Monday, November 12, 2007

Six13's Encore

I really enjoyed Six13’s first album, featuring some great songs like Lecha Dodi and Yigdal. So without thinking twice, I went ahead and bought Encore in iTunes for U$9.99, relatively cheap. We should start a petition for more JM in iTunes, to the chagrin of Sameach and Aderet.

Al Hanissim is not my cup-of-tea. Musically speaking, the arrangement and vocal percussion are great but I don’t enjoy this song very much most probably because of the lyrics. I don’t really feel they fit well in this song, so I’m not very excited about this one. **

Six13’s choice of songs for the MBC Mix was perfect – Yaale, Adon Olam and We Need You -, MBC’s best songs ever. Throughout the song the vocal arrangements are creative and interesting – Mike Boxer jokingly throws in “What did you say?” in 2:48 and “We are not done/Yes we are/ Oh that’s right” at the very end. This reflects Six13’s laid back and informal approach to music and I didn’t think it was inappropriate. I specially loved the arrangement in 5:32. *****

The song Son starts like Yigdal started in Six13’s album, with the march percussion theme. Like Al Hanissim, I think musically the song is great but it’s not a style I love. When Alan Zeitlin sings a song like this one, in English, it becomes clear to me that he’s not a great soloist. Otherwise, the song is well built and quite energetic. ***

Gadlu is by far the weirdest and original song in the album. I think Boxer did an outstanding job as the vocalist – I can’t see anyone else singing this song decently and with the twists he does. In 2:42 he does one of those interesting shticks (I must say it feels weird to speak Yeshivish when talking about Six 13). The closing of the song is exceptional – great chord used there. Musically, the song is nearly perfect. And I like the originality (I’m assuming Mike Boxer composed it)[He didn't; it's an oldie from Beat'achon, so I instead of five stars I give four]. ****

Many in JM try to throw in a middle-eastern song in their albums, but few have nailed it like Six13’s Dror Yikra. Without any instruments, just with clever vocal arrangements, Six13 found a way to convey a truly middle-eastern feel in this song. I loved the harmony in 2:40, it’s a harmony I always try to do when I sing. *****

Acheinu is a slow song that sounds more like the JM music I’m used to hear. The soloist is good, the song keeps becoming interesting – first with the Lev Tahor-style harmony in 2:09 and then with some great improvisation until 2:32. Good stuff. ****

Shaalu is the second weirdest song in the album and in songs like this, Mike Boxer excels as a soloist. The song becomes even weirder after 3:10, when Boxer does some slow-tempo improvising that I didn’t particularly enjoy. ***

Kol Achai came out with a solid accapella-style Cracow Niggun not long ago that is quite similar to this one. Out of hundreds of Carlebach songs, I really don’t understand why Six13 choose this one. Why not choose another song and make something more original? The only thing that’s stands out in this song are the dissonant harmonies between 0:30 and 0:42, which are really outstanding. Other than that, Six13’s Cracow Niggun is nonsense to me. After singing Adir Hu, they did a cool shtick in 4:07, meshing the two songs – Cracow and Adir Hu – together. There’s no connection between these two songs, but it’s fun to hear them trying to fit them together. Because of Adir Hu, I give this song three stars and not less. ***

Lo Issa has only one-part, posing a challenge to any group trying to sing it for more than two or three minutes. Not much action in this song, except for the lowest tone I ever heard in a Jewish Music song – both in 1:44 and 3:15. I know it was digitally manipulated [Correction: it wasn't! It's unbelievable, but that's the guy's real voice], but still, that was quite cool. **

The last song of the album is the classic Lev Tahor, but there are many innovations in this song. The shtick here are the cool “bridges” between the two parts of the song, which modulates the song to another sister musical chord – see 1:14, 2:22 . I haven’t seen anyone doing this in JM as good as Six13 did here. In 1:24 you can hear a very exquisite low harmony that I loved. Thumbs up for originality. (I’m so used to a bad last song in JM albums, so this great last song was unexpected for me). *****

-> When I first heard this album, I thought it was too different, too weird. But I was wrong; it is different and it is weird, but it’s a delight to listen to Boxer’s music. In my view, after two consistent Six13 albums, he’s definitely in the forefront of JM today, not only in the acapella niche. His music is fresh, original and well thought. If you liked the first album, I’m sure you will love this one. If you only enjoy yeshivish and chassidish music, it will be hard to digest the modern shticks of this album. However, if you are more broad-minded and enjoy listening to something that is a bit different, Six13 will prove to be one of the year’s best albums.

