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How Musicians Make Money, Or Don’t, In 2018 (rollingstone.com)
123 points by bspn 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments

Forget money. As a musician I struggle to even get people to listen to my music for free.

There's an absolute glut of content out there, due to two things:

1 - The increasing ease of making music. It used to be that you had to invest time in acquiring some skill, some relatively expensive instruments, and some in-person relationships with other musicians to make music that was palatable to a significant number of listeners. Today all you need is some free software on a phone or computer you probably already have, and it all but makes the music for you.

2 - The ease of distributing music. You used to have to get contracts with record labels, make other connections with the music industry, or spend a lot of money to get much of an audience. Now we've mostly cut out the middle men, and distribution is virtually free.

As a result there's vastly more content and much more competition between artists for an audience. No longer are consumers limited to a dozen radio stations or having to read music reviews, physically go down to the record store, listen to and buy records. The consumer has virtually the world's entire musical output at their fingertips and far more free content than they even have time to listen to.

I was curious as to why all 'SoundCloud' rappers in the mumblecore genre had face tattoos.

One interesting explanation I saw was it was a way to get exposure - few people are willing to do it, so for those who do, it's basically a right a passage and a way to show that you're the real deal. I saw an interview with Lil Xan talking about his face tattoos where he basically said as much, and on purpose made his first tattoo his mom's name so she wouldn't kill him for taking the plunge. His next tattoo was just 'zzz', which he stated was an act of branding due to his association with xanax.

It seems to me this is a pretty big difference between say an indy rock band and an indie rapper. The rock bands act like the business side of things is something they'd rather not deal with - they just want to make music and do shows. The rappers first and foremost are focused on themselves being the core of a business in which their image needs to be carefully cultivated, the support group around them needs to be taken care of, etc.

> The rappers first and foremost are focused on themselves being the core of a business in which their image needs to be carefully cultivated, the support group around them needs to be taken care of, etc.

In the words of Jay-Z, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man!"

> it's basically a right a passage

FYI: You probably mean "rite of passage".

Indeed, thank you :)

True. How many rock bands have you heard going out to the community and passing out sample CDs?

>How many rock bands have you heard going out to the community and passing out sample CDs?

I've got quite a few CD's like that. So I'd say - plenty.

Same, I play a lot of original folk music and most songwriters are giving away their CDs in about a 1/3 of the transactions I've seen. The other 1/3 of sales are more like tipping for service workers, and the other 1/3 is genuine "folks want the music and they want to pay for it.

As others mentioned, it's not uncommon.

The difference I believe is that activity seems more reactive than preemptive. Case in point, the mixtape as a precursor to the album, which exists primarily as a promotional vehicle. Even rappers that have already made it continue to do mixtapes for more experimental work or as a thank you to their fans.

> How many rock bands have you heard going out to the community and passing out sample CDs?

Close to a million.

What's a CD?

I think this has also contributed to the homogenization of music. You would think the opposite would happen - with so many music options, wouldn't the options have a wider variety?

But here's why this isn't the case:

Twenty five years ago, CDs were expensive. Because they were expensive, listeners were compelled to listen to them over and over and over again.

Remember buying two CDs for $40 and playing them endlessly?

But in 2018, music is basically free. And because it's free, nobody has a vested interest in investing a lot of time getting to "know" an album.

So you wind up where we're at now: a lot of music that sounds alike, plus a ton of music that's derivative of music from 30 or 40 years ago.

"So you wind up where we're at now: a lot of music that sounds alike, plus a ton of music that's derivative of music from 30 or 40 years ago."

I'm 40. I play a lot of music with people in their 70s who were professional musicians in the 70s. I don't know if it's ever been really any different. Mostly, it's been more homogenous at a national scale, at least in the living memories of the people I play with.

In the late 60s and 70s, they could learn a single top 40 list plus some standards and play their week-long gig at the ramada or whatever (while on or off tour, working their sessions or whatever) and make a living.

Music is way more heterogeneous now, IMO.

I don't think that contradicts your point about how freeking much music people have access to, I just feel like it's probably been moving this way at least since the invention of the radio, if not the wide spread availabilty of sheet music.

>nobody has a vested interest in investing a lot of time getting to "know" an album.

>So you wind up where we're at now: a lot of music that sounds alike, plus a ton of music that's derivative of music from 30 or 40 years ago.

There are plenty of different types of music being made today along with communities of people that appreciate it. These things aren't necessarily mainstream, but they're there.

There is a ton of interesting, varied, creative and surprising music out there, but you have to look for it, nobody is going to spoon-feed you.

What you say is absolutely true for mainstream popular music, and has been for a long time. But delve into niche genres, and the scenes are more vibrant than ever.

I'm a huge metalhead, and right now, I have ~150 albums in my "I should give this a deeper listen, it sounds interesting" folder on Spotify, and about an equal number of bookmarks from Bandcamp and the like from smaller indie bands and solo projects that aren't on Spotify.

This is purely within my preferred corner of death/thrash/power/prog/black metal. There are so many great, interesting and varied albums coming out all the time, that I actually have to be rather picky about what I choose to give more than a cursory listen. And I don't even really touch most modern "mainstream" metal, this is almost purely the nastier semi-obscure stuff (where 10,000 plays for a track on Spotify is huge).

Yes, a lot of music does sound similar to other music. That's what having an established genre means. But there is huge variety going on in the less mainstream corners, where fans are more dedicated and open to experimentation.

> a lot of music that sounds alike

It always makes me laugh when a MC/DJ has to say their name during their music, because it sounds just like everything else and sampled pre-existing music so heavily that you couldn't identify the artist otherwise...

Or when you're at a club that's hosting two or three DJs, and they all sound so similar, if you closed your eyes you wouldn't even know that a different DJ just took the stage

It's a good point, but I don't think it's 'price'.

Music is 'homogenized' for the same reason products are: labels are making 'lowest common denominator' for the same reason 'Transformers' has no plot whatsoever.

Radio and Google searches, 'hype' are ironically more commercialized than ever before, ergo, music is more 'product'.

There is actually 'more diversity' in music - but you have to actually expend a little bit of effort to find it. An I mean 'just a little bit' i.e. a search on iTunes or whatever. Most people do not consume music that way - they just don't care that much. They accept what's on the radio, or what their friends tell them and esp. for younger folks, they are influenced by marketers trends.

Consider the parallel: there are more 'web sites' than ever before, and the web is far more diverse - yet - our time is more and more focused on a smaller subset of places i.e. FB, Amazon.

