Music Model Insights

Day 167 Week 24 Q2 Saturday, June 17, 2023

In some ways, being a musician today is very much like it has always been. It has been hard to earn a living, and you had to be extremely self-sufficient and flexible.  There was a period that began when Music recordings became possible and ended when streaming became possible. During this time, companies that sold recordings could discover and represent musicians. The creation of this new portable form of intellectual property that could be sold changed the business model for musicians. Musicians could earn a living by selling records and tapes and then CDs.

Before this, most musicians could only earn a living by performing. Sure, the very elite class of musicians had the patronage of rich benefactors who essentially owned them much as the other staff around the castle. And today, with streaming, it is no longer possible to earn a living by selling recordings because most people do not even own recordings any longer. And streaming pays too little to be worth doing at all except to build your brand and credibility for touring.

So, musicians are back to where they were one hundred years ago regarding business models. They have to play out to get paid. And if they are not good at getting gigs, they have to pay to play instead of getting paid to play. It is that simple: to first order if you are famous, you must tour; if you are not, you still have to play out. And playing out is usually not the way to touring.

Okay, so a few musicians here and there build their reputations online and get discovered and ushered into touring, but this is as rare as somewhat writing a book and self-publishing it to acclaim. In both cases, the chances of earning a living are probably less than one in a thousand and certainly less than one in a hundred.

In contrast, if you get a degree in accounting, medicine, law, engineering and yes, even music, you have a very much better chance than one in a hundred of getting a job. However, for musicians, that job is likely to be teaching, which is a time-honored way for all artists to earn a significant portion of their support.

But today, there could be other options for business models besides the well-known ones of composing soundtracks for movies, video games and commercials and performing at corporate functions.

What about combining intimacy and reach? The in-person experience and the streaming experience? What about being technologically leveraged to sound like more than one musician.? What about the decreased barriers to entry to starting a new business and even a music business? 

Create new business models to support new performance models to support yourself as a musician and a composer, and yes, I do not mean AND not OR. For if you are a composer and can not or do not play, there is little chance of earning a living. Yes, there is always the one in a hundred, but Ould you advise anyone to do this?

If you want to compose, the odds are you are going to have to play to be heard. And the odds are you are going to have to play to earn a living as a musician because it is rarely possible to earn a musical living from IP sales.

Just some contemporary music insights.