PS: I made three corrections following an email from Mike Boxer. The mistakes: I thought he was the vocalist in "Son", I thought he composed Gadlu and I thought the soloist's voice in "Lo Issa" was digitally altered.


Anonymous said...

if a Jewish CD sells more then 5,000 CD's it's considered a smash hit.

The majority of albums don't ever hit 5,000. Some don't even sell 1,000. Shocking as that may seem, it's true. You can ask the stores how many the sold of Six13.

How Six13, Moshav and 8th Day afford to put their albums on iTunes is beyond me. Only thing I can think is that they don't lose anything as the people who MADE those albums.

For everyone else involved in this deal iTunes is a killer. Most non Jewish albums sell in the hundreds of thousands, the smash hits do in the millions. iTunes takes a huge percentages and the artist usually gets almost nothing. That is why many labels and artists are trying to get away from the iTunes model.

.99 a song for a Jewish album would destroy the market. They sell so little, to such a small market, that the price is where it is now so that musicians, producers and artists can hopeful barely even cut even.

Good review though.

YK said...

Good point.

However, there are many consumers who don't live in the US nor Israel that have a difficult time getting their hands in the new albums. In the UK, a CD costs 14 pounds, or 30 dollars. That's unbearable. The best way to sell to the "outsiders" is through iTunes I think. I bet there is a large group of consumers from Europe, South America, South Africa and Australia that simply can't have access to JM today.


Joel said...

Its 2007. JM must change with the times. People, frum or not, aren't buying cd's anymore. It is a dying medium for music. Like VHS and low definition TV's. Sales are eroding in the pop world because no one listens to cd's they listen to ipods. When is the last time you saw a guy with discman?
Putting songs on itunes will not hurt sales it will help them or atleast try too. Ten years ago if a bochur wanted music he had to buy it. Now he just waits for his rich buddy to buy it and he will copy it from him for free, and pass his copy around the whole yeshiva. This is the reality.
In order to compete or attempt to curb it the jm world has to first admit its an issue then address it.
Charging 18 bucks a cd is not viable anymore. The pop world figured this out and the jm needs to stop being so stubborn and jump on the bandwagon. 99 cents isn't alot but its better than nothing.

YK said...


Only Sameach and Aderet have a precise picture of how well the industry is going. The fact is that singers don't produce albums to become rich. They make it to promote their names and to get booked for wedding - that's where the big bucks are.

Following this reasoning, the singers have to spread their music as much as they can, even if they lose a little money, in order to be in the spotlight. If so, it's stupid to limit JM to the US and Israel through CD sales in Judaica Stores. What about the rest of teh world? Almost all famous names in JM have traveled the world for simchas.

I agree with anonymous that 99c is not enough to make profit, but I also stand with Joel's argument that they should sell for this price anyways.

18 bucks is the cheapest price for JM today. In Israel it's U$20, in Europe is as high as U$30. That's a crime.

There's that website, Jtunes. Anyone has experience with their service? I bought MBD's album online from MostlyMusic and I got a WMV with DRM. I think Jtunes does the same. That's not a solution because the standard is mp3.

But again, JM today is a mafia-style industry, in the hands of a handful individuals who make every effort to keep things as they are. I can't see anything changing in the coming years.


Anonymous said...

I'm on the inside and I'm telling you that as it is artists dont make any money on cd's. Some cd's don't even sell 500 units. Joel, you don't know. It's not because of the price. It's simple economics. There are just less people to sell to. Think about it. The best selling Jewish (frummie) CD's of all time were MBD's Moshiach and Fried's Chazak. Both sold around 70,000. That is OF ALL TIME. 99.9 percent of the other cd's don't come within the same solar system.

I think shwekey and frieds bein kach were highest in recent years and neither broke 30,000.

Jews are notoriously stingy with their money and too many "frum" people copy and steal the music. Even if they charge 50 dollars a cd, you don't have a right to steal by copying. Don't like the price? Don't buy it. I want an HD Flatscreen, but I can't afford the 8,000 dollar price tag.

I'm sorry it's hard for people in random small towns to get cheap music, but thats what you have to sacrifice when you live away from the frum community. You have a smaller school, if any at all. It's harder to buy glatt meat and cholov yisroel milk too. Should Golden Flow sell thier milk for cheaper there, take a hit?

In the goyishe market people make money OFF the cd's, Don't be fooled. Itunes is not as profitable as you think. Only one making money is Apple because they sell ipods for $400.

Most artists get little or nothing from downloads. It's not so rosy in the goyishe world. CD's still bring in the real money. itunes barely makes up 5 percent of the market.

