In talking to a colleague I was exited to hear that this person had just recently attended the wedding of a relatively famous musician. However, in speaking further about the affair I was surprised to find out where this famous musician lived. I remarked that I was surprised and thought that this artist would have resided in a more luxurious surrounding however, as my colleague put it, “he has no money.” My colleague then continued and said “well, you know if you don’t write music you aren’t making big money.”
This conversation prompted me to ask again why is it that a musician who has dedicated himself to his craft for his whole life and who has truly impacted his industry would not have much money to show for it. (I do understand that some people who make a good amount of money can “blow” it but this particular individual did not strike me as that kind of person from what I know of him).
Assuming no waste was involved I continued to think about the situation and wondered how could this happen. That then brought me to a recent article by Rolling Stone which stated that musicians only reap 12% of the music industry generated revenue. (The Rolling Stone article was based on an industry report that had just been released). If that proposition is true, then what is wrong with our industry and how can that be the situation? In other words, how, in 2018, can many talented artists fail to be fairly compensated? Furthermore, if the artists are not making the lion’s share of the money then who is?
In reviewing the report itself that was put out by “CITI GPS” in August of this year (i.e., the report discussed in the Rolling Stone article) there are two salient and important facts that come right to the surface:
- U.S. consumers are spending more than ever which amounts to approximately $43 billion dollars annually; and
- Artists only take home approximately $5 billion dollars of that figure.
Editor’s Note: Disturbingly, of the $5 billion dollar figure the majority of that revenue is earned by major or “superstar” artists. Check out this diagram which talks about the breakdown from 2013.
The Citi report appears to blame the disparity in revenue sharing on “leakage” which simply means that the cost in producing and distributing music is so heavy that a significant portion of the generated revenue does not go to the musicians. Furthermore, this report goes on to project that apparently not all is bad as the gap of revenue sharing is expected to close as technology improves.
Regardless of whether the technology accelerates to the point of putting more money in the musicians’ pockets the playing field appears to be hardly level and it appears that this has been the case for quite some time. In fact, in totality it appears to be patently unfair. Now, I don’t profess to have the answer or solution to this issue as I am sure that there are others who are more in the know than me. However, I do recognize a problem and a situation that is unfair when I see one and I am glad that my colleague reminded me that this disparity still exists. The question in my mind then, is what we, as musicians, are going to do about it.
Maybe we take a break from writing music for a minute and take a moment to talk to one another about a solution to the problem. For me, that would be a bigger hit than any of us could ever write.
Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor