Musicians And Internet Money

Dennis Yang finds this chart misleading:

Musicians have long known that in order to make real money, they'd either have to be U2 big, or tour. However, it's very interesting to note that in the new, digital era, artists actually make more off of their album sales in iTunes than they did in the old, physical world. And selling albums digitally through cdbaby, without a label, stands to bring in much, much more money for the artist -- and frees them from the headache of distributing a physical product. The band Pomplamoose, for example, is making a perfectly good living doing just that. [...]

So, while at first glance, this infographic may seem pessimistic, digging a little deeper into the data gives the real story. Exciting opportunities still abound in the world of music for those creative enough to seize them.

E.D. Kain shares similar sentiments. A reader writes:

The traditional gatekeepers of the creative economy -- publishers, record companies, studios -- haven't realized that they're irrelevant.  

In the old model, you waited for a gatekeeper to choose you, and in return they put their immense production, distribution and marketing power behind you.  Now, production and distribution is available to anyone -- so all the gatekeepers offer is marketing.  If you're willing to do that work, you can reap your own rewards.

The sad thing is, when I attended SXSW (the film, music and interactive conference), the representatives of these old gatekeeper companies all said that they were looking for creatives who, in the buzzword of the moment, "Come With Tribe" -- have a pre-existing audience that they bring with them. The amount of denial on display was staggering; not a single one of these Brahmins of culture seemed to understand that if we already have that, we've don't need them at all.  We've already taken care of the last thing that they might be able to offer us -- marketing.  At this point, it makes more sense for us to concentrate on growing that "Tribe" to 1000 (or more), and make our living.

You should check out Kevin Kelly's essay "1000 True Fans." In it, he posits that this should be the goal of any creative (musicians, writers, artists) in the digital age.  He defines a "True Fan" as somebody who is willing to spend $100 a year on your output (CDs, merchandise, print-on-demand publishing, live appearances, etc). Any creative who can reach that point (and really, it's not that difficult -- most of the creatives I know have managed to reach the 300-400 True Fan stage without really trying at all) has an annual income of $100,000 -- a comfortable living by any standard.