A couple of nuanced things:

'Making music' is easier than ever, and what is considered 'music' is more broad - so anyone can spend a few minutes using off-the-shelf software to make a few interesting sounds and voila. Eddie Van Halen spent a decade nerding out in his basement practicing to develop his talent - now - you don't have to like Van Halen, but if you actually listen, you can respect the talent. 'Talent' is no longer necessary - so this is a problem.

It completely blows me away that a lot of shows now are simply Kareoke - young guys were rapping over an mp3. Not very exciting to me, but even worse ... I saw something with 'Chief Keef' recently and he's not even rapping over a 'backing track' - he's literally just playing is regular release track and then drunk/high mumbling over top of the track. He stumbles around on stage with his buddies, and each of them mumble a few lines over top now and then.

Which brings me to 2cnd nuanced point: it's not about the music (maybe it never was) it's about the fame.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are in the same business. One is more lyrical than the other. (FYI I think they are both geniuses in different ways, and I don't care for either of their fare but they are brilliant nonetheless). It's about creating a 'meme' - and wether it's instagram, or bits of acting, or 'music' or appearances, whatever - it's the same thing. It's almost impossible these days for a pop artist to be huge without having a very visual aspect. Taylor Swift's Instagram is at least as important as her albums. Her shows are massively produced spectacles. She and Beyonce are better described as pop-figure entertainers ... with a lot of music in the mix.

So the focus on pop-culture, and the visual aspect, has truly and fundamentally altered things.

Maybe some of you are old enough to remember: 'Video Killed the Radio Star' - since the social media revolution, this is further blown up.

I love all genres of music - but every genre has been blown up with really low grade stuff, almost written by a computer and you can hear it. Obviously EDM is worse than others because of the nature of the 'E' of course, but it's bad.

Final nuance: a great deal of the 'art' has shifted from classical musical paradigms, into the Engineering. So now, the 'producer' is in a way the 'chief artist'. We saw this in the late 20th century when U2 got popular. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanlois were producers on their huge hits - and you can clearly hear their impact. They were 'part of the band' in Bono's words. Radiohead has used the same Engineering guy forever and he's definitely a key ingredient in their secret sauce. Max Martin writes 100% of Katy Perry and other's hits and he, together with Dr. Luke basically own the hot-100 of known entities.

And of course ... in the early 20th century if you wanted to hear music, someone had to play it really. You needed a full orchestra for good music. When the 5-piece rock and roll band came along 90% of horn players had to get other jobs. When Ableton/Steinberg/GarageBand came along ... well, you don't need any musicians at all to make music.

Clearly there's a lot of intelligence even in the most mundane pop music, just as it's not actually easy to make 'Transformers' films, but the artistry is more focused on production than art ... and with so much 'noise' in the long-tail, it's exceedingly difficult for decent talent to break through.

I was never a fan of Van Halen, but I happed to see them in an Arena concert several years ago and it was absolutely amazing. The music seems 'passe' and cheezy on the radio, but live ... it's basically exhilarating. They are the definition of 'Stadium Rock' and enormously talented. Imagine Dragon's doesn't hold a candle to them it would almost be comical listening to them side by side live.

Edit: should not that the biggest money makers are the 'established brand' live acts, like 'Journey' and 'Bruce Springsteen' are making zillions more money than ever in 2018, 30 years after the fact - i.e. 'new artists' now have to compete with massive bands that are still truckin'. Check Billboard 200 album list, towards the middle you find: Nirvana's 'nevermind', Metallica 'black' and Guns n Roses 'apetite for destruction' on the chart for like the last 6 years (!) and might be for another decade (!) so 'new artists' literally have to outsell 20 year old Metallica albums to get listed. Rough!

I agree with a lot of what you said, but

>> Obviously EDM is worse than others because of the nature of the 'E' of course

I don't think this is true.

I do think that the barriers to entry are the lowest in EDM - is the reason so much crap is being created there.

But those low barriers, that environment, is the ideal place for that lone creative genius, because, here it's all about the quality and quantity of great ideas.

No need for great band leadership skills. No idea will be "designed by commitee/band". No need for that great determination to learn technical stuff - maybe a quality less found in creative people. And it's relatively easy to form collaborations between geniuses, especially when everything is digital.

And at least if you love psychedlic music, the best EDM has to offer(say carbon based lifeforms or globular), is so much better than the best of what came before it(psychedlic rock, let's say pink floyd).

I definitely see your point, I just don't quite agree. The amazing production values of 'good EDM' don't make up for the nuance of humans.

If Pink Floyd existed today - and - they had a brilliant EDM-ish producer, I think that would be 'better'.

I find myself turning to Jazz too often ... the 'final resting place' of a music snob :)

Jazz isn't necessarily snobbery.

I know why folks don't like Coletrain, and I don't expect them to... but as a musician, I find it way more interesting to think about Giant Steps than to try and analyze, say, Townes Van Zandt singing White Freightliner... both are pretty cool things, but one has a lot more in it to play with.

Jazz isn't snobbery, it's just the last exit on the musical highway for people who listen carefully to the interplay between musicians.

Well, I dunno about that... that might be snobbery :D

I take your point... jazz is one of those things where that interplay is super important and can be enjoyable to see.

Also, I really enjoy playing in a string band / jam band. Essentially it's jazz, but with bluegrass instruments. But then, it's not clearly not "Jazz".

A lot of the musicians I know who are super talented don't like a jam. They want something totally un-jazz -like... they what Joseph Haydn, et cetera. In that realm, there is a whole lot of interplay between the musicians that is even subtler than what you get with jazz.

As a musician or as a listener (and, this is even more true for the better musicians that I know), I feel like there is a lot of road to explore outside of jazz even just in terms of the interplay between musicians.

Yes, I agree, a lot more to explore.

... but people who listen to a lot of music tend to simply end up in Jazz because that's where the bulk of interesting live stuff is. It's one of the only genres that is consistent in it's kind of creative-intellectual appeal.

Hence the last regular exit on the highway ...

Yeah, I guess at some point I've driven down enough dirt roads that I'd mistake a solid two lane black top for an interstate highway :D

I generally agree.

I don't know exactly what you referring to as nuance. Care to explain ?

didn’t expect globular’s name here, are you a patreon follower by chance?

Not a patreon follower.

This is generally true of many types of content.

A lot of the technical obstacles to taking technically-solid photos and videos have been removed and the barriers to making them available to everyone are essentially non-existent.

Writing hasn't been made easier to the same degree (although research is easier in many cases) but you no longer need to get a publisher to sign on--although there are some advantages to doing so.

