It’s easy for us to throw our hands in the hair and claim things are heading downhill. We hear it said about the music industry all the time. We tell ourselves that downloading music for free makes artists broke and kills the industry. We tell ourselves that the fault lies with us and the solution is to stop what we’re doing and revert back to the way things were.
What we forget to tell ourselves is that before everything was free, 99% of musicians were unheard of and 99.9% received no income. Record labels stood between musicians and the people. They decided what was good and who should be paid, and they took home a big fat cheque just for turning up.
We fed ourselves tales about what it took to be the next Bob Dylan, or The Beatles or The Stones, well aware that the selection process was much more about luck than talent.
Today, many artists are feeling the burn of changing tides. Unfortunately, they can only blame themselves. We often forget that it’s not our right to make a lot of money. Just the same way that it’s not our right to have a parking space waiting for us when we choose to drive. Society doesn’t owe us anything. Reward comes to those who have prepared themselves for opportunity. Those musicians who are struggling with the new system have failed to prepare. They are coasters who took their fans and fame for granted.
It’s easy to say things have gone downhill but things couldn’t be further from the truth.
Today, there are less self-inflated execs telling us whether our music is any good. There are less listeners requesting radio stations tee up the top 100 list. And, thanks to MySpace, YouTube, Sound Cloud, Band Camp, iTunes etc, more musicians are making more music that’s being heard by more people and earning them more money than ever before.
Taylor Swift has embraced the change.
Last year she took home more revenue than any other artist, despite the fact that her record sales ranked 8th on the list of total earnings. Her total revenue amounted to just short of $40M.
Aside from album sales, which totalled a little shy of 4M, she is ranked 6th in the world for digital downloads, receiving 10M paid downloads. She is also ranked 5th in the world of streaming for which she is paid royalties.
Taylor makes up most of the remaining revenue through sponsorship, which is believed to be in the high seven figures, merchandise sales, which equate to almost $10M, and a 6-month tour that accrued close to $30M.
Don’t mistake the blonde 23 year old. She is one of the hardest working musicians in the industry and, if anything, her success is largely attributed to the new system. She plays the system and backs it up with talent.
Those who can’t acknowledge what she’s achieved are the same people who choose to drive and curse the cyclists when they can’t find a park.