People don't have discmans, they have mp3 players and they buy the cd's, rip them and put the hard cases somewhere. It's what I do. Sure I buy music on Itunes but I preorder a lot on Amazon also, comes the same day its released. I buy CD's at the mall all the time. I like the booklets, the covers and the feeling of having something hard.

It's not so pashut. I have no reason to lie to you, I know its easier to just think of the Jewish industry as one body of stubborn greedy old fogies, but it's not true. As Jtunes how they are doing. I have first hand knowledge from an artist who is using them and they were shocked that after being on the site more then a year there were less then 100 downloads for his album.

Joel said...

I hear what anon and yk are saying you both have valid points. I understand that many people lose money on cd's, but I think in addition to what anon said its also the system that contributes to it.
In JM anyone with money can put out an album. The performers with limited talent and lukewarm material will flop. That does not mean that the jm industry should not embrace the internet.
I think that if an album was $9.99 it would tighten the margins significantly but it would increase sales to the fickle frum market that wouldnt pay 18 but would pay 10.
I agree with YK put it on the internet so you can get more exposure. If an artist is losing money anyway what difference does it make. A chap in South Africa might hear him and book him for his wedding. The possibilities are endless.
I checked out Jtunes, and the reason it hasn't done well is because there are very few album actually on there.
I've heard the "expensive business card" and the "we're lucky if we brake even" excuses. If they were not making money some how they would not be putting out albums.
I live out of town and I buy all my jm from I am very fond of the six dollar cd's and have purchased a few. I just bought benny kton, Megama, Sam Glaser, and project Relax. I would by more if they were cheaper I think many people agree.
By the way YK Cd's in Israel, at least at Gal Paz, are 60 shekels( 15 dollars) not 20.

YK said...


I did like the way you structured your point, but I disagree with the following:

"I'm sorry it's hard for people in random small towns to get cheap music, but thats what you have to sacrifice when you live away from the frum community"

First, that's a 20th century claim. In the internet-era, when everything is done through the web, JM should be available through the web. May not happen today, or next year, but it will eventually happen. Comparing Cholov Israel milk to JM is comparing apples and oranges.

Additonally, like Joel mentioned, many of these people who live out of town are actually the ones who shlep singers for whatever money they ask.


Shwekey CD was 20 dollars in Israel I believe. But you can get most CD's there for 15, indeed.

Btw, how did you like Benny Kton? I also got it a while ago, but I only loved the first song. I thought the rest was plain.

OnTheInside said...


There are valid points in what you are saying but it's not a decision made by one person or one group. That’s part of the problem within this industry; everyone is looking out for number 1. Every artist, every musician, every composer, every store and every producer. They all want to get paid. Like I said, the pie here is mamash tiny and these guys are all trying to make money.

I think that to understand my points it helps NOT TO vision the industry as one institution making decisions in unison "if they would just go the way of itunes" it's not that simple.

Read my whole comment before formulating a response :-) you have to read till the end. I do make some concessions and offer some hope.

Most mainstream Judaica stores (the eichlers, judaica plazas, judaica place, gal paz ny, mostly music) all charge about 15 dollars a cd. More for a double cd. Not 18. If you buy it online you have to pay for shipping, like anything else.

The process of convincing every person in the industry to embrace downloading is so huge the market would collapse on itself. Thats not dramatic liberty, it's just true.

Everyone would lose money for at least the first 2 or 3 years. At LEAST. Sure it'll be nice for guys like you to download a cd for 10 dollars no shipping, but what about all the people that count on this to pay their bills and send their kids to school, pay their mortgages etc.

The reason people keep making albums is not because artists make money. They don't. I can't stress this enough. Maybe Fried/MBD make money, MAYBE - Shwekey. No one else. The money the artists make are off concerts and weddings that they get because of the popularity of a cd.

The people making the money are the producers, distributors, composers, arrangers, mixers and musicians.

A guy like Dachs or Williger or Shwekey gets anywhere from 4,000 - 10,000 for a simcha. More for a concert. Much more for a major concert. The expensive business card is not just some excuse; it's an economic fact of how the Jewish market works. The same goes with the wedding bands. Neshama, Nigina, Nafshenu, they hire these singers, play the popular songs. They don't make money on the cd market, they make it off the popularity of the singers cd's and the songs on them. Thats why the cd's keep getting made. The songs and keeping the singers names in the publics ear stream.

