ReverbNation Survey: How is the Economic Downturn Affecting Artists?

ReverbNation conducted a survey of artists in an attempt to learn how the downturn was affecting their everyday lives across a variety of factors.

There was a general perception among respondents that the economic downturn was affecting them in a negative way, overall.  Specifically, artists cited that they were touring less, receiving less money for gigs that have become harder to get, taking fewer lessons and turning to more DIY ways of recording their music:


much more after the jump…






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  1. wow, that’s pretty bleak! haven’t noticed any difference this year compared to other years here in canada. it’s still a battle, but not moreso than any other time.

  2. Thanks for posting this. A lot of people talk about how things are opening up for unsigned artists, but for many it’s harder to make a living now than in the past.

  3. It’s hard for me to decide whether or not the economy had really effected the recording industry. I can see it firsthand effecting the touring / gigging areas of the business, but recordings are a different story.
    I’m an engineer at Euphonic Sound Recording Studio, and we’ve neither raised or lowered our prices, yet still seen the same amount of artists who seek professional recordings.
    @Suzanne, I think artists who are uneducated are the ones who have the hard time making it in the industry. The tools are out there, and while the competition is fierce, the competition can also often be lazy and uneducated.
    The artists who give 600%, and nothing less, are going to be the next generation of artists who are remembered over time. Plenty want, but wont truly put the intense amount of work it takes to get there.
    Shawn Daley

  4. Musicians who have been playing live shows locally and regionally for decades say they aren’t getting paid any more per gig now than they were in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. So inflation has gone up, but pay has stayed the same.
    What has happened are a combination of three factors (1) More venues and private parties decided to hire DJs. (2) Bands that once were able to play for an entire evening and collect 80% of the door are now having the share it with three other bands on the bill. (3) Cities and Chambers of Commerce that once ran lots of local festivals have less money to spend now.
    Another factor that has hit in the past few years are fewer CD sales at shows. There was a time when an unsigned artist could make a CD for about $10,000 – $20,000 and then sell it for $15 a piece. Successful musicians could sell 3000 to 10,000 annually in their regional markets. Very successful unsigned touring musicians could do as many as 100,000 annually. The margins on those CDs were great. But now it’s harder to sell a CD for $15. Even if you lower the price, bands are still losing sales to file sharing and friends burning copies for each other. Those CD sales used to underwrite a lot of band expenses.
    So that leaves T-shirt sales and other merch. But with the recession, fans have to think twice before spending $15-$20 on a t-shirt.
    The bands I know are working like hell to make a living at this, but the recession has made it harder.

  5. yeah its hitting ireland too, venue my band play in on thursdays have cut their shows
    down to two nights per week, where last year thay had bands five nights a week, also
    hearing about alot of bands losing their residencies, venues that used to open fri and
    sat now only open sat, people are choosing carefully which night to go out and very few
    prepared to pay in.

  6. Billboard.biz ran a recent poll asking people if they were cutting back on the concerts they go to. The last time I looked at the results, there were around 1500 responses and 50% said they were going to fewer concerts because of the recession. This wasn’t, of course, a scientifically conducted poll, but on the other hand, presumably it was made up of music lovers. So if they are cutting back, chances are others are too. Of course, one could argue that these were music industry folks who are especially affected by loss of income.
    I was just reading about cities around the country not having enough money to offer fireworks celebrations this Fourth of July. This recession is very real.

  7. music biz has been in a recession for 7 years now. wake up, people. artists need to stand up for their rights.
    we need to curb piracy, stop breaking albums into “throwaway” bits.
    sad when jay z and kid rock are our leaders.

  8. No wonder the recession is affecting the music business as well. Music is a hobby and usually, when it comes to saving money, people tend to cut their expenses for hobbies.

  9. Not to be too much of a nerd here, but is there a place where we can see the N-value (# people who took it) and/or methodology for this survey?
    Just that without this info, it’s pretty much impossible to know for sure how to interpret it.
    Stuff like whether the bands that primarily took it are smaller or larger artists, whether there is some geographic effect (ie. if only people in Idaho took it, then maybe it’s not so representative of the impact on major music markets…) can have a potentially huge effect on how to properly interpret the results.
    As such, please let us know how the sampling was done and any weighting that was used to make these charts. Otherwise, I don’t think that anyone should be drawing conclusions from it…
    Ok – again, sorry about being a nerd here, and overall I really think this is an interesting survey (which is why I care so much about knowing what it is really representing).

  10. We’re all nerds here at ReverbNation, too.
    This survey was distributed to a random sample of our most ‘active’ users (regardless of genre or physical locality).
    Responses were anonymous, so we don’t know if respondents skewed toward a particular demo.
    Does that make sense?

  11. In regard to the economy of the music .There is always somthin creative that comes from hard times .Some of our best works of art reflect that
    I received this music video below from a friend father and teacher his students were inspired by a song I composed entitled The Economy Song This production is about the economy from a child’s point of view . Check it out Check it out I think you will get a kick out of it
    .I wish the best to all of you and all the best with your creative adventures
    Mickey Carroll
    Mickey Carroll
    Mother J Productions

  12. There will always be music. And I think it does bring together people during hard times. I’m not sure people have much money right now to pay for it, but people can make music and play for friends and family for free. When I was married to a musician, we had jam sessions at our house on a weekly basis. People came, brought beer, and played music whether they were any good or not. There weren’t that many venues around town to play at so people did acoustic music in each other’s living rooms and backyards. It wasn’t about being a rock star. It was about making music. The families who had kids brought them. So it was an all ages experience.

  13. ..it’s always been tough for developing bands to develop….with all the tech tools available these days…you/the band have no excuses for not expanding your circle of influence on a daily basis….one person at a time and they tell a friend and so on…everyone won’t like you….find those that do and speak to them from your heart..they’ll either get it or they won’t…remember those that do count…forget those that don’t…wish them well…and get on with it….

  14. I’ve been in discussions with musicians all the time about this. But many of them don’t want to do it. The social marketing/networking part isn’t something they enjoy or feel they should have to do.
    Connecting with your fans and your potential fans (and not just to tell them about your music but to actually developing a relationship with them) is a hard concept for many of them to accept. They think all they have to do is make great music (and the ones who can do that are in relatively short supply) and the fans will come to them.
    It’s been difficult for many musicians to understand that these days music is really about the fans and what they want, not about the artists and what they want.

  15. The only difference we’ve noticed is merch sales. We tend to deal with venues with a track record as they know that when times are tough people want a diversion. Too many others have a knee-jerk reaction by cutting pay, raising ticket prices, and going out of business.
    But the same people who follow me around the country are the folks who refuse to pay $50+ for a ticket at a large venue to be abused by the staff & security but will spend $100 in gas to hang out with me. Can’t blame them, I won’t go to a large concert either unless I’m invited by the Artists. I love being under the radar…

  16. Thank you. That indeed is the reality. The phrase “opening up for unsigned artists” is missleading and repeatedly used. ‘Opening up’ suggests that nothing is known as a fact except that the economy thing is a much bigger problem than we all first thought. The other thing, those companies that were strangling all of the artists, those companies are now dead. That’s a good thing.
    Quotation marks should be placed around “opening up”. You nailed the problem. Thank you.

  17. Ding Ding. Thank you Mickey for reeling in the Positive. Your point is a running thread throughout Art & World history and yet it still eludes us.
    Thanks Mickey. Bedtime on a good note.

  18. rock and roll Rasboomix. You have been selected as tonight’s Voice of a real musician. “groovin” nice touch; i totally dig.

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