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How much do music artists earn online?

Discussion in 'The LUG Lounge' started by Orren Merton, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. Orren Merton

    Orren Merton Logic Samurai / Administrator Staff Member

    This is an interesting chart from Information Is Beautiful. Online may be where the industry is speeding, but this clearly shows that if an artist wants to live that way, it's going to take some serious sales:


    Do we have any LUG posters who make either all or a serious percentage of their monthly income from online music streaming or downloads, who could add some personal insight to these numbers?

  3. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    Orren my friend... well, I guess being a tech isn't such a bad thing. At least I get paid (most of the time).

    Isn't it strange that a skill that takes a lifetime to acquire, and how difficult it can be to even make music that is "universally" accepted to the point of success, is worth so little financially.To be come rich from it, especially today, is about as likely as being hit by a meteor.

    I can't imagine life without music. Can you?

    I guess those of us who make music today must realize that it is an investment into our own self fulfillment. I suppose that is fine with me on a personal level, I do music for my own personal pleasure, and am not really all that concerned about finding a large audience or the financial success... I do my music because I am compelled to, because if I don't I am a lost soul without a path in this life.

    That said, all my clients who have been able to make a living doing movies and TV are either calling it a day after 20 years, or working about 2 times harder for less money.

    Anyways, I hope we all can find what it is that we need from our music.

    And if anyone is inclined to have a free copy of my last cd/release, please go to http://www.utopiaparkwaymusic.com/publisher/gjl3/
    and feel free to grab a copy. It's very ambient and meditative music, good for calming down, massage, or meditating. I hope you enjoy it...
  4. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Wasn't this always the case? Actually it is the only way to make good music. There was some time when musicians got sold by labels and got a reasonable piece of the giant cake. For a short while this was really good business for all people involved. In comparison to those times the cake is just a muffin today. Maybe there are still big cakes somewhere but the sellers of the music feed their own families first. If there is not much money left, they take the rest also because they work for the next balance, not for the musicians. Then artists get virtually nothing.

    First, with the upcoming technical revolution, artists tried to do everything themselves but this of course is not possible. There are only view people on the planet who have both, the musical and the technical skills necessary for a great production. Now the good artists tend to use their homestudios for the basic work, for composition, arrangement and sound design. After that they go to producers they know or trust for other reasons.

    After a big vacuum the marketing machine now migrates into the job of the producer. The problems get shifted. The producer is now responsible for personal coaching, all of the technical issues and for opening selling-channels. So, if one is a good technician and nothing else, he is somewhere between. He may be successful if he has good contacts to artists and producers. Otherwise the jobs for even ingenious technicians are rare because the big studios vanish and the productions run along many small streets rather than using the production highways.

    Producers are more and more involved in the process of creating music instead of only supervising and controlling the production process. This is not really new of course, we know that for example instruments were often played by the producer or by studio staff when a band member did not show up or wasn't in great shape. But this seems to become a habit. Producers are expected to make the arrangement, to compose whole string arrangements or whatever.

    Musicians should think about that. Is this finally their music, what comes out? Or does the producer just something that fits for the market, a market that probably lives only in his illusion on the long run? While producers tend to do more and more, musicians should get a clue about their own part instead of waiting for some miracles done by a person that does not invent their music but rather bring it into a certain form and is expected to sell it.

    If musicians and producers do not think about their relationship and forget to define their roles due to the financial pressure, the evolution will go into the same direction as before. Producers cannot do everything on their own. They need helpers, an office, they need access to a studio and contacts to the selling machinery. This all happened already and led to institutions called music labels.

    Maybe there is no new way at all, I don't know. Maybe the work of the big labels gets just divided at the moment and will naturally lead again to the structures of big labels just with different distribution methods. But if the "modern producer" works, I suggest that musicians do one step back and think more about their creations coming out of their hearts, souls and brains. And then two steps forward, actively helping the producer to bring their special creations to a larger audience. Otherwise we may end up recording juke boxes which is much cheaper and easier.
  5. Orren Merton

    Orren Merton Logic Samurai / Administrator Staff Member

    Great posts, guys! Let me share some of my thoughts:

    Your quip also applies to something that the chart didn't cover, but we who've been around the industry know too well: even if you sell "enough" music through a major label to make money...well...good luck squeezing it out of them. There's always a million reasons they have for hanging onto even earned royalties. And I hear now that label deals are going "360"—that they're demanding a cut of the live action as well, which used to be the one "pure" way for a successful band to make their living.