I heard from a very reliable source that the reason it took Fried so long to come out with Bein Kach is because he loses money and time when he makes a cd. He does so many concerts and simchas that he has to turn down jobs to devote time to making the album. It wasn't finically viable to make an album if he was gonna lose $8,000-$10,000 a job. He finally made an album just to have more new songs to sing at shows and so people wouldn't think he wasn't making new music.

Addressing what you said about living out of town. I know a lot of guys who live out of town, and far away places. That is the way it is. Why should music be any different? It's part of living in the FRUM lifestyle. Sure downloads are happening. You can download most of the library from Aderet, the only one behind on this is Sameach, and word on the street is their going to start downloads at some point too. Eventually the market will allow for lower prices on downloads but the stores are fighting it.

It's easy for you to say "tough luck" to the stores. But again, if you want to convert the industry to downloads overnight it won't happen. It has to be a very very slow process. The stores have huge rents, huge overheads, and they pay a lot for those cd's. They don't make so much money on CD's because again. CD's don't sell that much. If you could buy cd's online for ten bucks the stores would all lose business and they wouldn’t pay their bills and the industry would just have to take a 3 year break to catch up because no one would be getting any money.

Like I said, the goyishe industry hasn't made the full transition themselves and it's been what 6 years? itunes barely contributes to 5 percent of the ENTIRE market. In Lakewood, a huge market they are still buying cassettes! Go into Boro park most of the stores still do huge numbers in cassettes. CD's have been out for twenty years and a huge part of the jewish music market still buys cassettes - and you won't the industry to convert to downloads.

The good news is - it will happen. You are right. But it's going to be a very very slow transition. Like it has been from Cassettes to CD's. Eventually as distributors realize they can make money on downloads they will do it. When I spoke to the guys at Sameach they told me their site will be DRM FREE MP3 format.

It'll happen, but you have to be patient. Its a house of cards with everyone pulling in a different direction, everyone trying to make a profit and if you pull the wrong card out ---- BOOM. It all crashes down.

Joel said...

YK, I was in Israel when LT4 came out, and Gal Paz charged me 60 shekels. Perhaps they gouged the price for Shwekey because they can.
The Benny Kton album has a few good songs. Its a good album, not great but worth six bucks. Would I pay 15 for it? No.
YK, you see what happens when you post we actually get so serious dialogue about the jm industry.
I am not in the industry, but I guess I have a much to learn.
Inside man, why do people come out with albums that wont lead to gigs if they are all money losers. Complilations like kumzits albums, shabbos get ready, sameach at the wheel,purim, chanukah pesach Yossi Green albums etc.
these compilations dont lead to gigs, and they lose money so why are they put out to begin with.
Lev Tahor, Ari Goldwag among many others, never perform live are you saying they just enjoy losing money?

YK said...


Great post, very well structured and I agree with what you said. I will post your comment in the blog, so everyone can see in the future.

I hope Sameach sells DRM free. I refuse to buy DRM, it's an insult to the consumers.


I now remember there was some sort of a fight between Shwekey and Gal Paz, and Gal Paz couldn't get the CD's for cheap. I'm not sure if that is true, but it would explain the higher price.

And I paid 15 bucks for Kton and I regret until this very day. I actually tried to return it to the shop at the time. But 6 bucks is a great price. Where you get it?

Regarding my posting cycle, I only post when I have something worthwhile to say. I'm an adept of "less is more" - less crappy posts and more quality posts and discussions. But I will post as often as I can.


OnTheInside said...


Some people put out an album because they are dreamers. I mean that in a good way. They love what they do, they love music, and they put a lot of time and energy into their work.

Some people just honestly believe they will pull in the numbers of a shwekey or fried. Many new artists have done well. Baruch Levine, Dovid Gabay, Shloime Gertner. But those guys do shows. So even if they don't make money on the CD's they do on shows.

Ari Goldwag and Lev Tahor don't do shows. Lev Tahor probably makes a little bit on thier cd's. I don't know specifics, but I know they do well. Plus they love music and do it for the sake of doing it. They hope they make something in the process.

Ari Goldwag I can't speak for, but he is online a lot. He's internet savy, go to his site, send him an email. You'd be surprised! Most guys will be very friendly and happy to talk with you.

As for the mix/wedding/compilation cd's. Those are not made by artists. Those are made by the labels and producers (Briskman, Sameach, Aderet) and the wedding bands sometimes also put out cd's. Business cards for their bands.

The labels/producers make those cd's because they are easier to produce, cost less to make and sell VERY well. But artists just get paid to sing on them, it's not like a regular solo cd.