And it's very hard to make money off of doing those things unless they're in support of some other commercial activity.

The best way is to just play live music. That was the way it was for hundreds of years in music, and still the best musical experiences occur in live performances.

I've been an amateur musician for 20 years. I would never try to make a living out of it, it's so much of a craps shoot trying to get people to listen and focus on your music online. The best way is to simply go in front of them and make their eardrums resonant with your instrument directly. You may need another career to support this live-only lifestyle, but what's the point of dumping 100's of hours and $1000's in capital into a recording barely anyone will listen to?

I am a serious listener to and creator of music and I HATE live music. I can’t hear the subtleties as well, and I can’t put my best performance forwards. The only exception for me is chamber music.

The phrase "serious listener" makes my eye twitch, it must be the association with woo-woo audiophiles.

I love listening to well-recorded music on my rather capable stereo or good headphones, but it just doesn't provide the same rush and sensation of seeing the actual musicians, live in concert, at a proper concert volume on a good live sound setup, handled by competent sound techs.

Over the last I-have-no-idea-how-many-years, I've averaged 3-4 concerts per month, and 3-4 festivals per year, and I've experienced both garbage tier gear/sound and the exact opposite -- concert experiences that bordered on religious experiences.

I especially appreciate small intimate venues, where you get right up close to the musicians and can really interact with them. The energy you feel in those situations is just second to none.

My musical niche as a listener is metal, primarily death and thrash. YMMV obviously, depending on genres and available venues. But for me, going to live music shows on a regular basis is absolutely essential.

Same here. Plus, location is a very limiting factor when it comes to musical selection. There aren't many artists in my collection I could have seen live in my area.

Yeah back in the 90s I was able to scratch out a living as a musician, but rent was $200 a month in 1992, the bar was very low back then. I did a recording session at Death Row Records that one I got paid $0 but Suge was not the kind of person you demanded payment from lol. Other gigs like DJing were more lucrative then to the point where I paid my rent and got food. But we didn't have cell phones or student loans. People had to buy our tapes to hear our music there was no way to hear it for free. Having only a couple hundred fans was good enough to survive back then you didn't need to have millions of listeners. Now if John Coltrane put out a Love Supreme in 2018 he couldn't pay people to listen to it. The hold that the majors have over music is heavier than ever. All my friends who still make a living from music are all signed to majors, I don't know anyone who makes $1 without being signed these days.

but Suge was not the kind of person you demanded payment from lol

Just for the people who don't get the reference....


“The Death Row people had this big-ass fight and the f------ New Orleans Police Department – being that they’re also a little psycho – rode their horses into the hotel.”!

I'd pay money to see that.

“The consumer has virtually the world's entire musical output at their fingertips and far more free content than they even have time to listen to.”

This is true, but the flip side is that people will take more risks because there is no financial consequence to sampling previously unknown music.

Additionally there are still a lot of gatekeepers. When I talk about music distribution and consumption I always make a point of emphasising the difference between active consumers of music - those people who will actively search out new music, or even those who know what they want to listen to and will (for example) make their own playlists, and those people who just want a “make music happen” experience. The latter are more common and will typically fire up their stramaing platform of choice and select a playlist that matches their taste. For these people music is often somewhere between background noise and accompaniment to other activities, but inclusion on “premier” playlists (those with high visibility on platforms) is lucrative but quite rigidly controlled. You are probably less likely to be included on one of these if you don’t have a track record, or if you don’t have industry contacts. If you are included it can be a powerful way to gain new fans and get your music out to a much broader audience.

I think this is a good thing. Only the strongest content will push through.

Before, if someone signed you, you were pretty much guaranteed some form of success.

I don't think that virality being required is a problem, all the songs I still listen from 20 years ago, and which are still played, I loved the first second I've heard and I would have shared them back then.

> Only the strongest content will push through.

I think it has surprisingly little about content but with marketing and connections. I feel it is especially apparent on youtube where crappy content can thrive and excellent content can be buried where only a handful will see it.

Not terribly different from the old days.

There's a few filters to wrap your head around here. First there's the "has this person any real understanding of how to make music?" Probably 80% of music released is just plain bad music, no craft whatsoever. One person whose videos I watched a lot of, Mat4yo, dives a lot into the craft of composition, at least as it pertains to rap lyrics. It's where he starts giving feedback to other creators who send him their stuff where you really get a sense for what is good and what isn't good, and it's definitely a legible process.

Problem is, once you get over bad, once you've followed the rules that everyone else has followed, is where marketing and connections start to make a difference. But still, nobody's really going to care until and unless you can come up with something truly different that's also good. Bring an idea to a style from another style and make it cohesive. Play around with different types of lyrics and beats and energy levels.

I have a friend of mine whose been playing music for years put out an album of well, aggressively mediocre country-rock. No amount of connections and marketing is going to get anyone to care about it. There wasn't anything wrong with it, I just had zero interest in listening to it more than once. He needed to bring an order of magnitude more effort to the composition process to even come close to mildly interesting. This stuff literally fills the slush piles of music agents.

Once you have something new, good, and different, then marketing and connections again start to become important. Because there's literally nothing else that can move the needle.

Yeah, people forget or don't know how one of the last albums Michael Jackson did was a total flop despite marketing budget in the tens of millions.

Marketing helps, but it doesn't make you.

"I think this is a good thing. Only the strongest content will push through."

Not necessarily. I think my content is good, but if few to no people hear it, much less pay me for it, I don't have much incentive to continue making it. Or if I make it, I rarely bother to release it anymore. I just make it for myself, and no one hears it but me. It's just not worth my time to go to all the trouble of editing and mixing it, releasing it, making cover art, thinking of titles, uploading it, and maybe trying to get listeners for it if almost no one will ever hear it.

I think a lot of other musicians are in the same boat. We can't afford to make music for a living, so have to do it as a hobby, and if we struggle to get listeners even the hobby might not be rewarding enough to pursue in the long run.

Lots of good content can get buried in the avalanche of trash. It might eventually get "discovered", but that's far from certain. It might not happen in the artist's lifetime or at all.

There's still a lot of room for improvement in the field of content discovery.

Ive noticed a lot of people who don’t spend time on creative hobbies usually think you should just do a thing because you enjoy it, and not for external validation. While that’s a good sounding platitude, they really haven’t experienced how crushingly depressing it is to have your work ignored and unappreciated.

>I don't think that virality being required is a problem

Look what that has done to "Online Content-with-a-capital-C" at large.

If you launched an ad-supported website today and wanted to make any real kind of money from it, how many page views would you need? And how would that number impact the type of content you created for that site?

