It’s never been easy to make a living as a musician. But there was always a dream: to become a star on the strength of your talent and your music. The Internet is a rude sandman, however, and today that dream is a lot more convoluted.
No longer can a would-be rock star follow the once-accepted checklist: (1) sign with a big label, (2) get a hit, (3) buy mansions and cars. The number of ways a musician can make money is now varied. The question, for many musicians still trying to make a go of it in the industry, is whether those many sources can add up to something sustainable.
In 2010, the Future of Music Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for musicians, decided to survey more than 5,000 musicians to find out the answer to that question. The study, which is ongoing, has found 42 different sources of revenue for musicians. Fifty-six percent of respondents felt the Internet made it possible for them to manage their own career. Sixty-four percent said it also made the music world more competitive by creating “an overwhelming amount of music that consumers are now also bombarded by,” says Jean Cook, one of the study’s authors.