There are a number of assumptions made about musicians and money. Some are repeated ad nausea, giving them a special status in the public debate about musicians and income as widely believed to be true, but disconnected from any verifiable data besides random anecdotes, isolated data points and personal opinion. Unfortunately, some of these assumptions are are then used to justify certain behaviors, or to inform policy decisions.
Here are four commonly-repeated assumptions:
1. “Musicians are rich”
2. “In a post-Napster world, musicians make all their money from shows/live performance”
3. “In a post-Napster world, musicians don’t make money selling music”
4. “In a post-Napster world, musicians make all of their money from selling t-shirts/merch”
One of the core goals of the Artist Revenue Streams project was to bring some data into this conversation, to give musicians, policymakers, and the general public a better sense of the complex reality of musicians and composers. In four posts, we will examine the “truthiness” of these assumptions, using qualitative and quantitative data collected through the Artist Revenue Streams project.
On Saturday, March 25, 2012, Artist Revenue Streams co-director Kristin Thomson took part in the 30th annual Canadian Music Week in Toronto. Drawing upon Money from Music survey findings and artist interviews, she presented some top level data about musicians’ careers and their earning capacity.
She started the presentation by describing the project’s methodology. The research involves three data collection methods: in person interviews with about 80 different US-based musicians and composers, financial case studies based on verifiable bookkeeping data, and a widely distributed online survey.
She also underscored that this study is not about label market share, or consumer spending, or measuring an artists’ social graph. It’s about individual musicians’ earning capacity. It’s about what they end up putting in their pocket, and how it’s changing over time.