Even when they don't make money off those cd's, it keeps the popular songs popular. Look at Niggun Neshama. It's been on 20 cd's and it keeps going (its on hasc 20 twice!)

Conosurs (sp?) of music might not enjoy it, but the general public eat up what is most familiar to them.

Anonymous said...

shalsheles is anither of those groups who u call "dreamers". Yitzchak rosenthal loves music and he is there just for the pleasure of singing and composing songs.

but there's big money for the artists who sing inweddings. take gabay, who sings very often. let's say he sings 4 times a week for 5k. that's 20k a week, 80k a month. that's AMAZING, i wish i could earn that. so dont come with the claims that the singers are starving. maybe the composers or arangers are, but not the sinegrs

OnTheInside said...

I didn't say the artists are starving, I said they don't make money off their cd's. When I say "don't make money" I mean real money, money to justify making the album. Maybe they make a few thousand every once in a while. But they can't live off what they make on a CD.

Sure guys like Gabay, Fried, Lipa, Shwekey, Dachs or Williger do well at shows but there are tons of little guys who don't get shows. If they do it's more like once a month then 4 nights a week.

I heard williger on Nachum Segal say he sometimes does 5 nights a week. I don't believe it. To me thats just him hyping himself. Classic marketing. Make yourself so busy and overused that people rush to hire you to make sure they don't get shut out.

The point is that people are lucky they don't charge more for a CD. So many people work on it and everyone wants a piece. So few people actually buy cd's. Think about it. according to most people Shwekey sold around 30,000 copies of Leshaim Shamayim.

In the entire united states only 30,000? There are 30,000 Jews just probably in Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

like everything else in life, whoever is good & talented gets the big bucks. the "little guys" exist in every market, even in the cholov israel industry u mentrioned in your first post

YK said...

Anon and ontheinside

I don't like to get too much into the crude financial side of this, but since you guys are talking about it, I did my homework.

If Shwekey sold 30,000, he got 450,000 bucks from his album (assuming the cost of a CD is U$15). In terms of numbers, that's a lot of money. I think production costs don't exceed 20,000, that's mounts to a profit of over 400,000 dollars, not counting the money he gets from weddings, which is big stuff.

I know the little guys are not getting even a tenth of that but at least Shwekey and the other big guys should be selling online. Your point is only valid for the small guys - for the big ones there's no excuse. They are swimming in money.

Btw, if Shwekey sold 30,000, how much you think MBD sold in his last album? Let's be very pessimistic and say 5,000. That times 15 mounts to 75,000 dollars. In his video MBD said that it almost not worth it to produce a CD today because of piracy. What I don't understand is that he most certainly got up to 50,000 for his album, assuming production costs are 20,000. How can he claim to be loosing money?

Anon: ontheinside's point still stands I think.


Joel said...

If someone sells 30,000 cd at 15 bucks a pop he isn't putting it all in his pocket. The store takes a cut, the distributor takes a cut. before it filters down to the artist he isn't making nearly 15. Perhaps the insiders can let us in on this.
The bottom line is that in the jm industry you have a few people who do it full time and make a good living. And you have a few people who do it as hobbies and make a little pocket change. And a few dreamers who make and album and lose money.
Bottom line is who cares how much they make. We are just looking for an improved globalized product and better value. i really couldn't care less what these people earn. Its really not my business or my problem.

Mike Boxer said...

Hi YK -- thanks for your review!How can I contact you privately?

sparks said...

does someone know how i can buy the new Jewda Maccabi song...

if you didnt see his new video you must,,,


YK said...

I did my homework and I got some hot info about this topic.

Sameach gives to the artists U$7 on every U$15 album. So minus U$1 for manufacturing costs, the artists get U$6, less then half price of the CD.

iTunes gives U$.80 cents on every song, so if a full album is sold, they get 8 dollars out of a CD that costs U$9.99.

The problem is that people might only buy one or two songs on iTunes, so it's tricky for artists that are afraid because they only have one or two good songs in their albums. But to those who actually make good music, it's a no-brainer to sell in iTunes.

But there's obviously politics and power struggles involved in this, specially as Sameach and Aderet struggle to keep their hands in the market. So they have plans to try to offer a digital option, but it's obviously not even close to iTunes.

In the last days Aryeh posted in this topic and Sruly, from Aderet, attempted to explain his point of view.

Long Live iTunes.


Joel said...

