I know, I'm flaming you and probably even insulting you. You shouldn't be, though since Mr. Big clearly states that it's all 'fair game'. Being a vegetarian, I have little interest in how you treat the animal kingdom. But, I do care how you treat a Neumann microphone. Plugging it with a $5 TI chip... What is THAT! You, sir have insulted the Audio Kingdom! Of course the Shure sounded better - cheap GOES with cheap! Where's your 'experience now? Huh? Huh? I'm sorry to have to kick you when you're down, but I'll bet you're feeling pretty silly now. To sound properly COLORED, a Neumann must be paired with an equally high-end piece (Maria Sharapova would do nicely) - sorry, couldn't resist the wit there - Pair it with a... oh forget it, you probably couldn't pronounce the german name correctly anyway. You know what your problem is? Well here it is... You're an Old Fart! (oh wait, that was just my Huevos Ranchos letting go...)

With all due respect to you and your Rocks,


"I've never heard a better studio between my ears than my own"

PS - I hope this has cheered your day even a tad. Don't be insulted by stupidity, it's a waste of your time and intellect. The rest of us can spot stupid without a spotting scope, so don't worry, let it go, do something useful like educate more girls... (seriously)

In response to Open up your mic and preamp, take out the connectors and solder the cable directly. Discuss.., Ron Hoag writes...

It is true that the best way to record is direct. That is the simple, so why stop there? Take away all input devices and solder directly to the last stage of amplification to the recording input device. This will eliminate the "MIDDLE MAN".

The reason we don't, is convenience. It is possible to do all the E.Q. at other stages of control. I would hate to have to carry a soldering iron on my hip at each recording gig!

Ron Hoag

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Anthony Galatis writes...

Hi There

I am writing with reference to your article "Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents." I am a songwriter and would like to know who (if anyone) is fighting for our rights with companies like Apple. The RIAA is representing record companies. Who is representing us and how can we, the writers, contribute to this cause?

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Natie writes...

It seems like that however we want things to change it goes further and further into the abyss of a losing battle.

Where there is a lot of money to be made you will find the shred business people that can milk it for all its worth. ea. petrol,diamonds,gold and alas MUSIC.

For us the producers,songwriters and musos it would take a lot of us to make a stand, meaning a whole lot of us over the world should take a stand against this type of abuse and work together. This however is easier said than done.

To do anything takes money, even having a site up that gets people together to the same cause.

But something should be done, and according to me something can be done. Maybe start a few groups and get people together in every country in accessable sites like myspace and facebook.

only some ideas

kind regards


In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Ste writes...

That's just total disrepect to artists, they're just getting used and half of them probably don't realise it. But when was music all about money? What happened to the music and it's inspiration on everyone? I'm currently in a band myself writing our own songs, recording and playing gigs and personally I don't care whether we get paid or not I'm just happy knowing that I have fun doing it and entertain other people at the same time, isn't that what music is all about?

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Mike' "LfO MoFo" writes...

It's a shame to see this! I am a producer and altough i want to do it as a job i just did it for passion so far! i have many tunes ready and was thinking to get in contact with a record label or either start selling my stuff on itunes or beatport but u get really taken down hearing these things! when the internet started kicking off with tune selling websites it all seemed a revolution for musicians and some had their benefits but it was just a dream. if you think how much time artist and producers spend creating their pieces and how little they get out of it its embarassing! No wonder why prince and radiohead are giving their albums away almost for free...they are probably making more money that way and are not ripping fans off...i got lot of respect for that! i think as artists/producers we should come up with a comunity to help each other promoting our space is a great way but not enough probably.

Which way shall I take ? let my self in the shade of the market producing stuff just for a personal pleasure or letting company ripping me off as everyone did?

Please record producer editor....could you please address me in the right way....make an article explaining how artists should deal with this?


RP response: We'll see what we can do...

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Adrienne writes...

How do they think they can do that? if someone dont write the song then there is not music at all so why are they doing that? Maybe song writers should boycot and they will learn? I write songs and i know how hard it is to come up with good ones. and i sing my music and im trying to learn how to play the guitar and im still have a hard time but thats what I want to do with my life is music so you got to work hard and your dream will come true

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Mjteix writes...

Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents

It's not Apple iTunes that says this, it is the record companies/labels. If you are an independant artist, you get 70-80¢ per download from iTunes, depending on the country you reside in.

So get your facts right, and point the finger at whom deserves it !


RP response: Our facts are correct. Both the RIAA and DiMA (Apple is a member of DiMA) are calling for a reduction in the songwriter royalty.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Greg writes...

