Music and Money

I’ve decided to write a post today based on an article I found on the BBC about music and syncing, a notion apparently popularised by Sting and his involvement with a Jaguar advert in the year 2000.

In days gone by money would be made in music by having a band/artist record an album, go on tour to promote it and by flogging it to as many people as possible thus making a bucket-load of cash.

But times have changed and drastically at that in the age of the internet, torrents and YouTube ripping which means that artists no longer make the bulk of their money from recording and selling albums. Fewer and fewer albums seem to go Platinum and for those that do, Adele et. al., companies like Sony are willing to pay a small fortune to them to sign with them (not a dig at Adele by the way, fair play to her).

A lot of the music I listen to (see PRSPCT Recordings, Therapy Sessions, etc.) would never have made the big bucks of the likes of The Beatles and Zeppelin anyway but even smaller underground scenes would have generated income from the physical assets – i.e. Vinyl – and that revenue stream is also dropping in the digital age.

(NB: It’s also becoming more expensive to press to vinyl due to the number of hipsters buying records these days without even owning record players – 7% of them – which marginalises profits and makes it more difficult for underground musicians to survive – but that’s another story!!!).

Some people would no doubt accuse their favourite artist of having sold out if they agreed to have their music used by a corporate giant  but, to be honest, until people start changing their buying habits and accept that they should make an ethical purchase from the artist rather than ripping a cheap nasty version online then they’re left with few alternatives.

Two examples that come to mind of artists successfully placing music in adverts, telly, etc. are Moby and Zero 7. Moby’s “Play” was famously heard in pretty much everything going at the time and, in turn, it shifted a significant number of physical units. Seems pretty good business sense.

Zero 7 can be heard in almost every home or food show going and I’m sure that the revenue generated from such placements has allowed them to go on and continue to write beautiful music without fear of spending too much time or money in the studio or without the pressure of having to deliver a new album in order to get the books balancing.

This is a huge subject to be honest; there are bound to be bits I have skipped over and there is almost certainly someone that could show me how artists now make more money, proportionally, from touring than they ever did from physical sales, blah, blah, blah.

However, in the interest of brevity and giving an opinion on this subject, I firmly believe that until there is a serious shift in culture amongst the buying public then artists will have no alternative but to source additional income streams to allow them to continue supporting the creativity needed to produce new music.

If a fan has streamed all of an artists new album on Spotify and decides they like it then they should do the right thing and buy a copy of the album from the artist directly – on BandCamp if possible (I love that site!) – as opposed to ripping it and then getting all indignant when that same artist’s music can be heard on an advert for toilet paper or whatever.

It’s a case of putting your money where your mouth is I’m afraid. An artist won’t be able to sustain their art without an income and it’s up to fans to provide that source of income and allow the art to flourish.



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