In the last year I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of artists and producers in the music business. This has been extremely revealing and everyone I speak to comments on how much the “music business” has changed. In days gone by artists would be signed, receive an advance on album sales and the record company would look after their investment by doing promotional work and funding recordings. One longstanding producer I spoke to commented “Nick, there’s no money for the most part, from record companies”
With steaming services like Spotify many artists now earn a living by touring rather than album sales. This can work, but there is massive competition to play at live venues and festivals and event/festival owners can leverage this by reducing any fees. In days gone by artists would be encouraged to move to London as that is where everything was happening. Robert Fripp in his excellent audiobooks suggested this being essential fifteen years ago. Now the world is very different and another producer commented “There are endless artists chasing gigs in London. Newly qualified music students discover that generating predictable income is the biggest challenge and many
Matters are tougher with Brexit just around the corner, so European opportunities will change as well. The financial uncertainty from Brexit also means that all investment including musical investment is in a state of limbo. Last year a USA longstanding producer and manager commented “Nick, today it’s all about reach, how to get to a wider audience” Physical record stores are fast disappearing and people are consuming music in different ways than before. There’s an old music industry joke “Wanna make a million dollars? Start off with two million”
If all this sounds depressing, then I apologize, but the world as we know it is changing at some rate. I know a few professional artists and am astonished at how hard they have to work. As someone who has funded studio recording, I’m astonished at how in many cases how low record company advances actually are. Personally, I am lucky enough to have developed an income stream that allows me to fund running music ensembles and recordings. These days the idea of “a group” is in my view outdated and the focus is more on musical projects where artists come together to collaborate.
My personal view is that many of us play and record music for the love of it and in many ways that’s a good strategy. The more financially self sufficient you can be, the better, but that is tough for younger artists unless you have a sponsor. Idealism can be a killer and I have seen artists pack in daytime jobs to do a short tour to try and make that leap forward in exposure, but then to find they have to return to part time work to survive.
One of the reasons for working on the “Music for the Head and Heart” platform is to help bring together many talented people and for us each to support each other and create new opportunities! Platforms like Drooble also are looking at new ways to create