Weekly Recap: What Should Kesha Do Now? Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, 20 Billion-View Youtube Videos, and Trivia Question

Kesha – Kesha was denied a preliminary injunction. That means that the judge isn’t going to give her relief until at least the end of the lawsuit. That means she can’t just go out and record music. To get an injunction, you have to prove that you would be 1) irreparably harmed without the injunction, and 2) that you will probably ultimately win the lawsuit. Kesha (and her lawyer) are going about this the wrong way. She should settle the lawsuit immediately and here is why:

What does Kesha want? Giving her the benefit of the doubt, she wants two things: 1) to not have to work under the shadow of Dr. Luke; and 2) to make a substantial amount of money off of her hit music. There is a way that she can do both.

1) Dr. Luke’s Shadow

Both Sony AND Dr. Luke have expressed an interest in setting up Kesha to record music without Dr. Luke’s direct involvement. Now, you might wonder if maybe she wouldn’t REALLY be free of Dr. Luke, that maybe he would still play mind games with her and try to use their contractual ties to screw with her. But, Kesha can negotiate a new contract with Dr. Luke and Sony as part of a settlement agreement. Kesha can agree that Dr. Luke still gets an exorbitant share of the direct proceeds from sales and streams of her songs, and that he would hold the copyright in the sound recordings and any mechanicals for her song-writing. Dr. Luke will be happy because he is still allowed to take Kesha to the cleaners. Meanwhile, Kesha can truly be free of Dr. Luke. All she has to do is send the royalty checks his way, and she would have no other contractual obligations.

And that, of course brings us to the big Q:

2) Money

How can Kesha make a substantial amount of money off of her music if Dr. Luke gets it all? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Dr. Luke owns the copyrights in both the mechanicals (songwriting) AND actual sound recording for all of Kesha’s work, and that he is not contractually obligated to give her a dime from sales, streaming, radio airplay, or from licensing deals with ad companies and video game manufacturers (for example).

First, copyright law reserves 45% of the royalties for licensing of sound recordings for the ACTUAL ARTIST, regardless of whether the artist has assigned the copyright to someone else. This is applicable to things like streaming and radio royalties. So, that ensures Kesha a small minimum chunk of the pie.

Second, artists don’t actually make very much money from streaming and sales. They make their money from touring. This is how Adele, who is arguably the most successful artist since 2010 by actual album sales (but who didn’t go on tour), had a net worth of just $50m prior to the release of 25 (which has since climbed to about $75m), while artists like Lady Gaga and Madonna have been known to pull in more cash in a single year (like 2013, when the two made $80m and $125, respectively) while they are on tour.

Let’s put this in perspective: Thanks to a high-profile court case, we happen to know that “Blurred Lines” (the biggest hit of 2013) pulled in $16,675,690 in total direct profits, of which, $5,658,214 went to the primary artist, Robin Thicke. Another $5,153,457 went to Pharrell Williams, $707,774 went to T.I., and the rest went to various record companies. So, $11m (adjusted from 2013 dollars) is basically the ceiling amount that an artist can make from a single song.

From sales alone, a hit single that sells 3m copies at $1.29/each would likely net a recording artist about $400,000. A hit album that sells 1m copies at $10/each would net a recording artist about $1m. A similar chunk goes to the songwriters, who may be the same or different people. For every person who buys an album or a single, the artist recoups just $1 or $0.10, respectively (about 10%). Streaming is even less lucrative

Concert tickets can sell for $50 or $100, and artists are likely to pocket a much larger percentage of the proceeds (perhaps 30% or more). Madonna’s MDNA tour grossed $305m, which spurred the bulk of Madonna’s estimated $125m salary that year.

Suppose that Kesha gets back to work and records a few more albums to close out her concert. By creating hit singles now, she is generating a touring audience in the future. Some of the top touring acts of 2015 are bands that haven’t released new hits in years or even decades. The Eagles made $73.5m in 2014, for example. 

Conclusion: Kesha can still make tons of money off of touring, even if Dr. Luke gets everything else. She needs to get back in the studio to keep recording hits ASAP, if she wants to be a massive touring force in decades to come. Further, the judge is probably not going to ever grant relief. She should cut her losses, and negotiate the best deal that she can with Dr. Luke. Then, she should focus on getting through the rest of her contractual albums as quickly as she can.

BTW – Apparently Dr. Luke’s contract with Sony is about to expire. If people really believe he is an abusive rapist, maybe they should be pressuring Sony to #FreeDrLuke instead.

