THE MUSIC BUSINESS IS UNRECOGNIZABLE!
The music business today is nearly unrecognizable from even 10 years ago. Mostly to the detriment of the independent singer – songwriter – musician. It used to be that if you could get signed by a label, they took care of the business side of things and the artist was free to create, tour and perform. The artist received money for signing and a percentage of album sales. The Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) tracked the royalties for both writers and performers. At the least, they could make a living, at the most, they became extremely wealthy. This formula worked for managers, promoters, record labels and musicians.
WHY AND HOW DID IT CHANGE?
In the 1990’s Napster started pirating content on peer to peer networks, which resulted in a generation of listeners who did not value music and felt it should be free. Now the streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are continuing the trend, although in a slightly different model where the music is offered for free, but those companies make money via advertising. Others like Apple Music and Amazon Music offer music as a fee-based service. The end result for an artist is that they receive a fraction of the money they used to. To emphasize that point, as an example, it takes roughly one million plays on Pandora for a songwriter to earn approximately $90.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE ARTIST?
Many independent artists have to now do their own promotion, booking and other aspects of the business, and also have to raise the money to record a CD. And the purchase of actual CD’s has decreased by more than half. Streaming now accounts for over 75% of total music revenue. The new user adoption rate for streaming is currently around 1 million new subscribers for streaming services per month, which is tiny compared to the number of people who actually listen to music, but that growth rate is still bigger than every other category of recorded music business. Streaming does allow an artist to reach a larger audience, while at the same time being unable to make a living for their work. In simple words, greater exposure, but more difficulty funding creativity.
WHAT IS MODERN PATRONAGE?
While big name artist generally have more ways to monetize their work, many lesser known artists are living right at the edge of surviving. A few hundred dollars more or less can mean the difference between being able to use their art to contribute to the greater good… or quit, to survive. This is why modern-day patronage is becoming increasingly more important. In the days of the Renaissance benefactors would support an artist for a particular project. Today’s version of that is crowdfunding to raise money to record a new CD. But it does nothing to pay the bills of living, touring, etc. There are also more patronage centric services like Patreon and Bandcamp, where fans and supporters can pledge a monthly amount to help support their chosen artist… providing a little more predictability and consistency to their finances. It also means that artists have a little more time and money to concentrate on the creative process. The patrons get access to unreleased material or first listen to new material, photos from the road, etc.
HOW DOES IT HELP?
While artists and arts groups have long used patronage models, only a few artists have truly benefited, but the newer model has opened up such processes to emerging artists and lower budget fans. Fans pay a subscription amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive experiences & behind-the-scenes content. Artists receive a predictable income from patrons means they can create on their terms. No strings attached. allows fans an opportunity to support the ongoing creative career of a musician by pledging small amounts per month, or per creation, in exchange for fun rewards. Most game changing of all, artists are able build a steady, fan-funded income stream with monthly payouts.