Musicians Now Make Only 12% of the Money in the Music Business

I was actually just thinking over the weekend about how if some philanthropic billionaire gave a shit, they could easily wage a PR campaign designed to get people to tip their musicians like they do waitresses or baristas. Look, I love streaming music but the entire fucking business model is essentially built on screwing musicians. That’s the premise of streaming in a nutshell, we can give you all of the music for less than it would have cost you to buy 1 CD a month 15 years ago. But how? Well, what if we told you we found a way to not pay the musicians. Unreal. It’s almost as if, gasp, tech companies need to be heavily regulated. Oh wait, my bad, taxation is theft and all.

What no one mentions about this is that digital downloads were essentially the best thing in the universe for musicians and that phase lasted roughly what, 4 years? I have a new Black Science album in the books that’ll probably be released early next year. On the last one I put out in 2012, I made back all the production costs and essentially broke even by selling roughly 1,000 $7 CD’s and $5 downloads. To pull off the same sort of feat in the new digital marketplace, I’d have to get like 2,000,000+ streams. I don’t even delude myself it to thinking that’s going to happen. But if everyone who dug the thing tipped me $5 via a download or Paypal, I’m sure I’d manage it no problem. If I like something I’ve streamed a couple times, I do that but who else does? Pretty much only other musicians at this point. Ugh, just ugh. Anyway, shit’s apparently actually bleaker than I ever even imagined, and I’m so glad I don’t rely on music to feed myself. (from Consequence of Sound):

“As in the film industry, streaming platforms have become the norm in the music business. Subscription streaming services have already eclipsed CDs in terms of sales, and at one point, Spotify was actually worth more than the music industry as a whole. While such online platforms offer customers convenience coupled with cheaper prices, it’s undoubtedly transformed the structure of the industry’s revenue system and the way in which artists make ends meet.

Musicians have thus turned to touring as their main source of income nowadays. The strategic shift has paid off in some ways — but barely. According to an extensive reportfrom Citigroup (via Pitchfork), out of the music industry’s $43 billion revenue in 2017, only 12% actually went to artists. For the math impaired, that’s just a little over $5 billion going to the people who are essentially the foundation of this entire business.

Where does the rest of the money go? Per the report, a good chunk of the revenue is pocketed by the middlemen — those working in the distribution services like AM/FM radio, online platforms, and record labels.

(Read: What the Spotify IPO Means for the Future of Music)

12% might sound meager, but it’s actually a marked increase from 2000, when artist revenue hovered at just 7%. The improvement can be attributed to artists throwing themselves deeper into the live music business. While this new approach may help them stay afloat, it’s not exactly the most feasible in terms of overall mental health.

In fact, just last month James Blake openly discussed his history with depression and suicidal thoughts, much of it stemming from a heavy reliance on relentless touring. Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos has also repeatedly spoken out against the dangers of a music industry that does not properly support its artists and essentially forces them to live on the road. “The risks associated with being a commercialized artist and embarking on a typical album release, like endless promotion and touring, have nearly killed me,” he told Consequence of Sound in January.”

 Read the rest at Consequence of Sound

Thad McKraken

Thad McKraken

CEO at DMI
Thad McKraken is a psychedelic writer, musician, visual artist, filmmaker, Occultist, and pug enthusiast based out of Seattle. He is the author of the books The Galactic Dialogue: Occult Initiations and Transmissions From Outside of Time, both of which can be picked up on Amazon super cheap.
Thad McKraken