How Much Money Frank Ocean Has Made In the Past Week (and His Former Label's Potential Take, Too)

Courtesy Photo
Frank Ocean in the video for "Nikes."

Frank Ocean's Blonde has now been out for a week and change; the album currently rests comfortably atop the Billboard 200 chart as the year's third-largest debut. But how much money does a huge record like Blonde (and let's not forget Endless...) make?

So far, Blonde has generated about $2.12 million in total, according to Billboard's estimate. (Note that the following tallies are based on the assumption that Ocean is receiving 70 percent of revenues, since Blonde was self-released -- in a major fiscal coup for the artist.) Of that first week cash, Ocean would have made $1.623 million off 232,000 album sales, and about $504,000 on 69.1 million streams.

About $359,000 (17 tracks, 9.1 cents per track, multiplied by album sales) of Blonde's revenue would be earmarked for mechanical royalties to songwriters, which Ocean will have to, at least in part, split with other writers and his publisher, BMG. (Ocean doesn’t appear to have delivered songwriting credits to BMI -- or the performance rights organization has yet to update its database with that information.)

With publishing revenue wholly subtracted, Ocean would still net about $1.77 million from Blonde... from its first week.

If Ocean was still signed to Def Jam records, its safe to presume he would have negotiated a higher royalty rate on his sophomore album. A top-tier artist with plenty of negotiating leverage would typically receive about 18 percent (22 percent, minus a 4 percent producer’s fee). With that arrangement, Ocean would have made about $383,000 in royalties in the past seven days.

If he was still signed, Ocean would be counting mechanical royalties to funnel additional dollars his way. For example, Ocean would probably be receiving a sizable portion of the $359,00 that Billboard estimates Blonde has generated in publishing royalties. Songwriting splits aren't yet known​, but credits for Blonde on Wikipedia suggest that Ocean had a hand in writing about 60 percent of the music on the album. If so, he would be due about $215,000 in publishing royalties (before the publisher's cut).

Since Blonde remains exclusively available for sale on the iTunes Store and to stream on Apple Music, Billboard has employed an estimated stream rate of $0.0073 for plays of the album's songs. Also, the iTunes Store locked out individual sale of Blonde's tracks, so that fans had to buy the entire album.

In another telling event about the album, so far Nielsen Music only detects 47 spins on radio for the album. That could be because Ocean's camp has yet to hire anybody to promote the music to radio, or has not yet delivered it to radio. (Or Ocean's team didn't provide the necessary technical information on the songs to allow Nielsen Music to track radio plays.)

Meanwhile Endless, the album released by Def Jam the day previous to Blonde but also as an exclusive through Apple Music, generated 1.79 million streams. Since that 12-track album is only available as a single continuous stream, its hard to determine what Apple is paying Def Jam for the project -- whether each track, or the entire album, counts as a single play. Endless only has a single ISRC code, so Apple could very well be paying the entire album as a single stream (unless Def Jam negotiated a per-track rate). If the former is the case, as is likely, then Endless has generated about $13,000 in revenue for Def Jam and $2,352.06 for Ocean. If the latter, then Endless would have generated nearly $157,000 for the label and $28,224.72 for Ocean. Publishing royalties would be either $776.18 or $9,314.16, of which Ocean would receive a percentage likely similar to the one he's getting on Blonde.

All in all, not a bad way to end the summer.