Survey Methods

Posted on July 11th, 2013 by Jean Cook in What We're Learning. No Comments

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Developing Language for Survey Questions

From January through August of 2011, we used information the research team was learning from the qualitative interviews and the detailed financial case studies to help us develop and revise the Internet survey questions over the course of several months. We started with a list of the ways that revenue flows to musicians as a direct or indirect result of musical work—what we ended up calling “artists’ revenue streams.”[Note 3] Based on the qualitative interviews we added items to that list, split some items into two distinct streams where appropriate, and refined our formulations of other items. We ended up with approximately 40 distinct revenue streams that we wanted to survey musicians about.[Note 4]

An extremely important task at this stage of the research was to choose vocabulary that musicians would easily comprehend and recognize as the jargon of their industry. Just as many specialized terms exist for the composition and performance of music—riffs, jams, breaks, bridges, fills, and so on—many specialized terms exist for the business of music. One example is “session work,” referring to the situation in which a featured recording artist hires other musicians at an hourly rate to perform either at a live performance or on a recording to which the featured artist or her record label will own the copyright. Some music business terms can be obscure. Consider the term “mechanicals,” short for “mechanical royalties,” which are payments to the owners of composition copyrights when copies of recordings of their compositions are reproduced and distributed. [Note 5] It has been a long time since recorded music players would be described as mechanical, but composers still refer to that revenue stream as their mechanicals.

We also took into account diversity of musicians’ genre. We aimed to create a national survey of musicians in any genre and in any role. But the ways of making money—and talking about making money—differ by genre and role. A classical musician might play in an orchestra and receive a salary, while a folk musician might make a majority of her money as a guitar instructor. A single musician might be a composer, recording artist, live performer, producer, session musician, orchestra member, and teacher. But each musician will mix and match those different roles, or a subset of them, in different contexts. In these ways, musicians are a highly diverse group. We wrote flexible questions that would accommodate a wide array of musicians and signal, through vocabulary, our understanding of the differences among them. For example, we knew that some composers do not identify as “musicians”—they tend to understand the term to mean people who play instruments for a living, working as live performers and recording artists. Thus, we wrote questions that referred to “musicians and composers” throughout the survey. [Note 6]


[Note 3]: In this usage, the term “artist” is interchangeable with “musician,” but for clarity I will primarily use the latter. This allows me to distinguish a subgroup of musicians who engage in the task of recording and refer to them as “recording artists.”

[Note 4]: The project website includes definitions of each stream in our original list of 40 distinct revenue streams (the count is up to 42 as of this writing). See 42 Revenue Streams, FUTURE OF MUSIC COALITION (last visited Feb. 26, 2012).

[Note 5]: The fundamental distinction in the law of music copyright is between two kinds of copyrightable subject matter: compositions (which the Copyright Code calls “musical works”) and sound recordings. See 17 U.S.C. § 102(a) (2012). Composition copyrights protect the underlying structure of the music—what would be written down in the score or sheet music, for example. See, e.g., Newton v. Diamond, 388 F.3d 1189, 1191– 92 (9th Cir. 2003) (treating elements appearing in the score of a piece of music as part of the composition). Sound recording copyrights protect a particular recording, often a recorded performance of a composition but not necessarily so. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (defining “sound recordings”) (A field recording of, say, ambient traffic noise may receive a sound recording copyright but does not capture composition.). Many typical uses of music, such as downloading or streaming of music online, implicate both the composition copyrights and the sound recording copyrights of their respective owners. See, e.g., Arista Records, LLC v. Launch Media, Inc., 578 F.3d 148, 152–54 (2d Cir. 2009) (describing the legislative history of Congress’s decision to treat music streaming as an infringement of both the composition and the sound recording).

[Note 6]: The fact that most composers do not understand themselves to fit under the umbrella term “musicians” was surprising. It made writing the questions in a concise and clean way more frustrating, but we made the accommodation.

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