Early numbers are in for Justin Bieber's latest album, "Believe" -- and they're very good. Keith Caulfield at Billboard projected that the album would sell between 400,000 and 500,000 copies in its first week, making it the best album debut of 2012.
But just how much money will Bieber make off those sales? And how does that money fit in with the wider business of Bieber? After all, it's widely known that, these days, most pop stars of Bieber's ilk make the majority of their money by touring, selling merchandise and licensing their image to consumer brands like Macy's.
"Recorded music has essentially become the vehicle for branding and sponsorships and licensing incoming," industry veteran Kim Buie, head of A&R at Thirty Tigers in Nashville, told The Huffington Post.
Indeed, according to Forbes, Bieber sold $150 million in concert tickets, and $60 million in fragrance, in 2011 alone. There's no way for an album -- except maybe Adele's "21" -- to compete with that.
Still, the biggest debuting album of the year is sure to make a bundle of money. So HuffPost Entertainment consulted with music industry experts to approximate just how big that bundle might be.
To start off, we gave a rough estimate of how many more albums Bieber will sell in coming weeks. Some albums -- like Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" -- sell almost half their copies in the first week, while others -- including "21" -- are on slow burn, continuing to sell well for months and months after their release. Bieber's past albums have fallen somewhere in between these two extremes. So we decided to play it relatively safe and guess that this week will represent about a third of the total sales of "Believe." That would the total domestic sales of the full around 1.5 million.
One facet of his proceeds is relatively easy to pin down: the publishing royalties Bieber is due as a co-writer on each of the songs on the album. Together, all the songwriters get about $1 per album sold. Most songs have about four co-writers, so Bieber is entitled to about a quarter of that revenue. So Bieber should wind up with approximately $375,000 in publishing royalties on sales of the entire album.
Once you move on to Bieber's payment as a performing artists, things get complicated. These figures depend heavily on the nature of his deal with his label, Island Def Jam Records. And our anonymous sources could only guess what his deal might be. One big question mark involves the percentage of marketing costs for the album Bieber is required to recoup -- if the label spent a lot marketing "Believe," and it requires Bieber to repay them for that, he could conceivably make almost nothing as a recording artist.
But that's not likely. Assuming that Bieber has to recoup a moderate amount of the label's outlay, he should start earning royalties after selling between 400,000 and 800,000 copies of "Believe." A typical artist makes royalties of between 10 and 15 percent of album revenue, though Prince and Madonna made headlines when it was announced that they commanded a 20 percent royalty. We're going to assume that Bieber is somewhere in between those two extremes, and commands an 18 percent royalty. If that's the case, he should make between $1 million and $2 million as a recording artist off the whole US run of the record.
That brings his total income from album sales to between $1.4 million and $2.4 million.
From there, the biggest variable is singles. A hit single like "Boyfriend," which gets lots of radio play and also sells millions of copies on iTunes, could easily add $1 million to Bieber's total revenue on the album. About six of the songs on the album, including "Boyfriend," look like they could make plausible singles. Not all of them will necessarily be huge hits -- but it still looks likely that Bieber would make at least $4 million or $5 million on sales and radio revenue from singles.
Tally it all up, and domestic sales of "Believe" and its singles could net between $5 and $7 million for Bieber -- not bad for an 18-year-old!