The New Music Economy

Great interview with David Lowery {on the media}, of Camper Van Beethoven fame, about the collapse of revenue available to musicians under the “new boss” (iTunes, Spotify, etc.), as opposed to the “old boss” (the record labels).

People forget, he says, that under the old boss, at least most artists got an advance to work on their next album. Although it’s now less expensive to record an album, the ability to recoup that investment is much more difficult.

Here’s one particularly interesting note from the interview:

One of the reasons [we keep hearing that artists are doing better now] is because there’s reports floating around on the internet. There’s one called “The Sky is Rising.” Now, everybody looks at that and go, well yeah, when you look, it says revenue’s up. These are studies that were paid for by, for instance, the internet lobby. But look at the fine print. What they’re including as revenue, for instance, is iPod sales. They have musical instrument sales, right?

There are charts in there that show digital revenue rising. Well, of course, it’s rising. It started at zero. There’s another chart in that very report that says [that] the number of music transactions is rising astronomically. Well, before iTunes only a handful of songs were available as singles. So now, essentially, instead of buying one album, you’re buying 14 tracks, and a host of other things.

I fell prey to those reports that musicians are doing better now under the new system, and now feel foolish for doing so. If a thoughtful veteran musician prefers the record labels opposed the new tech startups, and is advocating for increased government prosecution of illegal downloaders, we better listen up and rethink our assumptions.

Read Lowery’s original article: “Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss?” {the trichordist}.