First–apologies about the spam–somehow my blog (and twitter) got hacked (and no, Aaron–I wasn’t trying to monetize the blog! 😉 )
The above quote is from an older post by David Lowery, If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally? Setting aside the issue that most of the post is discussing how digital media isn’t really helping musicians financially, it’s the blurb near the end of the post that talks about the Bureau of Labor statistics showing a nearly 46% decrease in [self-reported] musicians making a full time living doing music.
But of all the numbers, this one is the bottom line. Salon recently reported stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that number of working professionals in the music industry are suffering a catastrophic decline. If these numbers were reported by any other industry it would make national headlines:
“Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011.”
This is also graphically represented here at Digital Music News:
So my question here would be, if pop music is so relevant and sustainable why is it that almost no one is really making a living at it? Not that many were making a living doing it in the past, it’s just that more people are reporting now that they aren’t. Another question would be why aren’t the folks touting the new models for Classical Music of relevancy and sustainability bringing up these issues?
To be fair, the statistics probably also include Classical Musicians as well as the Pop musicians–but we haven’t seen a 45.3% reduction in Symphony Orchestras and Opera companies, have we? No, what we’ve seen is a proliferation of musicians (both pop and classical) with a drastic reduction in career, job, and pay-per-gig opportunities for all.
Those who are making it are doing so despite all this–and that happens on both the classical and pop side. Likewise, those who aren’t making it just haven’t managed to figure out a way to monetize an environment that is increasingly hostile to compensation to creators and performers of music, and which is just flooded with musicians of all types who are more likely to want to play for next to nothing (or nothing) rather than go to a classical concert or stadium rock show.
Yet here we are using a hemorrhaging industry’s standards as the new model–and as in the Sports example from the previous post, Classical Music will be a step behind yet again.
For another take on the decreasing returns to all but the top earners, check out this Atlantic piece by Derek Thompson, How the Music Industry Explains Inequality, Globalization, Middle-Class Decline … Basically Everything.