> Before, if someone signed you, you were pretty much guaranteed some form of success

Well, an advance and a good time, but most ended up not recouping [1].

[1] https://www.negativland.com/news/?page_id=17

I know well enough what you mean, and I don't want to downplay any aspect of it, but that software you're talking about that "all but makes the music for you" never ends up sounding like music to me. I don't totally dismiss it as "non-music", but when I hear tracks that are using Pro Tools presets it's obvious that the person who recorded it was just dialing it in. Music ultimately requires analog sounds and the interplay between musicians. Software can never truly replicate that.

> Music ultimately requires analog sounds and the interplay between musicians. Software can never truly replicate that.

This is nonsense. First of all, there's no such thing as a digital sound. Once it's sent to the speaker, it's analog, regardless of whether it originated inside your laptop or from a guitar. I would bet that you can't tell the difference between a top-end VST emulating an analog synth and a real analog synth, or a Kemper Profiling Amp and the real tube amp it's modeling.

I enjoy the interplay between musicians as well but you can make a great album tracking all of the parts yourself and there are entire genres of electronic music where it's standard to not have more than one musician.

> Software can never truly replicate <thing>.

I've heard this so often that it lost all meaning to me.

Your either not that good, decent, pretty good or the best of the best.

I graduated from MTSU with a degree in Recording Industry. My favorite class was songwriting class where we were paired up with classmates to write songs for a grade. There was this one guy whoever knew he was the best in the class and he was. He went onto write tons of number one country songs from 2007 to 2016. Even being the best of the best didnt get him to that point rather meeting the right connection as my college g/f was just as good as him or better. She's a homemaker now.

Myself, I might be a decent songwriter, but Im a terrible singer. I get joy from others listening to my songs and say ing something nice lol.

Overall it's always been hard and if your not the best of the best or know the right person then well......

It is a little hard in these days and age where talents went unnoticed if you actually tried. And by talent I don't mean just being good or very good. You have to be the best, not just in your class, your state, but in your country or even the world.

Now if you are only very good, ( which in itself is great, you could be the top 5% in the industry, or even top 1% ) you will need some connection and luck. The problem is there are only finite amount of popular song writer writing for best music. And that space is likely to be limited to a double digit personnel.

It is like Formula 1, there are only a handful of drivers in Formula 1, but they represent the best of the best in the world. You don't want a centimetre off Apex, you want them to be in millimetres. These best of the best may only be 4 - 10 faster even on the same cars, but you could spend the rest of your life time never be as fast and as consistent as they are.

yeah i agree you have to be the best of the best and then make the right connections.

Luke Laird was the best of the best in my songwriting class(out of 20 of us) and probably within MTSU at that time(2001). He wrote a good amount of Carrie Underwood's number one songs as well as many other well known country artists.

This sounds sad, but I'm not sure how I really feel about it. I went to college with a lot of Music Industry major types in the mid '90s and I thought most of them were kidding themselves about their real prospects even back then. It just seemed way over-saturated from the outside looking in, everyone had a big ego and wanted to be a baller. Wasn't going to happen. Not that I don't sympathize completely because I love music, too.

Most recently, I worked with a business analyst guy who was living in Nashville trying to get work by filling in for sick musicians and thereby making a name for himself. It was going, eh, okay for him. He still kept his day job, of course. The company I worked for back then had let him move to Nashville and work 100% remote. He was on point with a guitar and banjo, I'll say that.

I think one way to do it is start with a genre that has a niche following and internet discussion forums.

For example : Prog is one such community. (Fourm : r/progmetal)

I have routinely discovered bands with <1000 listens on their top song on Spotify on that sub. I have seen these same bands grow to the point of gaining interest from a label. Interest that was fueled by forum members.

Since the genre rewards musical proficiency, even causal listeners (non fans) can have quality discussions with forum members and boost engagement.

IDK, if this works for other other genres too. But, IMO this is one of the better ways to survive in the new musical era.

>some relatively expensive instruments

I wouldn't think of guitars as relatively expensive. In fact, most instruments can be had for fairly cheap if you're not super picky. I own a decent violin that I got from a pawn shop for $60.

> increasing ease of making music

Can you please suggest few tools for this? TIA

Ableton Live is a very popular, accessable, yet powerful and complete solution with a huge community and countless ways to expand on the tools already included. It's a great starting point as well as potentially everything you might ever need.

Do you happen to make music that would fall under the Electornica umbrella?

Mainly just curious because I'm looking for new, free music in that genre. ;)

s/music/code/g s/listen/use/g s/content/projects/g etc. and it's all true :-)

A bit different though because you use code and you consume music. So code is a bit more active in terms of interaction.

This leads to the GI Joe phenomenon: https://www.drud.com/ddev-local/the-website-rfp-the-impossib...

"features are cheap and details are expensive". Music is all features, code is a mix.

My point is more that years ago you could thing "I'll make a windows utility to solve this problem" and you could probably charge for it. Now there will be an open source thing that is pretty good quality that will do it for free. You can still sell your solution but that's really a marketing exercise, finding people who don't know about the free solution (or want support) but the code itself isn't worth much. The music analogy would be you might pay $10 to see a local band live if they advertised well, but there is probably a lot of hustle in that, but you might not go around paying $10 for music cds anymore. Not with spotify, youtube, etc.


You forget that "the good things from 30 years ago" were also called garbage when they appeared (mostly by parents).

It's the never ending story, old people calling youngsters music garbage.

As someone who lived through the 80s, I will say the pop music of the time was not particularly good, but it was at least original. It was a new sound, and there were new aesthetics being explored.

That is not true today ... is it? Any examples?

By the mid-1990s we had a very clear idea of what 80s music was (electric guitar, synth and rap) and even what 90s music was (grunge and all this electronic stuff that I thought was super boring but a lot of people liked so whatever). It’s 2018 ... I have no idea what 2000s music was. Everyone can probably name a bunch of musicians that were big then, but what sound was being pioneered? Messing around with vocoders / harmonizers? That seems very limited and small.

What is the sound of 2010s music? I have simply no idea.

2010's music is dominated by remix scenes. Across most of the popular new genres this pattern holds:

* Arrangements are consistently built on samples and reconstructions of older songs. Big productions regularly credit a dozen people as songwriters: a Top 40 production is a factory process. * Awareness for new acts is built with fewer "big break" moments, and more of a grind with high-energy guerrilla marketing, endless tours, etc. Inclusion in a soundtrack is a common success milestone. * Live performance takes the form of: DJ set with a few vocal/instrumental parts, idol dance routine, acoustic cover - aiming to perform with a live performer on every part is the exception for acts driven by their production, though of course you still see traditional styles represented as a full live group. * 100's of amateur covers, "dance remix" and "nightcore" versions filter out over Youtube, Soundcloud and parts unknown. The sound gets curated by these fan groups leading to innumerable niches each with their own "canon text".

