Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Lynn Morrow

First Page



In June 2000, Courtney Love, the controversial lead singer of the rock group Hole, lambasts, among other things, record company profits. In an essay entitled "Courtney Love Does the Math," she maintains that a recording artist agreement is itself a form of music piracy. She tells a compelling story about a band and a record company. As a result of a bidding war between the major labels, the band was given what is considered a huge deal-a twenty percent artist royalty and a million dollar advance. Providing a breakdown of how the million dollars was spent, Ms. Love calculates that, after taxes and expenses incurred to record the album, each band member was allocated $45,000 for living expenses until the album was released. Ms. Love continues to "do the math" based on the record company spending $4.4 million on the band, $2 million of which is recoupable from the band's royalties. Ms. Love then concludes that if one million albums were sold at full price with no discounts or sales through record clubs, the record company would receive a profit of $6.6 million from these sales, but the band only breaks even since the group was carrying a $2 million debt. In other words, the band members "may as well be working at a 7-Eleven." Ms. Love's point is that "the system is setup so almost nobody gets paid."' Moreover, she is most disturbed by the fact that the band owns none of its work, even though it ultimately paid for the master recordings.