Off the Charts: Examining Musicians’ Income from Sound Recordings
Interviewees’ thoughts on sound recording income sources
What did the interviewees say about the changing landscape for sound recording income? What many of them told us was that this transformation to a digital sales landscape has drastically shifted the source of income earned from sound recordings.
A surprising number of them – from all sorts of genres – mentioned the iTunes Music Store as a game changer. A jazz manager said it’s been a driver for revenue:
A Nashville songwriter said the same thing, noting it made music purchasing easy and fun:
The guitarist in a platinum selling rock band told us that digital sales were a significant source of income for them:
Clearly, iTunes isn’t the only digital store out there, but it is the biggest player in the marketplace, and the store most recognized by both musicians and music purchasers.
Sales at shows
Another thing that interviewees said, especially those working in classical, jazz and indie rock, was that sales at shows were important.
This was especially clear with the classical folks, for which there is an incredibly small market for t-shirts and other ancillary products. Many of them told us that they see the most money from physical sales not from Amazon or retailers, but from their own merchandise table after the show.
A chamber music player not only told us that they were their own biggest vendor of CD sales:
A classical music manager expressed something similar:
We can also look at income from sound recordings in the financial case studies. Here’s the income from an indie rock composer/performer, who sells CDs and vinyl on tour. Over the past five years, CD sales on the road has accounted for 12% of his income, and royalties from record sales another 3.5%. Note that the 9.4% publishing royalties slice includes income from mechanicals based on sales of the songs he co-wrote.
Meanwhile, a jazz bandleader has seen 5% of his income in record label advances, but negligible amounts in sound recording income.
So, it’s pretty clear that the sources of income for sound recordings are shifting – away from brick and mortar and towards digital sales and, for some genres, sales at shows. Income from new sources is reported by a minority of survey respondents, but for those who have earned something, they say that it has grown over the past five years.