It really stopped being about the gear, and is only to a limited degree about mastery of traditional technique:"the sound" is always a commodity. But the brand is also more than the sound, and popular acts always get their branding on point now, which does include whatever aspects of the performance are necessary for "authentic" portrayal. Music is more than ever a tapestry with increasing extremes of "big heads" - constructed formulas - and "long tails" - folk vernaculars.

> It was a new sound, and there were new aesthetics being explored.

Is that really true, though? Most of the music that dominated the 90s, for example, wasn't created in the 90s. Grunge and Punk started in the 80s and were repackaged for mass consumption later.

The monopoly on what constituted "pop music" was largely destroyed by the turn of the century. That's part of the reason there is no particular sound of the '00s and '10s. I'm sure there was a lot of experimenting that's happened in the last 20 years, but they aren't being repackaged for mass consumption anymore.

Ironically, this has made the process of finding new music both easy and, at the same time, extremely difficult. As an indie game maker, I'm sure you can relate to the "discovery" problem.

I certainly don't think current music is garbage. But I do think innovation has slowed.

If you compare music from 1960, 1980, 2000, and now (almost 2020) you'll notice that the 60's to 80's to 00's were incredibly different. Like, they clearly come from distinct eras.

While there is still innovation, there aren't dramatic changes happening as often in the past two decades. There are many popular songs today that could have been popular in 00's and vice versa.

Some rap seems to still be innovating, but rock, pop, and a lot of electronic music seems to be stuck in a rut.

> I certainly don't think current music is garbage. But I do think innovation has slowed.

I would agree quite strongly here. I make a point of grubbing through "new artists" and/or "new releases" on Amazon Music or Google Play Music.

"New Sounds" are simply extremely rare, or alternatively, inaccessible (by inaccessible I mean something like "I've Got No Chicken But I've Got Five Wooden Chairs" by Barton).

Of course, this is separate from my tastes - I'm searching for something that is an enjoyable new thing that tastes good and unlike my existing taste.

My personal guesstimate is that the wide availability of sounds has provided a too large landscape for newcomers to work through and then break out of, in general. It will almost take a naive art type to synthesize together a new sound that is both accessible and fresh - in my opinion.

New, innovative music is out there, even in the indie mainstream.

Moses Sumney, for example, is incredible. Give this a whirl. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPeji3NS4uE

"extremely rare". :) not non-existent.

Mr. Sumney is, I'm sorry to say, not dramatically variant in the indie folk sonic system. I would say that it is a somewhat more electric orchestration of someone like Jesca Hoop; the sonic textures are similar. I don't care for falsetto - tastewise - I've run into a few other groups that are similar sonically over the past half decade besides Ms. Hoop.

It's plausible Mr. Sumney will evolve for a time and be substantially different - Doomed from that video presents the possibility unambiguously - but musically I would locate him in the indie-folk sound, with a different instrumentation and more electric usage.

> If you compare music from 1960, 1980, 2000, and now (almost 2020) you'll notice that the 60's to 80's to 00's were incredibly different. Like, they clearly come from distinct eras.

Wasn't that maybe because of the incredible evolution of music hardware? 70s music was IMPOSSIBLE to produce in the 60s, 80s music in the 70s, so on.

Today that hardware evolution is slowing down, so it's normal that the sounds don't change that much.

But neural networks are on the horizon, expect shocking things in a few years.

"Today that hardware evolution is slowing down, so it's normal that the sounds don't change that much."

It's not just the hardware.

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring could have been composed hundreds of years ago on basically the same instruments, but it wasn't. Nothing remotely like it was.

Twelve tone music, Dada music, all sort of other types of music could have been composed hundreds of years earlier, but it wasn't.

It's not just hardware and technical capabilities that evolve, but musical tastes, ambitions, and understandings of what music is and could be.

Similar things happen in other arts. The Black Square[1] painting could have been painted at any time. But tens of thousands of years passed before anyone did it.

Art is constantly evolving, and the boundaries of what is considered art and what people appreciate as art is ever growing.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Square_(painting)

> It's not just the hardware.

> Stravinsky's Rite of Spring could have been composed hundreds of years ago on basically the same instruments, but it wasn't. Nothing remotely like it was.

You are grossly underestimating the effect that technology had on music. Rite of Spring couldn't have been performed until the 20th century so there was no point in writing it.

Bach's children and Mozart (mid 1700's) were the first products of music pedagogy. Paper didn't become common until the 1800's. Interchangeable parts and factory practices made musical instruments much more consistent and available in the late 1800's.

All of this means that the average orchestral musician improved dramatically in capability over the course of less than 200 years.

> While there is still innovation, there aren't dramatic changes happening as often in the past two decades. There are many popular songs today that could have been popular in 00's and vice versa.

> Some rap seems to still be innovating, but rock, pop, and a lot of electronic music seems to be stuck in a rut.

Now that everything is available on-demand via streaming services, new music is competing not just with a glut of contemporary works, but with the ever-increasing body of prior works.

Why try something new when you can listen to your old favorites at any time? Unless the new thing sounds a lot like the thing you already really like.

When people complain about the quality of “music these days” they are almost always complaining about the most popular stuff that’s being endlessly promoted, which, yes, is mostly garbage. But the sheer quantity and variety of non-top-40 misic available today is mind boggling. I thought as I got older my musical tastes would calcify like my dad’s and his dad’s, remaining stuck in one decade, but the opposite has happened. I’m over 40 and am listening to more new (and new to me) music than at any time in my life. It’s just not the endless barrage of Drake and Taylor Swift.

Most of all music is garbage. The Beatles are more popular then Jesus, but at least 50% of their discography was composed of stinkers, that even fans have never heard about.

The difference is that with the benefit of time, we separate the wheat from the chaff.

between the 60s and 80s we had at least three major new genres : rock, techno, rap. And i’m not counting the minor ones (bossa nova, raeggea, funk, etc.)

What are the ones that emerged in the last 20 years ?

What i call garbage now isn’t music i don’t understand ( which would be what parents usually complain about), it’s music that i’ve already heard 20 thousand times before. The reason i can’t stand today’s music is because it’s copy / pasting itself over and over. This is new.

