I was not the only person to take issue with this article. Some provided detailed and clear-headed thinking, some less so. I would like to focus on one particular exchange with the Future of Music Coalition (F.M.C.) because it will eventually involve Mr. Johnson, the Times public editor and the magazine editor. This is the passage in the original article that sparks the exchange:
According to the O.E.S., in 1999 there were nearly 53,000 Americans who considered their primary occupation to be that of a musician, a music director or a composter; in 2014, more than 60,000 people were employed writing, singing or playing music. That’s a rise of 15 percent, compared with overall job-market growth during that period of about 6 percent. read more
The story’s thesis and details have been well worked over since it was published. The Future of Music Coalition, an advocacy group for musicians, posted a long response on its site. The article’s author, Steven Johnson, responded in detail, and the group then answered him. The Times’s standards department considered a request for correction and decided against it.
Along with criticism from Casey Rae, CEO of Future of Music Coalition, and a rebuttal by article author Johnson, there is a letter from a very qualified individual – Neil Portnow. From the West Coast, here’s how the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences sees the current disruption: […]
Other groups are trying to generate debate and awareness. The Britain-based Featured Artists Coalition campaigns for the rights of musicians and performers. Earlier this year, David Byrne, the former front-man for Talking Heads, joined the board of SoundExchange, a non-profit performance-rights organisation that collects and distributes digital performance royalties to artists and copyright-holders. Mr Byrne took to the New York Times’s op-ed page in July to call on the industry to open up its financial “black box”. The Washington-based non-profit Future of Music Coalition provides education, research and advocacy for musicians.
3. “The Data Journalism That Wasn’t” by the Future of Music Coalition, FutureOfMusic.org
The New York Times’s Steven Johnson feature, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” about the Internet’s benevolent effects on the finances of musicians, authors, and other “creatives,” was much-debated. This rebuttal (from one of his sources no less!) was in some ways more illuminating than the piece itself, showing just how difficult it is to account for creativity. read more
On August 19, Steve Johnson authored a cover story in the New York Times entitled “The Creative Acopalypse [sic] That Wasn’t”. He argues that even though disruptive technologies like the MP3 file and streaming have pretty much turned the Music Industry upside down, musicians have managed to thrive and adapt and make sufficient and growing income.
The Future of Music Coalition note that they were consulted as fact checkers on this article. The Future of Music Coalition has since declared that “NYT Magazine chose to publish without substantive change most of the things that we told them were either: a) not accurate or b) not verifiable because there is no industry consensus and the “facts” could really go either way.” Why, then, did they publish the article when the fact checkers were telling them that something was wrong? This alone requires the public editor to investigate this incident. read more