Aug 04

ProjektList#140804, Sam’s thoughts (continued). News, links + griping about the record industry .

Grab your cup-o-joe, and dive into today’s email list from
Projekt Record’s Sam Rosenthal…

Good morning! I want to start right off by saying Projekt is doing fine, my life is pretty great. Some people translated all the griping on last week’s list as some coded message that we’ve reach the end of days ’round these parts. Nope, not the case at all. I have a nice life thanks to all of you! I work for myself in a really lovely house from 1907, with my cat by my side. My son is here half the week, and I take breaks to make him lunch and be talked at about Minecraft. Almost every day I get on the phone with one of my favorite artists: Steve Roach! We’re always brainstorming great new things for you, working on album covers and promotions that keep the music flowing. I get to work with many other talented artists; and I just finished the bi-annually royalty payment mailing! I guestimate Projekt has paid $500,000 in royalties over the last 30 years. It’s a pretty sweet, gig, all things considered.

Please understand that grumbling about the state of the music industry is only one aspect of running Projekt. I’d speculate that thinking about this ¢rap occupies only 5 – 10% of my time! There is a lot of great stuff going on here; otherwise, I would have stopped doing this a loooooong time ago. – Sam

Download this great compilation, your soundtrack to today’s elist. It’s a pay-as-you-wish Projekt electronic / ambient sampler. Ninty minutes of fabulous music, available for download or streaming at Bandcamp.


Previously, on the Projekt eList…

On last week’s list (read here) I discussed the changes at Facebook that mean you’ll no longer see posts from the bands and artists you “liked;” and offered a chart of just how little income Projekt’s earn via Spotify. The most important bit of information (to get you up to speed for today’s list) is this:

At Spotify, on 6 months of Black Tape For A Blue Girl sales, the average per stream payment was $.00523 (before my distributor’s fees)…. If you average 13 tracks per album, and an earning of $155.39 for 2285 albums, that’s 6.80¢ per album. Hmmmmmmmmm? A cup of coffee or a beer is worth $4; an album is worth under 7¢ ?

This is the point that a lot of us artists find hard to believe. Today’s generation of “music fans” find it okee-dokey that an album is only worth 1.75% of what a beer costs at a baseball game!

and now a brief commercial interruption, before we begin…
Available for pre-order at Projekt:

Android Lust: The Dividing 10th Anniversary 2-LP | $25

Expected Early August. EMOTIONAL INDUSTRIAL. 10th Anniversary edition of Android Lust’s critically acclaimed sophomore album, The Dividing. Released only digitally and as a limited edition clear vinyl, this version features brand new remixes from Collide, Gregory Stewart (Z Marr/Combichrist), I, Parasite, Inertial and R010R.

Spiritual Front: Vladimir Central Ltd Ed Vinyl 12″ | $35
Expected Late August. A superlimited edition of 200 hand-numbered and signed (by Simone) copies. Special screenprinted vinyl (print on Side A, music on Side B). Including an insert and sticker and containing two new, exclusive songs.


picking up where list#140728 left off…

Now, I am sure you are not one of the people arguing that music should be (almost) free; I know that you support artists with your hard-earned dollars and your purchases of Projekt releases. But for the rest of these people: seriously?! Albums don’t just magically appear out of thin air. It takes a lot of time and effort for all of us to create this work. And while most of us love doing it, we certainly don’t mind being compensated for our effort. Voltaire crowd-funded nearly $54,000 at indiegogo for Raised by Bats, and he spent it all (and more) making the album! Artists pour hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into their creations.

When people consume these albums at a rate of 7¢ per unit, how can an artist ever hope to recoup their costs, let alone earn enough to live off? This is where the internet and streaming has brought us.

This is not healthy for society. Our society consumes a lot of art. Somehow, people have to decide that art is worth supporting. If nobody was listening to music, then I’d agree that we shouldn’t be paid. But clearly the music is being listened to… People want to hear music and watch movies and play games. Yet many don’t want to pay a living wage for it.

Most artists earn less than fast food employees.

And let me just say, Don’t give credence to the “but you make your money touring” meme. That’s an excuse to let somebody else pay the bill. Yes, U2 grossed $750million on their last tour. But — surprise surprise — Bono didn’t share any of that with us. 🙂 Black Tape For A Blue Girl loses money when we tour. Most Projekt bands lose money when they tour. A few (Voltaire, Steve Roach) make a profit. But the idea that most artists make a living touring? That is a false meme, designed to muddy the waters.

