It doesn’t matter if people are talking about books, movies or records – the commercial development of an artist is the same.
Usually, there is a triple-tier contract…
Break-even – The first project covers the costs, if not more.
Break-point – The second project is when the income is doubled.
Breakthrough – The third project is when the income is tripled.
For example, Slayer really broke through with their third album – Reign in Blood, which reached gold status in 1992 (6 years after its release) A better example is Anthrax’s Among the Living, which reached platinum status quicker because of having a music video. A median (in between) example would be Metallica’s Master of Puppets, which went gold quicker than Slayer because of touring with Ozzy Osbourne along with appearing on an episode of MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.
There was footage of them fielding phone calls from fans at a radio station. This, of course, means that the notion of the band having Billboard success without the support of MTV or radio is a load of bunk. The reality was that they didn’t need music videos or radio singles on the main radio networks. Initially, Metallica didn’t do music videos because they would only be shown on Headbanger’s Ball.
How much money that a company receives depends on how much that they want to spend. If they have limited expectations, they will have limited budgets. Artists often complain that they don’t get advertised enough, but the companies are just being sensible about the demands of the market (or lack thereof when trends are undergoing a downturn). There’s only so much money that can go into one project before the company’s other projects are taken into consideration.
That’s why a lot of artists never go beyond a certain plateau. Other artists (from the same company) become more popular, so it makes more sense to pour more money into them. Facebook and Twitter have become invaluable because an artist’s company can predict how many copies will sell. It’s becoming common for a literary agent to ask the author to reveal their Twitter page or even their blog.
If an artist is given accommodation and nutrition by the company (i.e. a trailer or a hotel suite), the company won’t be generous with their cheques unless the artist has a considerable amount of appeal (from sponsors as well as consumers). What distinguishes books from albums and movies is that timing is less of a factor. Releasing a novel in the spring is no less effective than releasing it in autumn. Books are the most flexible of the products because they can be used anywhere.
The creative capacity of a writer is similar to that of an actor: writing songs = acting in music videos. Reviews = plays (more prone to be criticised by the fans). Articles = TV shows (more variety than the previous comparison). Novellas = short films (not too many adaptations of anthologies). Novels = films.