In the 90s: trance, drum&bass

In the 2010s: dubstep (minor), trap

Isn't rock also a lot of copy pasting? Not to mention techno. There is only so much space in a genre.

90s is before 20 years ago so i won’t discuss trance as a new genre or drum n bass as something major.

Which leaves us with... trap ? Seriously ?

There are a lot of things you can do to create really new musics. Historically this was done by breeding with music from different cultures. India has quartertones and melody based rythmics, africa has polyrhythmie, etc. The problem is that nobody in the dying record company industry had the guts to finance the emergence of things created by innovators ( who obviously still exist somewhere), and since online music services recommend songs based on what you’re already liking, there’s just no chance you’ll hear those creations.

There should be a new section in apple music called « new things you’ve never heard that will probably take you a bit of time to enjoy, but then you’ll thank us for it »

Online music services recommendations is one vector. Another is just peer to peer recomandation. Eventually someone will listen to that african polyrhythmie, and if it's so good, it will pass it on to his friend.

The fact that this is not happening suggests that maybe it's just not so catchy. And something being innovative and original doesn't mean that it should also be popular. Not many want to live in a crazily organic shaped house by the famed architect, not even those who could afford it, most prefer the regular boring rectangular ones.

BTW, a long time I saw in a National Geographic a crazy african song, which seems to me to be an african polyrhythmie (not an expert). I think it's an amazing piece of music. But I also see why this has little chance of becoming popular in US, at least in this shape. Maybe some producer could "un-ethnify" it and make it more palatable:


You dismiss trap, but I've heard some amazing arabic trap. For some reason, arabic vocals work very well on top of a trap track:



It sounds like you're drawing arbitrary lines about what is and isn't a genre. House and metal have evolved various subgenres, to the point where some the subgenres have their own festivals.

Deadmau5 uses polymeters pretty extensively and rap/trap uses polyrhythms all the time.

Yes there is a ton of electronic music and yes a lot of it sounds similar but there are new things coming out if you can dig through all the volume.

A lot of the innovation is also in sound design and not necessarily composition.

I've collected a lot of music from the 60's. An interesting thing about that era is most of the content was covers of existing popular tunes. Albums and albums full of re-arranged re-implementations. That practice pretty much stopped in the 70s.

And in the 50s, it was jazz motifs variations. And in 40s, eh, just take a quick stroll through Ink Spots repertoire [1] - it's basically the same song all the time. And few decades before that, it was just sheet music reproduction.

70s and (particulary) 80s were all about sound texture cloning. Were it particular guitar amp/pedal arrangement, or korg/roland sound du jour.

I don't think it changed much in essence, only in form of cloning flattery. Today, kids buy trap samples.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmT8S3qZnNk&list=PL210003EC6...

I have a few friends that are aspiring musicians with what I consider to be a high quality product, and they both struggle to make a living out of it, bankrolling their music endeavors with side gigs or similar avenues.

In the age of the Internet, it seems clear to me that from a macro economic perspective, the only scarce things a musician can provide are (a) experiences and (b) physical goods. It seems like no small/medium artist can expect to make a living out of YouTube views or Spotify plays.

Is anyone here that is more knowledgeable about the industry able to comment on what tech-enabled avenues exist (or may come into existence in the short term future) for younger musicians to make a living? Crazy ideas are OK (for example, I think VR live concerts might be a thing at some point, but I don't have enough understanding of the industry to tell whether something like Ujomusic makes sense).

It's highly competitive out there, but let's say you are in the top 5% of musicians which have real talent but can't make money.

Ultra specialization is one option. It's easier to make it as a Christian Rocker than a regular Rocker, but the rabbit hole goes really deep here.

Become part of someone else's content creation process. From video game soundtracks to a song writers demo tapes, many people want to turn a written song into music and while you generally don't get residuals you can still make decent money this way.

> it seems clear to me that from a macro economic perspective, the only scarce things a musician can provide are (a) experiences and (b) physical goods

As someone who is close to people in the industry: this is very true.

If you aren't a top act, money is made through merchandise and gigs like writing and recording music for video content, events like weddings and if you're lucky enough to get your act to the point that businesses will pay you to play at their venue, shows and touring.

There are businesses who approach musicians with the 'free shows at our venue for exposure' or 'perform at our venue and possibly collect on ticket sales' angle. Inexperienced or desperate acts will fall for these.

> Is anyone here that is more knowledgeable about the industry able to comment on what tech-enabled avenues exist (or may come into existence in the short term future) for younger musicians to make a living

By necessity, musicians need to look at these tech platforms not as sources of revenue, but as marketing platforms.

> By necessity, musicians need to look at these tech platforms ... as marketing platforms.

Yes, that's exactly the way to look at it.

But, even to get noticed on those platforms you'll need to do marketing. So, now there's two layers of marketing!

Thanks for your input. One takeaway from talking to my friends is that the "play for free for exposure" also happens at some very high profile venues that I wouldn't have guessed did that kind of thing.

Consider a dancer. Being any good takes years of training. But even the very good ones struggle to make any sort of living from it. (Take a look at the dancers in the background of any music video. Do you think they get paid much?)

Why should musicians be different from other artists?

I actually know a girl that does that and she gets paid just fine. She also has her own dance studio.

The musicians I talk about are much more notable than the dancer in their own field, as far as I can discern. But the dancer does not work for an industry nearly as intricate. She dances, and she gets paid for dancing.

Finally, I don't expect musicians to have it easy. Just asking for ideas.

If you're really good, you can charge $50/hr for private dance lessons. Subtract the cost of the dance studio, and it's not much. If you're at the top, you might get a gig for a couple years at the ballet. Might.

> If you're really good, you can charge $50/hr for private dance lessons

That seems a little low for even a minimally qualified instructor, IME (though I suspect the form of dance has a big effect on the potential market.)

> Subtract the cost of the dance studio, and it's not much.

That, on the other hand, seems spot on.

Or group lessons in a studio.

>for younger musicians to make a living

I don't have any stats, but even 30 years ago it was hard to stand out/make a living as a young musician. Why should today be easier, especially when there's several orders of magnitude more choices to contend with (additionally with albums/concerts being relatively cheap due to downward pressure from the Internet)? One could argue that streaming payouts aren't as fair as they should be, but that's an extension of album royalties from yester-decade.

Not saying it should be easy, just asking for ideas that could provide monetization choices for talented yet mostly unknown musicians.

Which is why parents tend to steer their children away from becoming/dating a professional musician.

I'm not a musician but have had a bit more interest in the industry than the average person, so I'll give my crazy ideas on the off chance it might be helpful.

