Illegal Downloading Doesn’t Hurt Anyone

Copyright infringement and illegal downloads are making it almost impossible for independent artists in any creative domain to earn minimum wage. With so many people working for minimum wage, it’s becoming increasing easy for those who infringe on copyrights and who download copyrighted materials illegal to justify their actions. After all, many of them are only earning $7.25 per hour!

Where did I get that minimum wage rate  of $7.25 per hour? According to the American government, minimum wage is $7.25 in most states: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The minimum wage in Canada appears higher, but in reality, the cost of living in Canada is higher than the cost of living in the US and so, for this article, I’m going to go with the $7.25 per hour as the minimum wage.

So let’s take a look at what an independent artist has to sell each and every month in order to earn as much as minimum wage earners who justify their illegal actions by parading their pay stubs as an excuse.

Recording Artists

Once the cost of manufacturing (and not including the cost of actually recording) a CD is deducted from self-pressed CDs that sell for $10 each, 144 units have to be sold each and every month. Of course, if you’re selling through a service such as CD Baby, you have to sell 155 units each and every month.

Let’s say the musician is able to secure a high royalty rate deal with a label. Aside from the fact that there’s more exposure 1,160 units have to be sold each and every month. Unfortunately, if the musician is only able to secure a low royalty rate deal they’ll have to sell 3,870 units to hit that minimum wage break point.

Of course, with downloads from major download portals, the problem of manufactured CDs or high royalty v low royalty rate deals with a label aren’t something to worry about. After all, downloads from major download portals are the way to go, right? If you’re talking downloads from iTunes, you’re going to have to see 1,230 downloads to reach that goal. It’s even more difficult if you go through CD Baby because MP3s downloaded directly from them have to see 1,565 downloads and CD Baby MP3s are done via iTunes, then the artist has to see 2,045 downloads to make that goal … each and every month.

If you think that’s a little difficult to manage, and you mistakenly believe that getting paid by Rhapsody, or Spotify is going to get you to that minimum wage point, think again. A recording artist needs 849,920 plays per month on Rhapsody to meet that mark; 1,546,670 per month on to meet that mark; and 4,053,110 plays on Spotify to meet that mark … each and every month.

Where am I getting these stats from that sound so dire and unbelievable? They’re from Daily Infographic and they’re not only believable, they are accurate and factual.


If publishing-on-demand is what you’re banking on, keep in mind that most authors have a profit margin of about $5 per book, you still have to market your book so that 235 book lovers will buy your book each and every month.

If you think it’s easier to reach that minimum wage goal by selling eBooks because you can set your own profit margin, think again. Most eBook readers aren’t likely to pay more than $2.99 per download for an author that hasn’t got the pull of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. At $2.99 (the royalty is set at 70% for eBooks selling for $2.99 and higher), an author has to sell 555 books. If the book is priced just one penny lower at $2.98, an author has to sell 1,115 eBooks. If they set that price at $1.98, an author needs to sell 1,660 books and at $0.99 per book, an author needs to move 3,315 eBooks … each and every month.

If you’ve landed a publishing deal with an established publishing company, don’t be too quick to celebrate the financial windfall. The average royalty rate on books from an established publisher is 6 percent on average. Many paperbacks sell for $10 each and so an author with a publishing deal is going to have to sell 1,940 books each and every month to earn minimum wage each and every month.

If you’re hoping to fill in the gaps by being a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers, you can expect to earn $0.25 per word and with most articles running about 500 words each, you’ll be earning $125 for every 500 word article published. Of course, you’ll have to write and publish at least 9 articles each month, with two extra articles per year. Of course, finding 9 magazines or newspapers that will publish articles submitted by freelance writers are few and far between, making it that much more difficult to earn a minimum monthly wage this way. One word of caution: There are publication who insist on either buying all rights to the article or who consider it a work-for-hire which means they own the copyright.

Other Artists

Whether I’m talking photographers, comic book artists, visual artists, or any other kind of artist creating content,  every creative person has to sell in large numbers every month in order to earn a minimum wage of $7.25 per month times a forty-hour work week times four weeks every month.  The fact of the matter is, nearly every successful artist works far in excess of forty hours each and every week.   That’s something to take into account.

Additional Points To Consider

Unlike someone who gets up, gets dressed and works at a job for minimum wage for an employer, creative types have to also invest time creating their product. It’s not sitting on the shelf, waiting for the creative person to pick up and sell.

And unlike someone who works at a job for minimum wage, there’s usually a considerable amount of time that’s been invested in education (including books and private lessons or tuition, et al). So creative people are financially working at a financial disadvantage when they produce new works to offer the public.

Additionally, whereas someone who works a job for minimum wage, creative people have to pay out-of-pocket in time, money, and effort, to actively market and promote the product that’s being offered to the general public.

So the next time you hear someone use the “I work at a minimum wage job” justification for illegally downloading and copyright infringing a copyright owners material, you may want to mention some of this to them. They most likely will ignore the facts, but you never know — someone might actually take heed and that will be one more person who respects that everyone is entitled to the money they  have earned.

Special Note To Creative People

If you’re hoping to meet and exceed the minimum wage barrier, you have to remember there are three major points you have to hit each and every month.

First, you have to make sure you cultivate and nurture a healthy fan base.  Without that, you’re just spinning your wheels in the mud.

Second, always provide your best work possible to your fans.  Don’t settle for good enough and stay in your comfort zone, thinking that if you knocked it out of the ball park the first time, that you can afford to sit back and become complacent.  Get out there and stretch yourself artistically speaking.

And third, remember that uniqueness sells.  I don’t mean uniqueness as in doing anything for attention; I mean realizing that each person is unique and what makes you stand apart from the rest of the pack is the fact that you’re a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.

Elyse Bruce


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