The songs are not worthless..the record company people are crooks. They have always been crooks.. They know the value of the songs and are carving out the lion's share of the profits for themselves.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Martin Carrieres writes...

That's amazing!! 0.03$ for a song!! ridiculous. if .25$ is what the performer, producer and performer then we should be able to get directly to the artist website and pay directly to them for a download, like a donationware programe... hey 0.25$ x 15 songs = 3.75$ isn't that marely enaugh?? i would prefer, by far, download "illegaly" their song and directly give them 5$ for the album. first it would be cheaper for me and they would get more for the effort they had put in.

Unbelivable what compagny can do to make more money.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Jerry Muhammad writes...

We can collectivize (as songwriters) and raise so much hell the culprit of this idea may reconsider or engage in war, OR educate songwriters about the record company business and encourage they learn how to own and operate one to keep thier earnings in the family...

In response to How to record a 50-strong choir and piano accompaniment with just five mics, Joe Hannigan writes...

I'd do it a little differently; use two mics in the center of the choir, set fairly high up, looking down across the middle, set for cardioid in an ORTF pattern, and move two further out, set in omni mode as flanks, to get the entire ensemble. (Both should be on the same stage line of sight, however, relative to front/back)

I'd put the last mic on the piano in cardioid (or perhaps even omni, depending on the lid open or closed, how close to the choir, positon onstage, etc. For accompaniment (and stereo omni's used elsewhere) you can cheat a little here with the piano. It is, after all, just the accompaniment. (Spoken as a former Grade school & HS choir/glee club accompanist. ;-)

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Jimi Experienced writes...

There is a saying thats been around for generations and will always hold true. If you want to make money in the music business "don't play music". Its an adage that will hold true to the end of time. Why do you think the most successful artists re-did cover tunes? The track your on might appeal to the younger generation or the not so educated in the music business but not for the veterans.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Dale Lee writes...

100% of nothing is nothing! The greatest song sung in the deep woods isn't heard by anyone. Anybody can write a song. Anyone can sing a song. It takes a corporation to get the word out,to be the channel between the songwriter and the public.

This is a sad fact but very true.

It's no easy task to keep track of royalties and assure that the monies get into the hands of the writer etc.

Radiohead's experiment wouldn't have worked if they were not already well known. And their idea was so startling that it garnished media attention to their site.

A better question would be, what can we writers do to escape from this black hole developed by the old record companies. Let's put our heads together and form a better, do-able idea!

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Tom Ghent writes...

I suppose that the way to deal with this is for ALL writers, producers,and artists to have only indie label affiliations which would elimenate the riaa from the picture. This would then create the need for a coalition of indie labels which could negotiate a more realistic, and hopefully fair, distribution of the download rate. Of course, apple's take would also have to be negotiated to make this work for everyone concerned. This still will require that a realistic "bottom line" royalty rate most be set, perhaps with the help of the copyrite laws,to deal with covers released on labels other than those directly affiliated with the writer. T.G.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Simon Huxtable writes...

That is just an appalling example of how songwiters are traeted by the big companies. Have they forgotten that without new talent there would't be a friggin itunes etc. its not them who make the songs aftger all. Maybe strike action etc should be considered.

In response to Does the polar pattern of your microphone matter?, Tom Ghent writes...

As those who have read my previous rants may remember, I am a big believer in great room acoustics to facilitate great recordings. Although there are those who feel that protools and dsp are an acceptable replacement for good mics, great mic placement, and well constructed rooms, I still think the latter has the sonic edge hands down. What does all this have to do with mic polar patterns? Well, in spite of the fact that there are many wonderful cardioid mics, many vocals and instruments benifit greatly from the air given them by a more open pattern (I personally like fig 8 and often mid/side confguratins utilizing both cardioid and fiq 8) when used in conjunction with a great room environment. I have friends who have tried to circumvent the time,cost, and trouble reqired to build a great recording space by useing some of these wrap-around mic screens. Although I suppose no ambience is better than bad ambience, you really cannot replace the benefits of multi-pattern mics used in great sounding studios. Every home should have one!!! T.G.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, David Of Daze writes...

If scriptwriters can strike then why not songwriters? The big earners need to combine their power here and start to dictate terms around pricing that is fairer to everyone concerned.

In response to GarageBand is killing music!, Jimi Sellars writes...

I used to spend ours composing backround music for radio commercials that the people did not really listen to anyway. Now I can put it together much faster and spend more time writing the music I enjoy.