Kelly Clarkson – 15 years after giving birth to a storied music career, American Idol has once more given life to Kelly Clarkson. After bursting into tears while performing “Piece by Piece” on the show (presumably partly because the song is very personal to her, and partly because she is “very pregnant,” as she put it), Kelly Clarkson’s current single shot to the top of the iTunes chart. The video of her Idol performance has accumulated over 5 million views over the course of about a day.

This is all the more meaningful when you consider that “Piece by Piece,” the last single off of Kelly Clarkson’s least-commercially-successful album to date, never even charted on the Hot 100 during its initial run. Its music video only had about 2.8 million total views prior to the American Idol performance (it has added about another million views since). Compare the lead single, “Heartbeat Song,” which has 46,289,484 million views (after peaking at #21 on the Hot 100, and 2012 #1 hit “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” which has 183,766,707 views.

So, how many copies should we expect “Piece by Piece” to sell, and where should we expect to see it on the Hot 100? 

In the few hours of the tracking week that remained after the performance on Thursday, Clarkson sold about 9,000 copies of her song. That may not be enough for a debut near the bottom of the Hot 100. For comparison: Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” debuted at #82 in January based on 1.7 million streams and 30,000 sales (and negligible radio airplay); the same week, Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” debuted at #96 on the basis of minimal airplay and 15,000 sales.

Clarkson’s song is currently selling about 60% more copies/hour than the #2 song on iTunes (at peak, it was nearly double), Rihanna’s “Work,” which is itself in the middle of its Youtube bounce (from releasing a new video). Clarkson’s song is selling 2.5 times as many copies/hour as Flo Rida’s “My House,” which has maintained stable sales and was, until recently, the #1 song on iTunes. “My House” sold 126,000 copies in the tracking week ending 2/25. So, if Kelly’s song kept up its current pace all week (which it obviously won’t do), we would expect it to sell 315,000 copies (possibly enough for a #1 debut on the Hot 100). By that estimate, we should assume that Kelly has already sold approximately 90,000 copies over the course of 2/26 and 2/27. I expect her sales to fall to about 1/3 of their current level by the end of the tracking week, yielding a reasonable estimate of about 200,000 sales over the course of the week.

Prediction: 200,000 sales; top 5 debut on the Hot 100.

Since several other hits in the top 5 of the Hot 100 are selling around 100,000/week, their massive streaming and radio airplay make it difficult to predict where Kelly Clarkson’s song will end up between #s 2 and 5.

Taylor Swift – released a new single, “New Romantics,” literally days after I predicted the end of her single run. #fail

Luckily, I still have a pretty decent track record with predictions overall. Examples?

1) About 1 year ago, I predicted that the Presidential race would come down to Rubio v. Clinton. Clinton is very likely to win the democratic nomination (she just has to hold out past Super Tuesday– next Tuesday). Meanwhile Rubio is the second-most-likely Republican nominee.

On the other hand, #whichhillary is apparently now trending on twitter, and I wouldn’t put it past Trump to ruin everything just to spite me.

On the other other hand, Hillary is up 24.1% in RCP’s polling average in South Carolina. It is virtually inconceivable that Bernie could close that gap, short of a major sex scandal. Hah. A victory in South Carolina tomorrow precludes the twitter hashtag from blowing up enough to seriously damage Clinton prior to next Tuesday, when she is slated to win almost every state and pick up a veritable slew of delegates. Add that to the 434 delegate lead that she has already amassed (largely due to pledged superdelegates), and it becomes difficult to see a path for Sanders to stop Hillary from reaching the 2,383 needed to win the nomination.

2) While the stock market has had a rough half-year, starting with the whole China fiasco last August, my personal portfolio has managed a 3.6% overall return. [Aside: How does a law student have a stock portfolio? I reinvest my student loans until I need them. Wealthfront allows free computer-algorithm-based investing on up to $5000–or $10,000 if you sign up using my referral code, by following this short-link: http://wlth.fr/1Xfyole].

Rihanna – “Work” rises to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Rihanna her 14th leader on the list — passing Michael Jackson (not counting the Jackson 5’s 4 #1s) to have the 3rd most #1s of all time, after only the Beatles and Mariah Carey with 20 and 18 respectively.

NOTE: Elvis had several huge hits before the Hot 100’s inception. If we include #1s by groups that included a given artist, then Paul McCartney takes a clear lead with 29 total #1s.

