In response to this article, the Future of Music Coalition (FMC)—a D.C.-based nonprofit group championing musicians and their rights to fair compensation—posted an extensive critique, faulting Johnson’s article on several points. In particular, FMC objects that, by using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) to support his conclusion about the rise of musicians in the U.S., Johnson overlooked key limitations and definitional issues associated with the dataset. Similarly, FMC maintains that his findings about musicians’ incomes do not reveal how those incomes are distributed, and how the distribution pattern has changed over time.
Both the Johnson and FMC pieces (and a further clarifying article by Johnson and, yes, another by FMC) deserve careful reading by people interested in learning how artists’ livelihoods might have been affected by the so-called digital economy. They are also good case examples of how different data sources can be used to confront pragmatic research questions about the arts, how the data often will be inadequate or incomplete, but how, nonetheless, such data can spark a vital exchange of information and opinions among researchers and arts organizations.