Musicians, Jobs and Technology

Paul Reisenkoff, economist, musician, and founder of Music Digital News, wrote an article last year highlighting the decline of the number of paid musicians. I haven’t worked for major record labels or studied economics at Stanford. I’m only a consumer with an opinion that tends to be at odds with major record labels when they talk about the threats of piracy, the revenue possibilities of streaming, and other advents of technology concerning music. I don’t know what the numbers will look like this year. Assuming a “trend”, I wonder if it is really a trend at all, or misleading data that does not account for how the consumer, the fan and music lover, takes in the product musicians put out.

I used to dream of the day that I no longer had to organize my own music library. I was not a fan of using the iTunes import CD info feature, and info was wrong, or in the wrong place and I had to correct it myself. I waited patiently for the time when my music library no longer depended on me for organizational consistency.

Movies and video games are another conversation, but music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have made music pirating obsolete. How much money the artist sees and if the amount per song play is fair is up for debate . But I personally do not need to own a record ever again. Unless the record touches me so that I must contribute, symbolically, by purchasing the album, I cannot justify a purchase.

As a paid subscriber to Spotify I, ad free, have access to unlimited music on all my devices. I can sync some of this music to listen to when I’m without a cell signal or wireless connection. I have yet to not be able to find an artist, major orchestra, or song that I want to listen to. If I were to purchase all of the music I listen to on Spotify… let’s just say the subscription pays for itself.

Also, linking record sales to the success of a musician is like continuing to link Neilson ratings to cable television success. The more people watching television mean more people are seeing ads. If viewers are watching more ads, it means the more revenue the show brings in = show is awesome and successful. Wrong. Way too many shows get cancelled because they are watched online, and have a social media presence where ratings have no bearing. While Nielsen has finally announced they will take into account Internet streaming this fall, it took way too long for them to get on this bandwagon.

Instead of looking at these numbers alone and seeing a bleak outlook, why not look at other numbers like those showing independent record labels on the rise or that record sales, hard copies and downloads are declining in favor of Internet radio? Personally, I’m not a fan of internet radio, I avoid ads like the plague.

Maybe the industry isn’t struggling, maybe it’s just changing.

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