Both Bandcamp and CD Baby seem popular with independent musicians as a way to make some money selling music, although I'm not sure if anyone makes a living from them. They can at least provide non trivial income in some cases. One thing I like about Bandcamp is when musicians offer a discounted "buy everything from this musician" option and at least personally I will spend more money more easily when that is an affordable option vs. needing to try to find music I like best to actually purchase. Soundcloud is popular for discovery. I'm sure your friends are already some of the amazing musicians on these platforms that somehow can't get a wider audience for no obvious reason.

I didn't like this article that much, but I think one thing that seems right to me is how important film is in turning excellent musicians into popular musicians. Computer games should be the same, but for some reason the industry accepts a half dozen 30 second loops as being acceptable music for games that take tens of hours to play.

Hopefully this situation will improve, but meanwhile there are occiasional games that have the explicit goal of promoting music and a few that just happen to use better music. Three I can think of are Beat Buddy, Symphony, and Braid. The creaters of Beat Buddy explicitly had the goal of promoting music and I'm fairly sure they worked directly with the musicians. I'm fairly sure Symphony also had music promotion as a goal but I'm not sure if they worked directly with the musicians or not. Braid just used music from Magna Tune, but the musicians got exposure from the game. I'm not sure if any of these cases necessarily translated to income, although I suspect it did in some cases at least (maybe you could ask some of them or see if they have talked about it publicly if you wanted to look into this further).

There is also a risk in working with game developers, since the music industry likes to categorize musicians in strange but limiting ways and almost no one wants to be categorized as a game musician (same, to a somewhat lesser extent, with film). Also, the route to gaining popularity via games would likely involve indie games and it can be hard to figure out if a particular developer a) will actually be able to produce a game that meets even the low technical standards of the game industry, b) that the game is fun in some way, and c) that more than a tiny number of people actually buy the game. Even better funded game projects often don't work out for various reasons. So a lot of risk but also a lot of opportunity since good music (not typical game music) can really improve the experince of a game. Unfortunately, both game and film producers seem to often want music to be bland and annoying so there is an extra challenge in finding someone who appreciates the value good music can add to a project. To be fair, sometimes other audio need to take priority, particularly in film, but IMO most games would do better making good music the focus of the audio experience. In film there as at least usually the credits music for arbitrary music that matches the mood of the film.

I think with indie film makers it would likely be easier to evalute the ability of the producer to complete the project, although still no guarantee that many people will ever see and hear the result. If working with independent film or game makers they will not be able to pay much of anything up front, so it would potentially still be a lot of work for a tiny chance of more exposure, although both films and games often get music from a number of sources which can lower the amount of work for each musician involved. To the extent that they are already doing a lot of work for a tiny chance of more exposure it might be something to consider, making choices with some idea of where they would like their income to come from in the future. I'm not sure how a musician would go about trying to find such a collaboration, but I would guess there are online forums where it might be possible.

For that matter there are professional musician forums; I don't know particular ones to recommend, but if your friends haven't looked at them yet they might find better advice there.

Thank you very much for your detailed reply. I will look into these things further.

> a musician can provide...experiences

This is how my dad made a living his whole life, playing upscale weddings in a string quartet. The barrier to entry is fairly high, though. Violins and such require a decade or 2 of practice.

And unless you run the group, there's not enough work for a regular, full time income.

Music throughout the centuries has always been subsidized by benefactors.

It wasn't until 19th century that the breadth of career options opened up for Musicians.

The struggle for "Pop" artists is that the definition of Pop changes every 5 years... and even then, Artists underestimate just how much promotion goes into driving streaming traffic.

But career options for scoring video games, multimedia, EDM, DJ, live bands, and teaching have never been better.

And that what it boils down to, promotion. Can you out promote the next guy? And, if you're likable or not. If so, you get (at least) a listen to.

Can you promote and make quality work? Doesn't have to be high quality, but good enough that you'd listen to it a lot and share it with your friends.

Ed Sheeran is not the best singer/musician in the world. But, he and his music is constantly in rotation. Not everyone has the backing of Warner Music. However, I'm guessing he and his music is likable and talented enough to hold people's attention.

I'm a semi pro musician. The market makes plenty of sense if you adopt the idea that:

a) any commodity will eventually be priced at its cost of producution

b) recorded art is a commodity, at least at the level of record labels and national acts

I make more playing piano by myself for 30 people at a winery in the Texas hill country than I could playing in a really hopping stage band in Austin... one experience is costing the folks engaged in it a lot more, and there is a lot less competition.

The only reason I sell merch is because rich people would rather buy something than tip a service worker.

>a) any commodity will eventually be priced at its cost of [production] //

The problem with this idea for the arts is that people are prepared to create music/art without a wage, so they absorb a primary cost of production (wages) themselves. Indeed they'll pay for everything, because it's enjoyable to create music. We could have no professional musicians and we'd still have more music created than anyone could ever listen to.

Also, "cost of production" should include wages, but what level of wage is right. Capitalism values people by their scarcity, but almost any musician could be replaced -- even top bands have replaced members -- meaning that for most music production capitalism will value the people making the music at around zero. So, you then need fashion (merch)/lifestyle/live shows to boost value. It strikes me that stars are made to increase the value of the music (selling a lifestyle) rather than because of the value of the music.

"they absorb a primary cost of production (wages) themselves"

I think that you are correct in this point. Your point doesn't undercut my point however-- in fact, if you look at the history of labor, the reason production gets draconian is because as the margins for commodities get smaller the owning classes have to force the laboring classes to absorb more of the cost of reproduction.

Hence people driving for Uber. Or the undervaluing of domestic, unpaid labor in the cost of production.

We hide a lot of those costs of production in the US.

And the answer to how long and how that gig economy will last has to do exactly that issue. The issue isn't how to fairly compensate people (what "level of wage is right") and I don't really agree that scarcity is what drives price... I still think that assuming that multiple people can get into a market price will always move towards the cost of production.

But that's just my own idea... not everyone believes that the price for a commodity will sink to that level. At some point, labor can no longer afford to reproduce itself no matter how many parts of it are externalized, and folks can't afford to go to a field and pick strawberries. Or play jazz.

It's really bad if we wanted to keep things like having live music all over the place... all the professionals have to get day jobs, and so the really good, smart musicians are all doing other things because they can't make ends meet. Those folks are often still playing, but you're not gonna get great unless you're playing all the time, really. But that has little to do with recorded music as a commodity, and a lot to do with all kinds of things from drunk driving laws to netflix.

