There was a lot of buzz yesterday over the fact that Rebecca Black, the cute 13 year-old who put out what could be the most annoying viral song to date, Friday, was laughing all the way to the bank when it came to iTunes sales. According to Billboard magazine, those stories came from a mistaken calculation by Forbes magazine, who estimated that Black had sold 2 million downloads of Friday (at 70 cents net to her a pop) on iTunes. Black has only sold around 43,000 downloads though, which is still good money but it’s not like she’s going to be able to retire before she’s a freshman in high school.
Contrary to several media reports, Rebecca Black is not netting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the more than 33 million YouTube views of her uber-viral video “Friday” or its digital sales. However, she’s not doing bad.
The 13-year-old is netting roughly $24,900 per week from track sales of her surprise hit song, according to our calculations. It’s the start of a great college fund, but she’s not making the kind of money from iTunes sales that some writers have estimated.
Forbes.com erroneously reported her digital iTunes sales at 2 million — a figure that was picked up by other publications. Forbes has since posted a correction.
So how many tracks is she selling? I’d estimate less than 40,000 in the U.S. last week and probably more this week.
Here’s why: On Tuesday morning, “Friday” ranged from #33 to #42 on iTunes and #95 at Amazon’s MP3 store. For the sake of argument, let’s say “Friday” is #42. In recent weeks, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the #42 overall track would have sold approximately 43,000 units. “Friday” was released on Tuesday, March 14.
Black appears to own the copyright to her sound recordings — the label is listed as “2011 Rebecca Black” on iTunes and Amazon MP3 lists “2011 Rebecca Black” in the “copyright” field of the song page. And for distribution, it appears Black is using CD Baby, which takes a 9% commission. Finally, take out 9.1 cents per track for mechanical royalties to the music publisher (“Friday” was written by Ark Music Factory, according to media reports).
Here’s the math: 43,000 tracks at $0.70 cents to the artist minus a 9% distribution fee, minus 0.91 cents apiece for mechanical royalties equals $24,900.
She may be pulling in a bit more money from YouTube views if she had the foresight to set up a content partner agreement before she got 30 million views. If so, that could amount to $15,000 to $20,000 for her 33 million views.
Yet for all that, “Friday” does not seem likely to sell millions. Keep in mind that Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” has sold about 1.65 million units in the U.S. in four weeks, and its official YouTube video has 23.5 million views. Those are huge numbers, even for an established pop icon with a massive marketing and promotion campaign in addition to a successful international tour.
But there’s a huge difference between Gaga’s 23.5 million views and Black’s 33 million views.
Black is a novelty artist who will have a difficult time turning curiosity and derision into actual sales. “American Idol” cast-off William Hung comes to mind as a comparison.
Black has certainly done remarkably well for an independent artist, but she won’t put up Gaga-like sales numbers.
This article smacks of condescension as it’s from Billboard and they’re peeved that any artist could independently sell over a million copies and get 37 million views (and counting) on YouTube without signing their first born over to the recording companies. They’re throwing shade on Black because they hate that they’re not getting a cut. Now that we’ve seen Justine Beaver, this chick, and countless other kids get semi-famous on YouTube you can expect plenty of copycats. Some actually have real talent and potential and will maintain the majority of control over their careers. That’s the real kicker for the recording companies.
Those non-recording contract kids aren’t doing that well anyway according to bitter executives, although they wouldn’t make much more under a major label even if they did sell millions. Artists under a typical recording contract can get less than 5 cents per download as opposed to the 70 cents that Black makes. The real money is in touring, which is why you see top selling artists like Lady Gaga busting their butts on the road and running themselves ragged trying to cram in gigs.