How to be a musician now that music is free
Musicians! Check out this survey from the Future of Music Coalition. The study tracks artist revenue streams in the post-Napster era, and captures the ways in which US musicians generate income from songs, recordings, or performances.
Obviously, this is not your grandpa’s music industry. The past ten years transformed the ways in which music created and distributed. The advent of streaming services and webcasting stations eliminated the cost barriers to the distribution and sale of music, and loads of new platforms and technologies — from Bandcamp to blogs to Twitter feeds — now help musicians connect with fans.
The press is quick to categorize these structural changes as positive improvements for musicians, particularly when compared with the music industry of the past — remember FM radio? While it’s true that these changes improved musicians’ access to the marketplace, they have not necessarily improved musicians ability to generate revenue from their work. Almost all analyses of the effects of these changes rest purely on assumptions that they have improved musicians’ bottom lines, or on top-level assessments of the music industry writ large, based on traditional metrics: number of albums sold, number of spins on radio, even stock price valuations.
The results provide some insight into complex nature of being a musician in the 21st century, particularly the financial realities of copyrights, licensing, and royalties.