David Byrne of Talking Heads is whining on The Guardian about online services sucking all of the creative content out of the world. Artists just aren’t making money from Spotify or Pandora. Well, their music labels ARE making money from these services, so the fight might be with the music labels – or the contracts you signed.
This fight is similar to the one going on over Amazon and publishing. There are authors who think Kindle and Amazon are destroying the book world. Others find it liberating. As both an author (without a publisher) and a reader, paying $10 for most kindle books is ridiculous. Why? The paper copy is like $14-$18. Printing is $0.02 per page, shipping for distribution, typesetting, etc. make up a majority of that $14-18. So how is an e-book $10?
I would like to point out two things:
One, people with degrees expected to get more out of college than $70K in loan debt. They expected like their parents to get a good paying job to live off of. That is not happening in today’s world. Free internships, low paying positions, hyper-competition for that position, part-time versus full-time — these are all factors that have changed the college degree system.
Two, maybe in today’s cratering world economy, artists won’t make millions any more. Or they will have to be better marketers and cultivate a Tribe.
Byrne points out that if everything ends up on a $8-per-month Netflix platform, how can we produce good movies and TV? Well, maybe actors won’t make $20 million per movie or $1 million per episode any more. In sports, not every player makes $3 mill per year. In the NFL, there are players making $96,000 per year on the practice squad. So not everyone hits the salary lotto.
That being said, Kindle, Spotify, Netflix and Pandora are not the only marketplace or to put it another way: they are not the only source of income. We live in a world – not just for the ART of music, acting and authors – but even the art of programming, project management and marketing – that has far more freelancers today than every before. We are slowly drifting to a world of freelancers, where everyone will have to market themselves and have multiple streams of income.
If you think about it, a PR maven is like a musician. She will sign up with a label – in this case called a PR firm – and get paid a salary and benefits. If the PR maven doesn’t like the offer from the PR firm, where all of her creative work is owned by her employer, she can freelance.
I see the figures on what songwriters make from Pandora and Spotify, pull your catalogs. Leave it up to the other marketplaces like Bandcamp to make you money. Maybe you have to be more like Pearl Jam and DMB and OAR — tour, build a tribe, the tribe will support you.