UK music manager Jazz Summers and the Music Managers Forum are sponsoring a mini-conference to spotlight the fact that artists still get a tiny percentage of the profits from digital downloads through iTunes and elsewhere. Commenters over at iPodNN rightly point out that the issue isn't with Apple charging too little for songs. In fact, the royalty percentages are what's way out of whack.
Bands that signed deals before iTunes emerged as a digital download powerhouse often agreed (unwittingly) to profit sharing agreements of 6% or less. And that's 6% of the "net" after Apple takes a cut and songwriters get their statutory 8.5 cents. No wonder Jazz is angry. His clients are lucky if they're getting a penny per download!
Meanwhile, artists who handle their digital distribution through CDBaby are getting about fifty times as much per song. Building an audience and hammering home the way that audiences can support you through micropayments can earn you more money online than big rock stars are making, even if you're selling only a fraction of their singles.