Just As Many Musicians Say File Sharing Helps Them As Those Who Say It Hurts
from the and-guess-which-way-that's-trending... dept
We’ve discussed in the past that the Future of Music Coalition was putting together a fantastic artists revenue streams project, in which they sought to look at the myriad ways in which musicians make money today. FMC has been releasing bits of data from the project here and there, but now TorrentFreak has alerted us to a big analysis of the data done by Northwestern Law professor Peter DiCola, entitled Money from Music: Survey Evidence on Musicians’ Revenue and Lessons About Copyright Incentives. It’s worth reading in its entirety.
TorrentFreak highlights one key point: which is that of the surveyed musicians a mere 6% of revenue comes from the sale of licensed music. We’ve long argued that music sales make up a minority of the revenue artists make, so it’s good to see some support for that. Of course, the report notes that different types of musicians make money in different ways, so this does not mean that the 6% number applies across the board to all musicians. There certainly are some musicians who make a large percentage of their income from sales. But the key point is that those artists are in the minority, and focusing solely on music sales and changes to that market gives you a very distorted picture of how artists are making money, and the impact of things like a decrease in revenue from music sales.
There is plenty of interesting data in the report, but one thing that struck me concerned the artists’ general attitudes towards technology. It’s mixed, to be sure, but some of the often-repeated claims by some maximalists don’t appear to be true. For example, we hear stories that part of what’s so unfair with the system today is that the artists are “losing control” over their works, but many artists don’t agree with that at all, recognizing that technology means they have a lot more control over their works. The difference, of course, is that the complaints about “loss of control” were really more driven by the old gatekeepers — mainly the major record labels. For them, it’s true that they really have been losing control, but much of that control has actually moved back to the artists (and, yes, much of it has also gone to fans). But for artists who were outside of the major label system, it’s often meant much more control over their own careers.
The end result is that artist attitudes towards technology and its impact on their careers is really mixed. In many cases, on key questions — it seems like artists are almost equally divided. You can see that in the chart below:
From this chart, you can actually see that just as many artists think that file sharing has helped them as think that it has hurt them. Remember that the next time someone claims to be speaking for all artists’ attitudes on these kinds of things. If I had to guess, it seems likely that trends are moving more towards artists recognizing the benefits of such things — but I could be wrong about that assumption. I guess we’ll see the next time they do this survey.
The report also looks closely at how much copyright really impacts an artist’s income. To hear some talk about this stuff, without copyright, there would be no way for artists to make money at all. However, as we’ve argued over and over again, many revenue streams have nothing to do with copyright, and the report bears this out. As noted above, direct sales only account for 6% of income on average, but the report digs in even more and looks artists across different income levels and genres, showing both differences across those different slices, but also confirming that there are many different revenue streams:
Those charts show some differences, including that higher earning musicians do tend to rely on copyright more, but it’s still a relatively smaller part of their income than other sources.
Putting it all together, DiCola created this wonderful chart that looks at copyright- vs. non-copyright income across different income levels and genres:
Really interesting stuff. Not surprisingly, composers rely on copyright quite a bit, as they tend to get a significant chunk of revenue from licensing efforts. But even they still tend to rely heavily on income that is at best, indirectly related to copyright. All in all a very interesting read, as you begin to realize that the primary story usually told — that artists all rely on copyright and that infringement is clearly a bad thing — isn’t necessarily true across the board.