As Music Industry Struggles, Artist Income Grows

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(Updated) The UK's Times Online called this "the chart that the music industry didn't want you to see;" and I've been hesitating publishing it without adding context and analysis. But the more I stare at it, the more it speaks for itself.

It tracks the three pillars of music industry revenue – recorded music, live music, and UK performance royalties collected by PRS over the last 5 year for both artists and the industry. Conclusion: while record labels are suffering, artist income is on the rise.  Join the debate.

Follow up Essay: As Record Labels Fall, Is Artist Income On The Rise?

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  1. I dont think it “speaks for itself”…
    Alot of major artists are getting more and more money for gigs, while smaller artists dont have the same possibility as major-artists. And what happens top the live-revenue, if there are no label to promote the artist?

  2. Agree with Morten. Though I think the overall statement is true or will become true (there will be more mmoney for the artists in the end), it would be better to check this excluding the 10% artists that are the most paid today.
    Not so sure the result would be the same…

  3. It would be more helpful if the PRS were more transparent. Unless you are a high profile artist, not much in the income makes its way down the pipe.

  4. This chart appears to highlight the artists ability to meet the money where it’s available while labels have not found a way to do that.
    Of course the larger acts are getting a larger slice of the pie, but smaller acts CAN make the effort to meld their business model to fit the market. For the labels, what do they meld into? 360 deals?

  5. I noticed that label and artist recorded revenue seemed to be falling perfectly in sync. Then, i noticed that in the original data, artists are receiving exactly 12.5% of recorded music revenue throughout. I’m guessing it’s a crude approximation, and doesn’t address a question I’d really like to know the answer to: are artists earning more or less per sale? On one hand, I think indie artists are ascending, but on the other hand, labels might be trying to squeeze a higher percentage to make up for falling sales.

  6. I’m among those who is skeptical that live music money is filtering down to most musicians/bands. I’ve known performing musicians for decades. When you compare what bar gigs were paying in the 1970s and 1980s to what they are paying now, it’s about the same or less. So you’ve had years of inflation, but not years of pay increases.
    It used to be that bars would book one band per night. Now they are more likely to book three or four bands per night. So the money has to be split among far more people.
    Also many music venues that used to book live music use DJs today.
    And further, as the focus of the music industry switches to live music, more bands/artists are out there trying to get gigs. So the competition is much greater now.
    Just as there are now millions of bands/artists trying to get your attention to check out their music online, there are also hundreds of thousands (or more) bands/artists trying to get you to come to a show. While the overall income from live music may have gone up, the share most bands get has likely gone down.

  7. i don’t think “it speaks for itself” at all.
    the underlying assumptions (like the one that artists always receive 80% of live ticket revenues(!)) are speculative at best. the assumption that as recorded music income falls, artists retain a 12.5% share of gross income is massively dubious.
    the absence of consideration given to the huge boom in secondary ticketing markets, or the huge rise in ticket prices for stadium acts, for instance, do not suggest that this is a study that has been given anything but the most cursory attention; nor that it is ‘politically neutral’.

  8. This graph is interesting and I am inclined to agree with what @A-Zar pointed out in that “this chart appears to highlight the artists ability to meet the money where it’s available.”
    That is encouraging and reminds me of the phrase “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” The music industry (on all levels international to underground) has survived thus far because artists have chosen to keep making music. Everything changes and if we focus on the positive, support each other and share what we know, I am confident that everyone effected can adapt. 🙂

  9. I don’t know if you all saw this in Billboard Biz.
    This trend has emerged over the last twenty-plus years, according to the academic paper “Rockonomics: The Economics of Popular Music” by Princeton’s Marie Connolly and Alan B. Krueger.
    “In 1982, the top 1% of artists took in 26% of concert revenue; in 2003 that figure was 56%. … The top 5% of revenue generators took in 62% of concert revenue in 1982 and 84% in 2003. Surely, this is a market where superstars receive the lion’s share of the income.”

  10. My above post is cut-off on the right side.
    Here are the numbers:
    1982, top 1% of artists = 26% concert revenue
    2003, top 1% = 56%.
    1982, top 5% of artists = 62% of concert revenue
    2003, top 5% = 84%

  11. What I see is that the total market for music is about the same, and that the revenues are increasingly coming from live acts and not from album sales. This is not surprising.
    I don’t think there is enough information in the graph to really draw the conclusion that the average artist is better off, because it doesn’t include the number of artists, the number of albums, and the number of venues/available performances, cost of tour support, and ticket prices. Are more people going to concerts now or are they just paying more for the same ticket? Mega acts skew the standard deviation and should be processed differently from the average band. Also, some of the original data is *made up* regarding what portion of live revenue the artist receives, because the authors didn’t bother to get enough data before publishing their results. The science here is ..not great…
    Anyway, what’s going to happen is that labels (major and minor) will seek to control the best venues one way or another to ensure a stable revenue source so they can market their best acts. The new music business might look a lot more like the baseball business.

  12. Hear hear – they should offer fully audited accounts to their members showing how much revenue they pull in, what proportion is spent on their own infrastructure, and what is spent on bands and artists, and in what proportion this goes out. Anonymously if need be, but they’re running a closed book, and that seems like a situation where it would be easy for people to get ripped off at both ends.

  13. “what happens top the live-revenue, if there are no label to promote the artist?”

