Most artists' agreements are such that they get 50% of the revenue that the label makes off of digital downloads of their blood, sweat, and tears. Most song downloads are around a dollar, and the label gets around $.70 of that. It would stand to reason that the artist should get around $.35, minus some reasonable overhead, which should put them at about $.30 or so per download.
Sony, however, takes an additional cut to account for "product breakage", which I guess is a legacy that they probably built in with tangile formats like vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, and so shrewdly decided they could carry over to the digital world, ignoring the fact that there's no actual product to break.
They also take a cut for packaging. That one's interesting. What's in the package? WHERE is the package? I've never bought a song off of i-Tunes or Rhapsody or anywhere and later had a box show up in the mail containing liner notes or album art or a CD or disk or anything. There is no fucking package, but the artists are paying for one.
Wait. There's more. Sony takes even more for the delivery of a "digital file". I'm not sure how much this is, but if it's more than a penny it's a fucking rip. It's not like there's some guy in a room somewhere ripping CDs or transferring analog tapes to digital. If you record anything these days, you HAVE A DIGITAL FILE. It'd probably cost them more to NOT have a digital file exist of a recording. Further, all of the online services have the ability to take a physical CD and create their own digital files. In fact, this was our preferred method at Rhapsody, where for any given track we needed to store twelve different formats. So, why on earth does Sony want artists to pay for a digital file when there's zero need for them to provide one?
When all is said and done, the artist gets about $.04, instead of $.30 or $.35. Fucking ridiculous.
I don't know why anyone signs a recording contract anymore. These are the days where you can do more with a modestly priced laptop, some free software, and a couple thousand bucks' worth of gear than you could with the most advanced recording studios of 20 years ago. Even if you can't engineer your own shit, a weekend at a studio is easily covered by ten or twenty shows, if your music is worth a fuck. There's really no reason these blood sucking middle-men should be making so much money to exploit your art, sell you out to commercials and tv shows, and alienate your fans by suing them for sharing your music and exposing others to what you do.
Fuck. Those. Guys.