    And yet, we keep making music...

    I've never really understood how society determines value. Why does a banker in wall street who does nothing but push numbers around get paid more than a teacher, a musician, a doctor...even a trash collector, if you think about it, is more vital to society not wasting away than a wall street middle manager!

    Absolutely not. We need it. It's our mana, our food, our wine.

    I agree with you Peter. But I'd add this:

    What makes good music is that the people who are driven to make music must do it because they feel it inside, and they have the time and opportunity to make that music. Money doesn't make good music, but money means that those people who have it will have the time and opportunity. If someone has to work four jobs in order to earn a living, then comes home to their family exhausted, there's no time or opportunity, even if the songs burn in their soul.

    Also, let's be honest—the dream of success inspires a lot of people. And I'm not talking about the American Idol/X-Factor/Pop Idol style of success, I mean some people alienate their families and get fired from job after job because they dream of being able to sell enough music and play bigger and bigger shows to the point that they can make $3000/month, or some other lower middle class amount, enough to live so they don't need to work at a bank, or flip burgers, or sweep the roads. If you take away even the dream of being able to support themselves, these people, who may have beautiful songs inside them, will never bother to share them because it would be a lot of pain and heartache with no gain.

    And in these situations, we all loose. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana slept under a bridge while he was putting everything into making it in rock and roll—take away the possibility of making a living at it, and he may have just given up, gone for a job at a fast food restaurant, and we all would have lost (well, at least those of us who like Nirvana!)

    And the sad thing is, if the artists dry up because they can't make enough, there won't be anyone to pay the producers...

    I don't think they will. Because now artists go directly to the fans. They can sell music via websites, bandcamp, and so on. They can set up shows via Twitter (rock star Amanda Palmer can practically fill theaters that way!). They don't need to be part of a "distribution highway" of any kind. This means that there's no need for a "major" who can put them into a channel; they can build their own channel.

    However, I do think that this can benefit the producers. Like you say, their roles are increasing, and as such, they can benefit just as much; it's just that for every artist, the producer will have a new channel to deal with.

    My feeling is the majors won't go away entirely; I believe they will simply become mainstream advertising agencies. The "make your own channel" model of millions of little artists surviving with their own fans may hopefully result in musicians being able to survive, pay rent, raise families, but it will not make stars. There will always be big money companies involved in making a Lady GaGa. But I also don't believe that the small "millions of channels" that each individual artist finds for him or herself will converge in a single company like they did when the population had no choice but to tune into the mainstream media.

    Do you guys agree?

  6. Graeme Douglas

    Graeme Douglas New Member

    In the old days, the only reason record companies could hold on to "earning" musicians, that is, musicians who were selling ****-loads of product, was to manipulate the royalty percentages of new artists who were a bit naive. A few million selling newbies on piss-poor royalty paid for the companys' cocaine habits! When the artists wised-up and demanded better rates, there was always deductions for tour support, promotional budgets and various other expenses that affected the artists' royalties.
    The only way, nowadays, is to do as much of the whole process as you can yourself. It helps to have a good mixer and good mastering engineer (this can be the same person), unless you happen to be the rare person who is skilled at composition, playing, recording (probably in one's home studio), mixing, mastering, manufacturing, and marketing, together with booking and tour managing for live work.

    Cynical? You bet! Giving up? Not in the slightest! Trying to acquire as many of the above skills as possible? This is the reason for the existence of Logic Studio in the first place; from the early Notator, all the way through to now, and further yet (hopefully).
  7. Orren Merton

    Orren Merton Logic Samurai / Administrator Staff Member

    A great attitude to have! :thmbup:

    And you're right, tools like Logic Studio and professional quality instruments and effects bring what used to take studios full of gear into our own project studios. There will always be a place in the music creation process for human expertise and creativity, both in the roles of the artists, and as Peter points out, the producers, and others.

    The way in which we can make money from this endeavor are getting trickier and trickier, but I think that eventually, we'll figure it out. I think the days of the "rock star dream" may be dead since the machine has fallen apart, but the music and the dream of bringing it to the people (just a smaller, more devoted group of people) still lives.

