I’m sure you’ve read the rants of musicians over the years, the worries about what “this” technology or “that” technology will do to music. You’ve probably chimed in at times, commenting on your Facebook status about how you miss the days of vinyl and remarking how “cold” digital is. I get that frustration and I feel it too. But you and I both know that it isn’t the CD, the download, or the iPod that is to blame. The hard, honest, truth is that there are fewer and fewer people like us anymore. We spent our teenage years slinging burgers or washing dishes to save up enough money to see a cool band on tour. We’d buy a ticket and a t-shirt, going without beer and cigarettes for a week in order to save up enough money to do it again for the next band to come through town. Well, guess what? People don’t really do that anymore. “The record labels suck and don’t sign bands anymore. MTV doesn’t play music videos. Radio stations are sterile, auto-programmed, corporate whores.” You’ve heard all of that and it’s easy to point the finger. You might want to sit down because what I have to say next is going to hurt.
It’s simple economics, my friend. There is no longer the demand there once was. If music lovers like you and I demanded live entertainment and used our wallets to prove it, all of it would still be here. But we’re not and it’s going away fast. I hope you like hearing “Don’t Stop Believin’’” for the 7997th time because that’s all we’re going to have. I hope “Dream On” gives you an erection for the next thirty years. I hope the Dolby stereo speakers on your iPhone can someday slam you in the chest like a kick drum at a live show. Virtual audio reality, or whatever.
Yes, I’m a musician but I’m talking to you as a fellow fan. I have a huge collection of music that will last me a lifetime, but am I ready to write off new music forever? I’m not, and I know you’re not either. But that’s where we’re headed because it’s simple economics, my friend. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If musicians make music and nobody buys it, can they make a living?
I know, I know. I’ve been charmed by Spotify and Pandora too. It’s so easy and convenient. Spotify said that the average payment to artists for a single play of a track is between $0.006 and $0.0084. That means a song played 1000 times per hour ($6.00/hour) for forty hours per week will produce less than minimum wage ($7.25/hour). Spotify has also revealed that 80% of its songs (4 million as of October 2013) have never been played. Never. Not once. Based on that nifty data, you can probably imagine the statistically insignificant number of musicians that could even dream of 1000 plays/hour – and at that rate, still make less than minimum wage. Oh, and that would be if you were a solo artist. Take your less-than-minimum-wage royalties and now divide those up between the four members of the band.
“Screw them,” I’ve heard from some of the people we know who don’t value music. “They play music. It’s not like real work. It’s not like they’re a surgeon or someone really important, like a reality TV star. If they don’t like it, they should get a real job.” Over the past few years, I’ve heard that from some of our friends that used to really enjoy music too. Fair enough. Simple economics. Musicians accept the market value of their art, or they… Right. They stop making the art.
Just a small town girl. Livin' in a lonely world. 7998 and counting.
*Source image by Rich Anderson from used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
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