Behind the Record Company Curtain: Costs Part II

I believe it’s important to know a little bit about the value proposition behind the music you purchase…at least in the audiophile world. A couple of days ago, I wrote Part I about the costs associated with making an entirely new production. A new production means you start with nothing except an idea. Compilations and remastered music are different and much, much cheaper to produce and release.

Here’s the continuation of the post:

Then there’s the cost of printing, replication, packaging, shipping, and distribution. Everything costs money. The actual cost of goods for a typical Blu-ray disc – including all of the things mentioned above – is around $15 per unit, if you think you’re going to sell 2000 copies. This business is brutal and it’s no wonder that little audiophile labels like mine struggle to stay viable. I have to sell at least 2000 copies of each record to break even. That’s not too hard when you have a name artist like Jennifer Warnes or even John McEuen. But it’s not so easy when the artists are relatively unknown or the genre is out of the audiophile wheelhouse.

After you’ve got the package in hand, there’s a black hole that you can pour money into for promotion, social media campaigns and free copies to reviewers. I try to limit my outlay when it comes to independent promoters and search engine optimization people. Instead, I show up at trades and try to make people aware of my productions through this blog, my FB page, and by word of mouth (which can be very powerful), which has been the primary driving force behind the success of AIX Records.

Artists on AIX Records make money from song publishing and royalties. If they wrote the song, there’s publishing money paid on each track of each unit produced and sold. Once I’ve recouped my hard costs (dollars that I’ve actually spent for outside services for camera rentals or replication and printing), then the artists are paid between 15 and 25% of all dollars received from the sale of the title. If I sell around 3000 units, they get a pretty good chunk of money…not the huge dollars paid to major celebrities but thousands of dollars…AND publishing money from unit one.

Then there’s the opportunity to license a tracks or tracks for promotional or commercial purposes with a major company. I was in the SF Bay area last week and was close to the headquarters of Creative Labs. Years ago, they had me prepare a custom DVD-Audio title to be bundled with their Audigy II card. They didn’t pay me to produce the disc, but instead gave me a few pennies per copy. I put a lot of classical music and songs by artists wanting the promotional bump on the disc so that there would be no publishing headaches. In the end, those few pennies that I got per unit added up and there were some substantial checks issued by Creative Labs to AIX for a few years. I still do a lot of licensing…companies like Acura, Porsche, Intel, Microsoft, and others use my tracks to help show off their products.

To be continued…


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

4 thoughts on “Behind the Record Company Curtain: Costs Part II

  • Jan Scranton

    I was wondering about your take on the MQA article in TAS?

    • I haven’t seen it yet…but I can pretty much guess what the authors have to say.

      • Jan Scranton

        I hope you do comment on it. I have enjoyed your blog and find you articulate in a manner that I can better grasp some of the technical aspects of hi-rez. I am enjoying your baroque DVD in two channel. Oppo 105D>Pass F6>Lowther PM6A. What else would you recommend?

        Thank you for the blog.

        • If you’re a classical fan, the Bach Brandenburg disc and the Haydn Trios discs are among my favorites.


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