Frank Ocean Makes $1 million By Going Independent
As it was first reported, Ocean maneuvered his way out his contract with former publisher Def Jam and its parent company Universal Music Group (UMG) by releasing a 45-minute visual album titled Endless earlier this month. That release fulfilled Ocean’s contractual obligations to Def Jam and Universal paving the way for the artist to drop Blonde on his independent label Boys Don’t Cry, which is not affiliated with Def Jam.
The decoupling has had tremendous financial implications for the 28-year-old singer. Blonde sold 276,000 equivalent album units since its release last Saturday release, according to Billboard. Without a major label, Ocean stands to earn more than double from the record, which was released exclusively on Apple Music and iTunes, than he would have done had he still been signed to Def Jam.
Advances aside, in-demand artists signed to a major label–especially those who write their own songs–can typically earn between $1.50 to $2.00 per album sold. Since Ocean released the album independently, sources close to the situation said that he could bank between $5 to $7.50 per equivalent album sold (Blonde retails on iTunes for $9.99).
Apple, meanwhile, pockets a quarter of Blonde’s list price while taking on marketing costs. Given that that album was independent, there was likely no advance and Ocean’s Boys Don’t Cry would have shouldered the $500,000 or so cost of making the release. After removing those expenses, Ocean is left with an estimated $1 million in profit in just one week. If Ocean had still been on Def Jam, he would have been owed $550,000, a good portion of which would likely have gone back to the label to pay off the advance he would have received.