  8. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    One thing I see is people making a living doing music libraries. I have a buddy who makes a pretty good living that way. It even offers opportunities to do different types of music (pop, rock, mellow, industrial). It's not for everyone, but he loves the variety of the job, and he has a pretty cool life if you ask me.

    i make a better living doing tech work that I did with music, even recording. the expense is about the same (I need to buy allot of things to know and resolve situation for my clients) and to be honest it can be very frustrating having all these toys and only a little time to "play" with them.

    That said, I actually love the tech thing, reading manuals, and solving problems. I love having the people I help "get" the whole technology thing and be able to use these new tools. I love having opportunities show up I didn't expect (like the Barry Manilow album I worked on that is nominated for a Grammy this year... Sunday is the big day we find out or not), the people I get to work with (Geddy Lee, Jon Anderson, David Newman... some of the most successful people out there), and at the end of the day the satisfaction of making more karma points for helping a fellow person.

    It's not too bad a life if I say so myself ;-)
  9. bambony

    bambony Administrator Staff Member

    This is all food for thought. If I may move a little more off the original topic.

    I "quit" music professionally at 41 after 22 great years. I was working with some pretty successful bands but I found that to get to the next level of income was going to be so difficult. I did a support tour with Suede and was told I was being paid more than their sound guy - I am not sure how true that was but I realised my days were numbered. I stumbled into a lot of my work and am not ambitious so pushing myself to get bigger gigs was not gonna happen other than through luck and more "stumbling".

    So I quit and became a school teacher. Great holiday and sick pay, generous pension and after 5 years I now earn twice my previous income. Thing is I am already bored despite actually loving the job and really enjoying the kids. I built a studio at school which is still the main source of joy in my job and have just spent a small fortune on my little studio shed at the bottom of the garden.

    It's hard to run away from who I am (was?). I've bought more mics and guitars in the last 2 years than in the 22 years I was a sound engineer. I've no intention of going back on the road but I will certainly indulge my "hobby", move from full time to part time teaching and develop more music related income streams. I've even got a backer for one of my ideas!

    And I've booked the first gig that I will have played in yeeeeeeeeeears with my own "fun" band. I used to gig as a guitarist all the time until I was about 32.

    So my answer is we don't do it for the money but are lucky if we can and I was one of the lucky ones for sure.

    As for the OP I've made very little money online but I've saved a fortune by buying stuff on eBay rather than in shops!

  10. JuanTahnahmahrah

    JuanTahnahmahrah Senior member

    Anybody writing music for elevators?

    Not sure if the company that sold elevator music is still around, but I always wished I had a remote that would shut off the ubiquitous background music that is written with the intent of turning listeners into pacified shoppers. But it undoubtedly has paid the bills for a few.

    I receive statements for downloads periodically, but it is more like saving old postage stamps for their curiosity appeal than because they are truly bankable.

    So the big bucks is not for me, and I assume not for most. But Van Gogh painted the stars in the firmament, and at least one person "wrote a song about it" that put food on his plate. To wonder if one's artistic endeavor will make one rich is a conundrum. Should we create to eat? Or should we just create what fulfills us. Real possible that what makes one happy will uplift others, too.
  11. absolute50

    absolute50 New Member

    I am now 50 and have worked on music since i was sixteen years old i seen close friends get some fame then lose it and i wonder what is worse,is it not getting there or is it getting there and losing it.
    I.m not surprised that companies are looking for a slice of the live action,the statement above said thats how bands earned their money in the old days but thats not totally true as in the seventies bands toured to sell the album to make money.
    heres a financial example the first band i went to see in 1976 cost me one pound sterling for the gig but the album for that tour cost two pound sterling so the album was double the price.
    Fast forward to 2011 and the average album is ten pounds and the gig is between 30 and 50 pounds 3 to 5 times the other way,bands have to get money from somewhere as recording time engineers production etc is big bucks,they can,t make as much on albums because of illegal downloads.
    On the subject of fame i can look back and say i entered the musical world with the big dream and the pay off seemed to be everybody loves you and you get control of your life and do what you want,unfortunately its not like that and could be the opposite

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