Where does Projekt’s digital income come from?

I pulled a report for one year of Projekt’s digital sales via our distributor, eOne. 
   #1 – 58% of Projekt’s digital income is from iTunes
   #2 – 18% Amazon
   #3 – 7% emusic
   #4 – 5% Spotify (average = $.00485 per stream, 206 streams earns a dollar)
   #5 – 4% Google Play
   #6 – 3% YouTube (average = $.00089 per video played, 1123 plays equals a dollar)

Please note that this doesn’t include Bandcamp; their income does not come to us via eOne, because Projekt works direct with them, Bandcamp would be #2 on this chart, ahead of Amazon! Thanks so much for supporting Projekt directly; I really appreciate that! BC take a 12% fee, vs. the 33% that goes to iTunes+eOne. It’s better for Projekt and the artist when you buy at Bandcamp.

I’ve changed my mind (again) about Streaming music

Back in September 2011, I was completely anti-Spotify. No way! I didn’t want Projekt music up there! But then in late 2012, I saw the writing on the wall. “Everyone” was migrating to streaming, and many label owners told me that Spotify was their third biggest source of digital income, with no decline in their iTunes sales. It was extra found money, they said. It wouldn’t cannibalize download sales, they said. I figured I needed to play the game for a while, at least long enough to get good data to make a decision. I put up about 75% of Projekt’s music at streaming sites in early 2013. I didn’t announce this, I wanted to see what would happen organically. Would people discover the music? Would it find a whole bunch of lost Projekt fans? And would sales increase? I didn’t include every album. I really can’t get behind giving away the music that’s still selling at iTunes and Amazon and Bandcamp.

I know, I know. I’m a capitalist. I like money coming in so I can share it with my artists/friends.

I like paying to keep a roof over my head, and that guacamole I love so much!

2013 turned out to be the year that streaming won the war. Projekt’s digital sales dropped 30% year-over-year as people migrated to free platforms. The first 1/2 of 2014 saw a non-stop series of articles about the record industry taking a big hit in 2013. Why? Streaming. People are growing to like free music.

Hell, I like streaming!

I listen to a ton of music on rdio; albums that I never would have bought otherwise (in one two day period, I listened to the first seven Bob Dylan albums. Another evening, the first four from Depeche Mode. A few nights ago, two early Tangerine Dream albums I’ve never owned but have been curious about). I also stream albums I already own. I was given a free rdio subscription (because I’m in the biz!), but I recently paid for a renewal, rather than mooch another free extension. I use the service a lot, I want to pay…

What I pay will never properly compensate artists for the music I listen to. I know this.

And yet, even with the drop in income at Projekt, I was starting to lean towards an “Oh, why not?” attitude about tracks at streaming sites. If you can’t beat them join them. But last week, I went ape shit and freaked! Why? Tethered downloads! I realized “streaming” is a false term (thank you Fianna Jones and Todd Loomis for pointing this out). When people subscribe to Spotify, those streamed tracks can be downloaded to the listener’s device, and carried with them when they are not online (tethered downloads remain available, as long as they pay their subscription rates).

I’m an idiot, I didn’t realize that. This means “streaming” is absolutely replacing the sales of “digital downloads,” as they serve the same purpose. People can pay $10 for one album at iTunes, or $10 for every album available at Spotify, and they can carry it with them.

Shea commented: A tethered download is essentially a free download with an expiration date. It’s irresistible – what a great deal! It works in the airplane (since you already stored it)! It works in the car in the middle of nowhere. It works on the subway! Complete garbage!

Last week, I changed my streaming instructions with eOne. I left 17% of the label for streaming, essentially one album per artist (plus the entire Voltaire catalog).

Brian John Mitchell of QRD Records commented: “Spotify earnings go up in percentage pretty regularly for me as the overall digital earnings go down. Sigh….”

Yes, big sigh!

Yet another (mostly false) meme swirling around the internet is that streaming leads to sales. I know there are Projekt fans who tell me this is true for them; but they are a minority. For those who try before they buy, I left some music up for “exposure” purposes.

But let me ask this, “If streaming actually leads to sales, why aren’t sales up, instead of down?” Nobody has been able to refute this.

