Last week, we launched a series of blog posts that are using Artist Revenue Streams to examine some of the common assumptions about musicians and income.
In part 3, we’re looking at the assumption that, in a post-Napster world, musicians don’t make any money from selling music. As with the other perceptions, there’s a grain of truth in this, based on the simple fact that income from the sales of sound recordings in the traditional sense – sales of physical goods in retail stores – has changed drasticallly in the past ten years. There are fewer retail stores, more online ways to get music for free and, according to the RIAA’s data, a steady decline in the dollar amount of CDs shipped from 2004 to 2010.
In March of this year, Artist Revenue Streams co-directors Kristin Thomson and Jean Cook participated in a panel at South by Southwest called Brass in Pocket: Accessing More Musician Income. Drawing upon data collected through the Artist Revenue Streams project and the panelists’ personal experience, they talked about a handful common assumptions and myths about how musicians make money.
This week, the ARS team is expanding on the SXSW panel topic through a series of posts.
We’re starting by tackling the assumption that musicians are rich. This is a feeling that is reinforced by shows likeMTV Cribs, by annual lists from outlets like Forbes and Billboard that publish figures about the most well-paid musicians, and even by musicians themselves who reference luxury brands in their lyrics, or embrace high-priced lifestyles. Naturally, the public begins to assume that musicians – especially chart-topping, highly visible ones – are rich, based largely on what they see on stage, read about online, or hear on the radio. And even when the musicians aren’t rich, some embrace the stereotype because it adds to their own brand’s value.
There are some musicians who are doing very well financially (at least in gross earnings), and we applaud their success. But, just like the US population, there are very few at the top. While there are a handful of musicians who are wealthy, the vast majority of working musicians in the US are middle class earners.
[this post by Communications Associate Kevin Erickson and Communications Intern Oliva Brown]
There were several surprises in store at the November 27, 2012 House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet hearing “Music Licensing Part One: Legislation in the 112th Congress.” The first surprise was that the main bill under question — the Internet Radio Fairness Act, introduced by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) — had been renamed. IRFA, which argues that royalty rates for webcasters should be calculated using the same standard that is currently applied to satellite radio, was now rechristened “Internet Radio Freedom Act.” While slapping the word “freedom” on anything and everything is a longstanding Washington tradition, it also had the unfortunate side-effect of underscoring a key criticism of IRFA: that the bill would almost certainly result in a steep cut to artist payouts from services such as Pandora, something many artists see as anything but fair.
But the biggest surprise was that the topic du jour turned out to be another longstanding point of contention in the broadcasting realm: the lack of a terrestrial radio performance right in the United States. Meaning, good-old fashioned radio still does not compensate performers and sound copyright owners even though digital broadcasters do. (So does the rest of the industrialized world; for more information, check out our Public Performance Right fact sheet.)
“Who the [heck] is this guy and why is he trying to sell me a warm sack of [poo]?”
This question lit up my mind last week, as I sat in the audience for the Future of Music Coalition Policy [sic] Summit in Washington, DC. The guy in question was, in fact, a US Senator — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — while said warm-sack-of-[poo] was the Internet Radio Fairness Act (IRFA), which Sen. Wyden is sponsoring in the Senate. read more
[…]This disconnect between old media companies and new is hilariously illustrated by comments that one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, made recently at the Future of Music Coalition Summit. After some harsh words for the major labels, Wyden said the following, as quoted by Digital Music News: “Now, if it weren’t for the disruptive independent record labels — I’m talking about people like I.R.S. and Sub Pop and Tim/Kerr — we might never have known much about bands like R.E.M., and Nirvana and the Replacements … I sure want us to remember their enduring influence on not just rock music, but on their contributions to our culture and an entire generation.” read more
On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, FMC will host its 11th Future of Music Summit in Washington, DC. Our ELEVENTH! As always, the event will tackle the emerging issues at the intersection of music, technology, law and policy. Our goal is to bring together stakeholders with different – even opposing – views, so we can dissect and discuss complicated topics, giving musicians a clearer sense of the issues, the players, and how decisions made by policymakers in Washington, DC might affect their livelihood. read more
Last month, singer-songwriter James Taylor joined the long line of legacy acts that have sued their former record labels for withholding royalty payments, among other financial oversights. According to a 2007 audit, Warner Bros. Records underpaid Taylor by nearly $1,700,000 between the years of 2004 and 2007.
This kind of financial dispute is hardly new. The Temptations and Sister Sledge filed similar complaints (against Warner and Universal Music Group, respectively) earlier this year. The debate about whether artists should receive compensation as a “sale” or “license” for digital downloads has also garnered attention as a result of Eminem’s audit of his former label, Aftermath Records, wherein he argued that he should have been paid his licensing royalty rate of 50 percent — instead of his sales royalty rate of 12 percent — for digital downloads in the early days of iTunes.
[This post co-authored by FMC Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman]
August in DC is traditionally a slow month. Election seasons are even slower. This year seems a little different, at least concerning an issue that could directly impact musicians. Within a span of six weeks, members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the aisle have introduced new legislation that aims to establish a more level playing field for radio royalties. read more