You're also more or less correct in your assessment of "stars", insofar as they disrupt a commodity by creating a false sense of scarcity. As you note, "almost any musician could be replaced", and that's true about "stars" at a certain point. So those are temporary disruptions, not a workable situation for an industry.

Still, though, there are points in production that cost a lot to make: live shows, quality merch, music lessons, etc... those things have a real cost in time regardless of how much supply there is. That doesn't boost the value of recorded music, but people still want those things, even if they are scarce/ have a higher cost of production.

I built JQBX (https://www.jqbx.fm) so I think about streaming, money, and the law a lot. The industry is very focused on siphoning off as much cash from the musician as possible. That being said, in the age of streaming that seems like a common model (Psy got $2 mil for 2 billion views!?). I think direct sales is the most promising future for artists compensation given that there are so many new sales and social channels. Bandcamp is does good work and if you're going to buy music (and the artist is on there) you should probably do it there. I know I'm a small fish but I'm integrating on some direct to artist sales features currently to at least help the cause.

An example of live performance making money - my friend and I busked the summer after high school and made $15 an hour or so, 6 hours a day before our voices gave out. So we were each able to make around $4k for college over two months. Annualized, $24k a year is not great, but it was a lot to us, and we also got about a gig offer per week which we declined. If we had wanted to be full time musicians we probably could have had a decent career in short order.

I was in a busking trio playing mostly covers of oldies -- when we were 15/16 years old we had a good novelty factor and could make around 45 an hour combined street performing. Eventually we started playing bars in a touristy part of Wisconsin and we'd make $200-300 per 3 hr set. Hourly it's alright, but there's not many options in terms of daytime gigs during the week.

Incidentally, I put this on my resume back in college when my resume was mostly empty, and think it played a part in me getting rejected from a Microsoft internship. At one point an interviewer asked me point blank "would you rather be a professional musician or a computer programmer" and I didn't answer correctly!

What an asshole. Would he rather be interviewing people at Microsoft, or sipping Piña Coladas on a beach?

The difference is that he would probably not answer that question honestly.

It helped me get a job, because I framed it like having a small business. But I also never wanted to be a professional musician.

"We tested train routes and song styles against each other to calculate optimal earnings per hour, tailored our pitch to the audience most likely to donate, blah blah"

the correct answer is musician, right? right?

plus that's tax-free cash!

No, it isn't. It's easier to get away with cheating on your taxes if you're paid in cash, but cash is still taxable income. And if they do catch you, you can go to prison (as Robert Manafort is currently learning the hard way).

*Paul Manafort

The era of a musician making a $100m is over.

The same thing has happened to books and software.

I'm a little surprised that movies can still make so much money. There's an explosion of video being made.

The difference in production quality between a Clerks-style mockumentary, and a AAA teledrama is huge. The latter is a money pit, where you can sink millions of dollars into. Technology has made video-production much more accessible, but there's almost no ceiling to money->production quality in that space.

With music, technology has made audio-production much more accessible, and while there is a difference between someone recording music in their garage, and Justin Beiber working in a gold-plated studio, it's not a big one.

I may not like the latest Avenger's take on the DC universe, but watching an unlicensed spin-off made by four kids over a summer isn't an acceptable substitute. If I don't like Beiber's new album, there's a mountain of indie bands that... Sound just as good.

Part of it is that the cameras you can get from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars have gotten dramatically better than the Super8 or even VHS days--and the editing process is also cheaper and easier--but there's so much more in the budget for that AAA teledrama or even a relatively low budget movie. The actors of course but also sets, lighting and sound design, etc. Some types of films can be produced on the cheap under some circumstances but not most mainstream films, especially the popular ones.

Video is a few years behind in this process because it got started later, but it’s trending in the same direction: YouTube used to have a diverse set of personalities among its famous producers, but they’re gradually disappearing and the all new YouTube stars are minor variations of the same archetype: the annoying, loud-mouthed jackass.

And it’s for the same reason: with so much content out there, you’ve gotta stand out, and the easy hack to do that is by being an attention-seeking sociopath. Give it another five years or so, and every YouTuber will be Logan Paul.

> The same thing has happened to books and software.

I agree about books but software is still the best way for someone to make $100m unless they already have enough money to invest in something.

I thought the article would focus a bit more on the "or don't" part. I think Courtney Love's article on the economics of being a new musician would have added an interesting perspective to the (already complex) issue: https://www.salon.com/2000/06/14/love_7/

Edit: note that the article is from 2000, and the landscape has changed a bit since then.

I think we need a platform that is a cross between Spotify and Patreon.

Then, artists can aim to bring in subscribers who pay them something like $2-5/month to support them as a patron.

You can already do this on patreon but I think a specialized platform would have more sway.

The platform could also sell bands enhanced band pages for a small subscription fee too.

Basically, a platform to fully connect artists with fans where the fans WANT to buy the music in order to support the band.

this is a realllllly good idea.

I wrote a somewhat related article a few years back that I think is very relevant to this: https://kolemcrae.com/the-internet-killed-the-rock-star-and-...

The days a massive rock stars is over - it's not too bad though...

I’m not sure that the “rockstar” concept is dead. The top spaces are just being shared among fewer performers. And more of the business is trickling towards them than the smaller acts than yesterday, and the same will be true tomorrow. It’s been going that way since they started printing sheet music. As distribution (of pretty much any product) becomes more efficient, it’s easier for the most marketable acts to become well known outside of their original region, and when that happens they’ll take over a lot of market share from the local guys in other regions.

Music is the type of field where everyone and their brother gives it a go, and so the market is very, very deep. But most of it lacks the mass appeal needed to cause viralality. Today more than ever, it’s possible for marketable acts to catch on in a big way. And the big acts do really, really well. But that’s always been the case. In music as in other similarly competitive fields (professional sports, acting, startups, writing novels) being average means that you basically aren’t making a living, whereas the top people are really raking it in. It’s a well-studied market dynamic. (May have been mentioned in Freakonomics, although I can’t recall exactly).

Point being, in such fields average is almost always broke, and if you’re making it, you’re likely to be really, really making it. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is exacerbated as technology continues to enable more efficient marketing / distribution for the most popular acts.

Old man Zappa comes to mind...


> “When you end up tracing all the dollars, around 10 percent of it gets captured by the artist. “That’s amazingly low,”

Actually, that's pretty good. Compare it to the profit margin of most any business.

Isn't it talking about revenue, not profit margin?

ITT A bunch of music snobs who think music is dead and they just don't make great music anymore and it all sounds the same.

> "with many analysts and experts expecting that the business will streamline itself"

Seems like wishful thinking

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