For Music Creators, It's Apocalypse Now
Ah, Sundays. A chance to unwind, relax and read the Sunday paper with a nice cup of coffee. But last Sunday, when I opened The New York Times Sunday Magazine, I practically did a spit take.
I spend my days as part of The Recording Academy’s Advocacy team, fighting for the rights of music creators, many of whom have been unable to make a living in the era of free online music. So reading “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” was like reading long-form fiction.
Since there were no quotes from actual musicians, songwriters or studio professionals in the story, allow me to make a few points based on the lives of the creators I work for (and actually talk to).
1. Artists are not athletes. The article refers to employment data from the Occupational Employment Statistics, which narrows down to earnings figures for a broad category of Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media Occupations. Lumping music creators in with visual artists, athletes, filmmakers, writers and actors is not an effective way of examining the reality of annual income data for the majority of music makers.
2. Songwriters and producers don’t tour. Author Steve Johnson points to increased revenue from touring as one primary way that music makers are winning in the new post-Napster economy. But the assumption that live performance is the magic bullet for all music creators is naïve. Plenty of songwriters don’t double as performers, and most music producers work their creative magic within the confines of a studio, not on stage. Americans may be paying more for live concert tickets, but that does little for a large swath of the music community.
3. Artists should teach because they want to. Indeed, economic and technological trends are undermining the livelihoods of creators, particularly in the music arena. The Internet offers dozens of new platforms for delivering content, but the existing music services pay music creators pennies –or fractions thereof – per play, forcing professional music makers to engage in secondary activities to pay the bills. While “The New Making It” may include sideline gigs like giving live or online music lessons, creators should not have to teach because making music no longer results in fair compensation.
Last Sunday was a nice break, both from the work week –and from reality– as I read The New York Times Sunday Magazine. But now I’m back in my office with my colleagues, continuing the necessary work of fighting for creators’ rights. Another Sunday will come soon enough when I can, again, catch up on The New York Times ... of which I am a paying subscriber. Gotta support professional journalists, you know. Wouldn't want them to have to start teaching online writing courses to make a living.