I also ask, “If streaming leads to sales, why doesn’t Spotify have a link to Amazon, with an affliate code so they earn a micropenny with every sale?” Answer: because they know streaming doesn’t led to sales in any meaningful way.

Exposure. If you want to hear music from Projekt’s latest releases, we have bandcamp embeds on all the album pages of the site. And you can hear full tracks from Projekt’s artists at bandcamp.

Spotify Hits 10 Million Paid Users. Now Can It Make Money?
read at Bloomberg

Agonoize: Apokalypse Limited 2-CD Berlin-based inferno of hard beats, brutal shouts and thudding bass. $23
Android Lust: The Dividing (10th anniversary 2-LP Vinyl edition) Limited edition on clear vinyl. $25
Ataraxia: Wind At Mount Elo Modern Classical/Neofolk masterpiece by the Italian project. $18
Cocksure: TVMALSV Bridging the gap between waxtrax! era industrial and future sounds of mass corruption. $14
Deine Lakaien: Acoustic II $25
Deine Lakaien: Farewell/Where the Winds Don’t Blow CDS First taster for the new album Crystal Palace. $11
Deine Lakaien: Crystal Palace Limited Box A return to the sonic atmospheres of the early days (1986-1990). $49
Deine Lakaien: Crystal Palace Limited Digipak +3 Bonus Tracks $25
Funker Vogt: Survivor 3-CD Box Collector’s Edition with bonus material and rare, unreleased tracks. $26
Heimataerde: Kaltwaerts Limited 2-CD BOX A unique mix of electro-sounds and medieval atmosphere. $85
Heimataerde: Kaltwaerts Limited 2-CD $23
Heimataerde: Kaltwaerts $19
In Slaughter Natives: Cannula Coma Legio The band delves into more obscure ambient territories. $14
KMFDM: We Are Live album features favorites new and old. $14
Lustmord: Kraków October 22 2010 Live limited edition. $24
Pride and Fall: Turn the Lights On EP Remix contest EP with exclusive b-side. $15
Project Pitchfork: Blood 2-CD + Book An interlocked, carefully conceive, powerful dark electro album. $59
Project Pitchfork: Blood $20
Prude: The Dark Age of Consent Wild mix of 70’s NYC punk/glam with a harsh, damaged electronic edge. $14
Sequential Access: Sex Addict Anonymous 13 tracks of pure golden era electro-industrial. $14
Sopor Aeternus: Mitternacht CD/Book All-new album with 36-page book. $55
Sopor Aeternus: Mitternacht 2-LP $90
Staubkind: Alles Was Ich Bin Limited 4-CD Box Berlin-based group walks the tightrope between cinematic rock anthems and fragile ballads. $53
Staubkind: Alles Was Ich Bin Limited 2-CD $23
The Birthday Massacre: Violet LP Limited Ediition purple vinyl. $19
The Lonely Soul Experience: Path of Blood Blutengel’s Chris Pohl takes us into opulent fantasy-worlds. $19
The Moon and the Nightspirit: Holdrejtek Medieval-influenced ethereal vocals, violin, acoustic and percussion. $23
The Moon and the Nightspirit: Mohalepte 2-CD Re-issue Bonus cd includes three previously unreleased songs! $25
The Moon and the Nightspirit: Of Dreams Forgotten And Fables Untold Re-issue $22
The Moon and the Nightspirit: Rego Rejtem Re-issue $22
Various Artists: Amphi Festival 2014 Who’s who of the electro and gothic scene. $15

On Facebook, Fianna Jones wrote: I disagree with you here, Sam. I think that over the lifetime of a song, paying per listen will generate higher revenue than paying to own. I could buy an album once, say for $15.00. After costs, that probably nets Projekt and the artist $3.00-$5.00 in unit profit. I may listen to that album 100 times over the course of the years which I own it. But you’ll never see another cent of revenue on that unit. If I use a service like Spotify, you see revenue every single time I listen to that song, even if I only listen to it for 10 seconds on shuffle. Best rate I can find as an average, Premium subscribers generate .0175 cents per play. So, if I listen to that album (the complete album, so say 10 songs) 100 times over the course of listening to that album on Spotify, I’ll generate $17.50 in revenue, with much lower distribution costs.

I replied: I understand this concept, but sorry, that $.0175 number is OFF! $.00485 per stream is the average for Projekt. 100 streams = 48.5¢. If you listen to a 10 song album x 100 times (1000 streams) you will generate $4.85. I think the math only works for an artist who gets 1,000,000 plays on a track ($4850). It doesn’t add up for fringe musicians.

