Industry Analysis: Music Sales Are Only 6% Of Musician Income

date: 01/16/2013 category: music news
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Industry Analysis: Music Sales Are Only 6% Of Musician Income
Music sales only account for 6% of the modern musician's revenue, according to a new survey of 5,000 musicians from different backgrounds.

It also found that only the richest musicians benefit from copyright protection, but "the vast majority of other musicians do not."

Author Peter DiCola says copyright works in a "winner-take-all or superstar model in which copyright motivates musicians through the promise of large rewards in the future in the rare event of wide popularity."

Does that sound like anyone you know?

Regarding file sharing, only one quarter of artists say they are hurt by the practise - but just as many said that it helps their career move forward.

Here's a chart showing the average share of musician income:

It shows that the majority of income, 28%, is generated through live performances, which is great for touring rock artists but may also explain why the industry is shifting towards a 'lone performer' model where an individual DJ or songwriter will earn more because they don't have to share the income with four band members.

Torrent Freak notes that the chart would look very different for major record labels, "as they mostly rely on revenue from music sales. This also explains their strong views against unauthorized file-sharing."

If you're looking to earn more from making music, ask yourself: which of these sectors am I actively working in? Many musicians remain deluded that music sales will eventually earn their entire income. In most genres, this will rarely be true, and the modern musician must accept that there is work to be done in less exciting environments to live off music alone.

To compare musician income in more detail, the study analysed different bands of earners, from the highest earning 1% to the lowest earning group, to see if there were any inherent differences:

It found that copyright law only seems to benefit the highest earning musicians, though it could be argued that those musicians earn more because they use the law to positive effect and defend their rights where necessary.

"Rather than providing marginal incentives to create to all musicians at all times, copyright law mostly affects the revenue of the highest-income musicians in a direct fashion. This is not a surprise, given the prevalence of winner-take-all markets in the entertainment industry," writes the DiCola.

Does that mean copyright should be abolished, as many defenders of the file-sharing movement would have you believe? DiCola doesn't think so.

"Musical creativity takes a number of forms, not just the kinds that copyright law protects. This broader perspective should not, however, obscure the reliance on copyright for many musicians in particular subgroups.

"Those who focus their activity on composing rely on composition revenue and are much more vulnerable to harm from copyright infringement. The same goes for recording artists who rely on sales of sound recordings," DiCola said.

Finally, a chart which breaks down income by genre shows that rock musicians earn less than those in other genres, like classical and jazz:

In essence, the genre you write in could be the deciding factor in how much money you earn. This doesn't mean ditching rock for jazz; perhaps switching genres within the rock world will prove to be a savvy business move (but only if your goal is to increase your income from music).

To use simple examples, compare pop-punk with progressive rock. One genre attracts a younger fan base with no disposable income and that may have to find their music on torrent sites, and the other has an older audience on average that still likes to buy CDs.

Think about your genre right now. Is the average audience prepared to pay for music? If not, and if you're serious about music as a career, maybe it's time to cast your net elsewhere.

By Tom Davenport

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