Last week, we launched a series of blog posts that are using Artist Revenue Streams to examine some of the common assumptions about musicians and income.
In part 3, we’re looking at the assumption that, in a post-Napster world, musicians don’t make any money from selling music. As with the other perceptions, there’s a grain of truth in this, based on the simple fact that income from the sales of sound recordings in the traditional sense – sales of physical goods in retail stores – has changed drasticallly in the past ten years. There are fewer retail stores, more online ways to get music for free and, according to the RIAA’s data, a steady decline in the dollar amount of CDs shipped from 2004 to 2010.
In March of this year, Artist Revenue Streams co-directors Kristin Thomson and Jean Cook participated in a panel at South by Southwest called Brass in Pocket: Accessing More Musician Income. Drawing upon data collected through the Artist Revenue Streams project and the panelists’ personal experience, they talked about a handful common assumptions and myths about how musicians make money.
This week, the ARS team is expanding on the SXSW panel topic through a series of posts.
We’re starting by tackling the assumption that musicians are rich. This is a feeling that is reinforced by shows likeMTV Cribs, by annual lists from outlets like Forbes and Billboard that publish figures about the most well-paid musicians, and even by musicians themselves who reference luxury brands in their lyrics, or embrace high-priced lifestyles. Naturally, the public begins to assume that musicians – especially chart-topping, highly visible ones – are rich, based largely on what they see on stage, read about online, or hear on the radio. And even when the musicians aren’t rich, some embrace the stereotype because it adds to their own brand’s value.
There are some musicians who are doing very well financially (at least in gross earnings), and we applaud their success. But, just like the US population, there are very few at the top. While there are a handful of musicians who are wealthy, the vast majority of working musicians in the US are middle class earners.
Ever wonder what the living wage is for a jazz band leader living in London? Or how about a cello player in an orchestra? Many of these musician gigs don’t win a popularity contest when it comes to the public’s perception of the music industry. There are tons of bedroom producers and garage bands that can generate a short-lived buzz, but it takes years of practice and formal education to develop a stable stream of income for the average musician. Luckily, they’ve got the Future of Music Coalition looking out for them.
…There seem to be more ways than ever for the independent artist to bring in cash. The Future of Music Coalition, an artist lobbying group, announced during SXSW the results of two years of research into how musicians make money. Jean Cook, one of the architects of the project, said the research revealed 42 potential music revenue sources. No single artist is, of course, benefiting from all 42. A classical artist, for instance, may have access to only two or three, she said. But a singer-songwriter may be able to pull from as many as 25 revenue streams. read more
Everyone is always talking about the artists’ team, the critical support structure that helps spread the music and manage fanbases. But when it comes to successful artists, the most important and well-paid members are lawyers and accountants - then the webmaster, booking agent, manager, and everyone else.
The Future of Music Coalition recently interviewed thousands of artists about the composition of their team, and this is what a few hundred, high-earning artists said. These are full-time artists making more than $100,000 a year with over 90% of that coming directly from their music. And outside of the band members themselves, these were the roles designated most (in terms of the percentage of respondents indicating that these people were members of their team). […] read more
Musicians are musicians because they play music, not because they love accounting or managing Facebook pages. But in the current climate, artists are now forced to play more roles than ever - and their art is often suffering as a result.
According to survey information just shared at SXSW by the Future of Music Coalition (FMC), more than half of all of artists find themselves juggling three or more roles, and nearly 26 percent of artists are playing 4 or more roles. “The ‘I can do it myself’ mentality is not only pervasive, but I think some artists also romanticize it,” FMC consultant Kristen Thomson relayed. read more
[…]Also intriguing: Artist lobbying group the Future of Music Coalition has spent the last year collecting and studying data compiled from working musicians, hoping to better understand where artists of different levels are generating the bulk of their income. The in-progress findings will be presented Thursday.[…]
[…]The good news, perhaps, is that there are more ways than ever to bring in cash. Artist lobbying group The Future of Music Coalition revealed at Austin the results of its two-year research project into how artists make money. Jean Cook, one of the architects of the project, specified Saturday to Pop & Hiss that no single artist is, of course, benefiting from all 42 potential revenue sources that her group has identified. A classical artist, for instance, may have access to only two or three, she said, whereas a singer/songwriter may be able to pull from as many as 25 different sources.[…]
March 12, 2012 - 9:00am - March 18, 2012 - 11:59pm
It’s that time of year again! South By SouthWest 2012 is around the corner and FMC is ready to rock it. If you’re in Austin at SXSW anytime from March 12-18, be sure to track us down:
Michael Bracy mbracy [at] btbv [dot] com
Jean Cook jean [at] futureofmusic [dot] org
Chhaya Kapadia chhaya [at] futureofmusic [dot] org
Alex Maiolo alex [at] futureofmusic [dot] org
Casey Rae-Hunter casey [at] futureofmusic [dot] org
Kristin Thomson kristin [at] futureofmusic [dot] org read more
Kristin Thomson is a community organizer, social policy researcher, entrepreneur and musician. She is co-owner of Simple Machines, an independent record label, which released over seventy records and CDs from 1991-1998. She also played guitar in the band Tsunami, which released four albums from 1991-1997 and toured extensively. In 2001, Kristin graduated with a Masters in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. She has been with the Future of Music Coalition since 2001 and has overseen project management, research and event programming, including Future of Music Policy Summits from 2002-2007. She currently lives near Philadelphia with her husband Bryan Dilworth, a concert promoter, and their son, where she also plays guitar in the lady-powered band, Ken. read more