David Daydodge (and others) wrote: Thank you. Streaming should be illegal until there are fair compensation laws in effect.

I replied: Someday, THE TRUTH will come out. Why are the major labels agreeing to this low royalty rate? The speculation is (a) they got a big upfront payment they don’t pay the artists (b) they have some sort of rigged accounting system, so they don’t pay artists until their # of plays pass a certain threshhold (c) they probably got stock which they will sell at the Spotify IPO.

I was talking about a different problem with the V.P. at eOne, our distributor. He said, “Sam, you’re right. This situation is fu¢ked up. But the whole record business is fu¢ked up. You’re trying to apply logic to the wild west.” And that comment is equally true here. I am making an ethical decision about Projekt artists’ music, even though I know it is mostly a pointless gesture.

On Facebook, Erik A. Ingmanndsen asked: If you feel it’s a pointless gesture (which I don’t) then why do it ??< I replied: Why follow through on a pointless gesture? Because it’s the right thing to do, ethically.

Scott Cortez (of Lovesliescrushing) commented: Yes, take music back and put it in the hands of musicians. Why does everyone feel entitled to take from musicians? No one expects people at Starbucks to give them coffee, a contractor to build your house, a doctor to operate, a portrait painter to paint your picture, or a writer to write shit for you for free or to pay these people fractions of pennies.

Loren Nerell shared this interesting Salon article. “More musicians are taking aim at the rates paid by Spotify and Pandora, and warning whole genres are in danger.”

I realize each artist has their own experience of what works for them; no two stories are the same. I like including comments from other people in the music industry, so you know it’s not just Projekt feeling this squeeze. Let’s read what another small label has to say:

Brian John Mitchell writes: For Silber Records, since Spotify launched I have taken a significant drop in digital earnings & if I could sell every CD in the basement at a loss I would do it, just to clear the space in my house.

My experience with bands I tour with (post rock, drone, metal, punk, slowcore, noise (I’m a little diverse)) is that physical sales at gigs are tough. It’s also worth noting that the rise of festivals modeled after CMJ/SXSW in every city with 100K people in it has made things even worse for young bands.

I do know some people who have generated some success over the past five years & I’m super happy for them. I wish I could say that they didn’t have family members shelling out ten grand per release to finance that success.

As the recent comments have said, all of this is anecdotal & I want to have a positive attitude I guess I must because yesterday I announced that I’m planning 20 releases on Silber in the next few months. At this point for me the music industry is still more fun & rewarding than video games, but maybe less fun rewarding than landscaping….

What about our friends in Greece? 

Hello Sam, My name is Dimitris and I live in Greece. I have to tell you that I really support your struggle for a better Projekt Records. I am not a fan of streaming services and like to buy the physical medium cds or LPs. Soooo I would like to buy some of Projekt records without to pay the double price for shipping from USA. Are there any solutions appart from buying from a record store (I couldn’t find many of your records (or in a reasonable price) here) or paying amazon etc?


From Sebastian at my European distributor, Audioglobe: Unfortunately I don’t know which city in Greece you live in, but please note, that following shops in Greece buy PROJEKT titles from us and if they don’t have the title you are looking for, they will order if for you:

ZULU Records

LOTUS Records


Michelle Shocked Releases Silent Album, Names Songs After Music Execs
I assumed this article was an Onion joke, but it’s at Rolling Stone. Sorry, this won’t make up for that homophobic rant. Not cool, Michelle.

Much less offensive is the 20th anniversary show from Thanatos; available for free for a limited time at Bandcamp. Patrick is joined by William Faith, Tim Larsen, and Eric Polcyn as they perform a set which includes ten songs from This Endless Night Inside. When Pat runs out of free download codes, there will be a charge, so grab yours now. Or stream it for free, whenevs.

Projekt reviews at Sonic Curiosity:
Loren Nerell & Mark Seelig: Tree of life
Forrest Fang: The Wolf at the Ruins
Byron Metcalf / Mark Seelig: Intention
Alio Die & Sylvi Alli: Amidst the Circling Spires
Erik Wollo: Timelines & Tundra

Last month, I forgot to mention Voltaire’s July Nooseletter. You can watch it at youTube. Voltaire says, “You’ll hear about the Raised by Bats Indiegogo campaign (what went right and what went wrong), the upcoming Legend of Candy Claws book! Find out what movies I will and won’t be in in the near future… and I unveil my secret project with the talented illustrator, Abigail Larson! Hint: it involves vampires, werewolves, demons and every guest artist on the Raised by Bats album!”

