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About 1,500 artists break the "obscurity line" each year. Less than 1% do it on their own.

January 15, 2009:  Tom Silverman (TommyBoy Entertainment) tells Rick Goetz (Musician Coaching - great blog by the way) that in 2008, 1,500 releases broke the “obscurity line” (sold over 10,000 albums). 

Out of the 1,500 obscurity-breaking releases, 227 artists broke the “obscurity line” for the first time ever.

Out of the 227 first-timers, 14 artists did it own their own; approximately 106 were signed to a major; the rest were signed to indies.

Check out Tom Silverman’s New Music Seminar in LA on February 2nd.


To be completely correct, the title above should have said: “1,500 releases break the “obscurity line” each year.”  No more posting late night for me.  Too many errors and typos.

Reader Comments (14)

J.B. - Thanks!

January 18 | Registered CommenterMusic Think Tank

That was in 2008...these numbers are losing their importance every single day. A lot changes online in a year. I'd be interested in seeing these updated stats every six months.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

@ Peter - agreed. Moreover album sales are no longer the best measure of success.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

@ Bruce - agree with that as well. Interesting information nonetheless. Thanks.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Thanks for the mention Bruce. When it comes to numbers and statistics I pay a great deal of attention to Big Champagne these days. Those guys have frightening amounts of data.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterRick Goetz

Very interesting. @Peter, thanks for the reference to Big Champagne. I have never heard of it and it looks interesting. I would like to keep a close eye on these statistics. I bet they are going to be changing quickly.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterJake Larson

Geez, Bruce, when sharing data like that could you at least offer something as maybe cyanide pills at, didn't realize it was anywhere near that ugly! So much for the Long Tail, etc.

And unfortunately, it's probably wishful thinking that 2009 figures will be that much different, or anytime soon.

Kinda reinforces what I have been sensing for awhile - that with a few (oft repeated), exceptions, the real web 2.0 benefactors are those marketing services to indie artists, with large doses of unsubstantiated hype.

I can see it now, some savvy marketer using these very stats, concluding that if 14 unsigned artists sold over 10k units WITH online tools, likely less (maybe 3-4), did so pre-internet, then conclude...

"NOW you have a 300% better chance of making it than before, so just pay me to show you how"...just sayin",,,

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

DG. Read the followup on TechDirt. It may help you feel a bit better.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Given that the vast majority of singles downloaded for a price were also signed artists (don't have #s but quite certain I have seen them more than once), it seems logical to me that the take away (and sanity saver), is:

1. Use all available technology for promotion to a point where

2. you are signed.

So the tools we now have are very helpful, but also very unlikely to lead to a financially lucrative career without label involvement (specifically those looking for significant financial rewards - I realize many artists have different motivations/goals so am NOT referring to them here).

So the endgame is the same but with a modified path to get there?

Could it be that P+D deals could be done so at least eliminating the onerous production side of label deals? I realize that label focus is on 360 deals, but at some point of momentum/marketing critical mass, are labels (particularly majors), open to any sort of distribution-only deals?

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Part two of the interview is up for those who would like to read it. It is not nearly as statistic heavy.

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterRick Goetz

That's some bitter cough syrup!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterColie Brice

Rick, thanks for the alert to Pt 2...remarkablly clear and pointed interview that speaks VOLUMES.

Really cuts through the hype and gets at the heart of things for artists these days - very sobering but why ide from the truth?

Would be a valuable add to repost here, for that matter...

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

The "14" are actually 12...and posted on

January 20 | Unregistered CommenterRick Goetz

I would love to know where you can find music industry stats like that. How many records are sold, cumulative, per week, etc. Lefsetz seems to know as well. Just curious.

Anyway, I think the number of artists who can pass that obscurity line will increase at an increasing rate. 14 this year, then a number like 25 next, then 40, 70, 115, and so on. Eventually it will level off, but not until several years have passed.

Most people thought the 4 minute mile was impossible until one guy broke it, then people started breaking it all the time. Maybe the same kind of situation will happen here.

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Allen

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