Ricky who are your sources and what makes you believe they are legitimate. If Itunes gives 80 cents per song it is going to the record company not the artist. The artist gets a small fraction of the 80 cents because he/she/they signed a record deal with the label with a significant advance.
Based on what you said Sameach and Aderet don't want to use itunes because they lose their entire distribution fee because they are not labels they are merely distribution houses.
I could be wrong perhaps Sruly can enlighten us like he did on Steiner's blog what the real story is.

YK said...


I knew you would ask, but I got a strong request for anonymousity. I got as close as a person can possibly get, the info is hot and accurate.

I guess the record labels get a cut from the 8 dollars, but that depends from artist to artist and in JM we don't really have record labels (except Matisyahu..), so the money goes straight to the singers.

I also wonder what Sruly would say about this. Probably nothing, as there's nothing to say. It's a monopoly that is fading away.


ps: ricky is my fictional name for email spam and marketing stuff in the web.

Anonymous said...

I posted on Aryeh's blog about the same thread, go there to read that.

But I personally spoke to to a Jewish rock band who is in iTunes and they said they only make 64 cents per song. They also financed and produced the album themselves and it took them a few months to record. They did all the music, composing, mixing etc.

For them, 64 cents is 64 cents.

The Fried/Shwekey type of albums are the complete opposite. There is a producer, an arranger, a mixer, a bunch of different composers, who all get paid for their songs. Some get paid on a sliding scale, meaning if the cd does well they get paid more.

If you'd apply to that downloads, it's another cut for another person. Not to mention the musicians who are contracted, the fees paid out for trips to Israel, or to fly musicians in from Israel or other countries people go to record. All those people's fees would rise if they know the cd's are being sold for download also.

For those guys, 64 cents would get split 30 ways, and you also risk taking costumers away from Judaica stores so you lose real money that was actually coming in.

Non Jewish stores and iTunes sell so much more volume that it all adds up to much bigger profits which allow them to make less per a cd.

Youre talking hundreds of thousands to millions of copies versus hundreds to maybe thousands to maybe if your last name is Fried or Shwekey tens of thousand.

Another thing which seems to be lost in all of these conversations is that Aderet, Gal Paz, Sameach and L'Chaim are NOT just distribution houses. They also fund a lot of these albums either in part of in full. If Sameach or Aderet lays out 80,000 for an album, why do you think other people should make the money?

Also, the big 5 or 6 labels. Gal Paz, Sameach, Aderet, L'Chaim, Green Tech, Chedva/Chazak ... they give each artist many times a different deal. Some deals are based on future purchasing of the rights if the album is a hit. Some are because no money was invested.

Some artists get, 7. Some get 7.50, some 8, some even in rare cases get 8.50, some get even less.

The other thing to consider is that these labels don't just fund many albums, they also eventually buy the rights to them if they become huge hits. So again, they have a huge stake in where the CD goes and who makes money off of it.

It's not a monopoly issue, it's an issue on seeing a fair and guaranteed return on an investment.

If as the models are now, they would risk putting it on iTunes for 10 dollars they would have to pay those same people who work on an album, plus any raised fees based on the fact that they would be selling more copies via download. At the same time undercutting and angering the 400 Judaica stores that actually DO bring in that money that recovers these labels financial investments.

Whatever you see on the market today is money that was invested 2 years ago. There is money invested in major projects by all these labels that you won't see on your Judaica shelf for 2 more years.

You can't ask these labels who are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on albums that don't get released for 1-2 years to take the kinds of risks your suggesting. That's another reason the downloads have to be done in a controlled setting. Thats why the "shiny shoe" crowd will never go to itunes and will just all eventually end up on Aderet or Sameach's download sites. (It's also the reason jtunes never took off)

Downloads will do great for rock bands and non Chassidic genres. Less money is invested, less people have to be paid out and their audience is already usually built in internet savvy, download happy.

But the Lipa's, Shwekey's Miami Boys Choir, Fried, Dachs, Wald, Gertner, MBD, Yeedle, Chevra, Yeshiva Boys types of groups will never be able to make the jump to iTunes.

YK said...

Dear Anon

Firstly, I really liked the way you structured your point. But you have a lot of assumptions there that we must bow to.

Some of your assumptions:

1) iTunes pays .64 cent for each song.
2) The labels fund all (or most) notable projects out there.
3) The albums are the money making machine in this industry (that can be inferred from "For those guys, 64 cents would get split 30 ways, and you also risk taking costumers away from Judaica stores (...) " and some other of your passages)
... and some other assumptions.

Regarding 1), I have first hand info also from people who deal directly with iTunes that they get U$.80 on each song. I checked my sources, so you should double check yours. There's only one truth.

