The recording industry finally tapped the pause button on its decade-long funeral march this week, when it reported that global music sales rose 0.3 percent in 2012 -- the first increase this century, as you can see from the Quartz graph above. As my colleague Derek Thompson wrote yesterday, the labels can thank the growth of digital downloads and streaming subscriptions outside the United States, as well as a worldwide crackdown on piracy.
Another group that should be thankful are musicians and the people who care about them. When we talk about the post-Napster collapse of the music industry, it sometimes gets lost that -- aside from the horror stories of labels screwing over artists -- royalty checks really do make up an important chunk of income for the people who create the music we love. And no, I'm not just talking about superstar acts like Metallica that get in a huff when fans download their work.
Last month, Northwestern University law professor Peter DiCola released the results of a fascinating survey that tried to discern exactly how much income most working musicians make off of people actually paying for their recordings (or in some cases, their compositions). His very broad answer was between 12 and 22 percent, depending on whether you counted pay from session playing (shown as "mixed" below). If that doesn't sound like real money to you, consider how you'd react if your boss suddenly said you were getting a 10 percent pay cut tomorrow.