Watch Jean Michel Jarre perfrom Oxygene live, at Synthopia!

Why Is Iced Coffee in NYC Getting So Ridiculously Expensive?
Ice ain’t free, ya know. Read at the Gothamist. And then tell me why ice + beans are worth $4.50, and an album is worth 7¢. Ok, wait? I made that point already, right? : )

<– Florian with his big Moog!
This website has a good introduction to the many great albums of Germany’s Popul Vuh. Or, if you have no time for eyeball-read-read, this video for “Hüter der Schwelle” is a real standout! It’s an unusual Popul Vuh track that sounds a bit like an instrumental version of the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs!” (Granted, the track is from years later than the photo, and there’s no Moog in it…)

Eric Wøllo: Tundra ep

Limited to 200, our webstore has 25 copies still available, and then it will be sold out. Place your order today for $10 at Projekt, The Tundra EP finds Erik Wøllo creating fascinating atmospheric and rhythmic instrumental electronic music. This 30-minute 5-song ep features all new, previously unreleased tracks that showcase Erik’s ability to incorporate new and fresh elements into his music while remaining true to his unique style. On “Tundra,” “The Native Chant” and “Swirling Lights” the use of throat singing samples and vocals from Arctic indigenous people add a human, earthy element to the electronics.

Streaming & digital download at Projekt’s bandcamp store. Or purchase a download at iTunes.

Alternate Reality

I watched a documentary a few nights ago. In it, a major label band’s manager asked: What might have happened if the record labels had worked with Napster, before fans discovered the pleasures of stealing music?

Here is my extension on his idea: What if instead of suing Napster in 2000, the majors said, “Let’s turn Napster into a legit download store. We’ll give Fanning money, we’ll promote his site….” They could even have bought Napster, and turned it into what iTunes became a few years later. They could have done this, before all of the trouble began. Would it have stopped illegal downloads? No, probably not. But it might have provided a good groundwork for people purchasing music legally.

Sigh. Major labels = heads up a$$.

I message this Alternate Reality to David Lowery of The Trichordist Blog. He replied: True story: Immediately after the Napster ruling, Pfanning and Chris Castle put together something called SNOCAP which would have sat atop the piracy universe of limewire, grokster etc etc, and legitimized each transfer. They cleared it with all labels and publishers. But none of the ISPs or file sharing services would go along.

Ooops. And I was blaming the major labels for being stupid, when… surprise surprise… the problem was the tech industry. Why wouldn’t they go along? Because they like making money off something they didn’t pay to create.

This is where the problem really lies (and The Trichordist does a great job of documenting it with every post). The real reason Congress doesn’t act to stop piracy and/or get artists a fair royalty rate is because the tech industry is against fixing this problem. They make so much money the way things are, they are afeared that a fix will harm their income stream. Status Quo. Google feeds ads to all these sites. The locker sites sell premium subscriptions. Amazon wants you to subscribe to Prime (and forces labels to give our music away as part of the incentives). Why would they want to change any of this?

America has morphed into RoboCopland. We’re all serfs in the fiefdom of the corporations.

Summer 2014 – Projekt electronic & ambient sampler (pay-as-you-wish) Available at Bandcamp.

You like free stuff? We got free stuff!

Projekt’s new elist is an insightful read on how streaming has affected a great #Goth #electronic #ambient label. #ProjektRecords

Share a variation of the text above on your twitter feed (be sure to include the hashtag). On Tuesday, Shea will pick three lucky duckys (from those who shared), and give you a download album of your choice from the Projekt Bandcamp store. It’s easy! Snap Snap! Spread the word. Thanks.

Well. That was a lengthy look at the backstory of running a record label. I hope you found some interesting thoughts in here.

A few of you asked me to create a (non-Facebook) place where you could share comments about the eList. Your command is my wish! I’ve activated the Comments section on this Blog Post. It requires my moderation (unless you have a customer profile and are signed in, then your comments should post instaneous). I’ll check in regularly. Looking forward to reading your thoughts…



  1. Adam says: August 4, 2014

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