Regarding 2), I believe the major projects in JM are not necessarily produced by the labels. Avrumi Flam funds his albums; so did Mendy Wald; and Pruzanski to some extent (check the album jacket) and I think A. Fried and MBD do the same. I'm not positive in this one, but I never see in the credits Sameach or Aderet's names in the production line. Maybe they grant some better deals to the big singers (U$8.50 instead of 7 let's say) but that's not funding per se.

Regarding 3), we have discussed in lenght that what gives money to the singers is NOT the albums, but the concerts and weddings. The album is merely a way to put their names in the spotlight. So even if they have to split the profit in 30, that doesn't mean the singers are losing money. Not at all. The big guys make big bucks.

If the intent of the albums is to put the aritsts in the spotlight, there's no better way than going to iTunes. Everyone from everywhere (not just from the US and Israel) can buy in iTunes and it's a proven way of protecting music from piracy.

So I do hear what you said, but I don't go for your assumptions so easily.


ps: are you Sruly??

Anonymous said...

I'm being as straight with you as possible without revealing names and specific deals. Every single artist or group gets a different deal. There is no majority or general policy. It's about the pitch, the timing, what else is out, what past albums have done, what new artists have done in the past, who you know, how assertive you are, etc.

The Jewish industry is absolutely completely different then the secular market in every possible way. I know you want to think it's basically the same, but it's not. Should it be the same? Yes. Why isn't it? I have some pretty good ideas. Are there major structural problems with the industry? Yes.

But the facts don't change just because you know 4 or 5 guys in the industry who say they know. Let me just say, if I can without exactly saying, maybe not on purpose, but many people don't want to reveal where the money came from or how CD's they actually sold, or more specifically didn't sell. There is also a lot of hock in the industry and a lot of big talkers, people think they know everyone's business, they themselves are not always so forthcoming with the whole stories.

G-d forbid should I embarrass anyone, but there was a CD that came out in the last 3 years, from what is considered by most to be a "big JM star" that sold LESS then 500 copies.

500. I'm sure there is a list of reasons why it only sold that many, but 500 is worse then a train wreck. It's like 100 train wrecks.

If they would have released it on iTunes you *think* it might sell a ton more at 10 dollars? Thats a risk that someone who invested 40,000 dollars can't take. Because facts are facts, and you have to start off with that number of 500. Assuming 100 people download the album, where are those 100 coming from? If even 50 of them are people who would have bought it from a Judaica store then they only sold 450 CD's. Maybe the extra 50 that went online would just bring it back to the 500 overall thinking in terms of dollars because Judaica stores would charge more.

Who is guaranteeing that people are gonna sell 5 times more at iTunes, enough o justify covering those financial losses from cd's sold in Judaica stores?

Ok, let's switch points.

I am also straight out telling you that at least 60 percent of the major albums on the market have either been funded in part or wholly by the labels or producers that work closely WITH the labels.

At least another 30 percent end up selling the rights over the 2 or 3 years following the release. Depending on its success. I'd say the remaining ten percent raise the money completely themselves or fund it from their own pocket (a horrible mistake if you ask me.) If you can't find ANYONE to help finance your album, if no one believes in it enough to help fund it then that should give you a good idea of what is to come. It's not rocket science. If you have a great voice and a convincing proposal there are people that are more then eager in albums, especially the labels. At the very least they will give you something.

I can't say specifics, so I can't give you examples, but some artists who do find their own funding often ask for lots of money upfront for a huge number of cd's to be paid either right away or within 90 days.

Anyway you split it, the labels spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on albums. No one is going to take the huge financial risks involved in making that jump to iTunes. Thats why they will at the very least stick with their labels, just use their download sites.

Everything is different.

The 80's and 90's were all about the Music store. Going to the mall, buying cd's. That was how things worked in the secular market. Today, everyone buys their cd's at Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, BJ's or online at Amazon or yes, even downloading at iTunes and the 40 other wannabe download sites.

Jewish Music has always mainly been sold in Judaica stores. Not in JM stores, and the reason is because most stores can't make a profit just on CD's. There are only a handful of (successful) JM only stores in the country. (Israel is different.)The two major ones in NY are label owned, Gal Paz and Mostly Music (Aderet) thats why they can afford it.

Like I said, everything is different. In the secular market albums have real release dates, huge marketing budgets, they play their singles on thousands of radio stations around the country.

Everything is different.

Every deal is different, every contract is different, every arrangement has different conditions and payment plans.

In the secular market concert cd's and dvds are not as popular as in the Jewish industry. Something like HASC or MIAMI-MOSHIACH or SHWEKEY IN PARIS sell the same if not more copies then regular CD's!