Using drum loops has made my writing much easier and quicker. I can get the basic tracks down and then bring the drummer in later when we track the song.

Loops are just another tool. When you used your sampler you were copying someone's music and looping it back then.

Last but not least I use Garageband or Acid soft instruments and play the parts with my controller and use no loops sometimes. That would be composing, playing the whole deal.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Tom Schoblocher 5By5 Recording Studio writes...

Obviously this is not about control but about money. What needs to be done is the RIAA should be dismantled, iTunes needs to be regulated and more open to other devices and the Government needs to evaluate the industry and implement Fair Musician Cut regulations. Musicians and indie studios need to continue selling inb other venues, private web site and CDBaby distribution.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Diamondjim writes...

Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss. The revolution is over.

What should we do? Boycott Apple, and iTunes in particular.

Set up your own web sites for download, and network with other like minded souls, crosslink, promote each other.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Drew writes...

I tunes has nothing to do with distribution of royalties to songwriters Our label has all our albums on I tunes and all the money comes to us and it's up to our artist contracts to pay royalties to them..


RP response: Thank you for your input. However the statutory royalty rate in the USA is 9.1 cents per song, and the RIAA and DiMA (of which Apple is a member) wants to reduce that.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Nyilah writes...

As a songwriter/performer just looking at putting my songs on itunes I am horrified at this knowledge you have provided and wonder if there is any point. I am curious as to who pockets the rest of the money and why creativity is viewed so lowly!

A disillusioned Nyilah

RP response: The label gets most of the money. Take the label out of the equation and you will get a much better deal.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Fetti G writes...

I am selling music on iTunes and my partner and I receive 70% of the money generated from sales. You getting your numbers confused. The typical 9.1 percent pay out to writers is an outdated figure from the old days of recording. There are other deals out there. It is the responsibility of an artist in this day and time to find a source of revenue that allows you to continue making music, if thats what you really love. What do you really get out of bashing iTunes. Besides, the recording industry has always taken advantage of artists, and artists forget that to properly distribute and promote music to a level that cuases social impact costs millions of dollars, which artists don't usually have. If it does happen, your probably partnering with someone. In which case you can be sure, they will have their hand out

RP response: No, we're not confused in the slightest. The article is about songwriter royalties. If you wrote a song and it was covered by an artist signed to a major label, you would get the level of royalty described in the article. You probably wouldn't be very happy to get a mere 9.1 cents per download, and even less happy to get the lower rate that the RIAA and DiMA (of which Apple is a member) propose.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Pete LeRoy writes...

This is not unusual in the creative arts environment. Say you're a young but talented artist, with your reputation improving with every canvas you paint. A local gallery offers you your first show. You get 20 of your best paintings ready. You pay for the framing. You pay for the trucking to the gallery. You pay for the printing of the invitations. You pay for the umpteen bottles of wine and snacks for the anticipated patrons. And then for every painting you sell at the gallery, the owner takes 66% and you get the rest. Isn't that great..? A man provides 12 white walls and lighting and he takes two thirds of the sales, after you pay for the peripherals.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Charles Mauk, 701 KLIK writes...

I get 2/3rds of the 99 cents through tunecore. I'm on i-tunes, e-music, amazon, etc. Is there something I don't know, or do people just not know about what I know about?

RP response: You're getting paid as artist, producer and label as well as being the songwriter. If another artist covers your song, all they have to pay you is 9.1 cents currently.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Scott writes...

Screw Apple/Itunes, there are enough other avenues that we don't need to cut them in any longer. If you know how to market yourself you'll be making enough that they will want part of the share and would have to work for it.

Not always necessary either, The Cars for example did all their own busines as well as did Pink Floyd handle much of the business end of their music. I believe I remember them selling their rights back to themselves back when The Wall came out and I believe they made a 12 million dollar profit, so you tell me.

They are doing what they are doing because they are losing their butts on distribution right now, many unknown unsigned people a taking away the profits they once enjoyed because the public got sick of having to buy landfill on records just to make a buck and fill space.

BS! I say let's stick it tho these clowns! Just record pimps, that's all they are! We can pimp our own music thank you very much!

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Charley writes...

Perhaps the song writers could go on strike? Like the TV/Movie/script writers etc have just done.

HA! Imagine that! No COMMERCIAL radio for just a day would really make people rethink the value of the music they listen to on the way to work or out at nightclubs etc. Although most ppl I know really do appreciate music and purchase online thinking they're doing the right thing. So perhaps it comes back to independant lables after all? Have big artists go thru small labels for a while? Give the big guns a jolt of reality. Dunno really. But thats a REALLY bad deal they're getting right now, so somethings gotta give.

