My organization, Future of Music Coalition (FMC) exists to ensure that artists can make a living making music. You’d be surprised at how much policy affects how things shake out for artists, which is why I’m in DC doing what I do.
FMC has been around for 11 years, and in that time we’ve observed and analyzed many changes to the traditional music industry. Some of these changes have been beneficial to musicians (lower barrier to entry for reaching audiences); others less so (uncertainty around business models). What we’re starting to realize is that in order to chart a way forward, we need to better understand how musicians are making a living. With technology continuing to drive change, this is no time for guesswork.
Which is why we launched the Artist Revenue Streams (ARS) — a multi-stage research project to assess whether and how musicians’ revenue streams are changing in this new music landscape.
Why is this work important? Well, for one, we don’t have a lot of great data on what’s happening in the field. Many observers are quick to categorize industry changes as positive improvements for musicians, particularly when compared with the music industry of the past. It’s true that musicians’ access to the marketplace has greatly improved, but how have these changes impacted musicians’ ability to generate revenue based on their creative work? Almost all analyses of the effects of these changes rest purely on assumptions that they have improved musicians’ bottom lines, or on top-level assessments of the music industry based on traditional metrics: number of albums sold, number of spins on radio, even stock price valuations. Clearly, there is a bigger picture that we need to take into account. (Check out our 29 Streams post, which gave us the kick in the pants to launch this study.)
We’ve also laid out just some of the ways we think this data will prove useful.
The Artist Revenue Streams project is based on a very basic research question: what percentage of musicians’ income comes from each possible revenue source? What is the ratio among different sources, whether it be royalties, money from gigs, t-shirt sales, or any of the 29 other meaningful revenue streams that FMC has identified? Has the ratio changed over time and, if so, what are the factors that have conditioned these changes? Finally, are the revenue stream ratios different for artists working in different genres and at different stages of their careers?
We’ve already conducted case studies with a diverse array of artists — now it’s time to go wide. Earlier this month, we launched an online survey for musicians, songwriters and composers that will help us better understand current trends in artist compensation. This will position FMC and our allies to advocate for policies that help musicians sustain careers.
The survey, which runs through October 28, 2008, offers three paths for musicians and composers to choose from, requiring 10, 20, or 30 minutes of their time. We encourage all musicians, songwriters, and composers to take the survey here. And if you work with, or have friends or family who are musicians, please spread the word!