Who do you think foots the bill to record these concerts? Even if its a producer and not the label, the producers and artists often ask for payment of 5,000 pieces upfront, or payments for the rights.

Everything is different.

The people that told me 64 cents aren't lying, I did look into it, another group also told me 64 cents. I know I've read articles in the industry about Secular artists who claim they don't see more then a few pennies from iTunes. The major labels take most of it. Sony/Universal etc. Why do you think RadioHead wanted to only sell it on their website.

Just getting back to a previous point, if an artist has a good track record a label will be more inclined to invest in their album. Even if they only put in half, or give them based on 5,000 cd's upfront right away. Thats still tons of money invested that they need to get back before they even make a profit.

So we could keep going back and forth, I am being as straight as I can without revealing specific details. I have no reason to lie.

I'm not saying your sources are lying, I'm just saying I have many many more sources. I'm saying everyone has a different deal in some way and many people in order to keep their "status" or in order to play the hock game certain people make big claims. It's one huge chicken market. Everyone likes to try to know everyone else's personal business (like any workplace environment) and people make assumptions based on hock they hear.

Unless you have access to those peoples contracts and actual sales records you can't know for sure.

You can choose not to trust me, and that is your perogative, but I have no reason to spend the time I am spending here writing these responses just to mislead you.

Joel said...

My head is spinning from all this anonymous information spewed from faceless people about sources who are unnamed and unreliable.
Personally I do not care who makes what why where and when. It is not my business to count other peoples money.
All I do care about is quality music. It just seems that the jewish music industry is sometimes very third world when it comes to innovating new ideas that the secular industry has implemented moons ago.
Im tired of different people saying my source is better than yours. If you both don't reveal your source how are we supposed to make an accurate decision about who is actually correct.
How about discussions about specifics not vague abstracts. Whoever sold only 500 albums probably wasn't on sameach because they have a great marketing engine with the podcast. Aderet has nothing close.

YK said...


Thanks for the explanation and for spending time clarifying the business model of JM.

I checked again about the iTunes profit margin and it turns out we are both wrong. Go to and click in the iTunes hyperlink and you will see you get .70 cents of each song.

I am satisfied with what I heard from you, thanks.


I would love to disclose all the details but there is a lot of politics in this subject, thus almost all artists try all they can to avoid conflicts. I'm sure anon is in touch with real artists, and so do I. I don't believe either of us is lying.

Rgrds to all


Anonymous said...


As I wrote to you in my email, TuneCore is a 3rd party company. Just like CD Baby. 3rd Party website must have different price structures. I believe CD Baby arranges 64 cents. Apparently unless you have a major label or a good agent it's a very lengthy and painful process contacting iTunes directly, so a lot of groups just use a 3rd party website.

Joel, you're right in not wanting to know it. This part of the business shouldn't be of any concern to you. I was just necessary to explain why music is where it is download wise.

You're right, in the end it's all about the music and hopefully it's good music.

C Yehuda said...

The main benefit of itunes and similar stores, is that it allows you to purchase songs individually. Which, when you think about it, is really the rational way of doing things. How many markets are there, besides the music market where you are told, "If you want to buy this, you also have to buy ten other things like it"? In fact, if you pay fifteen dollars for an album on which you like three songs, you are paying 5 dollars per song. The other songs are irrelevant. As anon. pointed out, Jews are notoriously stingy, and it's hardly surprising that they're reluctant to do this.

I do feel bad for the musicians who have trouble making money, but as Joel said, it's a matter of simple economics: supply and demand. The less demand there is in a market, the less viable it is to charge a high price, particularly when there are ready substitutes available for less money (for many people, goyish music is an acceptable substitute, unfortunately). I'm willing to be a little flexible (e.g. paying $1.50 instead of $1.00 at, since I know that the artists are making less money), but there's still a limit to how much above I'm willing to pay.

What I really think the solution will be is to move away entirely from the old distribution channels in which everyone takes a cut. As everyone has pointed out, there is simply not enough money in Jewish music to support all those middlemen. And the internet is tailor-made for eliminating them. Someone mentioned Radiohead; well I think that's a great model to follow. Why should Sameach, or Aderet, or Apple Computer take any of the money? The justification used to be that they get your music out to the masses, but their services are no longer required. The internet can do that. What do I care whether I download a song from itunes or some artists personal site? (The only potential hurdle that I see in that business model is the question of advertising; spreading the music in the first place, so people can hear it and want to buy it.)