Fewer Than 30,000 Artists Are Making A Living

image from rlv.zcache.com Topspin CEO Ian Rogers reported this weekend that fewer than 30,000 artists are making a living from music. Citing data from Songkick cofounder Ian Hogarth, who examined his database of bands, the types of venues they played, and the likely incomes affiliated with those venues, Rogers presented this data and determined that this number is probably correct.

However, he added, the number could be lower or higher depending on how you define what making a living is. Along with this stat, Rogers argues that while the cost of production and distribution has come down, the cost of marketing has risen. It takes much more money and time these days to create and maintain a successful campaign. Worse yet, as it is with all promotions, the results are highly unpredictable and despite an artist's or their manager's best efforts, the whole thing could fail to produce the sales needed to recoup the marketing costs.

This is, of course, the problem that major labels have been dealing with for years.

It takes money for the record industry as a whole to take an artist serious, but even if various entities get behind the marketing of an artist, the plan could snowball once it hits fans. Thus, indie artists face the same uncertainties.

via Music Ally

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  1. Considering the amount of recording artists out there, this is very low, and that number will probably continue to decrease rather than increase, despite efforts of many Indie Artists. The market is over saturated and there is not enough filters out there. Music has lost its perceived value, and more and more acts are competing to play on the same few venues available. To the point where playing live is no longer a source of income for many bands, but rather an expense since venues are now charging “pay to play” fees. Indie artists have to pay the cost of recording, advertising and touring, with very little income to be had in return. Digital Marketing campaigns often get lost in the cloud of thousands of artists out there. I was just looking at indieclick.com, and realize that maybe spending the money on this service may prove to be unsuccessful as most consumers are now not interested in finding new acts unless they are proven to be successful already in radio or TV.

  2. Hey Kyle – I think it depends very heavily on how you define “artist”. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports “musicians, singers, and related workers” to total 240,000 – FAR larger than 33,000 (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos095.htm). If you’re talking specifically about indie bands trying to make a living the traditional way – selling music, playing shows, etc., then I buy the number, but I think that’s casting a pretty narrow net if you want to talk about musicians as a whole.

  3. Hey Matthew and Kyle,
    I agree with Matthew that his number of 240,000 is more accurate. And I disagree with Ian Rogers. In addition to a decrease in cost of production and distribution, the cost of marketing has also come down.
    There is a range of marketing channels available nowadays for free including Facebook, Twitter, email, newsletters, free venue databases, platforms offering widgets in exchange for an email address, artists’ online stores, etc. All of that was unthinkable just a few years back.
    Sure it takes sweat – but what doesn’t if you want to be successful. There are many examples of artists out there who’ve made it without big marketing spend.

  4. I think a line needs to be drawn on the sympathy card. I used to play in bands and I think one of the exciting challenges was being able to bag those tough slots at venues supporting some well known touring band.
    I think there is an evident detatchment from what it is like to be an artist too. I got it. It was a HUGE expense getting to venues, funding our tours around the UK and breaking drum sticks every 2nd show (crap drummer).
    Unless you’re a covers band playing weddings then please tell me when an indie artist doing the gig network was a source of income!?
    Competition is fierece and saturated but hopefully this will bring out the cream of the crop.
    Also I would like to suggest that as much as artists would “dream” making it big and doing arena tours would be fun, a lot of indie artists probably take this with a pinch of salt and live for the moment.

  5. Ok, give me 100 examples off the top of your head ‘of artists out there who’ve made it without big marketing spend.’ – that’s a fraction of the 30,000 cited. NOT including previously marketed bands by majors, because they’ve cheated by obviously having a big budget marketing campaign behind them in the past.
    Go. If you feel like going way past 100 up to say 250 feel free. We can write them all down and learn how they did it.

  6. Possibly more musicians draw income from a church job than anything else. And teaching: a world-famous opera singer once told me that he was kept afloat in his early career by having the teaching credentials to fall back on when the gigs were few.
    Are we just talking about pop/rock musicians here? That field in particular has a huge supply and demand problem.

  7. I agree with Bernd. Marketing costs have certainly come down as well, particularly for indie bands not necessarily trying to appeal to a mass market. Today, with a bit of creativity and some web skills an artist could easily reach countless more people than was ever possible in the past. Digital marketing makes it far easier for any business- musician or not- to compete with larger business. I’m sure I’m not the only person on this board who owns both records by superstars and ones by a small band practically no one else has heard of. The distinction is a matter of one’s mentality, however, and Julian seems to be demonstrating that here. Julian, you asked Bernd to give you a list of 100 artists who’ve “made it” without a big marketing budget. That depends on your definition of made it. If you want a list of artists who’ve had many hit singles on the top 40, maybe that’s not possible. However, if you want a list of artists who’ve been able to reach a decent sized audience, quit their jobs and spend their lives pursuing music, and are able to live their dreams as a result, that list is probably much larger than your requisite 100, and growing everyday. Why, with the continued decline of majors and equal access for indies must people still insist on defining “making it” as having your face plastered on a tabloid?

  8. THIS is what is fundamentally wrong with the industry.
    You are part of it. Who the Fu*k cares about statistics?
    Why this endless need for useless data? I understand all these companies go out of their way to sell musicians on the importance of knowing what color socks their fan in Kansas wears, but really?
    Believe in your act, believe in the music and get it out there. All these discussions of analytics are garbage in this fundamental and ORGANIC process, I really do not care that your acts suck or are starving to death, I care that my acts do not and I will do everything I can to see to it that they make it. When a few more of you think on these terms maybe we can find the economic model which is still MIA.

  9. I can’t even think of 100 examples of successful LABEL artists. Seriously, pick a year before digital. Let’s say 1987. Now sit down and write me a list of 100 artist that have “made it”. Never mind marketing spend… just a simple list. Of course, you’ll have to factor out bands who hadn’t paid back their advance to the label yet… because that would be cheating.
    You do that, and I’m sure I can come up with 100 that are at least paying their bills.
    That being said, coming up with 10 shouldn’t be any trouble at all.

  10. I agree with Jean in the sense that statistics can tell what ever story you want them to. I know, and have worked with several musicians/bands that are making a living in music.
    I think the problem with many is that they are looking for a model that brings back those “golden years” where bands made a gadzillion dollars, partied all night and bagged a different chick every night. Those days are long gone, and nothing will bring that back.
    Just because you can no longer be a gadzillionaire at music doesn’t mean you can’t earn a nice living. You just need to approach it like a business, a StartUp if you will.
    If you are going to make it as a musician these days, you’ll need to treat it like anyone else opening a business; write a plan, invest in the things you don’t have expertise in, and engage with your audience. That’s the “magical music 2.0 model”.

  11. There are hundreds of artists that fly under the radar that make a living…multiple streams of revenue is the key. Tour support for indies for example. I work in both worlds (the traditional old model) some artists I work with sell millions of records and money from CD sales is good for them. But I also teach and/or have worked with hundreds of artists no one has heard of (and never will) Many are making a substancial part of their revenue other than CD sales..too often we are stuck on the old model, CD sales as a way to make a living.

  12. Hiya Phil, I’m Samantha from the UK. I enjoyed your video. I am a promoter for a function band named ‘Funk’N’Soul’ and we are doing very well, We are an 8/9 piece Motown, Disco, Urban Grooves, Funk & Soul band we also perform as a 17 piece big band if required.
    Our clients are spoilt for choice as we have a specialised library of over ‘5000’ song arrangments from the past 50 years + And YES you’re right, it’s lots of hard work networking early and finishing early hours of the next morning… So If you have any contacts in the UK do give us a shout!
    Keep up the good work. Samantha.

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