    • You appeal directly to a fan base, starting local and building slowly, using a homepage, social networks, and downloadable music to raise awareness for live shows.
    • You make an honest, if not necessarily lucrative, living.
    • You are forced to actually make music people want to hear and put on a show they want to see instead of relying on a hype machine to tell people they should buy your album and tickets based on a name.
    • The numbers will continue to fluctuate until the “industry” stabilizes, and a new paradigm is cut. What we are witnessing in music is what happened to painting and drawing when they invented photography. Technology drives change, the old way doesn’t work anymore, and in fifty years, they’ll wonder why we were so bothered about it.

  14. What amazes me is that manufactured groups
    & reality stars keep springing up, especially in the UK. I honestly thought they would have died off by
    now, but they seem to keep appearing from everywhere.
    I just hope that proper bands don’t dissapear, as this
    is the cornerstone of the music industry.

  15. lol.
    You appeal directly to a fan base, starting local and building slowly, using a homepage, social networks, and downloadable music to raise awareness for live shows.”
    yeah. really?
    wanna come see my band ‘poop duster’ tonight come play in london i’ll send you a facebook,maybespace,email about it. the promoter is making us charge £8 to get in. drinks are £3. so um. it would be neat if you could come. and y’know fever ray/ foo fighters/pixies/ are playing up the road for £18 but they suck right? (oh. the sound will be shit at my gig too)
    btw a homepage!!!!! hahahahahaha. yo, seen my new homepage! ha that’s so ’97. awesome.
    you have NO idea about how small bands have to promote themselves. no one will go see a band they’ve never heard until they get some pr. fact. friends only come to 1 or 4 gigs..no good pr company will take a band unless the have a record company.
    small bands are fucked these days – just ask a big band – the money loss by record companies means less money to put into smaller artists, less risks being taken…
    don’t get me wrong – bands can still make it – it’s just a lot harder now days.
    ironic huh.,

  16. yeah of course that the case.
    it works on percentages. you see.
    if you sell 1,0000000 records you earn more. not PRS’s fault. you can’t blame ’em for that – can you?

  17. I don’t think it really speaks for itself. Fisrt, everyone has an agenda, including PRS, and other licensing collection agencies. If this was an poll or research conducted by an independent agency with nothing to lose or gain, it would be more credible, But PRS is in the music business, works with songwriters, artists, and labels, and, thus, has an abiding stake in the information they put out (or, conversely, hide).
    Second, for this to ring true, it requires more information, more numbers, and more explanation.
    For instance, just because “artist revenue” is rising, or higher than previously reported, that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘artists’ are making more money in the new-model/internet/demise of the evil major labels age.
    How MANY artists are included? What is the “per artist” revenue?
    If the number of artists is the same as ‘before’ (or, better yet, less than before), then yes, that’s an increase in revenue for ‘artists’. If the number of artists are more than before – which is likely, given the rise of the MySpace/basement-home recording/indie, i.e., not signed artists, then everyone is making less money than before.
    It’s interesting information, but I don’t think you can draw black-and-white conclusions.
    ~ Bob Clifford

  18. double lol back at you
    >wanna come see my band ‘poop duster’ tonight come play in london
    HAHAHAHA. One, is he used the word “appeal”. I am not going to go see a band called “poop duster” just because. He is right again that using social networks is way better than the old way where you would read about it in a rag by pretentious assholes, who would probably neg on them just for having the name “poop duster”. Labels promoted because they have those social connections. Now bands have those tools but they still think labels need to exist because that was always the way it worked.
    >btw a homepage!!!!! hahahahahaha. yo, seen my new homepage! ha that’s so ’97. awesome.
    God damn. These are not the days of geocities where any editting you did was through notepad. You can get entire TEMPLATES for sites which you can modify to band. There are web programmers out there that can give you a good looking site for a case of beer.
    Maybe “poop dusters” should work on their music then trying to do something they are not good at.

  19. It makes sense because the record labels have the distribution costs of CDs and printing artwork etc etc. But artists can now make a living directly as most fans will buy music online.
    Even unsigned artists can get in on the act now too, for example there’s a new service called Songstall that allows you to sell your music online and it’s totally free to sign up. Check it out at http://www.songstall.com/sellmusiconline

  20. ‘poop dusters’ aint a real band.
    my point was – and i believe you prove it, is – no one is going to go see a little unheard of band playing . there are loads better things to do.
    when was the last time you went to see a band you’d never heard off – or, c’mon be HONSET now – when was the last time you checked out a myspace page of a RANDOM local band and thought you’d go see them…
    never, right? or maybe you have, but you’re not common then. people don’t check out bands they don’t know about….cause you can’t! you don’t even know about them!
    i know this through experience. i’ve been in small signed bands. no one came to see us. we got a small label. PR, yadda yadda. next month…people where raving about us. gigs where full, magazines came – we where amazing they said(we where playing the same songs wtf!?) myspace plays in the 1000’s. why? the label had good pr people. they (the label)had to pay for it…
    no one is going to go to a site for a band they’ve never heard off. fact. templates or no templates. or TEMPLATES even.
    also i know a few successful musicians on majors. all have the same story about starting out….i’m not alone in thinking this…
    although getting an agent is maybe more important nowdays…anyhow..
    but hey. what do i know…
    what’s your experience, i’m really curious- do you work in the industry?

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