Even if he did cash those checks, I can't picture him getting rich off of 1039. When it comes to big record companies, if you sell 1 million albums and it grosses $15 million dollars, the artist might get like .25 cents for every album sold. I have no idea what Green Day's deal is, but there's no way John has gotten more than like $100K out of Green Day. Which is no small piece of dough, mind you, but it's not exactly going to set him up for life, especially living in pricey (Northern) California.
It's kinda fucked up actually how little artists make off of selling their own albums. I remember some Green Day documentary (one of those Pogo Paradise ones) where someone said to them "You're gonna need to sell ten times as many albums with Warner to make half as much as you're making on Lookout the way major labels are so fucked up. If you're gonna sell a million albums, stay on an indie, you'll make a lot more money... if you're gonna sell 10 million albums, go to Warner." Green Day was lucky in that they *have* twice sold 10 million copies of one album, but it takes a looooot for them to get filthy rich off of sales. Touring is probably only slightly better. The real dough, unfortunately, would probably come from REAL "selling out" (i.e. butter commercials), which they really haven't done. They've let Green Day be marketed in various, mainstream ways, but they haven't exactly sold their bodies. I wonder if they got a nice check for that John Varvatos fashion commercial I think they deserve more of the money they're generating from their music, but I obviously don't feel sorry for them. It's just that movie stars get paid soooo much and I think musicians work much harder and do more good for society.
Yeah. The average going rate for most major label contracts is 11-15% for new artists. This number can then be negotiated up over time if the artist proves successful. I would like to imagine Green Day's has been, but I've no idea how much. Conversely, some indie labels have royalty rates of up to 40%. Billie, even, had said at the time that they would've made more money on Lookout (though I'm assuming he's talking percentages because there's no way Dookie could've moved those numbers on an indie.) But, considering what happened to Lookout in the long run, things probably wouldn't have stayed that way. They get further royalties, of course, from all the movies, TV shows, commercials, and so on that their songs have been used in. Plus touring and merch money (and I think we can all agree that Green Day moves a LOT o merch these days ). But anyway.....according to Aaron Cometbus, Lookout ripped Green Day off for over $1 million dollars during the whole royalty-fiasco. So, under different circumstances, John could've made decent bank. But, on top of the checks he refused to cash, there were also a lot that he hasn't ever seen. And who knows what the deal is now that those albums are on Reprise.