In response to - can they really get you signed?, ANON writes...

Who is this article written by?

Why is it here?

My guess is its written by themselves and is a paid advertisement. I have had first hand experience with them. The thing is some of the reviews and advise is good and some of it is totally a matter of personal taste or inconstancy I was finding with the company. And thats what i came to realize. For example, I submitted a show reel for a listing asking for music for film and television, it was pretty specific and i know i hit the nail on the head. They sent me a reply saying the tracks i sent weren't good enough. Then another time i submitted a track for another listing asking for love song Rock Ballads of all types.

So i submitted just that and got rejected, with a lame reason, basically it wasn't emotional enough. So, I submitted it again to a listing asking for the same thing, only this time they loved it. Basically totally contradicted the last review. The final straw was when after having many, many forwards and no response from the record labels my music was supposedly forwarded to, i decided to make some calls. I spoke to many departments within all the labels I have called and they claimed they don't use taxi, or a few said they get so many demo's they never even listen to taxi's stuff! So, maybe taxi need to rethink their structure and encor[arate some kind of follow up into their services. I did recommend this to them after I resigned my membership and their response was that record companies wouldn't ask them again if they hounded them for responses! All this being said their was some great advise you can gain from the taxi reviews if your willing to pay the price.

As a result of doing the work and sending out my stuff by myself, I now have produced artists that have gotten signed with Major Labels, and sing songs I have co-wrote. And I also have a publishing contract where my songs get placed in TV shows. Let this encourage you to be confident in your own music and you'll find your breaks!

RP response: Thank you for sharing your experience. FYI, Audio Masterclass does not accept payment for content.

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Aaron Rowan writes...

Thank you! Thank you for talking about this. You made some really valid points!

In response to The shocking truth about working in pro recording studios, Paz Brennan writes...

To the kid who wrote the shocking truth about working in pro recording studios. Mate, deal with it! Thats life! i'v done my duty in studios as tea boy. I remember when i was 16,i commented on the kick drum sound, and the engineer turned to me and said 'shutup. your W.E (work experience), and he was darn right.

Men in studios, with technology, big mixing desks, power etc etc breeds an ego, some people in this industry are cool and dont get that, and some get ti really bad. They way i'v learnt to deal with it, is if i get the impression someone is like that, just don't fuck them off. It really isnt in your interest. Ok, so i know the thing about the synth was a bit harsh, but If somone is paying X amount for a day to record an album which is probably going to flop, and currently their compleatly skint, but trying to keep up some rock n roll facade, does it really suprise you that they dont want the one who makes their tea to comment on their music?

Also remember that the ones your making tea for........ also made the tea.

Mines white with 1 please

In response to Why would you ever want to place a microphone behind the instrument?, Dan Fackler writes...

As a professional horn player, I hope the 'front-firing' horn NEVER appears. The horn is unique in acoustic because not only does it play to the rear, but the body of the player becomes the extension, or 'end correction' of the air column! The player's right hand is actually inserted into the bell(a subject for several books...) and the ribcage completes the end correction. Intonation is honed by small movements of the right hand as well. As mentioned in the article, horn plays the whole space, depending on reflected sound for much of its tonal character.

A 'front-firing' horn would make the right hand technique impossible(without a redesigned right wrist...), and the removal or significant reduction of the reflected sound would make it an entirely new instrument.

Recording the horn accurately is really something of a holy grail. One of my friends is an audio engineer for National Public Radio, and in his estimation, "Horn is an OUTdoor instrument we must record INdoors!"

RP response: Hmm, valid comments. Perhaps if someone did invent the 'front firing' horn, it would go the way of Giles Brindley's 'logical' bassoon and never be heard of again. But it would be interesting though...

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, Rik Davidson writes...

It all went wrong in the 1970's when Pete Frampton showed big business how much potential money was in music. Since then the music industry has comprised of overpaid gatekeepers and lawyers all vying for a larger slice of the true talent's pie.

How do we fix it? Simple, create an independant collective that works for the good of the artists because it's run by the artists.

Simplistic it may sound but the only way to throw off the shackles of the oppressor is through collective action.

In response to Why the Digidesign ICON mixing console is the new SSL, Shawn Sullivan writes...

what a load of rubbish!

RP response: Thank you for your input. Now if you would tell us why you think either the ICON or the article is rubbish, or possibly both, then we might make progress...

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