Impressively, “Work” rose to #1 without the benefit of its music video, which was released this Monday. With continued strong radio airplay (#6 radio songs; 107.079m/week, +2.498m today), exploding sales (>174K, +>46%), and the streaming boom inherent in a new music video, Rihanna should solidify her position for a possibly lengthy stay atop the Hot 100. Note particularly that Rihanna’s US Spotify streams have actually increased since the release of her Youtube music video. They now stand at 1.723m/day, much higher than runner-up Zayn’s “Pillowtalk” at 1.050m/day, and more than double Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” which was #1 on last week’s Hot 100.

So what songs could challenge “Work?” #s 2-4 on the Hot 100 (“Love Yourself,” “Stressed Out,” and “Sorry“) are all near or past their peaks, so Rihanna’s strong lead should preclude them from being a threat. Flo Rida’s “My House,” G-Easy x Bebe Rexha’s “Me, Myself & I,” and Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself” are all on the rise at #s 5, 8, and 11 respectively, but it is unclear that any of them will have sufficient momentum to make a serious challenge. As likely as not, the next #1 song is not even on our radar yet. “Work” might be in for the long haul. 

Adele – 25 has become one of the world’s 100 best-selling albums of all time as it closes in on 17 million. The biggest-selling album of all time is Michael Jackson’s Thriller with over 66 million. At #2 and #3 are Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and the Grease soundtrack with 42 million and 40 million respectively. Adele’s prior album, 21, has sold over 26 million copies worldwide, with 11 million of that in the United States. 25 has already sold 8.257 million copies in the United States.

Lady Gaga – With all of the positive press Gaga has received since late 2015, and with Youtube’s recent methodology change, the daily view-count for “Poker Face” has skyrocketed from just over 100,000/day in early 2015 to nearly 400,000/day in the months surrounding the turn of 2016. “Bad Romance” saw a similar increase over the same time frame, but started and ended a little higher.

By the way, when Gaga performs at the Oscars tomorrow, she will officially become the first person EVER to perform at 1) the Super Bowl, 2) the Oscars, and 3) the Grammys — all in the same calendar year.

Katy Perry – “Dark Horse” has now crossed the 1.3 BILLION view mark on Youtube. Along with “Roar,” it gives Katy Perry claim to 10% of the 20 videos that have passed the billion-view mark. Only Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have more than one video that has a billion views. However, Psy’s “Gentleman,” Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” each have over 850 million views.

Most-Viewed Youtube videos (in billions):

2.526 – “Gangnam Style” – Psy (NOTE: Another official music video for “Gangnam Style” has 0.624B additional views, for a total of 3.149B)

1.498 – “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth

1.497 – “Blank Space” Taylor Swift

1.405 – “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

1.354 – “Shake it Off” – Taylor Swift

1.317 – “Baby” – Justin Bieber

1.309 – “Bailando” – Enrique Iglesias (NOTE: English version has an additional 0.175B views, for a total of 1.483B)

1.307 – “Dark Horse” – Katy Perry feat. Juicy J

1.283 – “All About That Base” – Meghan Trainor

1.277 – “Roar” – Katy Perry

1.242 – “Hello” – Adele

1.229 – “Wheels on the Bus” – LittleBabyBum

1.170 – “Lean On” – Major Lazer and DJ Snake feat. MO

1.166 – “Recipe for Disaster” Masha and the Bear (Russian version) (NOT A MUSIC VIDEO)

1.159 – “Chandelier” – Sia

1.158 – “Counting Stars” – OneRepublic

1.093 – “Sugar” – Maroon 5

1.038 – “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO

1.029 – “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” – Shakira

1.026 – “Love the Way You Lie” – Eminem feat. Rihanna

 

Trivia Question

Last Week’s Question: Last summer, Taylor Swift managed the rare feat of debuting at #1 on the Hot 100 with the fourth single off of her album. It was no accident. In fact, it was due to a series of carefully calibrated strategic moves on the part of Swift and/or her label. Name one part of Swift’s ingenious strategy, and explain how it helped.

  1. Adding a featured artist to allow fans to justify repurchase of the single after they had already bought the album.
  2. Releasing an epic music video and running a massive media hype machine in advance.
  3. NOT shooting down Katy Perry feud rumors… but not denying them either.

This Week: Lady Gaga has been drafted to sing at the Super Bowl and the Grammys, both within the next two weeks. Last year, when Katy Perry performed the Super Bowl Half Time Show, she brought out a surprise guest. Do you remember who that guest was?

Bonus point if you know the name and peak position on the Hot 100 of the only single she has since released.

 

 

 

 

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pdaines

Peter Daines is a law student at Georgetown University Law Center. His interests include studying foreign languages, watching and predicting events in politics and the music industry, and searching fruitlessly for the meaning of life.

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